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Home >> Opinion
UPDATED: 14:15, July 03, 2006
Listening to entirely new sirening of highland trains
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Trains from the national capital Beijing to the Tibetan regional capital of Lhasa, which passes through countless terrains and tunnels across mountains and canyons, has associated people with imaginations.

Princess Wen Cheng of the imperial Tang Dynasty (618-906) had been dead for 20 full years when prestigious Tang Dynasty poet Li Bai was born, who could never know that the princess was already 20 years old when she reached Lhasa from the Tang capital Chang'an, the present city of Xi'an. He could still less know that compared with the narrows paths of Sichuan, paths to Tibet is even "more difficult and tortuous."

This is very clear to noted train traveller Paul Theroux, who left behind such harsh words in his travelogue to China "The Kunlun Range is a guarantee that the railway will never get to Lhasa."

However, he was wrong. Passing through a 55 kilometers of frozen earth belt, along with 1,966 culverts and 160 bridges, and ascending the Tanggula Range, higher than top peak in Europe, trains are heading toward Lhasa with their sirens sounding on quiet and peaceful highlands.

Half a century ago, such sounds were heard in the rolling wheels of trucks upon the completion of the highways to Tibet from Sichuan and Qinghai; upon the touching down of the first civil plane the soil of Lhasa four decades ago. Such sounds were also heard at the completion of oil pipeline laying from Golmu to Lhasa three decades ago and the laying of the optical fiber of the China net from Lanzhou, Sining and Lhasa.

This represents the sounds of national prosperity, civilization, and science and technology development.

"Highland railway" was a dream of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the forerunner of the Chinese democratic revolution when he made the 1912 inspection of China's first self-built railroad, the railway from Beiping, now named Beijing, to Changjiakou in norther Hebei province.

In 1973, when late Chairman Mao Zedong told the Nepalese king that China would build the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, he never thought of a host of difficulties involved in its construction, with frozen soil, rare oxygen at high altitude and environment protection as the three main knotty problems

Difficulties is a full reason to innovation. The experience in the construction of Siberian railway is of no use in railway building on the roof the world, and the technologies of the United States and Canada, too, have no place to display their prowess.

"I'm duty bound to do my part," said Zhuang Xindan, the first chief designer of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, and his words epitomize the heroic spirit of all scientific and technical personnel involved in the gigantic project..

Accumulation of experience is most solid basis for innovation. From the arrival of the first batch of prospectors and surveyors on the Tibet plateau in 1955, researches and observations have never ceased in the past half century. In the past four decades, more than 1,200 data were collected in the Fenghuoshan observation station alone. Looking over a preliminary survey report of 1958, all bridges of more than 15 meters in height were included into a statistical graph.

The successors of Zhan Tianyou, the first ace railway engineer in Chinese history, never go short of talent for innovation. To date, frozen earth, plant vegetation and all national sceneries, water quality in local rivers as well as highland biological environment along the way have remained unaffected on the whole. Cryopedologists from Russia and the U.S. praise the technical direction of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway as wise and correct. The 1,956 railway created new attainment in science and technology while scaling a new height in altitude.

Train from Beijing to Lhasa sounding seirens after wading through the limits of time and space, and ancient poet Li Bai, too, is on the train, as if he were listening attentively to this brand-new sirening.

By People's Daily Online

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