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Cover Stories Series 2011> Tibet 60 Years On> In-depth
UPDATED: July 25, 2011 NO. 30 JULY 28, 2011
A Pictorial Journey
An exhibition showcases six decades of change and progress in Tibet

ATTRACTIVE CHANGES: A narrator explains Tibet's progress to visitors at the exhibition marking the 60th anniversary of Tibet's peaceful liberation in Beijing (MENG CHENGUANG)

Beijing resident Ma Cuiling is always nostalgic about her younger years working in Tibet. She had worked in Tibet since 1965. Ma said she was fortunate enough to have witnessed, first-hand, Tibet's transformation into a modern society.

Thirty years after she left Tibet, Ma had an opportunity to revisit the land in an exhibition near her home.

"There are so many new houses, and people's lives have got much better," said Ma, who brought her family to the exhibition.

She said Tibet had changed beyond recognition, especially Lhasa, the regional capital.

Sixty years ago on May 23, 1951, representatives of the Chinese Central Government and local government of Tibet signed the 17-Article Agreement in Beijing, declaring the region's peaceful liberation.

To mark the event, an exhibition on the region's progress was held at the Cultural Palace of Nationalities in Beijing from June 15 to July 8.

More than 500 photos, 30 relics and dozens of graphs, tables, historical documents and video clips were displayed in three exhibition halls. The exhibition was organized around four major themes: history, modernization achievements, changes in people's livelihoods and future plans.

The exhibits made clear the scale of the changes that have taken place in Tibet's rural and urban areas over the past 60 years.

At the exhibition, many inquisitive visitors gathered around Yuzin, a 26-year-old Tibetan girl, who served as one of the exhibition's narrators.

Unfamiliar with the rapid development Tibet has experienced over the past decades, some visitors were keen to know if "Tibetan people still travel on horseback," or if "some people there still live in thatched cottages."

"Many people do not know Tibet well," Yuzin said. "This exhibition helps more people learn about the great changes that have taken place in Tibet over the past 60 years."

"In the past, Tibet was very backward economically and socially. Many serfs lived very difficult lives, and they were ill-clad and fed," the young Tibetan narrator said.

Yuzin said, "Many people live in new houses. In Lhasa, many households have a car, and there are a growing number of supermarkets."

In one display area, photos of the past and present were juxtaposed together to highlight the difference.

Pictures taken before the peaceful liberation feature scenes of great poverty, serfs having meals in their masters' stables and children wandering around with wild dogs. More recent pictures, however, show Tibetan girls having meals in bright and clean restaurants and children joyfully playing in well-equipped kindergartens.

Electronic equipment such as touch-screen TVs, electronic maps and LED projectors were employed to make the exhibition more interactive and engaging. A giant screen beamed images of Tibet's progress in such fields as agriculture, animal husbandry, industry, tourism, transportation and energy. Also flashing on the screen were scenes from the world's highest Qinghai-Tibet Railway, an engineering feat that makes Tibet much more accessible to the rest of the country.

The exhibition drew many visitors, who kept Yuzin and more than a dozen other narrators extremely busy. The narrators, mostly university students, were carefully chosen. Yuzin, an experienced narrator, had worked in the Tibet Pavilion at the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai.

Liu Hongbin, a retired worker of the First Automobile Works in Changchun, Jilin Province, went to Tibet earlier this year. He came to the exhibition to refresh his memory. "During my Tibet tour, I was surprised by how beautiful Tibet is," Liu said. Like many others he used to believe Tibet was a very backward place yet, when he got to Tibet he found he was wrong.

Hua Shiwei, a 78-year-old retired civil servant in Beijing, took many pictures of the exhibits. He was especially impressed with a booth showcasing a modern Tibetan family's living room, which had a blend of traditional Tibetan furniture and modern household electronic appliances.

"Because of my old age, I might not be able to visit Tibet in person. So I want to take pictures of the exhibits, so that I can enjoy them back at home," Hua said.

Ai Chunxiao, a student at Beijing Forestry University, said after visiting the exhibition, "I really want to visit Tibet to experience the life of Tibetan people."

To the many visitors who expressed the desire to visit this beautiful region, Yuzin typically responded, "You are very welcome to my hometown by a train traveling along the Qinghai-Tibet Railway."

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