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                             Qinghai Lake

Breathtaking beauty
The lake has an abundant supply of fish, which in turn attracts large flocks of birds including many migratory breeds. Major sights on or around the lake are: Bird Island, Haixin Hill, Haixi Hill, Sankuaishi (Three Stones), and Sand Island.

Breathtaking beauty
Qinghai Lake, "a blue sea" in Mongolian and Tibetan, is the largest inland salt lake in China with an area of 4,500sq.km and an altitude of 3,194m , after which Qinghai Province was named. It is fascinating in its vast expanse of misty and wavy blue water.


Perched at 3,200m above sea level and sandwiched between the Hainan and Haibei Tibetan Autonomous Prefectures, lies Qinghai Lake (Qinghai hu). This huge expanse of deep, salty liquid receives its name, literally Blue Sea Lake, from the vastness of its azure waters. It is the largest salt water lake in China, with a circumference of 360km and a surface area of over 4,500km squared. In ancient times the lake was known as the Western Sea, and in Tibetan it is known as Koko Nor.

With an average depth of 20m, the lake water contains sodium, potassium, magnesium as well as scores of salts, which are important materials for chemical, electronic, optic and pharmaceutical industries.

Around the lake is the endless outstretching of grassland and rapes, and wheat fields. In the distance, countless sheep, cattle and horses are grazing under the white cloud-dotted blue sky. Still farther away tower the snow-capped mountains.

Over the centuries, its splendid scenery and rich aquatic resources have attracted millions of tourists and numerous valiant pioneers who admire it for its vastness, splendor and mysteriousness, landing it as a sparkling diamond set in the Qinghai Plateau.

It used to be a place for which local nationalities contended. Since the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD), China's ruling classes have fought bitter battles for its control with Tubo minorities. The founding of New China in 1949 gave it a new life. Roaming cattle and sheep, yak of minorities and picturesque grasslands marks today's lakeside. The local Han, Tibetans, Hui (Chinese Muslims), Mongolians, Tu, Salar live here in harmony and make concerted efforts to protect and exploit this big treasure house, striving to make it even more beautiful.

Sacrificial Offering to the Qinghai Lake

Sacrificial Offering to the Qinghai Lake is a worshipping ceremony to the Lake God by the people living on the shores. It is directed by Ningma (Red Sect) Buddists. As opinions vary, no unanimous conclusion can be drawn about the origin of the ceremony. However, some historic records tell tat it was originated during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 AD) by the imperial government so that it could consolidate its rule.

In the 4th year of Yong Zhen (1726 AD), Qing imperial commissioners were sent to the northern shore of the Qinghai Lake to hold a sacrificial ceremony to the lake and to erect a stone tablet there.

Later on, other imperial commissioners came in the 5th lunar month every year to hold the ceremonies. And the nobility were called together from Mongolia to observe the ceremonies and to enter into alliance with the imperial court.

After the Dao Guang years, common Tibetans began to attend the ceremony, which has been going on since then. The present sacrificial offering to Qinghai Lake is held once a year on the 4th day in the 5th lunar month on the northern shore near the Shatuosi Temple.

There are also other activities before and after the ceremony. When the time comes, crowds of people pour from all over the prairies to the shore, and a provisional town of hundreds of tents.

The lake has a number of attractions that draw travellers in this region in. Ornithologists, campers, hikers, botanists, swimmers, sailors, fishermen, loners and nomads all find areas of interest around the lake. The beauty here lies in its salty vastness and the remote peace that it instills. The colours that can be found around the lake are of purity and contrasts, from the deep yellows of oil seed rape against the cold blues of the lake to the dark greens of distant mountains against the fluffy white of bilious clouds.

The lake offers year-round pleasure. Many prefer when it is a green and lively world. The mountains and grassland wear a green blanket with herds of cattle and sheep dispersed over the grassland. The bank is connected with stretching farmlands, which is prospering with blooming rape flowers and rolling with wheat waves, sending blasts of fragrance to the lake. The water of the lake is also very limpid, which reflects the pretty green mountains in the deep like a mirror. The color changes with time and varies in different depth of the lake, which produces a sense of mystery, hence the name 'Seven-Colored Lake'. As a result of the teeming fish on the lake, the mouth of the nearby river has a yellow color to it as the fish float close to the surface. Many birds are also attracted to this beautiful lake and bountiful surroundings, resulting in this place being a kingdom for birds' watchers.

When the cold winter comes, the world becomes a bit quieter and duller, but the glamour of Qinghai Lake doesn't diminish much. At this time, the leaf-yellow mountains put on a new suit of clothes as they become blanketed with new-fallen snow. The snow and ice covered surface of the lake shines brightly in the sun, adding another degree of beauty to the lake. The famous 'Icy Fish' are very easy to catch at this time because they are confined by the ice. An interesting fact is that when a hole is dug in the ice, it is easy to trick the fish out of the water.

Highlights of the lake include the Bird Island, a peninsular in the westernmost part of the lake and the most impressive sight, especially in season. For most of the summer rare species can be seen here in great multitude. The cuisine at the lake is also of interest, composed of variations on a fish theme. Especially notable is the naked carp, whose tender flesh is served in most local restaurants and hostels.

Qinghai Lake is really a good place for travelers. Apart from embracing the heavenly beauty here, you can either stroll on the grass or ride on a yak, climb the sand hill or visiting the historic remains left on the Tang-Tubo ancient road or the Silk Road. If you are more sociable, the hospitable local people will warmly welcome you as you visit their homes and enjoy a taste of the Tibetan life. In addition, tents and various delicious foods are provided for the tourists in the pastures.

There are five islands in Qinghai Lake

(1)Known as Bird Island Xishan small island or eggs (eggs everywhere because of a famous).Buha, located four kilometers north of the estuary, the island's first, Xitou elongate, tadpole-shaped, with a total of 1,500 m, After the 1978 North, West, South and the land surface exposed lakebed together. Bird Island gentle slopes, surface by sand and stones covered the southwest of the island, there are several springs flow. There are two main separatist quarter Mausoleum plant vegetables, Chenopodium quinoa, ice and grass, sickle Oxytropis Siberian smartweed, Kobresia, such as Kentucky bluegrass.Bird Island is a unique bird breeding in Asia, it is our first eight bird sanctuary. Qinghai opening to the outside world is an important place. Each March to April ,the migration from the South to the geese, ducks, cranes and other gull nesting birds have started to Qinghai Lake; 5-6 months eggs all over the country, groups of young, hot topic, a few acoustic Yang, the island has more than 30 species of birds at this time. A total of 16.5 million only bare months, the height of autumn, the species in the blue sky, cruise migrated to the end of the lake 95. For the protection of birds for people to watch, the Bird Island Nature Reserve, established in August 1975. 1980 was classified as National Nature Reserve, in 1986 the provincial government grant 600,000 yuan to build a tunnel beneath, billets, security watchtowers and other facilities for visitors to view, the North-South Highway have arrived at Bird Island.
(2)Harbor Hill in the center of predictors of South Qinghai Lake, about 25 km from Bird Island, the island with a long, narrow ends of the central and wide. 2.3 km long and 0.8 km wide, with an area of 1.14 square kilometers, 3,266 meters above sea level the highest point the island, granite, gneiss composed of a spring eastern edge of the island, drinking. Steep rock formation exposed the southern fringe of the East, West, North to slow beach. Most of the island of sand covered with ice and grass growth, Splendens, sickle Oxytropis, Kobresia, in the garb of yellow needles. Siberian Wong Ching, vegetation coverage rate above 50%, concentrated in the island edge of a cliff and gravel beaches bird habitat.

(3)Known as Haixipi Hercynian Hill, Buha is located 6 km north of the estuary and with the Bird Island at the tip of the Buha River Vagach. NW fault near the island in the northeastern margin of the lake is in a similar steep rock cylindrical tower in the lake. Cormorant is the breeding ground of the island's vegetation coverage rate of more than 90%.

(4)Island Lake in the northeast, Haiyan County, which was once the largest lake island, about 13 km. most width of about 280 km, with an area of 18 square meters, 3,252 meters above sea level the highest point the island. Sand Lake is a prominent ridge surface formed by sand accumulation. 1980 Pratas northeast end of the peninsula to become linked with the land and 33 square kilometers surrounded Island Lake surface covered by sand, no vegetation, fish breeding habitat gull.

(5)Three pieces of stone known as interpolation isolated mountain in southwest Lake is seven blocks from the intensive together limestone rock composition, About 17 meters high, with an area of about 0.056 square kilometers from Bird Island, Harbor Mountain 20 km. Gap block growth of the island only in aggregate, such as Artemisia Shelter. Vegetation cover less than 5%.

Climate & Best Time to Go

In the winter months, the lake area is extremely cold and inhospitable and throughout the year the lake's temperature rarely gets above 15 degrees C. Most travellers come here in summer, when the nights are a little warmer. At this time the lake feels fairly hot, despite the cooling winds that breeze from the lake that are refreshing, bringing moisture and birds off the lake's surface. For ornithologists, the optimum time to visit is also between March and June, when the birds are in breeding and so flock here in large numbers.

August and September are also a good time to visit, mainly for the scenery around the lake, as the oil-seed rape bursts into sunbeam yellow blossom and contrasts with the salty blue of the lake beyond.

Getting there and away

The lake can be reached by both bus and train. 3-4 long distance buses leave from the Xining station for a little Tibetan town called Heimahe between 07:30-09:00 for Y20, 5hrs. The return journey is about the same schedule. Buses from Golmud also arrive at Heimahe (about Y50, 11hrs). Unless you are able to hitch, it will then be a taxi, Y50, on to the lake. On the weekend in summer, buses leave from the Dashizi crossroads in Xining (Y40) for Bird Island. Tickets can be bought from the ticket office at the corner of Changjiang lu and Xiguan dajie.

The best train to catch will be the 09:40 train for Ha'ergai, on the northern side of the lake, arriving at 14:32. Buses leave infrequently from here to the Bird Island. Ha'ergai has a few hostels that may be useful for brief stopovers.

There are a few tour agencies in Xining organising tours to the lake. Most tours are for transport only, excluding dining, accommodation and entrance fees. Most also run daily over the summer, but are limited by tourist numbers out of season.

Accommodation around the lake is a little limited. Many of the travellers here opt to camp rather than stay in one of the less than impressive guesthouses. Bear in mind that the area can get very cold at night, thus warm clothes, sleeping bag and a tent would be wise. The best way to camp is to head off from one of the town's on the southern shore of the lake, and settle wherever you like. If you are not confident in your fishing skills or prefer not to drink highly saline beverages, then a supply of food, cooking utensils and fresh water is worth bringing. Fish can be bought from the locals.

There are basically two options, one in Gonghe and the other on Bird Island. The Qinghai Lake Tent Hotel (Qinghai hu zhangpeng binguan, Tel: 0974-513520) is a two star hotel that lies around 30km from the Sun Moon Mountain (Riyue shan), in Jiangxigou Township, Gonghe. The hotel has about ten cabins and a restaurant. A Mongolian cabin for two costs Y280, a double with bath is Y240, without bath is Y160. The hotel also offers dorm beds for Y30 in a triple. Hot water is available between 20:00 and 23:00.

The Bird Island Hotel (Niao dao binguan) is on the island, a little rough but cheap. Doubles are Y120, dorm beds are Y25. It is also possible to rent tents from the locals around the Bird Island. Generally these are pre-set up, with beds within, and will cost around Y10-20.

101 Scenic Spot CNY 100 (Apr. 16 - Oct.15)
CNY 50 (Oct.16 - Apr. 15)
Sand Island CNY 70 (Apr. 20 - Aug. 20);
CNY 35 (Aug. 21 - Apr. 19)
Bird Island CNY 78
Opening Hours: 8:30-17:30
Best time to visit: Summer
Routes: There are coaches at Xining Coach Station