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Roof of the world: Tibet to steer on rail
Updated: 2004-06-22 16:30

More than 200 Tibetan herds arrived from over 100 km away, some of them riding horses, to witness the ceremonious occasion.

When the first rails were mounted, the people on the scene let out hurrahs in Tibetan, Han and other ethnic languages.

Railway tracks extend into to Tibet Autonomous Region June 22, 2004. [Xinhua]
Vice-Premier Huang Ju sent a congratulation message on behalf of the Chinese central authorities, and encouraged construction workers to build a world-class railway on "the roof of the world."

"The railway will benefit the people in Tibet and Qinghai," said Dazhag Danzim Gele, the Fourth Living Buddha with Dazhag Temple in Tibet. "It will also make the pilgrimage to Lhasa more convenient."

Lhasa is a holy place for Tibetan Buddhists.

"This is the happiest event for me," said 63-year-old Surkang, a Tibetan herdsman who tied to the first rail a hada, a white silk scarf regarded as a symbol of respect and blessing by Tibetans. He was expecting to travel by train instead of on horseback.

Tibet covers an area of more than 1.2 million square kilometers or about one eighth of Chinese territory. It is the only provincial area in the country without an inch of railway. About 90 percent of the 2.7 million Tibetan people live on farming or raising livestock. Poor traffic conditions have been one of the major obstacles for the modernization of Tibet.

People now travel to Tibet mainly by air or automobiles. In 2003, more than 928,000 tourists visited Tibet.

It is believed both the number of visitors to Tibet and that of Tibetan people to the other parts of the country will increase after the Qinghai-Tibet Railway is put into operation.

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