Chin. /ching"huy"/, n.Older Spelling. Qinghai.
* * *Introductionsheng (province) of northwestern China. Located in the Tibetan Highlands, it has an average elevation of 13,000 feet (4,000 metres). It is bounded on the north and east by Kansu, on the southeast by Szechwan, on the south and west by the Tibet Autonomous Region, and on the west and north by the Uighur Autonomous Region of Sinkiang. Tsinghai has an area of about 284,600 square miles (737,000 square kilometres). It is the fourth largest political unit in China in area, but it is sparsely populated. The capital is Hsi-ning (Xining), which is 120 miles west of Lan-chou, Kansu Province.The province derives its name from a large lake, Ch'ing-hai (“Blue”) Lake, which is conventionally known as Koko Nor, in the northeast. A historic home of nomadic herdsmen, Tsinghai is noted for its horse breeding, and it has earned new prominence as a source of both petroleum and coal.Physical and human geographyThe landMost of the province consists of mountains and high plateaus. In the north are the Ch'i-lien Mountains (Qilian Mountains), which form the divide between the interior and exterior drainage systems of China. Through the south-central part of the province extend the Pa-yen-k'a-la Mountains (a spur of the Kunlun Mountains), which serve as the watershed of the headwaters of the Huang Ho (Yellow River). In the south the Tsinghai-Tibetan boundary parallels the T'ang-ku-la Mountains (Tanggula Mountains), where the Yangtze River rises. Between these high mountains are broad valleys, rolling hilly areas, and extensive flat tableland.In the northwestern part of the province lies the Tsaidam Basin (Qaidam Basin), an immense, low-lying area between the Pa-yen-k'a-la and the Ch'i-lien ranges; its lowest point is about 8,700 feet above sea level. There are many fertile spots in the piedmont and lakeside areas of the basin. The southeastern part is a broad swamp formed by a number of rivers flowing from the snowcapped T'ang-ku-la Mountains.The extensiveness and the complex terrain of the region result in great variations in climate, soil, and vegetation. On the whole, the climate is continental, being influenced by the region's remoteness from the sea and by the mountain ranges in the south and east that bar maritime winds. The average annual precipitation in most places is less than 4 inches (100 millimetres), most of which occurs during the summer. Winter is dry, cold, and windy; summer is hot. Strong winds from the Mongolian Plateau blanket the region with sand, a serious menace to agriculture. Grass thrives on the vast plateau, however, and the region possesses some of China's best pasturelands for sheep, horses, and yaks. Antelope, wild horses, wolves, foxes, bears, and exotic birds are found there.The peopleMost of Tsinghai's population is Han (Chinese), and the rest are minority nationalities including Tibetans, Mongols, Hui (Chinese Muslims), Salar, and Tu.The major population centres are in eastern Tsinghai in the Hsi-ning Valley, which is the main agricultural and industrial centre. A number of cities have grown substantially with development of the province's mineral and oil and natural gas industries. Since the opening of the Tsinghai–Tibet highway, Ko-erh-mu (Golmud) has become important.The economyEconomically, Tsinghai is divided into two parts by the Ch'ing-hai-nan Mountains. On the eastern side is the Huang Ho drainage, consisting of large tracts of farmland crisscrossed by irrigation canals and dotted with settlements. Spring wheat, barley, and Irish potatoes are produced in much improved yields. Irrigated acreage is low, however, as is the use of chemical fertilizers. On the western side is the plateau basin, where herds of cattle, yaks, horses, and sheep—which represent the province's major source of wealth—graze on vast stretches of grassland. The output of sheep and yak wool is high and of good quality. Vast pastoral land areas have been opened up for cultivation, introducing a mixed farming-livestock economy. The Kunlun and Ch'i-lien ranges are well forested, producing spruce, birch, Chinese pine, and Chinese juniper. In the farming areas there are peach, apricot, pear, apple, and walnut orchards.Before 1949 Tsinghai's limited industrial and commercial development was based on food and animal by-products in such centres as Hsi-ning and on a few salt mines in the Tsaidam Basin. Since then, industrial growth has been rapid. Chemical plants, iron and steel factories, and electrical equipment firms have been established in Hsi-ning and other cities. Oil and natural gas reserves are located in the Tsaidam Basin, which contains most of the province's mineral reserves. Tsinghai has become China's largest producer of lithium, and the province has reserves of boron, salts, potash, zinc, lead, and magnesium.Much of the development has been made possible by the opening of new transportation links between Tsinghai and other areas of China. The crucial impetus to growth was the opening in 1959 of the Hsi-ning–Lan-chou line, connecting the province to the national rail network; the line has been extended to Ko-erh-mu and other places in the Tsaidam Basin. The Hsi-ning–Lhasa highway was widened and paved. Truck transportation is important, and main highways lead from Hsi-ning to Lan-chou, Chang-yeh in Kansu, Sinkiang, and Kan-te in Tsinghai. Several highways intersect at the southern margin of the Tsaidam Basin at Ko-erh-mu, making it a communications centre.Administration and social conditionsThe provincial capital is Hsi-ning (Xining). The province is subdivided into one prefecture (ti-ch'ü), six autonomous prefectures (tzu-chih-chou), and one municipality (shih) under provincial jurisdiction, which are further subdivided into counties (hsien) and autonomous counties (tzu-chih-hsien). The special status of the Tsaidam Basin was reflected in late 1956 by the establishment of a separate Tsaidam Administrative District, with its headquarters at Ta-ch'ai-tan, a new settlement situated on the northern edge of a salt swamp and at a major road junction. In 1964 the Tsaidam district was reincorporated into an autonomous district designated for the Mongol, Tibetan, and Kazak minorities.The educational system of the province includes public and temple schools. For the whole province, there are comprehensive (six-year) elementary schools and junior (four-year) elementary schools for male students only. There are elementary schools for girls. Among the ethnic groups, the Hui have the highest percentage of attendance. Temple education plays an important role in the province. Among the Tibetan (Tibetan Buddhism) Buddhists, a child who becomes a lama begins his studies at the age of 10 and continues for more than 10 years. A Muslim child's studies begin at the age of six and continue for 15 years.Cultural lifeUrban cultural institutions such as museums, theatres, universities, and libraries are few. Life is largely rural, strongly influenced by the traditional culture of the several ethnic and nationality groups that make up the population. Among the Mongols and Tibetans, for example, one son from every family is supposed to enter a lamasery (lama). This custom imposes a limitation on population growth. The chief monastery in Tsinghai is about 20 miles from Hsi-ning. It is a centre of Tibetan Buddhism, to which thousands of believers make pilgrimages from the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Tibet, Sinkiang, and Szechwan.Chiao-Min Hsieh Victor C. FalkenheimHistoryThe cultivable land near Koko Nor was settled in prehistoric times and may have been the original home of the tribes who settled in Tibet. The Tsinghai region, called Amdo in Tibetan, was long considered part of Tibet. The Han (Han dynasty) referred to the people of Koko Nor and beyond as Ch'iang and sought to keep them out of the Han Empire by establishing a military outpost near the lake in AD 4. The post was soon abandoned, however, and the Chinese remained ignorant of the Tsinghai region for centuries.During the period of political fragmentation following the decline of Han power, a branch of the Hsien-pei tribe established a state based in the Tsinghai region and extending east into present-day Kansu. Called T'u-yü-hun, this state lasted more than three centuries. A Lhasa dynasty assumed control over the region in the 7th century, reaching its peak of power in the 8th century when territory was extended far to the northeast and even reached the T'ang (Tang dynasty) capital of Ch'ang-an (near modern Sian, Shensi Province) for a time.Contact was friendly between Lhasa and Ch'ang-an during the T'ang period. Slow caravans of yaks and ponies carried Buddhist monks and pilgrims across the Tsinghai desert, and traders met near Koko Nor to exchange locally bred horses for Chinese tea, which was the chief Tibetan export until the 20th century.The Tsinghai region was later ruled by Tangut leaders who established a state called Hsi Hsia (Xi Xia), based near Koko Nor, in 1038. Genghis Khan began his campaign against this state in 1205 and incorporated it into his expanding Mongol Empire in 1227. After the Mongol conquest of North China, Tsinghai became part of the Yüan (Yuan dynasty) Empire based in Peking. The founder of the Dge-lugs-pa (Yellow Hat sect) of Tibetan Buddhism, Tsong-kha-pa, was born near Koko Nor in 1357; his 16th-century successor converted Mongolia to Tibetan Buddhism and was given the title Dalai Lama by the Mongolian Khan.During the Ming period the Tsinghai region remained closely allied with Tibet, despite increased communication with China through trade and tribute missions. In 1642 a Mongolian dynasty was established in Tibet that lasted until 1717, when a local uprising caused the Chinese to directly interfere in the region's affairs. Tsinghai was placed under separate administration in 1724. During the Ch'ing (Qing dynasty) period immigrants from the east settled in Tsinghai, and Chinese political and cultural influence in the region increased. Tsinghai was made a province of China in 1928.Victor C. Falkenheim
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