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Geography
2004/03/01

Today, the People's Republic of China is divided into 23 provinces, five autonomous regions and three municipalities directly under the Central Government.

Tibet, one of the five autonomous regions, is inhabi ted primarily by people of Tibetan ethnicity Location and Area The southwest border province of Tibet forms the southwestern portion of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. It adjoins the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and the province of Qinghai to the north, Sichuan to the east, Yunnan to the southeast, and the nations of Burma (Myanmar), India, Bhutan, Sikkim and Nepal to the south and west along an international border of nearly 4,000 kilometers. The 1.22-million-square-kilometer autonomous region accounts for 12.8 percent of China's total land area Topography and Mountain Ranges Averaging more than 4,000 metres in elevation, Tibet forms the main part of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and is well known as the "roof of the world."

While the topography is complex, the area can be divided into three distinct natural zones: the northern two thirds of the region, the North Tibet Plateau, is enclosed by the Kunlun, Tanggula, Gangdise, and Nyainqentanglha mountains; between the Gangdise Mountains and the Himalayas is the South Tibet Valley, where the Yarlungzangbo River and its tributaries flow: the east is an area of high mountains and deep valleys, part of the famous Hengduan Mountains, running first east-west then gradually shifting to north south. Geomorphologically, there are six principal forms: polar altitude mountains, alpine mountains, medium-height mountains, low mountains, hills and plains; volcanic, aeolian, karst and periglacial landforms are found as well. The Himalayas are a group of mountain ranges running roughly parallel to one another in an east-west direction on the southern edge of the Tibet Plateau along China's border with India and Nepal. The mountains run for 2,400 kilometres at a width of 200 to 300 kilometres and altitudes averaging over 6,000 metres. Mount Qomolangma, the world's highest peak at 8848.13 metres, rises abruptly on the Sino-Nepalese border midway through the range. Four peaks over 8,000 metres high and 38 peaks over 7,000 metres can be found in the more than 5,000 square kilometres surrounding Qomolangma. Rivers and Lakes More than 20 rivers with drainage areas in excess of 10,000 sqaure kilometres and more than 100 with drainage areas of more than 2,000 square kilometres are found in Tibet Best known are the Jinsha, Nu, Lancang and Yarlungzangbo rivers.

Tibet has more rivers flowing into foreign countries than any other Chinese province. Great rivers of Asia that find their origin in Tibet include the Ganges, Indus, Brahmaputra, Mekong, Salween and Irrawaddy These rivers for the most part arise from rains, melted ice and snow and underground water, hence their water is of excellent quality, their flow rate high and siltage low.

The Yarlungzangbo River, the largest in Tibet, has its source in a glacier at the northen foot of the Himalayas in Zhongba County. After flowing through Lhoyu and entering India it is known as the Brahmaputra The 2,057-kilometre Chinese portion, with a drainage area of more than 240,000 square Kilometres at an approximate average altitude of 4,500 metres high, is the world's highest-altitude river The 370-kilometre Yarlungzangbo Gorge, at a depth of 5,382 metres, the world's deepest, is only 74 meters wide at the narrowest point along its base and 200 metres at the widest. The vast Tibet Plateau is bejewelled with more than 1,500 large and small lakes; Nam Co, Siling Co and Zhari Namco are larger than 1,0 0 square kilometres and 47 other lakes are larger than 100 square kilometres. All told there are 24,183 square kilometres of lakes, about one third of China's total. The Tibet Plateau is not only the area in China with the most dense concentration of lakes; in terms of number, area and altitude of lakes it leads all the world's plateaus Most of these lakes are saline. Seventeen, all larger than 50 square kilometres, are located above 5,000 metres.

Climate The Tibet Plateau's various complex topographies and landforms engender a distinctive climate. Beyond the general tendency of a cold, dry northwest and a warm, wet southeast, can be found a wide variety of localized climates and distinct vertical climatic belts. Two sayings, "different weather five kilometres apart" and "four seasons in one day," well describe this phenomenon. Tibet has thinner air, more sunlight, lower temperatures and less precipitation than other areas in China The air contains only 150 to 170 grams o: oxygen per stere, 62 to 65.4 percent the rate found in plains areas. Solar energy is more readily available than elasewhere nationally, with more than one third to even double that available in plains areas at the same latitude. There are also more hours of daylight than elsewhere in China; in Lhasa there are 3,02 hours of daylight annually.

Daytime amd nighttime temperatures vary greatly, despite low average temperatures and low annual temperature differentials. Average temperatures and peak temperatures for the hottest month in Lhasa and Xigaze are 10 to 15 degrees centigrade lower than in Chongqing, Wuhan and Shanghai at about the same latitude Annual temperatures in Lhasa, Qamdo, Xigaze and elsewhere in Tibet range 18 to 20 degrees centigrade over the year At elevations in excess of 5,000 metres in Ngari Prefecture, daytime temperatures in August climb above 10 degrees centigrade, only to fall below zero at night. Seasonal precipitation is disproportionately distributed throughout the region.

The dry season and the rainy season are clearly demarcated. Rain usually falls at night. Annual precipitation is 5,000 millimetres in the lower elevations to the southeast de creasing gradually to a mere 50 millimetres in the northwest. Precipitation from October to April accounts for only 10 to 20 percent of the yearly total Rainfall is concentrated in the period between May and September, accounting for about 90 percent o the yearly precipitation. Administrative Divisions The Tibet Autonomous Region is divided into one municipality and six prefectures. These are further subdivided into one distric under municipal jurisdiction, one county-level city, 71 counties, one county-level port and one special administrative district (see accompanying table).

Administrative Divisions in the Tibet Autonomous Region Municipality/prefecture counties under jurisdiction (including district under municipal jurisdiction, county-level city, county-level entry/exit port and special administrative district) Lhasa Municipality Chengguan District (under municipal jurisdiction) and Damxung, Doilungdequen, Quxu, Maizhokunggar, Dagze, Nyemo and Lhunzhub counties Xigaze Prefecture Xigaze City, Namling, Tingri, Gyangze, Bainang, Sagya, Lhaze, Nagmring, Yadong, Nyalam, Rinbung, Kangmar, Dingye, Gyirong, Saga, Kamba, Xaitongmoin and Zhongba counties, and Zhamu Port Lhoka (Shannan) Prefecture Nedong, Konggar, Lhunze, Naggarze, Qonggyai, Sangrug, Qusum, Comai, Chanang, Lhozhag, Gyaca and Cona counties Qamdo Prefecture Qamdo, Mangkam, Jomda, Konjo, Dengqen, Chagyab, Zogang, Riwoqe, Baxoi, Lhorong and Banbar counties Nagqu Prefecture Nagqu, Xainza, Amdo, Biru, Bangoin, Baqen, Jiali, Nyainrong, Nyima and Sog counties, and Shuanghu Special Administrative District Ngari Prefecture Burang, Gar, Gegyai, Gerze, Coqen, Zanda and Rutog counties Nyingchi Prefecture Nyingchi, Gongbogyamda, Mainling, Bome, Zayu, Medog and Nang counties Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, is the political, economic, cultural, and communication and transportation centre for the entire region It has a recorded history of more than 1,300 years. Located on the northern hank in the middle reaches of the Lhasa River, a tributary of the Yarlungzangbo River, the city is at an elevation of 3,658 metres The nearly-30,000-square-kilometre municipality is home to 400,000 people, with 140,000 living in the 544-square-kilometre city proper.

Tibetans, Han, Hui and other ethnic groups live in the city, with Tibetans accounting for 87 percent of the population. Agriculture and animal husbandry are relatively well developed in the areas surrounding the city pro per. A group of vegetable and meat production bases have recently been set up The region's mainstay industrial enterprises are concentrated in the Lhasa area. There is a netwrok of more than 10,000 commercial outlets in the city. Great changes have come to the city of Lhasa since Tibet's peaceful liberation in 1951, and even more since the initiation of the reform and opening policy in 1979. The urban area has seen the construction of many new buildings combining traditional Tibetan and modern styles, such as the Lhasa Hotel, the Tibet People's Hall, the Tibet University, the Tibet Gymnasium, the Regional People's Hospital, the Lhasa Cinema, the Mass Art House, and the Lhasa Children's Centre. Infrastructure including transportation, telecommunications and energy has developed rapidly Programmecontrolled telephones and a satellite communication ground station have already been set up. A region-wide highway network centring on Lhasa has been formed. In the urban area the roads are asphalt and there is running water and a sewage system.

The 20-to-30-square-kilometre Yangbajain geothermal field, listed as a key state development pilot project, delivers ground surface natural thermal energy as high as 107,000 kilocalories per second With an estimated 150,000 kilowatts potential, it is the largest geothermal power plant currently under development in China. Lhasa has more than 200 sites recognized as cultural relics More than 20 of these have already been opened to tourism soon to be joined by another 30. Main tourist destinations include famous structures like the Jokhang Temple, Ramoche Temple, the Potala, Ganden Monastery, Drepung Monastery, Sera Monastery, and the Norbulingka and beautiful scenic spots like Nam Co Lake, Derzhom hot springs, and the Lhunzhub and Maizhokunggar nature preserves.

The Barkhor Bazaar around the Jokhang Temple at the heart of the old city is a place where tourists can see some of what remains of the city's original appearance The streets around here, lined with closely packed shops, are bustling with activity An endless stream of pilgrims wends its way around the temple, passing by handicrafts and other traditional goods spread out for sale to either side

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