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Wealthier Chinese seek epiphany from holy mountain


08:15, May 30, 2013

BEIJING, May 29 (Xinhua) -- Six decades after humans first conquered Mount Qomolangma, a pioneering Tibetan mountaineer has told how he is helping booming numbers of China's nouveau rich to scale earth's highest mountain.

Having personally stood at the top of the world in 2003 and 2008, 45-year-old Nyima Tsering now runs a training camp that aims to help non-professional Chinese climbers reach the 8,844-meter-high peak of the mountain otherwise known as Everest.

"In the past, Mt. Qomolangma could only be reached by professional teams, but now more and more ordinary Chinese wish to join us," says Nyima Tsering during an interview with Xinhua.

Wednesday marked the 60th anniversary of human beings' first successful expedition to Mt. Qomolangma, with New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay from Nepal reaching the summit on May 29, 1953.

For much of the past six decades, scaling the snow-capped mountain on the Sino-Nepalese border has been an athletic feat and a demonstration of national strength due to the great difficulties and dangers it involved.

But for Nyima Tsering and others in the new generation of Chinese summiteers, the mountain is also becoming a longed-for destination and a source of enlightenment for ordinary people.

"The older Chinese mountaineers challenged the peak with a strong sense of a mission to glorify the nation, but to me, climbing the mountain is just part of my life," says Nyima Tsering, who is also head of the Tibetan Mountaineering Team.

Since establishing the camp in 1999, he has trained 40 local farmers into professional guides, who have led more than 200 expeditions to the summit.

Unlike others who regarded the ascendance to the summit as a victory of the human spirit over nature, Nyima Tsering says he always holds Mt. Qomolangma in awe and veneration, and the feeling has not changed despite advances in equipment that have made the climb easier.

"We've prepared electric drills for digging footholds in our latest attempt to reach the peak this year, but I could not convince myself to use them -- Mt. Qomolangma never speaks, but we know it has feelings," he says.

This reverence is now shared by his clients, many of whom are successful entrepreneurs. After making their fortunes amid China's transformation into a market economy, some of them arrived at the mountain in search of new life goals, according to Nyima Tsering.

"The trips to Mt. Qomolangma gave them new ideas on life -- they became slimmer and thriftier, and they realized they had previously demanded too much from nature, " he says. "To climb the mountain, one only needs a few things, and fame and fortune are not among them."

The first Chinese team reached the summit in 1960, when the country was struggling to build a socialist society out of grinding poverty, a legacy of the civil war.

The nation basked in glory on May 8, 2008, when a team of Chinese mountaineers took the Olympic flame to Mt. Qomolangma in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics Games, which was deemed a demonstration of China's economic and social achievements over the years.

But Nyima Tsering and other younger Chinese mountaineers believe the greater significance of the activity is to make modern people reflect on themselves and their relations with the nature.

"The feeling has been growing within me all these years that mountains have life, and that we should not attempt to overpower nature, but instead we should respect and live in harmony with it," he explains.

"Mountaineering forces us to face our true self -- the mountain sees us equally as humans, and it makes no difference whether you're a boss or a celebrity," according to Xu Huan, who joined the Mountaineering Association of Peking University in 1996.

Xu says many of her co-climbers at the association left enviable jobs in their forties and resumed mountaineering or hiking to rethink their lives.

"They are asking whether, apart from pursuing wealth, are there any other higher meanings to life?" Xu says.

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