Reporter's diary: Revealing the true beauty of Tibet
Yang Xinmeng
We were on a bumpy, zigzag mountain road when I glimpsed through the curtain. Sunshine was projected into the bus like a slow motion scene in a movie. On my left hand side was an endless wall of mountains rooted in a never-stopping rapid. On the other side, there was nothing but a narrow shoulder that prevented us from falling into the deadly abyss. It was a stunning view at first, but we’ve been driving for too long to still appreciate it. Then I saw a soldier, standing straight on the edge, saluting passing vehicles, though nobody seemed to notice him. That was the moment I realized it was not a common mountain road. We were in the mysterious territory - Tibet.
It is a special place indeed. The sun was still visible around 7pm, when in Beijing, on the opposite side of China, it had already sunk into darkness. It’s over 4,000 meters above sea level. The oxygen level is only 30% - 40% of its regular level in cities like Beijing. I was experiencing headaches, dizziness, and short breath - all symptoms of altitude sickness. This was worsened by the long distance we had to drive, nearly 4,000 km in less than two weeks. However, all this hardship was worth it when we got to witness the rich culture and wonderful nature of this vast region.
On our way from Lhasa to Xigaze, we came across a small village called Renou. From far far away, I saw tree branches on top of every house with colorful flags. I initially thought it was just a typical Tibetan decoration, until a local told me it meant “Long Live the Tibetan Buddhism”. Close-up, I spotted swastika on almost every door, which, too, is a symbol of Tibetan Buddhism. Most people here are religious. They keep statues of Buddha, offer food and water to Buddha, and light ghee candles in their living rooms. These residents are so devout that they walk around the mountain, which has a temple on top of it, everyday, murmuring Tibetan prayers and turning every single prayer wheel lining the entire way.
Another village surprised me with its ethnic diversity. Among its 36,000 residents live 8 ethnicities. Despite their differences in language, outfit, and customs, they befriend or even marry each other. Before visiting Tibet, it was hard for me to imagine such ethnic diversity and unity existed in a remote suburb like this.
For some reason, I always had this stereotype of Tibet as being full of snowy mountains and empty land. I even brought hiking boots and insulating pants. However, most of the places we visited were flat and warm, even warmer than Beijing. More surprisingly, we saw a flourishing forest and grassland in December at an altitude of 4,200 meters. The weather was perfect as I clearly saw the Namcha Barva Mountain, which is usually hidden in clouds, together with the forest. Our guide told me the place is more beautiful during summer time. She showed me a picture and it was really jaw-dropping. The land is covered by green grass and pink flowers. It made me want to backpack through Tibet in August.
During my interview, it became clear how we can enjoy such a view. The local government pays a lot of attention to environmental protection. All villagers nearby take turns to be forest rangers, patrolling and protecting the forest 24/7, farmlands and grazing lands were returned to forests and grassland, and wild animals are protected, even when they enter local residents’ home and destroy their properties. It is the best example showing that humans and nature can exist in harmony. Thanks to their efforts, I had fun feeding wild monkeys on the roadside, and watching yaks roaming freely on the highway.
Visiting Tibet is not an easy task, but it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience you should never miss. History teaches us the development of human culture has to sacrifice the natural environment. As far as I could see, Tibet has found a happy balance.