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<-Back to WTN Archives Litang -- an oasis between Chengdu and Tibet (Xinhua)
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World Tibet Network News

Published by the Canada Tibet Committee

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

8. Litang -- an oasis between Chengdu and Tibet (Xinhua)

Xinhua is the official news agency of Peopel's Republic of China

BEIJING, Mar.16 (Xinhua) -- A friend of mine introduced the ancient town of
Litang to me as the first town up the stairway to the roof of the world.
Located in the Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, in the isolated far west
of Sichuan Province, Litang possesses a strong frontier flavor, with
fortress-like stone houses and streets full of nomads who shop with silver
swords bound to their belts.

Every July, Litang hosts a world-renowned horse festival that makes it a
highlight on the road between Chengdu and Lhasa. But I came here looking
rather for the utter peacefulness of the most remote tourist area in China:
there is no airport, and it takes at least two long days to get to Litang by
bus from any major city.

Fortunately, the drive is scenic and I felt like I had been traveling
between seasons as I passed from green valleys through the red and yellow
autumn of the mountain forest before finally reaching the treeless and
windblown Tibetan plateau. Here lies Litang, at 3,900 meters above sea
level. As the road led gently to an overlook, I could see the village
blending into its wild environment.

Many local houses are made of brown stones that blend with the barren
landscape. Only the richly decorated windows stand out, in a festival of
greens, reds, yellows and blues matched by the numerous small flags
overhanging the main streets. Litang is also a place where new technologies
like the Internet are introduced in a remote region where horseback travel
is still widespread. The result is an incredible blend of timeless tradition
and modernity.

As an outside visitor, I was amazed to discover an isolated place that was
nevertheless lively. Litang's streets are always busy, with nomads wearing
colorful yak fur, for whom the town is an important supply center and a good
place for socializing. The town brings a spark of human life to the middle
of the desolate and untamed Tibetan plateau. It is an oasis.

After walking a few minutes out of town I found myself in a vast open field
where no trees grow. It felt like the roof of the world, with a surrounding
range of snowcapped mountains spanning as far as I could see. The sky itself
looked brighter and bigger, even as my lungs seemed to shrink. Even moderate
effort accelerated my breathing. I was just starting to feel the mild
rarefaction of oxygen. As soon as the sun disappeared behind a cloud, the
temperature dropped, a chilling wind reminding me of the high altitude of
the settlement.

From here I could clearly see several Tibetan stupas and a red brick wall
shining above the village. This was the ancient Litang lamasery, built after
the passage of the Fourth Dalai Lama some 400 years ago, now home to more
than a thousand monks. As I made my way uphill to the lamasery, I met many
friendly villagers trying to overcome the language barrier to chat with me.
Entire families were working on the new harvest of straw, laboring in the
middle of the streets. Hoards of joyful children roamed and played around,
while the weathered faces of the elderly locals greeted me with a
heartwarming "tashidelek," the traditional Tibetan greeting.

Soon it was dusk, a time when the multicultural population of Litang gathers
at outdoor food stalls in the streets lining the town center. Chinese and
Tibetans alike congregate around warm barbecue facilities and share diverse
grilled meats before heading inside a bar to watch the latest video filmed
in Lhassa. While sitting down with my newfound friends and sipping a hot mug
of tea, I realized that a town like Litang is all about getting together in
a harsh-albeit beautiful-environment.

Articles in this Issue:
  1. Tibet Society of South Africa Remembers March 10
  2. TAR Authorities Ban Book by Tibetan Author (TIN)
  3. Dalai Lama seeks talks with China over Tibet (Reuters)
  4. Music Heals All
  5. French Municipality Dedicates Year 2004 to Tibet
  6. Workshop for Local Assemblies Concludes, 13th Assembly's Seventh Session Begins Tomorrow
  7. Alanis Morissette Gets Metaphysical With The Dalai Lama
  8. Litang -- an oasis between Chengdu and Tibet (Xinhua)
  9. Dam Building Threatens China's 'Grand Canyon' (NYT)

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