The Reporter's Notes About The Tibet Railroad

Indeed, you can go to Google News to find the blanket coverage on the topic of the Tibet Railroad.  I also heartily recommend the reporters' blogs of Tim Johnson and Richard Spencer.  In the following, I will translate the blog of Southern Weekend's Fu Jianfeng on the Tibet Railroad.  Fu wrote several reports for his newspaper, but this blog is about his personal ordeal.  Why was the ESWN blogger motivated to translate this?  Because it was funny, personal and ... bitter.

(Fu Jianfeng's Blog)  Lhasa, after one sleepless night after another, the train finally arrives.  July 1, 2006.

On the first day of arrival at Lhasa, I was mildly dizzy but I slept a full night.  When I woke up the next day, I looked at the high blue sky and I felt good.  I thought that the sacred highlands have accepted me.

But I really simplified the test that the highlands would put on me.


On the next day, which is June 29th, I went to the train station in a lively manner.  In order to make sure that I get the best reporting from the most interesting angle of the train station, I climbed to the roof of the train station.  My guess is that I am the only reporter out of the several thousand who are covering the Tibet railroad event to have climbed to the top of the roof of the Lhasa railroad station roof.  Oh, wow!

On this day, I chatted with the rooftop workers, I listened to their dreams and I listened to their Sichuan accents.  80% of the railroad station workers are from Sichuan.  70% of all Han people in Tibet are from Sichuan.  On Lhasa's Beijing road, there are Sichuan restaurants standing next to Tibetan restaurants.  There must be at least 100,000 Sichuan people who are working or conducting business in Tibet.  Therefore, I wrote in that day's article ... the people of Sichuan are the salt of the nation, and the people of Sichuan are also the salt of Tibet.

From the rooftop, I look down from an altitude of thirty or forty meters above ground.  I can see the Potala Palace, Sera Monastery and Jokhang Monastery and then I can see the brocade-like Lhasa river and the green mountains.  I can see the blue sky and the rays of sunlight.  I can see the freely soaring eagles.  I can see the tanned faces of the sweating workers on the rooftop.  I can see the railroad extending into the distance from the railroad station ... this was a dizzying beauty.

On the roof eaves only half a meter wide, I walked back and forth with the workers.  They tell me that I am the only reporter that they have met.

On that night, I wrote three reports in a row.

Later that night, I could not sleep.  My head ached, my chest felt constricted, my hands were swollen and then I realized that the highlands were not being kind to me.  My physical and mental strengths were sapped.  I could not sleep that night.


On June 30, I walked around like a zombie all day.  My sleep-deprived brain was not functioning.

I endured and finished my job, and then I drifted to the Snow Region Restaurant like a lost soul.  Inside, there were Euro-American tourists, Nepalese merchants, Han tourists and strong, tall red-clothed lamas.  The food at the Snow Region Restaurant illustrates the multicultural diversity of Lhasa: there was Tibetan food, Nepalese food, Indian food, western food.  I asked for a bowl of green barley wine, in which tasty cheese was floating.  I wanted to order another bowl, but I was afraid of getting drunk so I left after only one bowl.

In the afternoon, the admission ticket that I tried so hard to obtain from the Tibet Party Committee Publicity Department was declared by the Railroad Department to be null and void.  It was said that more than one hundred of these press passes had been annulled in this fashion.  Well, the Railroad guys are tough people who want to stick their noses into just about everything.

In the evening, I was depressed and I sat by the Lhasa river to enjoy the scenery.  The water was continuously lapping the river bank, the white birds flew back and forth and the mountains reflected the rays of light in the fading sunlight.  My whole being was enveloped into the glorious play of light and then I began clear in my heart.  I was at peace, and I flowed long and unbroken with the water ...

But at night, I could not sleep again.  It was that damned high altitude effect.  I waited until the lights came through the curtains for another new day to start.


Today is July 1st.  I went over to the train station early.  The main roads were sealed off.  So I turned into a side road.  I suddenly discovered a long queue of humans.  Today was the day when the train would be coming, and the Tibetans and Hans of Lhasa shared the same program of wanting to be at the train station.  The motorcycle taxi driver told me that there was at least 10,000 people.

Security was very tight at the train station.  Reporters without a press pass like me can only stand on the road outside the plaza and walk back and forth and make some inconsequential talk.  Many of the civilian spectators were stopped by the police on the earth slope outside the train station.  On one tree, there were six excited  Han and Tibetan persons hanging out to watch the opening ceremony from afar.  I took a photograph, but a police officer said that this was not allowed because it was too negative.  So I made a face at him, said a few nice things and did not get expelled from the scene.

During the ceremony, there were many similar stories that will not be repeated here.  Anyway, the so-called sanctity and solemnity of the Chinese people were expressed from high atop.

After the ceremony was over, the security was lifted and the masses of civilians were allowed to enter.

The most touching thing to me was a Tibetan couple who entered the train station hand in hand with willow wicks in their headgear.  I asked them about that, and they said that this was a festive day and the willow wicks expressed their joy.  They told me that for the past two years, they had been building the railroad alongside the Hans at the Tangula Pass and Tuotuo River.  They said that the railroad is part of their memories.  They told me in a plain and unassuming way that they plan to go to Beijing eventually.  So I posed with them in a photograph and I said that we might just meet in Beijing.  The man laughed with a hearty smile.

There were also Tibetans who came out with their entire families.  The Tibetan children had lively smiles and happiness on their dirty faces.  Whenever I pointed the camera at them, they shrieked in delight.  Their future may just be changed as a result of this railroad.

I must have been too worked up, because the tiredness from lack of sleep rushed up again.  I made up with one hour of sleep at noon.

In the evening, I was going to go with two Southern Metropolis Daily reporters to have Tibetan meals and green barley wine.

I asked them about their day and they actually wore the passes that had just been voided by the Railroad Department and walked right into the place of the opening ceremony.  I did not bring that pass along today.

They laughed and said: The Railroad Department must think that they are tough sh*t, but even the strong dragon cannot beat the local snake -- how would the local police dare to stop someone who wore passes from the Tibet Publicity Department, even if these had been annulled by the Railroad Department?

I laughed because I thought about the another saying: in one of Jin Yong's martial arts novel, the first page of the Sunflower Sacred Script said that: If you want to learn the magical art, you have to castrate yourself first.  As for me, after my pass got annulled, I thought that I was no longer eligible for training.  But it turned out that the second page of the Sunflower Sacred Script said: Even if you don't castrate yourself, you can still practice the magical art.  The brothers from Southern Metropolis Daily did that, whereas I paid a heavy price.

But I can still hope that the heavy price can get me back a good night of sleep.

Okay, so this insomniac is going out now to eat his half-cooked Tibetan meal and drink the crisp and delicious green barley wine.  88.