A personal valedictory to an exotic experience

I was so moved by my visit to Tibet that I wrote a poem in the ancient Chinese style to express my feelings.


“Streams of heaven, sea of forests, tear of Goddess Peak;

Peaks of snow, lakes of jade, water of affections;

Prayer flags of five colors flapping in the wind;

Eagles of the plateau setting forth on a journey of thousands of miles.”


It’s hard not to be blown away by the utter grandeur of the Tibetan plateau. It’s a rugged land of magnificent scenery and searing solitude.

To enjoy it, of course, you first have to conquer the high altitude. Visitors often suffer from altitude sickness until they adapt to the thinner oxygen levels. Even the natives are prone to the illness despite their acclimation.

I visited the home of a local Tibetan and was warmly received. The wife served me butter tea and never let my cup go empty. They also offered me naizha, a kind of dry milk product, and some sweets. They asked me a lot of questions about my life, and I about their life.

Despite the hardships of climate, altitude and economic backwardness, the Tibetans I met seemed at peace with themselves and wanted to work hard to improve their lives. They seem deeply grateful for help from Shanghai and other large cities.

Those who take up the challenge and volunteer for work in Tibet have many obstacles to overcome. They have problems sleeping. They need to keep bottled oxygen handy. They have to put up with rather basic amenities in some areas and brave the bone-chilling temperatures. Here, there are none of the comforts of modern Shanghai living.

But the volunteers always manage to stay upbeat and cheerful. If they lack needed resources, they find other ways to accomplish their goals. They are resourceful because they have to be.

I can only hope that someday the Tibetans will enjoy a more prosperous and comfortable life, and I hope their unique culture will also be shared with Shanghai. Many Tibetans are studying or working in Shanghai. Tibetan restaurants have opened, and Tibetan crafts are sold here.

I came away feeling the bond between Tibetans and people from other parts of China are growing stronger and stronger and the plateau is a miracle of our motherland.

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