Natural Resources  

Wild Plants

The Tibet Autonomous Region is richly endowed with plant resources, with more than 5,000 species of higher plants. Medog, Zayu, Lhoyu and Moinyu in south eastern Tibet are like museums of rare plant life. Even in northern Tibet, with its extreme natural conditions, there are more than 100 kinds of plants. Forests, concentrated in the Nyingchi area, still retain their primitive nature. Tree species found in the Northern Hemisphere, from the tropical to cold areas, can be found there.

Medicinal Plants:
There are over 1,000 kinds of plants with medicinal properties. They include some 400 kinds commonly used as medicinal herbs, and some 300 kinds used to make Tibetan medicine with special curative effect. Major ones include tuber of elevated gastrodiae, safflower, bulb of fritillary, pseudo-ginseng, rhubarb, root of hairy asiabell, large-leaved gentian, root of red-rooted salvia, glossy ganoderma and reticulate millettia. These medicinal herbs are so high in production that, after satisfying the needs of the Tibetan-inhabited areas, there is still a surplus to be exported to other parts of China. Some are even sold overseas.

Plants With Sugar and Starch Content: In the whole region, there are some 70 kinds of such plants, including over 50 that can be simply or directly processed into raw materials for drugs, textiles, and for making paper and wine.

In addition to the aforementioned wild plant resources, the forests hold many types of fungus. Of the 200-plus fungi are some that are precious medicinal herbs, including glossy ganoderma, Chinese caterpillar fungus, fuling (Poris cocos), and stone-like omphalia. There are also edible fungus including some kinds of mushrooms, Auricularia auricula-judae and tremella. These fungi are nutritious and tasty, and boast anti-cancer elements.

Wild Animals

The Tibet Autonomous Region boasts 118 species of mammals, 473 species of birds, 49 species of reptiles, 44 species of amphibians, 61 species of fish, and more than 2,300 species of insects. Wild animals inhabiting the tropical and sub-tropical broad-leaf forests on the southern slopes of the Himalayas include long-tail leaf monkey, Assamese Macaque, rhesus monkey, muntjac, head-haired deer, wild cattle, red-spotted antelope, serow, leopard, clouded leopard, black bear, wild cat, weasel, raccoon dog and others preferring a warm climate. Wild animals inhabiting coniferous and broad-leaf forests, or coniferous forests in the temperate area include lesser panda, red deer, river deer, white-lipped deer and some other animals that thrive in cold climates.

In forests with an elevation of over 4,000 meters there are Tar sheep. In areas perennially covered by snow, there are snow leopards known as the "highland overlord"and blue sheep good at climbing mountains.

In northern Tibet with high elevation, there are wild yak, Tibetan antelope, wild donkey, blue sheep, argali, Mongolian gazelle, fox, wolf, brown bear, snow leopard and jackal. Of these, the Tibetan antelope, wild yak, wild donkey and argali are unique to the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, and command high appreciation and economic value. They are subject to protection by the State. The rare white-lipped deer is unique to China and is under first-class State protection.


There are more than 70 known mineral types in the Tibet Autonomous Region. Total reserves of 26 of these have been determined, with 12 ranking among the top five in China at a provincial level. They include chromite, with the highest deposits in China. The people's government of the Tibet Autonomous Region is now building up the Norbusa Chromite Mine in southern Tibet.

Of the non-ferrous and rare metals, the prospective lithium deposits in Tibet are among the highest in the world, and the region serves as China's lithium production base. Prospective copper reserves rank second in China.

Of the non-metallic ores, boron boasts the largest reserves. Distributed widely in the autonomous region, it ranks third in China in proven reserves. In addition, magnetite used as supplementary material for the metallurgical industry ranks third in China in proven reserves. Barite and arsenic, coveted by the chemical industry, occupy third and fourth place respectively in China in terms of reserves. Reserves of gypsum and pottery clay, widely used in the building industry, rank second and fifth in China. Muscovite indispensable for the national defense and electronic industries occupy the fourth place in China in reserves.

There is new discovery with regard to the reserves of energy ores. Peat's proven reserves reach more than 8 million tons, ranking fourth in China.


The Tibet Autonomous Region is poor in coal, oil and natural gas, but rich in hydro-, geothermal, solar and wind energy. Tibet is especially well endowed with hydroelectric energy resources, producing approximately 200 million kw of natural hydro energy annually, or about 30 percent of China's total. About 70 percent of Tibet's hydraulic energy resouces are concentrated in southeastern Tibet. The Yarlung Zangbo River promises 80 million kw in exploitable energy capacity. This, plus the hydroelectric capacity of its five tributaries---the Dogxung Zangbo, Nyang Qu, Lhasa, Ny'ang and Parlung Zangbo Rivers, adds about 90 million kw to the reserves. Experts say a 36-km canal cut through rocks in the area where the Yarlung Zangbo River makes a U-turn would allow water of the Yarlung Zangbo River to flow from Paiqu to Lidongqiao in Medog. A fall of 2,190 meters thus produced could be exploited to build a giant hydraulic power station with an installed generating capacity of 40 million kw, the largest of its kind in China and the world at large.

Investigations have found that Tibet leads China in geothermal energy. More than 100 sites have good geothermal energy reserves, ranking first in China. Of the 169 geothermal fields and hot spring areas already surveyed, 22 percent show a water temperature of 80 degrees Centigrade, with the highest temperature at the hot spring mouth reaching 95.5 degrees Centigrade; most of them approach or exceed the local boiling point. About 26 percent have a water temperature of 60-80 degrees Centigrade; 35 percent, 40-60 degrees Centigrade; and 17 percent, lower than 40 degrees Centigrade. Tibet's geothermal heat discharge adds up to 550,000 kilocalories per second, equivalent to annual heat generation by 2.4 million tons of standard coal. The Yangbajain Geothermal Field in Damxung is currently China's largest high-temperature steam geothermal field, and, moreover, one of the largest geothermal fields in operation in the world today. With a hot water temperature staying at 93-172 degrees Centigrade, the field has a natural heat flow of 110,000 kilocalories per second, equivalent in heat produced annually to about 470,000 tons of standard coal. It is expected to generate 150,000 kw of power a year.

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