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, province (2010 pop. 5,626,722), c.279,000 sq mi (722,797 sq km), W China. Xining is the capital. Qinghai lies in the Tibetan highlands at an average elevation of 9,800 ft (3,000 m) and is mainly a high, desolate plateau.
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a province in Northwest China. Area, 720,000 sq km. Population, 2.2 million (1974). In addition to Chinese, who make up approximately 60 percent of the population, the province is inhabited by such peoples as Tibetans, Mongols, Dungans, and Kazakhs. The capital is the city of Hsining.
Tsinghai is dominated by mountains and upland plains, notably the Tsaidam Basin, which has an elevation of 2,600–3,100 m. The province is bounded on the north by the Nan Shan (elevations of 5,000–6,000 m) and the Altyn Tagh and on the south by the Kunlun Mountains (elevations of up to 6,000–7,000 m). To the south lies the northeastern part of the Tibetan Highlands. The climate is markedly continental, with severe winters and cool summers; annual precipitation is 300–500 mm. The headwaters of the Yangtze River, the Huang Ho, and the Mekong River are located in the province. There are numerous lakes, the largest being Koko Nor. Tsinghai contains mountain steppes and semideserts.
Tsinghai is a poorly developed agricultural province. Agriculture is dominated by transhumant livestock raising. Most of the livestock are sheep and goats, but horses, cattle (including Tibetan yaks), donkeys, mules, and camels are raised as well; the principal products are meat and wool. Land cultivation, which is poorly developed, is concentrated in the river valleys of the northeastern part of the province. The principal crops are grains, including barley, oats, the foxtail millet Setaria italica maxima, Indian corn, and cold-resistant strains of wheat, rape, potatoes, and some melons and gourds are also cultivated.
Petroleum is extracted in the Tsaidam Basin at the settlements of Lenghu, Yuch’üantzu, Yushashan, and Mangnai; an estimated 1.5 million tons were produced in 1975. The province’s petroleum refineries are able to produce less than 1 million tons annually. Rock salt and salt obtained from lakes are produced, and lead and zinc ores are mined. In the eastern part of the province is the industrial center of the Hsining, which has metallurgical and machine-building plants; there is also coal mining and the processing of animal-husbandry products.
The transportation network is based on the Tsinghai-Tibet highway. The railroad line connecting Hsining with Lanchou, in Kansu Province, is 200 km long.
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In antiquity, Tsinghai was inhabited by tribes of the Western Jungs and later by T’ufan tribes. From the 14th to 17th centuries the province belonged to Mongol states. In the 1720’s it came under the control of China and was gradually settled by Chinese. It subsequently formed part of various Mongol khoshuns (administrative divisions). Modern Tsinghai Province was formed in 1928. In the 1930’s it was controlled by militarists of the Ma clan. Tsinhai was liberated from Kuomintang rule in early 1950 by the People’s Liberation Army of China.