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Qamdo, Tibet

Known as the East Gate of Tibet. An area of low rainfall and high elevation, averaging around 11.5 thousand feet or 3,500 meters. Mostly grassland. Thirty-one percent is covered with forest. Half the area is farmland. Farming and herding are the main occupations. Grass dwellings, yaks, sheep and dirt roads abounded but by 2002 Qamdo had an airport, chique hotels and shopping malls. Over half a million people were living in the province in the year 2000 (an average of about two persons per square kilometer). Qamdo Prefecture consists of 9 towns, 168 townships and 1,622 administrative villages. Twenty-one ethnic groups dwell in the prefecture, including Han Chinese.