Yak: the soul of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau

As a Tibetan folk song goes, "the yak's head turned into a mountain, the yak's skin turned into the land, and the yak's tail turned into a river." In a bold and hyperbolic imagination, the yak has obviously become the soul of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. Then, why are yaks so important to Tibetans?

A yak looks similar to a common cow, but it has many of its own features. Yaks are big and fierce, and their bodies are strong. They give people the feeling of being tough and powerful. Most yaks have brown-black fur, and all-white yaks are the rarest. Because of their small number, Tibetans think of white yaks as "nobles".

The whole of the yak is treasured. The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau has a high altitude and cold climate, and yak hair is soft, smooth, and warm. Nomads weave yak hair into wool by hand to make beautiful blankets, cloaks, and rain-, snow- and windbreakers. They are waterproof, warm, and comfortable. Nomads have been living in black yak hair tents for thousands of years. The wool of yak hair tents contracts when the weather is warm, letting sunlight and air through dense holes, but expands in times of rain and snow, keeping the tent dry.

Yak meat and yak milk are high in protein and low in fat. If the meat is processed into nutritious dried meat, it is both fragrant and delicious. It is also convenient for carrying and is an ideal food for people on a journey. Butter tea, which is made with yak milk, is a special drink on the plateau. It quenches thirst, keeps stomachs full, and helps with digestion.

Yaks are also a means of transport on the plateau, the use of which can be traced more than 2,000 years ago. A piece of a yak saddle was found at the Shangshung site in Ngari, Tibet. For more than 2,000 years, the yak has carried nomads' belongings and roamed all over. Nowadays, when people climb Mount Qomolangma (known as Mount Everest in west), they will first arrange yaks to transport mountaineering materials to Base Camp, which sits at an altitude of 6,500 meters.

For thousands of years, yaks and the Tibetan people have accompanied each other, becoming important friends. They ensure basic living securities for people in Tibetan-inhabited areas, becoming essential for clothing, food, housing, traveling, transport, making fires, and farming. It can be said that Tibetans have domesticated yaks, but yaks have nurtured Tibetans. Therefore, the yak is called the "soul of the plateau".