Tibet, averaging more than 4,000 meters above sea level, forms the main part of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and is well known as the “roof of the world.” The Himalayas, ranging from east to west on the southern edge of the Tibet Plateau, run for 2,400 kilometers with an elevation of more than 6,000 meters. Mount Qomolangma is the world’s highest peak with an elevation of 8848.13 meters. The Yarlungzangbo Gorge, at a depth of 5,382 meters, is the world’s deepest gorge.
Minerals: There are more than 90 known mineral types in Tibet, reserves of 26 of which have been proved while 11 of them rank among the top five in the quantity of reserves in China. The minerals include chromite, lithium, copper, gypsum, boron, magnesite, barite, arsenic, mica, peat, kaolin, salt, natural soda, mirabilite, sulphur, phosphorus, potassium, diatomaceous earth, iceland spar, corundum, rock quartz and agate.
Energy: Tibet is rich in water, geothermal, solar and wind energy. It produces approximately 200 million kilowatts of natural hydro-energy annually, about 30 percent of the nation’s total. It has 354.8 billion cubic meters of surface water resources, 13.5 percent of the nation’s total; and 330 billion cubic meters of glacial water resources. Tibet has about 56. 59 million kilowatts exploitable hydro-energy resources, 15 percent of the nation’s total. Tibet also leads China in geothermal energy. The Yangbajain geothermal field in Damxung County, Lhasa, is China’s largest high temperature steam geothermal field, and also one of the largest geothermal fields in the world.
Plants: Tibet is like a giant plant kingdom, with more than 5,000 species of high-grade plants. It is also one of China’s largest forest areas, preserving intact primeval forests. Almost all the main plant species from the tropical to the frigid zones of the northern hemisphere are found here. Forestry reserves exceed 2.08 billion cubic meters and the forest coverage rate is 9.84 percent. Common species include Himalayan pine, alpine larch, Pinus yunnanensis, Pinus armandis, Himalayan spruce, Himalayan fir, hard-stemmed long bract fir, hemlock, Monterey Larix potaniniis, Tibetan larch, Tibetan cypress and Chinese juniper. There are about 926,000 hectares of pine forest in Tibet. Two species, Tibetan longleaf pine and Tibetan lacebark pine, are included in the listing of tree species under state protection. There are more than 1,000 wild plants used for medicine, 400 of which are medicinal herbs most often used. Particularly well known medicine plants include Chinese caterpillar fungus, Fritillaria Thunbergii, Rhizoma Picrorhizae, rhubarb, Rhizoma Gastrodiae, pseudo-ginseng, Codonopsis Pilosula, Radix Gentiane Macrophyllae, Radix Salviae Miltiorrhizae, glossy ganoderma, and Caulis Spatholobi. In addition, there are over 200 known species of fungi, including famous edible fungi songrong, hedgehog hydnum, zhangzi fungus, mush rooms, black fungi, tremellas and yellow fungi. Fungi for medical use include tuckahoes, songganlan, stone-like omphalias.
Animals: There are 142 species of mammals in Tibet, 473 species of birds, 49 species of reptiles, 44 species of amphibians, 64 species of fish and more than 2,300 species of insects. Wild animals include Cercopithecus, Assamese macaque, rhesus monkey, muntjak, head-haired deer, wild cattle, red-spotted antelopes, serows, leopards, clouded leopards, black bears, wild cats, weasels, little pandas, red deer, river deer, whitelipped deer, wild yaks, Tibetan antelopes, wild donkeys, argalis, Mongolian gazelles, foxes, wolves, Iynxes, brown bears, jackals, blue sheep, and snow leopards. The Tibetan antelope, wild yak, wild donkey and argali are all rare species particular to the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, and are under state protection. The white-lipped deer, found only in China, is of particular rarity. The black-necked crane and the Tibetan pheasant are under state first-grade protection.
Tibet continually developed and exploited its unique tourism resources, both human and natural. The region currently has four tourist areas of Lhasa, the west, southwest and south.
The Lhasa tourist area includes Lhasa, Yangbajain, Damxung, Gyangze, Zetang, Xigaze and Yamzhoyum Co Lake. Lhasa itself is not only Tibet’s political, economic, cultural and transportation center, but also the center of Tibetan Buddhism. Major tourist sites include the Jokhang Temple, Ramoche Temple, Potala Palace, Barkhor Bazaar, Norbulingka Palace and three great monasteries of Ganden, Drepung and Sera. The Jokhang Temple, the Potala and Norbulingka palaces and Ganden, Drepung and Sera monasteries are key cultural relics under state-level protection.
Western Tibet is Nagari Prefecture, the so-called “rooftop atop the world’s rooftop.” The area draws visitors because of its great religious significance. Many tourists and pilgrims from Nepal and India come into Tibet through the Burang port of entry to visit the area’s sacred mountains and lakes.
The southwest Tibet tourist district is a place for mountaineers, many of whom are Nepalese who come to Tibet through Zhamu entry/exit port to enjoy the mountain scenery or do some climbing.
In southern Tibet, centered around Nyingchi, one can pass through the four seasons of the year in a single day. There are snow-capped mountains, dense primeval forests, surging rivers and azalea-covered mountainsides. This beautiful scenery is easy to enjoy given the pleasantly humid and mild climate.
New tourist routes and specialty tours have been added in recent years. New routes are Lhasa-Nyingschi-Shannan-Lhasa (eastern circle line) and Lhasa-Xigaze-Ngari-Xigaze (western circle line). Specialty tours include exploration by automobile, trekking and scientific investigation tours. Other special events include the Shoton Theatrical Festival in Lhasa, the Qangtam Horseracing Festival in the North Tibet Plateau and the Yarlung Culture and Arts Festival in Shannan.
Tourist facilities: By the end of 1994, Tibet had opened more than 30 travel agencies of various types, and 50 tourist hotels open to foreigners, seven of which are rated. There are more than 400 buses and cars and over 3,000 staff waiting to serve visitors. The Tibetan tourism network extends to hotels established by the region in Beijing, Chengdu and Xi’an and tourism offices set up in Hong Kong, Nepal, Beijing and Chengdu. In 1994, 28,000 overseas tourists visited Tibet, generating 180 million yuan, and more than US$ 10 million in foreign exchange.