History of Qinghai-Tibet Highway
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History of Qinghai-Tibet Highway

Update: Apr. 17th, 2013

Woeld Famous Qinghai-Tibet Highway

Qinghai-Tibet Plateau experienced 3 transportation periods after the founding of New China – the Camel Period before 1955, the Motor Vehicle Period between 1955 and 2006, and the Railway Period since July 2006 after Qinghai-Tibet Railway was opened to traffic. Tibet Tour would like to make a brief introduction about the 1955-2006 Motor Vehicle Period – the history of Qinghai-Tibet Highway for tourists planning a self-driving tour to Tibet from Xining.

History of Qinghai-Tibet Highway – Before the Construction of Qinghai-Tibet Highway

Tibet was separated with eastern China in the early period of 1953 (in which year Tibet was peacefully liberated) due to the laggard transportation. To ensure the living materials supply of the liberation army in Tibet and provide succour for the local Tibetans, the central government decided to use the camel as the main transport tool. One million kilograms grain was collected from different regions of China in few months. 2, 7000 camels from Inner Mongolia, Ningxia and Gansu and more than 1000 peasants formed a magnificent transport team and headed to Tibet with these grains in October 1953.

The camel was noted as the Ship in the Desert, but they are not capable to get adapted to the high plateau environment with heavy snow and cold climate. It is also a great challenge for the camels to walk on the hard and iced road. Numerous camels died on the way to Tibet. According to historical record, there were around 4000 camels were died after the transport team arrived in Lhasa in the spring of 1954. It is said that people went to Lhasa don't have to be worried about get lost since there were bones of the camels along the way to Lhasa after many years. Since then the leaders of the army in Tibet realized it is necessary to construct highway to Tibet for the long-term consideration.

History of Qinghai-Tibet Highway – the Construction of Qinghai-Tibet Highway

In the May of 1954, the construction team composed of around 1000 rural labors and sappers heading to Tibet Plateau with a total investment of 0.3 million RMB and 10 trackers. The first period construction between Golmud and Hoh Xil was cut in sections. The highway between Golmud and Hoh Xil were completed in the end of July in the same year.

An extra investment of 2 million RMB and 100 tracks were put into the construction of the highway between Hoh Xil and Lhasa. The construction team also welcomed 1000 more sappers. Just with the above manpower and materials, the Qinghai-Tibet Highway stretching on the Roof of the World was constructed. In December of 1954, the Qinghai-Tibet Highway reached Lhasa after conquered several mountains with high altitude. The construction team of Qinghai-Tibet Highway only used 7 months and 4 days to complete the magnificent project. Qinghai-Tibet Highway was the main passage to Tibet before the complement of Qinghai-Tibet Railway.

Golmud, an important city along Qinghai-Tibet Highway and Qinghai-Tibet Railway, was not even a village before the construction of the highway. Currently, it has been an important city with a population of 121,200 in Qinghai Province. The 6 tents settled in Golmud at the opening period of Qinghai-Tibet Highway was the real source of this well developed city.

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