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Tibetan Farmers, Herdsmen See Lifestyle Changes
Today, on the "roof of the world" home appliances such as TV sets, telephones and refrigerators are as commonplace as they are in the developed eastern parts of China.

Gaisang Yexe, a research fellow at the Tibet Academy of Social Sciences, said that Tibetans' lives have undergone fundamental changes since Tibet's peaceful liberation in 1951.

Especially since the Third National Conference on Tibet, sponsored by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the State Council, was held in 1994, Tibet's economy has boomed.

Since then, the average annual growth rate of Tibet's gross domestic product (GDP) has reached 12.9 percent, higher than the national average.

In 2001, Tibet's GDP was estimated at 13.786 billion yuan, up 12.2 percent from the previous year.

Meanwhile, the per capita income of Tibet's farmers and herdsmen topped 1,410 yuan last year.

Gaisang said that Tibetans' lives have been much improved as regards clothing, food, housing and transportation.

In the past, most Tibetan farmers and herdsmen wore one woolen robe all the year round, having no other clothes to change into.

Some could not even afford to buy blankets, and simply covered themselves with their coats at night.

But today, young Tibetans not only have enough clothes to wear, they also want to follow the latest fashions, even in the farming and pastoral areas.

In the past, too, most Tibetan herdsmen did not have any choice for food and had to rely on beef and mutton, and farmers lived on a simple diet of potatoes and radishes in winter. But nowadays, more and more Tibetans can afford to buy sea food air-freighted from inland provinces. And greenhouse vegetables and fruits are now common sights on Tibetans' dinner tables.

As far as housing is concerned, previously most Tibetans dwelled in primitive shelters, and herdsmen lived in tents. But now farmers in areas like Xigaze Prefecture, and Bainang and Gyangze counties nearly all lived in new storied buildings.

Gyiba, a farmer in Gonggar County, recently moved into a newly built two-story house. He explained that the first floor is for storing rice, wool and sundries, and the second floor is for the accommodation of himself and his family.

Statistics show that in 2000, per capita housing space in rural areas of Tibet reached 31.6 square meters, more than the then national average, which was 24.8 square meters.

Meanwhile, in the past five years Tibet -- where the main means of transportation used to be yaks and donkeys -- has built more than 24,000 km of highways, and the number of private cars has been increasing by 10 percent a year.

(Xinhua News Agency March 12, 2002)

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