04-Nov-2005 -- 37 N – 102 E Qinghai (青海), China
Visit Date: November 4, 2005
This is our first line-hunting trip in Qinghai.
Before departing for Xining, the capital of Qinghai, we noted that not a single confluence point has been successfully visited among the 74 points. We were hoping to go for the point closest to Xining, approximately 50 km straight-line distance, provided that we can get all the work done early.
Most of Qinghai province is part of the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau which is mountainous and sparsely populated such most of the confluence points probably not easy reachable. Maybe this was why the first three visits thus far were not successful. All the maps we had only have sufficient details to indicate this point is about 8-10 km north of the county capital of Hu Zhu County. It was not certain there were road leading closer to the confluence point.
It just so happened, right outside the conference room of Health Department where we were meeting, there were several detailed maps of different parts of Qinghai, and one of the maps indicated that this confluence point located very near a township with a highway leading to it. Suddenly, the feasibility of reaching this confluence point became high, even if we only have 2-3 hours.
By noon time of our second working day, it was clear most the work we set put to do were near completion. Our host, Drs. Yu and Zhang arranged a jeep and we took off at 1 pm after a great dumpling lunch. It took about 45 minutes to reach the county capital of Hu Zhu County where we were met by a couple local officials to join us for the trip – proper protocol because our host are provincial officials. At this point we were just 10 km south of the confluence point.
Hu Zhu county is the only area in China where there is a concentration of the Tu minority – one of the smallest ethnic group among 56 officially defined ethnic groups. During the trip we only saw a small handful of people wearing the traditional Tu
custom which is very colorful.
From the capital town it took less than 20 minutes for us to reach the Bian Tan township. Less than a kilometer north of the township we parked at the edge of Bao Jia village with the confluence point 320 meters to our west in the middle of a large plot of newly plowed field.
This confluence point turn out to be much easier to reach than expected. We were prepared for some serious hikes on the hill. The topo map we have indicated it could be at the foot hill of a mountain but we were at least 2 km from the real slope.
After reaching the point at 2.30 pm, we had a nice visit with some of the villagers who were processing the harvested wheat nearby. Turns out this village right next to the confluence point called Bao Jia is a Han village, not a Tu minority village. A mild disappointment.
With the quicker than expected hunt, we suddenly find ourselves with three hours of free time, before sunset. Our host kindly offered to take us to a village in the neighboring Ping An County to visit the home village of Dalai Lama – about 55 km south of this confluence point.
The drive to Ping An county took almost an hour and half and the scenery were great. Again, we were met by couple local officials of Ping An county who also drove with us to the village. Turn out this was a bonus for us because they had arranged for us to visit the home of Dalai Lama– something we did not expect to do. We would be happy just to visit his hometown village – Hon Yan Chun.
The home village of Dalai Lama located on a bluff overlooking an impressive mountain range already covered with some light snow. The nephew of Dalai Lama who now taking care of the estate shown us around, including the very room where Dalai was born (photo 10
: N 36.32.69 – E 101.51.95, Elevation 2830 meters). The compound was converted to an elementary school for many years. Only in recent years, the school moved to another location nearby. The gate of the compound still marked as Hon Yan Elementary School.
We departed Hon Yan village near sunset, and reached Xining by 7.30 pm. Our gracious hosts treated us to a great fire pot dinner to wrap up the great day. During the dinner, it did not take much convincing to get our hosts and first-time line hunters to become interested in going for another point (36N 102E) next day. Next day was a Saturday and our flight departs at 3 pm. If we get going early enough, we just might make it, except according to the map, the next point could be more challenging.
Link for Information about the Tu Minority: http://www.chinastyle.cn/chinese-ethnic-group/tu.htm
Rating of this hunt:
Degree of Challenge: 1 – A drive-up with a easy walk in the field (Scale: 1= very easy - drive to the point; to 5= a death march – glad it is over)
Scenery: 3– Hills and field near a traditional Qinghai farming area (Scale: 1= not interesting at all; 5= take your breath away)
Culture-social factors: 3 – A crossroad of Tu, Tibetan, and Han culture (Scale: 1=dull; 5= most stimulating)