An Introduction to Qinghai Province.
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Qinghai Province lies on the northeastern part of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, where the Yangtze River and the Yellow River as well as the Lancang River 澜沧江 (a total length of 4,500 kilometers, of which 1,612 kilometers within the boundaries of the Chinese territory) take their sources. The average altitude is over 3,000 meters. Major mountains include Mount Tanggula, Mount Arjin阿尔金山 and Mount Kunlun. Between these mountains are distributed numerous basins, and the Qaidam Basin is one of them. Qinghai Province belongs to continental and plateau climate.
Qinghai’s main industries include mining and petrochemical. There are abundant minerals,. The reserves of kainite 钾盐, asbestos 石棉, Glauber’s salt 芒硝, silica 硅石, and boron 硼 top China’s other provinces, and the reserves of petrol and natural gas of big quantity. Hence, the Qaidam Basin is claimed a cornucopia / “treasure house.” Qinghai is one of China’s important pasturelands, mainly herding sheep, yaks and horses. Agricultural produce includes wheat and highland barley.
The Ta’er Lamasery is one of the six great Yellow sect lamaseries, which is regarded as the “holy land” by Tibetan and Mongolian peoples. Qinghai used to be a regular way for passers from China’s other places to Tibet ever since ancient times. Princess Wencheng (?-680) of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), once entering into Tibet from here, has left behind many relics in this place. Qinghai Lake, China’s largest salt-water lake, is a photographers’ and artists’ paradise of mirrored pastel sunrises, azure beauty in midday and the indigo blues of sunset. The Bird Island on the western tip of the lake with less than one square kilometer hosts hundreds of thousands of migrate birds hovering over the sky or diving into the water of the lake.
To escape the hot and humid weather, one of the best places to go in summer is Northwest China’s Qinghai Province. Just over 100 kilometers to the west of Xining lies Qinghai Lake, which is the biggest inland salt lake in China, and is the origin of the name, Qinghai (meaning blue sea) of the province. The birds find the lake a heavenly home with plentiful fish and grass. One hundred and sixty-four species of birds have been identified at the lake. In spring and summer, the lake is ideal for ornithologists and bird-lovers. They may have the luck to admire the precious black-necked crane, a level-one state protected species. In August, most birds have finished breeding and lead their babies on the southward journey. But you can still find the four most common birds of the lake: Cormorant, bar-headed goose, brown-headed gull and great black-headed gull. On the mid-western bank of the lake, the Bird Island provides an ideal hill to observe the entire lake. But do not be misled by the name of the island. The Bird Island is now connected with the main bank as the lake is shrinking at 12 centimeters every year, or 100 meters of water rim in its flat areas. Global warming is the main reason for the shrinking lake. There used to be 109 large and small rivers running into the lake. Nowadays, only about 40 still contribute to the vast lake surface, spanning over 4,300 square kilometers. But the ebbing lake also means a good habitat to the birds. The four small islands in the lake now provide good sandy shores for the birds. Thanks to the effective protection of the reserve and the co-operation of locals and tourists, the bird population is now slowly increasing.
Qinghai is named after the Qinghai Lake covering 4,340 square kilometers, China’s largest continental lake. Qinghai’s widely varying landscape is superb and enticing, offering snow-capped peaks rising 6,000 meters above sea level. Gobi desert dunes of Qaidam, lush ranchland and vast sapphire-like lakes are worth visiting.
Qinghai Lake 青海湖
Encompassing 4,340 square kilometers, Qinghai Lake is the largest inland salt-water lake in China, with a storage of over 77.8 billion cubic meters of water. The elevation of the lake surface is 3,193.92 meters, the deepest being 27 meters. The perimeter of the lake totals more than 360 kilometers. However, a lower water level, the deterioration of grassland vegetation and desertification are said to be threatening the lake. The numbers of fish and birds are also dwindling. The decline of water level is mainly because of over-evaporation, but efforts have been increased to develop water-saving irrigation systems in the lake. Fish in the lake have been protected since the early 1990s, and bird habitats have been well preserved too. A comprehensive plan to improve the situation has been worked out by the Qinghai Animal Husbandry Bureau, which will cost 400 million yuan (US $ 48.2 million), but the provincial government has been unable to carry it out de to lack of cash. The provincial government is also making the most of the central government’s western development strategy to replant grass and trees in Qinghai where farmland is in a poor condition, including the land around Qinghai Lake. According to the central government’s policy, all mountainous fields whose slopes have a gradient of more than 25 degrees are not allowed to be cultivated and instead must be replanted with grass or trees. The government gives some food subsidies to farmers who used to plant on these slopes. This will definitely help to revive the endangered environment at Qinghai Lake.
The Birds Islands 鸟岛
More and more birds are flying to settle at Qinghai Lake, one of the highest inland lakes in China, thanks to the protection efforts of local government. Encompassing 4,340 square kilometers, Qinghai Lake is also China’s biggest salt-water lake. Located in Northwest China’s Qinghai Province, it is famous for the two islands at its northeast point: Cormorant Island and Egg Island. The two islands have plenty of floating grass and various schools of fish, offering rich food sources for birds. The islands have become a paradise for diversified groups of birds and have been dubbed “Bird Islands.” Each March and April, when ice covering the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau stars to melt, over 20 kinds of migrating birds fly to the Bird Islands to breed. During the months, flocks of birds cover the whole sky over the islands and bird eggs can be found everywhere. The visitor can hear the warbles of birds from miles away. These have become a world famous symbol of the plateau. To protect this paradise for birds and support calls for ecological protection, China set up the Qinghai Lake Natural Protection Zone at the end of 1997. Meanwhile, the state has designated the Bird Islands and Spring Bay of the Qinghai Lake as core protection zones. Inspection officials and management employees often patrol the lake, improving local residents’ awareness of protection laws and spreading knowledge about animal protection to visitors. They are making considerable efforts to call on people to love and protect the birds. At the same time, they have built special fences and cement slots around the island area, to prevent wolves, foxes, and other flesh eaters from disrupting the birds’ nest building egg laying and breeding. As a result, more birds and more species are coming to the islands for breeding.
Reserve Guards Ecology
China’s largest nature reserve, at the headwaters of three major rivers, was set up at 4,000 meters above sea level in Qinghai Province on August 19, 2000. The reserve encompasses 318,000 square kilometers in an area called Sanjiangyuan. At the source of the Yangtze, Yellow and Lancang rivers, the reserve has a concentrated bio-diversity. According to scientists, one-fourth of the water in the Yangtze River, China’s longest, half of that in the Yellow River, the second longest, and 15 per cent of that in the Lancang River comes from this area. The Yangtze and Yellow rivers go east through most of China, including areas where Chinese civilization began thousands of years ago. Both empty into the ocean. The Lancang River goes through Sichuan and Yunnan provinces and to some Southeast Asian countries, where it is called the Mekong River. In recent years, however, the region’s worsening natural environment has shrunk wetlands, lowered lake levels, and reduced water flows at the headwaters. Desertification has worsened, too, and the number of plants and animals is decreasing rapidly. Statistics indicate that more than 10 million hectares of grassland have turned to desert, consuming half of Qinghai’s usable grassland, while rats have damaged some 5.5 million hectares (12,500,000 acres) of grassland. Rapid desertification has caused serious soil erosion, with increasing amount of silt washing down to the lower portions of the Yangtze and Yellow rivers. This breakdown has hurt economic development and people’s livelihood in the middle and lower reaches of the three rivers. The nature reserve would protect the ecosystem, the highland swap and the natural habitat of unique wildlife in the region—while promoting sustainable economic development. The reserve also contributes to the central government’s strategy of developing the west.
Located in the northeast of Qinghai Province, Xining lies at the junction of the Lanzhou-Qinghai and the Qinghai-Tibet railways. The city is the political, economic, cultural and communications center. Lying on the plateau, and with a history of more than 2,000 years, therefore it is named “Ancient Plateau City.” Encompassing 7,597 square kilometer. Xining has a population of 1.14 million. Summer in Xining is an ideal season for tourists who can enjoy fresh and crisp weather. Of interest to visitors are the Dongguan Mosque, Northern Hill Temple and Ta’er Monastery.
Dongguan Great Mosque 东关清真大寺
Built in 1379, the Dongguan Great Mosque is located on Dongguan Street and it was rebuilt in 1946. Since the new China was founded in 1949, the Mosque has been revamped several times. Encompassing 11,940 square meters with the worshipping hall being 1,102 square meters, the Mosque is the largest one in Qinghai Province. This Mosque serves as an educational center and institution of higher learning for Islamism, and also is the leading Mosque in Qinghai. All the worshipping ceremonies for Moslems in Northwest China are held here.
Ta’er Lamasery (Great Lamasery of Kumbum) 塔尔寺
Ta’er Lamasery lies about 28 kilometers of Xining. Also called “Kumbum” in the Tibetan language, this Lamasery originated in 1379 from a pagoda, which marked the birthplace of Tsong Kha-pa (1357-1419), founder of the Gelugpa Sect in Tibetan Buddhism. The Lamasery holds a special place in the hearts of the Tibetan people, because Tsong Kha-pa was the teacher of the first Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama. Built in 1560, it is one of the most important lamaseries for Buddhists. Today, thousands of disciples follow their Tibetan Buddhist leaders in devotion surrounded by the splendid culture and art of the lamasery. The most famous items are the “Three Treasures.” The first one is the yak butter sculpture, or “Suyouhua酥油花.” Made from yak butter, the sculptures bring to life Buddhas, animals and flowers, varying from a few meters tall to less than a centimeter. To prepare for the grand butter sculpture show on the night of January 15 on the lunar calendar, the lamas must start working at least three months ahead. To prevent the butter from melting, the lamas must work in sub-zero temperature and the sculptures are kept in giant glass boxes with air-conditioning after the show. Another treasure of the Lamasery is the appliquéd embroidery (or Duixiu堆绣) displayed in the Great Hall of Sutra. The pictures are pieced together with silk and the Buddhas in the pictures all have eyes made from rare stones. Murals壁画form another treasure of the lamasery. They were painted with pigments made from minerals and plants, so the colours stay fresh and bright for centuries. But the most interesting scene is perhaps the debate of the lamas. Standing in front of his teacher who is seated, the student must think of some difficult questions from Buddhist sutras, then clap his hands as loudly as possible and extend his right arm to his teacher while raising the question. Generally the teacher will answer succinctly with one or two words. Occasionally, he will speak longer and the student’s smile clearly shows his gratitude for the advice. Tourists are now allowed to watch the debate, and if you show enough respect to the lamas, you might be able to have an interesting talk with them. Wherever you travel in Qinghai, the primary fascination will always be the people. The more than 10 ethnic groups in the province all have their distinctive history and culture. But they are all hospitable and open-minded to visitors.
The wooden structures in the main hall of the Ta’er Monastery, a holy site of Tibetan Buddhism, have been replaced or repaired with anti-corrosive materials. Decorations inside and outside the hall were gold-plated and a lightning rod was installed outside the hall in the spring of 2002.
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