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Religious Sites Along Qinghai-Tibet Railway Well Protected

As the Qinghai-Tibet Railway is crawling forward, all Buddhist shrines including the sacred Namco Lake, holy Kailash Mountain and celestial burial sites are intact.

The 1,142-km-long railway, believed the highest in the world, runs past the holy mountain and the sacred lake, many Tibetan Buddhist temples, celestial burial sites and sacrificial altars.

Builders of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway have protected these religious sites from being damaged by altering the construction routes, setting up fences to separate the construction site from Buddhist shrines and beautifying their environment.

Dazhag Danzim Gele, the Fourth Living Buddha of the Dazhag Temple in Tibet, said, "The life of Tibetan people is closely linked with Buddhism. Railway builders take the religious habit and cultural customs of Tibetan people into consideration in the course of construction."

Celestial burial means a kind of traditional funeral for Tibetans. They believe the offering of the body of the dead to vultures helps the dead gain merits and virtues, and they call the vultures "holy eagles".

The Zhamu celestial burial platform is the only place to conduct funerals for hundreds of Tibetan households in Nagqu Prefecture in northern Tibet.

As the Qinghai-Tibet railway goes through, vultures still hover overhead to gorge on the offerings of dismembered dead bodies left on celestial burial sites.

To avoid disturbing the life of the holy eagles, the railway headquarters decided to make a detour of about three kilometers, which cost an additional investment of 2 million yuan (US$240,960) per month, said Xu Yucheng, an official in charge of rail construction.

The quiet Namco Lake, known as the sacred lake in Tibet, has been surrounded by sandbags to separate it from bustling railway construction site.

Thousands of pilgrims and tourists trek to the lake, once dubbed as the highest salt lake in the world, each Year of Dragon to pray for good weather.

Zhuo Lei, head of the construction team working at the Namco section, said, "We ban fishing and dumping of construction waste into the Namco Lake to preserve its natural beauty. Violators will be punished."

Construction workers have also transplanted turf at barren areas of Nyainqentanglha Mountain, one of the four holy mountains in Tibet.
(Xinhua News Agency June 28, 2004)

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