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Legendary postman has driven along dangerous Sichuan-Tibet mail route for three decades

(Global Times)    09:30, November 15, 2019

Qimeiduoji in his mail truck Photo: China Post

Qimeiduoji is something of a legend along the Sichuan-Tibet Road on the plateau.

For three decades he has driven a mail truck to deliver mail between Garze and Dege, the Tibetan counties in Southwest China's Sichuan Province.

He drives on the snow line at an average altitude of 3,500 meters and has traveled 1.4 million kilometers in total.

He never had a traffic accident on the road, but he has experienced and survived several perils.

His story is gradually getting public recognition around the country.

First mail truck

On December 15, 1954, the Sichuan-Tibet Road was opened. Two green main trucks began delivering mail from throughout China, starting from Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province to Lhasa. This was the beginning of the Sichuan-Tibet mail line.

The delivery trucks have been running strong for six decades, enduring the route no matter the risks.

Dege county is the last stop in Sichuan before entering Tibet Autonomous Region, Southwest China, on the Sichuan-Tibet Road.

"When I was a kid, there were a few vehicles on the high plateau. Besides those of the military, we could only see mail trucks," Qumaduoji, who is 56 now, said. "In my hometown, the first newspaper and my letter of admission to technical school were both sent by postmen. Whenever seeing mail trucks, people waved their hands to greet them."

In 1988, the post and telegram bureau of Dege built up its first comprehensive office building, and obtained its first and only mail truck.

The only mail truck called for a reliable driver. Qimeiduoji was recommended. He could not only drive, but also fix the vehicle. Perhaps most importantly, his good personality was famous among Dege residents.

Qimeiduoji, a truck driver, happily accepted the task.

Since 1988, the only mail truck in Dege always has Qimeiduoji behind the wheel. Through snow or ice, wherever the mail truck is, Qimeiduoji can be found in the driver's seat.

In 1998, Qimeiduoji volunteered to move to Garze, about 500 kilometers from Dege, and take the task of the long-trip snow line route. "I would accept everything, as long as I could drive the mail truck," he said. 

Que'er Mountain in Southwest China's Sichuan Province Photo: People's Daily Online

Dangerous journey

The mail roads from Garze to other counties climb over mountains covered with snow all year-round. The most dangerous and highest is the Que'er Mountain, 6,168 meters above sea level.

Qimeiduoji picked the route between Garze and Dege, which is the highest and most precipitous mail road in China. In winter, temperatures can reach -30 C, and Qimeiguoji had to set off at 6 am. Sometimes, the diesel would be frozen.

"You look outside. There's only the eagle in the sky and the mail truck on the ground," Qimeiduoji said, while driving through an abyss of snow.

In the summer, dust and pebbles constantly roll from the cliffs. Many types of wreckage could be spotted at the bottom of the valley.

In 2000, Qimeiduoji and a colleague encountered an avalanche. To keep the mail truck in decent condition, they used barrels and shovels to clear the road. It took two days to move one single kilometer.

The mountains are not the only thing that poses danger.

Qimeiduoji's two sons are both post employees. However, his elder son died suddenly before his wedding in 2011, devastating his fiancee.

A year later, Qimeiduoji was driving from Qingbaijiang to Garze, to deliver textbooks for primary and high schools in Garze.

More than 10 robbers with knives and sticks stopped his truck. The assailants surrounded him.

Qimeiduoji was alone. His first priority was protecting the truck. So he jumped off the truck to confront the robbers. He was attacked immediately with 17 cuts. His four ribs were broken and skull was fractured. The vein of his left hand was cut.

He stayed in ICU for a week, but he survived.

While some were urging the resilient Qimeiduoji to take revenge, he simply said "We should believe in law."

Three months after surgery, Qimeiduoji's left hand was still incapable of driving. He was forced to retire.

But he did not give up and tried out every tiny opportunity to get back on the road.

An old doctor told Qimeiduoji to break the stiff muscles and let them grow again. He did, with great pain, but after two months, the miracle came - his left hand recovered its function.

Colleagues asked Qimeiduoji to rest from driving, but his wife Zeren Quxi supported him going back to work.

"The mail truck is my second lover. How could I give up?" Qimeiduoji said. When he started the ignition, he felt as if his deceased son and former self had returned.

National role model

With long hair and a tanned, angular figure, Qimeiduoji looks like a rock-and-roll star in photos. His name, Duoji, or Dorje, means Buddha's warrior attendant in Tibetan.

Yadong, his friend of many years, became a famous singer. "Yadong asked me to sing and perform. But I prefer driving. I can also sing on the road," Qimeiduoji said.

He has also been awarded with many national prizes and titles for being a role model.

On April 18, State Councilor Wang Yong addressed a seminar on Qimeiduoji's meritorious deeds, according to the website of the State Council.

China's development calls for role models, Wang said. As an outstanding representative of grassroots staff at State-owned enterprises, Qimeiduoji has made remarkable contributions in his position with his dedication to postal service in Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region over the past 30 years.

A book, The height of Que'er Mountain - the Story of Qimeiduoji, was published in 2018. "Qimeiduoji's story shows ups and downs and is touching," said Li Jingze, vice president of the Chinese Writers Association, adding that "the height of Que'er Mountain symbolizes the height of humanity and belief."

Qimeiduoji's hometown Dege is the home to King Gesar, a hero-god in Tibetan culture. When people in Dege mention Qimeiduoji, they often say "He has the blood of King Gesar." 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)
(Web editor: Wen Ying, Liang Jun)

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