Autonomous prefecture flaunts its assets
Blessed with picturesque natural scenery, rich resources and diverse ethnic cultures, the Aba Tibetan and Qiang autonomous prefecture in northwestern Sichuan has been praised by travel experts as one of the world's best ecological tourism destinations and has become an ideal destination for people to live and work in, according to local officials.
Located in the southeast of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, the prefecture covers an area of 84,200 square kilometers and has a population of 920,000.
It is the second-largest Tibetan-inhabited region in Sichuan province and a major area inhabited by the Qiang ethnic group.
Aba boasts three of the world's natural heritage sites including Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong, 10 national forest parks, five national wetland parks and 25 nature reserves.
Its Ruoergai Grassland, an alpine wetland, is ranked top among the six most beautiful marshes and wetlands nationwide by the Chinese National Geographic Society.
The prefecture abounds in resources and is classed as a water reservation region in the upper reaches of Yangtze and Yellow rivers.
It is rich in minerals such as gold, uranium, lithium, silicon and iron and is known for its cultivation of premium and rare fruits.
Aba is one of China's five major pasture lands and is known as a natural medicine store where more than 1,900 kinds of traditional Chinese medicines are cultivated. The prefecture previously only had six medical clinics and just 25 medical workers, but as of late 2018, it was home to 1,682 health agencies and more than 7,000 healthcare personnel.
Aba is also a meeting point of ethnic cultures, and is known for its blockhouse-shaped buildings of the Tibetan and Qiang ethnic groups that are prized as models of stone buildings.
There are 16 State-level cultural relics sites and 19 intangible cultural heritage items in the prefecture, with the Qiang ethnic group's paintings and written record of ancient spiritual beliefs and history among the most well-known.
Aba has developed greatly since it was founded more than six decades ago. Its GDP has increased from 24 million yuan ($3.49 million) in 1952 to more than 30.6 billion yuan in 2018, and its road network currently exceeds 13,000 kilometers. Last year, the prefecture's farmers and herdsmen saw their net incomes reach some 12,900 yuan per capita, and the number of schools has risen from 245 just after the prefecture's foundation to 676.
Infrastructure has also reached a new level with an advanced transport system of roads, railways and air routes. Areas of social welfare including electricity, education, medical treatment, employment and income have all been greatly improved, according to local officials.
Jiuzhaigou, a scenic valley in the prefecture that is a UNESCO World Heritage site, will fully reopen to tourists in the foreseeable future, an official said. It was closed temporarily following a magnitude 7 earthquake in August 2017 and partially reopened a year ago.
"Jiuzhaigou is currently closed for construction and some scenic spots will open to the public on the National Day this year," said Qing Liao, deputy general manager of Jiuzhaigou tourism group at a cultural tourism expo held in Chengdu. She added that tourists come to Jiuzhaigou mainly for the clear water, but they can also enjoy mountains and cultural activities.
"When people come back here, they will find it more charming after two years of rest." On Aug 8, 2017, a sudden earthquake struck Jiuzhaigou, causing damage to vegetation, villages and tourist facilities in the main scenic area. Some scenic spots were reopened for a while after that, but they were closed again due to flash floods and mudslides. The post-disaster reconstruction of Jiuzhaigou is well underway, according to the local government. Tourist attractions in Jiuzhaigou include 108 alpine lakes and centers for Tibetan and Qiang ethnic cultures.