Travel to Tibet via the Qingzang railway – it’s always an incredible adventure!
This railway is the first to connect China proper with Tibet Autonomous Region, which due to it’s altitude and terrain is the last province level entity in mainland China with no railways.
More than 960 km, or over 80% of the railway is built at an altitude of more than 4000 meters and over half of it is laid on permafrost.
Of those 45 stations, nine have been set up with viewing platforms, for passengers to get a better view of the local scenery than they can on the moving train, or just sat in the stations.
While the journey on the train has more than its share of spectacular sights, there is nothing more thrilling than the sight of the nomadic herdsmen of Tibet, grazing their herds of yaks, sheep and goats close to the railway tracks.
Nomads have been living their traditional lifestyle for thousands of years on the plateau and spread from Western China all the way to Nepal and India.
The Changtang Grassland covers the Northern and Northwestern parts of Tibet and counts two million nomads who prefer their traditional way of life to living in houses made of brick.
Tibetan Nomadsherd hundreds of cattle on the grassland. They live in a tent and keep moving for better grass for their livesstock.
History of the Nomads
Tibetan nomads are part of an ancient culture that is derived from the Qiang nomads of ancient China. Nomadic pastoralism has long been part of the Tibetan culture and living side by side with their livestock. Tibetan nomads are hardy and well used to the harsh climate of the plateau.
Tibetan Nomad culture
One of the striking characteristics of Tibetan nomads is the harmonious relationship nomads to nomads, nomads to livestock and nomads to nature.
Tibetan nomads are born with an optimistic and friendly mind. Tourists will be surprised to find how generous and hospitableTibetan nomads are when chatting alongside with them and drinking yak butter tea in their tent made of yak hair.
Tibetan Nomad Life
As the resources for human survival are extremely limited, Tibetan nomads are experts at making full use of all the available materials for existence. In this respect, yaks play an indispensable role in maintaining nomads’ daily necessities. Male nomads spin yak wool, yak hair and braid ropes and slingshots while women weave wool into fabric for tents, blankets, bags and clothing.
A typical day for female nomads begins with milking yaks or sheep. Then, they would use milk to make yogurt, yak butter tea and yak cheese.
Next, women nomads are expected to grind barley, fetch and boil water, weave sheep wool. As there are no trees in the nomadic regions of Tibet so the main fuel has to be relied on dried yak dung. Every morning, the women collect and spread yak dung out to be dried and later use it to make a fire in the tent. To keep tent warm and cozy is one of the important parcels of women’s duty.
Certain changes were made to the nomadic way of life with the Qingzang Railway
As the train cuts across the prairie, it has sometimes cut across the herding routes to the best grasslands. The nomads need to be more careful about where their livestock wander.
Moreover, the railway brought more tourists and one of the major draws of Tibet is the opportunity to visit a traditional Tibetan nomad camp and experience their culture and way of life.