Qinghai (Mandarin Chinese: 青海, Qīnghǎi) is a province in Northwest China. It is located south of the Republic of Mongolia, east of Xinjiang, and north of the Tibet. It is one of China’s least densely populated provinces with under six million people in an area somewhat larger than France.
Geographically Qinghai is on the Tibetan Plateau and is the source of several of China’s major rivers. The Yellow River (Huang He) starts in central Qinghai and flows north and east through much of North China. The Yangtze and the Mekong both start near the southern edge of Qinghai and flow across Tibet into Yunnan where they are two of the three rivers in the Three Parallel Rivers National Park, then diverge to flow into different oceans.
Historically, what is now Qinghai was one of the three provinces of the old Tibetan Kingdom and was called Old Tibetan provinces. It has its own dialect, Amdo Tibetan phrasebook. Tibetans are still the main ethnic and cultural group, but Mongols, Hui (Chinese Muslims) and Han (ethnic Chinese) have been present for centuries and more Han have been moving in over the last few decades.
Qinghai is bordered by the Tibet Autonomous Region to the Southwest, the Province of Sichuan to the Southeast and Xinjiang Autonomous Region and the Province of Gansu to the Northeast.
Table of Contents
History of Qinghai
In the year 1928, the Republic of China included Qinghai as one of its provinces. Earlier to becoming a province of the People’s Republic of China, the province of Qinghai was ruled the warlord Ma Bufang.
Geography of Qinghai
Xing Great MosqueThe Province of Qinghai is to the Northeast Tibetan plateau and both the Yangtze River and Mekong River originate Southwestern Qinghai Province.
On an average the province of Qinghai is 3000m above sea level. The Tanggula and Kunlun Mountain’s are the largest mountains of Qinghai.
Qinghai is the largest province of the People’s Republic of in terms of area but the Autonomous Region’s of Xinjiang, Tibet and Inner Mongolia are larger in land area.
Climate of Qinghai
The Temperatures of the province of Qinghai varies from -5o Celsius to +8o Celsius. During the months of January and February, the winter temperature ranges from -18.2C to -7C. During the summer months the average temperate in Qinghai are between +5C to +21C.
Local Economy of Qinghai Province
The smallest economy of the People’s Republic of China is Qinghai Province. In 2007 it had a per capita GDP of just 13,836RMB and the official GDP rate was just 76.1 billion RMB. Near Qinghai’s capital city “Xining”, some heavy industries such as the production of Iron or Steel productions can be found. A very important contributor to the local economy of the province of Qinghai is the Oil and Natural Gas industry at the Chaidamu Basin.
Touristic Attraction in Qinghai Province
The provincial city of Xining has some significant and historic attractions such the the Northern Mountain Temple or the Great Mosque of Xining. Other must see attractions are the Yellow Hat Sect Monasteries, the Kumbum Monastery which are about 30km of Xining. The Saltwater Lake of Qinghai attracts thousands of local and some foreign tourists and is the largest in the People’s Republic of China and is located on the “Roof of the World”. You will see Ethnic Tibetans that inhabit the grasslands, which surround the Qinghai and Tibetan plateau.
- Xining – the capital city, on the Qinghai-Tibetan Railway
- Golmud – second largest city in Qinghai, start of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway
- Huangzhong – home of the famous Kumbum Monastery
- Tongren – known as Rebkong in Tibetan.
- Guide – a small predominantly Tibetan city near the start of the Yellow River. Featuring hot springs, unrestored Qing dynasty walls and lovely scenery.
- Yushu – known as Jyekundo in Tibetan
- Henan Mongol Autonomous County (Mongolian: Sogwo) – These nomadic horse riders are different from Tibetan nomads in culture and dress, and their Mongolian-style tents, or ‘Pao’, are to be seen all across the grassy plains of the area
- Qinghaihu National Park (青海湖 – also called Lake Koko Nor in Mongolian and Tso Ngonpo in Tibetan) – this 5,694 sq km lake is the largest lake in China, and is located between Hainan and Haibei
Qinghai, owing to its location in the heart of China, close to Mongolia and near the Silk Road, is ethnically mixed – Han, Hui, Kazakh, Mongolian, Tibetans, Tu and Salar inhabit the province. Most of Qinghai forms the traditional Tibetan province of Old Tibetan provinces. Yushu prefecture, in far southern Qinghai, is a part of the Kham region of Tibet. Outside the two main cities – Golmud and Xining — population centers are tiny villages and towns, scattered along the desolate Tibetan Plateau.
Qinghai is perhaps China’s most scarcely populated province. There are only 5.2 million people in an area bigger than France. Labor camps, prisons and nuclear testing sites are scattered among the ice-capped mountains. The extreme eastern part of the province is less harsh, with two major Tibetan monasteries and the charming capital of Xining. The southern regions of Qinghai sit at an average elevation of over 4000 m (13,120 ft) while the northern regions sit between 2500 m and 3500 m (8200 to 11,500 ft). Qinghai has some of the largest pasturelands in China. Many yaks and sheep are herded by Tibetan and Mongolian nomads. The prefectures of Haidong and Huangnan consist mostly of farming communities. The far northwest region of Qinghai is home to the Chaidam Basin which is one of the largest deserts in China.
- While most inhabitants understand and speak Mandarin, Tibetans take pride in their culture and often prefer to speak Tibetan. Any effort you can make will be appreciated.
- Local Han speak a regional variant of Chinese called Qinghaihua. The province’s many ethnic groups all have their own languages, including Dongxiang, Mongolian, Salar, Tibetan and Tu. At any travel agency, big restaurant or hotel, standard Mandarin works fine.
- The Amdo Tibetan dialect is spoken widely by Tibetans in the prefectures of northern and eastern Qinghai, while Kham Tibetan is spoken by Tibetans in Yushu prefecture in southern Qinghai.
- Xining is connected by air to China’s main urban centers, including Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Xi’an and Guangzhou. There are less frequent flights to Urumqi, Zhengzhou, Shenzhen and Chongqing.
- Golmud is the only other city in Qinghai with an airport, but the only regularly scheduled flights run to Xining and Chengdu.
- Xining is connected with daily train services to many cities across China including Beijing, Shanghai, Xi’an, Chengdu and Lhasa.
- Yushu plans to open an airport sometime in 2008 with regular flights to Xining and Lhasa.
- There’s only one rail line, the long, isolated Lhasa Express. In Qinghai the train stops at Xining and Golmud.
- To go to most places within Qinghai you can use the province’s extensive bus service. The hub is definitely Xining. From here it’s possible to catch buses to most places in the province.
- Xining has extensive buses connecting all parts of the city. The city buses usually cost Y1 per person. Taxi’s start at Y8 and are an additional Y1.6 after the first 3km. After 9PM taxi’s are Y1.9 per km after the first 3 km.