China / Tibet through the eyes of its people

Hotel built on a gemstone and a dream

By Palden Nyima and Da qiong in Damxung, Tibet (China Daily) Updated: 2015-07-03 10:55

Editor's Note:This year marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of Tibet autonomous region. The China Daily website profiles ten ordinary people, providing a snapshot of life in contemporary Tibet and the great changes the region has experienced over the past 50 years.

Hotel built on a gemstone and a dream

Konchok Tsethar [Photo/]

A gift from his mother was the catalyst that started a young Tibetan man on the road to success in the hospitality industry.

The Holly Sheep Hotel, near Namtso Lake in the Tibet autonomus region, is a tourist attraction with a catchy name that's easy to remember.

Atar, the owner's mother, chose the name The Water Sheep Hotel a decade ago when the hotel first opened. She said the name derived from the nearby grassland which was renowned for the large numbers of sheep that roamed it.

The name was changed to The Sheep Hotel, and a little later, the owner, Konchok Tsethar, decided to rebrand the establishment again and chose its present name.

"Because Tibetan worshippers circle sacred lakes, including Namtso Lake, during the Year of the Sheep in the Tibetan calendar, we called it "The Holly Sheep Hotel," he said.

Namtso, or "Heavenly Lake" in the Tibetan language, is in Dumxumg county, 240 km from the capital, Lhasa.

At an elevation of more than 4,700 meters and with a surface area of 1,920 kilometers, it is Tibet's second-biggest lake.

During the 1990s, the number of tourists visiting the county began to rise, attracted by the picturesque scenery and the deep-seated religious culture.

Growing ambitions

The hotel is one of the two biggest on the lakefront, but 10 years ago things were very different.

In 2004, Konchok Tsethar and Atar lived by herding animals on the grassland. One day, Atar gave her son a piece of turquoise as a gift.

The gemstone became the catalyst for Konchok Tsethar's business venture when a tourist took fancy to it. Because he had no savings, Konchok Tsethat jumped at the chance to sell the stone for 2,000 yuan ($326).

He went to Lhasa with the money he got from the visitor and spent 600 yuan on various tourist goods. He also bought a horse with the help of his uncle.

For the first year, he sold tourist goods and ran a business that provided horse rides. He made around 90,000 yuan.

"I was really pleased to make a large amount of money - the most I'd ever seen in my life - for the first time. I loved my horse deeply that I slept alongside him in the tent in the evenings," Konchok Tsethar said.

The next year, mother and son opened the lakefront hotel, the first in that location, and although the first 10 years were occasionally tough, they persevered and followed their dream.

"We have never given up, despite many failures. I love doing business far more than herding," the 28-year-old said.

The hotel has expanded, and now has 220 beds, a large restaurant and a team of six vehicles to transport tourists. The restaurant serves local cuisine, and delicacies from other parts of China.

Having been born on the grassland as a native nomad, Konchok Tsethar has a deep love of horses and horse racing, in addition to hos love of business.

He has three racehorses; two were bought at Yardrok Yutso Lake in Tibet for 46,000 yuan, while he paid 23,000 yuan for the other, which he bought on northern Palgong county.

Every year Konchok Tsethar attends the local horse racing festival on the grassland, and in recent years his horses have won the top three prizes.

The family no longer herds animals, instead they make their living by running the hotel.

Atar said life is now far easier than in the old days when they were nomads.

"With the business, I made a better income, and my life became far more comfortable," she said.

The 53-year-old works during the summer, but stays in Lhasa during autumn and winter.

"The business has given me many opportunities to communicate with outsiders, and I have learned many new things."

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