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Last Updated: Saturday, 29 April 2006, 00:07 GMT 01:07 UK
Han Chinese describe life in Tibet
Three ethnic Han Chinese migrants in Tibet talk about their place in the unique society, as part of the BBC News website's Tibet season.

LIAO QIN, visual artist, 52

I was born in Chongqing in south-western China. Tibet was synonymous with mystery and excitement to me before my first trip in 1992. It lived up to my expectations. I was amazed by the stunning beauty, the colour of the autumn leaves.

Between 1992 and 1997, I went to Tibet three times, where I made more local friends who are quite simple and honest. I was deeply moved and even shocked by the wonder of Tibetan arts. I met my future Tibetan husband, and we got married in the traditional Tibetan way by the holy lake Namcuo.

When I first visited Lhasa in 1992, dogs seemed to outnumber people on the street, and locals just answered both of nature's calls in the open.

Modernisation means a gradual loss of national identity and traditional culture
But nowadays you can see the imprint of modernisation everywhere in Lhasa: villages have given way to a large cement plaza; more public toilets have appeared; many migrants have come, and with the Qinghai-Tibetan railway scheduled to open in July, more tourists, businessmen and migrants will come.

They will create more business opportunities, but may also bring challenges to social stability.

Some young Tibetans tend to fancy jeans rather than their traditional Tibetan costume. And on the streets of Lhasa today, you can find Tibetan, Chinese and Western food as you like.

Many people praise modernisation, and I also enjoy all sorts of conveniences thanks to it. But deep in my soul, I still relish nature and originality. Modernisation means a gradual loss of national identity and traditional culture. In facing rapid social change and development it's very hard for some Tibetans, especially the younger generations, to maintain their psychological balance.

Overall, Tibetans are very different from Han people. I came to accept their lifestyle of relaxing and enjoying everything. Even with only a little money in their pockets, they can still dance and sing happily.

Tibet is the land which fits my free spirit best.

JIANG FENGWU, security guard, 45

I was born in Sichuan Province, in south-western China. Before I arrived in Lhasa as a soldier, I knew so little about it, only the terrible stories of Tibetans as formidable creatures all carrying long knives.

But when I finally arrived, it was a totally different story: some youngsters might be bad-tempered sometimes, but some of the older guys were really kind-hearted.

I finished my army service and stayed on as a cook. Now I'm a security guard. Compared to my tiny rural hometown in Sichuan, Lhasa, though remote, as a big city still offers a better chance, especially with a job at a government agency.

So many beautiful roads have been built that I often feel confused about the right direction
My wife Yao Wuqiong [see below] had to return to my hometown to give birth to our daughter. Otherwise we worry that it could be easy for a child of a Han family to be born with a heart problem at such high altitudes.

My wife stayed on in my hometown after the birth of our daughter. We divorced each other, but later on, for the sake of our children, we agreed to be reunited in Lhasa in 1995.

In the 1980s when I first came here as a young soldier, Lhasa had only two main roads, and I've witnessed so many changes over the years: so many beautiful roads have been built that I often feel confused about the right direction.

You can see many luxury cars on the road now, and many glamorous apartment stores and supermarkets have sprung up. I used to see many youngsters get drunk and fight each other on the main road where I worked and lived, but now that's pretty rare.

If you forgot to lock up your bike in the old days, it would disappear immediately. Yesterday afternoon I forgot to lock mine and it was still there when I remembered in the evening.

But it's harder to earn money nowadays, with so many people coming in, like businessmen from Zhejiang Province in the east.

I can only say some simple daily Tibetan, thanks to the help of some Tibetan friends, and I do think their traditional culture should continue.

Maybe we'll stay here when we get old, but it all depends on our children. They may not need us anymore, so then we may leave and return to our hometown.

YAO WUQIONG, seamstress, 43

I tried all sorts of odd jobs since I settled with my husband Jiang Fengwu [see above] here in Lhasa. Most lately I've been a seamstress for three years, earning anything up to 2,000 yuan (about 143) a month. My husband earns too little and so I am the main bread-winner in our family.

Most of my clients are local Tibetans. They ask me to do turn-ups for trousers, or mend their traditional Tibetan clothes. They are very straightforward, though they can be a bit fiery sometimes.

They call Tibet "the roof of the world", and it remains a mysterious place to many outsiders. So definitely more people will come thanks to the new railway. And it's easier to earn money here than in my hometown in rural Sichuan.

I've got used to life here, including the weather. But in future, probably in 10 years' time when I get old, I still want to return to my hometown.

Interviews conducted by Lin Gu.


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