From herdswoman to white collar: a Tibetan girl's transition

2016-07-07 03:00:18 | From:

Before the opening of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, Losang, a Tibetan girl from a traditional herding family in a remote village at the foot of Mount Nyainqentanglha, never expected her life to change much.

Losang, 29, used to speak only Tibetan and spent every day looking after sheep. Now a manager at the high-end mineral water manufacturer Tibet 5100 Water Resources, she looks no different from a factory executive in any big city.

"Ten years ago, I was wearing clothes with patches and was nervous talking to strangers. I never imagined that I would have such a good life," she said. "It's all thanks to the Qinghai-Tibet Railway. It helped the business of the company I work for and gave me a chance to see the world."

The 1,956-km Qinghai-Tibet Railway was opened on July 1, 2006 and has linked the plateau region of Tibet with the rest of China by train for the first time.

The water plant opened in 2005, but business was not so good due to limited transportation. When the railway opened one year later, it became much more easier to get products to market. Business boomed and the company was listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in 2011.

"We now can bottle more than 500,000 tonnes of water each year, and we sell the products to inland cities through the rail route," said plant director Jiang Xiaohong.

"In the past, most people in our Tsongkar Village lived in mud huts, with no running water or electricity. Villagers had been herdsmen since time immemorial and they were making less than 1,000 yuan (150 U.S. dollars) a year," said Luo Qiong, Party secretary of the village.

In 2005, the water plant started recruiting and training local herdsmen, and Losang from the Tsongkar Village was among them.

"Before the railway opened, apart from herding, young people could only go to the county seat and work in the service industry. Their jobs were not stable and the monthly salary was only about 2,000 yuan."

After being hired, Losang learned how to speak mandarin and use computer. As a diligent worker, within a few years she was promoted to the position of a department manager.

With a monthly salary of more than 8,000 yuan, she has helped build a new home for her family and paid her younger brother's college tuition.

Losang is not the only one to benefit from the water plant and the railway. Around 90 percent of the 300 employees at the factory are Tibetans. The average monthly salary of all these former herdsmen exceeds 4,000 yuan. Some of the most hardworking have been rewarded with free trips to Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong -- by train, of course.

As one of them, Losang was impressed by the technology and new ideas in the megacities.

"The railway has allowed the factory to grow faster, and has given me the opportunity to see the outside world. My life wouldn't have changed without it," Losang said.

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