The first 10 years in Tibet left a deep imprint on the life of Wang Gui, who is 78. He still cries sometimes when relating long-ago stories.
When he was 19, serving as a soldier of the People's Liberation Army (PLA)'s 18th Corps, Wang met the first Tibetan in his life in late March, 1950, somewhere near Ya'an in southwestern Sichuan Province.
"It was a group of traveling tea merchants. I went up to ask them the way in Tibetan, which I had just learned weeks earlier. They did not understand. Our interpreter said I did not pronounce the words right," he recalled. "All other comrades laughed at me."
In the following months, he saw his first Tibetan village and was first hit by altitude sickness. He fought in a critical battle in Qamdo of eastern Tibet from Oct. 6 to 24, 1950.
"All the way from Sichuan to Tibet, we were told that we should make every effort to liberate Tibet in a peaceful way, and war was not the best choice. But, before the battle, the envoys we sent to Lhasa for peace talks were all turned away. One of them was even poisoned to death in Qamdo," Wang said.
The battle, in which the PLA defeated the Tibetan regional government's army, laid a foundation for the peace talks that began in Beijing in March, 1951.
An agreement about the peaceful liberation of the Himalayan region was reached in May, 1951. Staying in Qamdo for another four months and then marching for about a month, Wang and his brothers in arms caught the first sight of Lhasa in October the same year.