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Qinghai (Chinese: 青海; pinyin: Qīnghǎi; Wade–Giles: Ch'ing-Hai; pronounced [tɕʰíŋxàɪ]), formerly known in English as Kokonor, is a province of the People's Republic of China located in the northwest of the country. As one of the largest province-level administrative division of China by area, the province is ranked fourth-largest in size, but has the third-smallest population.


Located mostly on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau, the province has long been a melting pot for a number of ethnic groups including the Han, Tibetans, Hui, Tu, Mongols, and Salars. Qinghai borders Gansu on the northeast, the Xinjiang on the northwest, Sichuan on the southeast, and the Tibet Autonomous Region on the southwest. Qinghai province was established in 1928 under the Republic of China period during which it was ruled by Chinese Muslim warlords known as the Ma clique. The Chinese name, "Qinghai" is named after Qinghai Lake (cyan sea lake), the largest lake in China. The province was known formerly as Kokonur in English, derived from the Oirat name for Qinghai Lake.





Qinghai is located on the northeastern part of the Tibetan Plateau. The Yellow River originates in southern part of the province, while the Yangtze and Mekong have their sources in the southwestern part. Qinghai is separated by the Riyue Mountain (Chinese: 日月山; pinyin: Rìyuè Shān; literally "Sun and moon mountain") into pastoral and agricultural zones in the west and east.


The average elevation of Qinghai is over 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) above sea level.[citation needed] Mountain ranges include the Tanggula Mountains and Kunlun Mountains. Due to the high altitude, Qinghai has quite cold winters (harsh in the highest elevations), mild summers, and a large diurnal temperature variation. Its mean annual temperature is approximately −5 to 8 °C (23 to 46 °F), with January temperatures ranging from −18 to −7 °C (-0 to 19 °F) and July temperatures ranging from 15 to 21 °C (59 to 70 °F). It is also prone to heavy winds as well as sandstorms from February to April. Significant rainfall occurs mainly in summer, while precipitation is very low in winter and spring, and is generally low enough to keep much of the province semi-arid or arid.


By area, Qinghai is the largest province in the People's Republic of China (excluding the autonomous regions). Qinghai Lake is the largest salt water lake in China, and the second largest in the world. The Qaidam basin lies in the northwest part of the province. About a third of this resource rich basin is desert. The basin has an altitude between 3000 to 3500 meters.


The Sanjiangyuan National Nature Reserve, is located in Qinghai and contains the headwaters of the Yellow River, Yangtze River, and Mekong River. The reserve was established to protect the headwaters of these three rivers and consists of 18 subareas, each containing three zones which are managed with differing degrees of strictness.





Qinghai has been influenced by the interactions "between Mongol and Tibetan culture, north to south, and Han Chinese and Inner Asia Muslim culture, east to west". The languages of Qinghai have for centuries formed a Sprachbund, with Zhongyuan Mandarin, Amdo Tibetan, Salar, Yugur, and Monguor borrowing from and influencing one another. In mainstream Chinese culture, Qinghai is most associated with the Tale of King Mu, Son of Heaven. According to this legend, King Mu of Zhou (r. 976–922 BCE) pursued hostile Quanrong nomads to eastern Qinghai, where the goddess Xi Wangmu threw the king a banquet in the Kunlun Mountains.


The main religions in Qinghai are Tibetan Buddhism and Islam. The Dongguan Mosque has been continuously operating since 1380. Measures of education in Qinghai are low, particularly among the Muslim ethnic groups such as the Hui and Salar, who sometimes prefer to send their children to madrasahs rather than secular schools. The yak, which is native to Qinghai, is widely used in the province for transportation and its meat. The Mongols of Qinghai celebrate the Naadam festival on the Qaidam Basin every year.





Many tourist attractions center on Xining, the provincial seat of Qinghai.


During the hot summer months, many tourists from the hot Southern and Eastern parts of China travel to Xining, as the climate of Xining in July and August is quite mild and comfortable, making the city an ideal summer retreat.


Qinghai Lake (青海湖, qīnghǎi hú) is another tourist attraction, albeit further from Xining than Kumbum Monastery (Ta'er Si). The lake is the largest saltwater lake in China, and is also located on the "Roof of the World," the Tibetan Plateau. The lake itself lies at 3,600m elevation. The surrounding area is made up of rolling grasslands and populated by ethnic Tibetans. Most pre-arranged tours stop at Bird Island (鸟岛, niǎo dǎo). An international bicycle race takes place annually from Xining to Qinghai Lake.