Tibet's No-man Land: Today's New Pastoral Area


By Zhang Mingyu

Photo shows solar energy streetlights in the county seat of Nyima. (Xinhua Photo)

BEIJING, Jan. 13 (Xinhuanet) -- Lying at an average altitude of 5,000 m, the no-man area in northern Tibet refers to the Tsonyi Special Area (TSA) and Nyima County, Nagqu Prefecture.

Surrounded by towering mountains like Kangdese, Tanggula, Nyainqentanglha and Kunlun, the 200,000-sq-km sparsely-populated area is called "the life forbidden zone."

Before the democratic reform, Tibet's feudal lords fabricated lies, depicting Tsonyi and Nyima as a horrible "ghost zone" with herders forbidden to enter. Extremely cold and oxygen-deficient, yet, the area is far from Lhasa and Nagqu, so many herders considered it an ideal "kingdom" to avoid countless exorbitant taxes and levies. Despite a harsh climate, they chose to lead a pastoral life there.

However, old Tibet had no kingdom of freedom. Continuous disputes resulted in armed conflicts in the no-man area from time to time. Plus frequent robbery from bandits, many people had to move southward, leaving the land desolate and uninhabited indeed.

A man cleans his car by the river flowing through the seat of Pangkog County, Nagqu Prefecture. (Xinhua Photo)

In 1976, Tibet began to develop this area on a large scale. About 5,000 herders and 500,000 head of cattle and sheep migrated there, thus revitalizing this isolated area.

Following more than 30 years of efforts, housing estates, schools, hospitals, cinemas, satellite communication reception stations have been set up one after another.

In the 1980s, it normally took three to five days from Lhasa to the no-man area by jeep. Roadside breakdowns often occurred during the 900-km journey as most sections were rough and uneven muddy roads.

Now, even asphalt roads are accessible from all directions. It takes only one or two days to get there from Lhasa with the distance of 200 km shorter than before. Meanwhile, various kinds of Tibetan-style inns can provide accommodation and Tibetan food such as butter tea to visitors along the way.

Photo shows motorcycles for sale in the county seat of Nyima, Nagqu Prefecture, northern Tibet. (Xinhua Photo)

Rows upon rows of buildings with modern facilities can be seen in towns, including telecom offices, service stations, supermarkets, entertainment centers and leisure squares.

Roads, electricity, telecommunication and broadcast are all available in major parts of Tsonyi and Nyima. Most of the local 30,000 herders now use solar energy for lighting. TV sets, motorcycles, private cars are no longer new things to them. Thanks to a housing project launched by government, nearly half of the residents have moved into specious and bright brick-and-tile houses, with an average annual per-capita income hitting 3,000 to 4,000 yuan.

In Tsongyi's Garco Township, a telecom tower looks much more spectacular against the background of snowy peaks and crystal-clear lakes.

Photo shows Tibetan herder Rimar in his newly-built house.(Xinhua Photo)

The township practicing a collective economy till today is one of the richest of its kind in Tibet, with its average per-capita net incomes reaching at least 5,000 yuan for years.

Zhu Ju, a leading Tibetan official of the TSA, said: "Herders used to live on Tsampa(roasted highland barley flour,)red meat and butter tea. A traditional Tibetan gown would be worn until it was broken into pieces. Now, you see, they can eat and dress whatever they like. Their conventional living style is changing such as herding by motorbike or chatting through mobile phone. All these changes are so great that they've never dreamt of."

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