Nepal: Joining China's "One Belt, One Road"

Buddhist Wares Shop Survives Opening Day Earthquake

In April 2015, a violent 7.6-magnitude earthquake struck Nepal. That day was also the opening day of Sunil Shakya’s Buddhist statue shop in Thamel, the traveler’s haven of accommodation, food and shopping in Kathmandu. The astrologist told him that it was a good day to start a business. “However, nobody can control nature,” said Shakya.

“When the earthquake happened, I was watching for the carpenters who were rechecking the showcases in my shop. Suddenly, I smelled a rat since I saw the Buddhist statues were moving slowly in the showcases and some cracks began to show up on the wall. I realized that there was an earthquake and ran out of my shop with the workers quickly. At that time, the streets out there were already full of people,” Shakya said.

Shakya still has the jitters when he looks back. None of his family members got hurt and though damaged his business was not destroyed by the quake.

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(Shakya describing Buddhist wares in his shop. Photo/ Lv Dan)

Two weeks after the earthquake, he came back to his shop and opened for business. At that time, most of the shops in Thamel had already reopened. However, due to the earthquake, the number of the tourists in Nepal immediately fell sharply and many foreigners who lived in Nepal returned to their countries. “No tourists, no business — life is so tough,” Shakya said.

Although Shakya’s new business suffered a slow start due to its opening day misfortune, he still donated 2000 rupees and some clothes to other Nepalese who suffered heavy losses in the earthquake. “I think Nepal’s people held together in this earthquake. I am deeply touched,” said Shakya.

Now a year has passed. Although the number of tourists now is still quite far behind pre-earthquake levels, according to a number of shopkeepers, Shakya is optimistic about the future.

“On the one hand, the number of tourists has had a slow rebound — on the other hand, I am seeking new business opportunities now,” he said.

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(Sunil Shakya Photo/Lv Dan)

Shakya, who was on a plane in late June from Guangzhou to Kathmandu, said that he had just attended The 2nd Yiwu Buddhist Cultural Ware Exhibition in Zhejiang province, China. With an eye toward the economic outlook of China, he plans to open a Buddhist statue shop in Beijing in the future, saying, “a railway between China and Nepal is under consideration. That is a good piece of news to me.”

During the visit of former Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli to China in March, 2016, the two countries agreed to work on development and cooperative programs together, and to carry out major projects under the “One Belt, One Road” initiative, a development strategy that involves Asian, African and European countries and references historical Silk Road trade routes.

Building railways to link the two countries is a part of the plan. China has announced that it will extend the Qinghai-Tibet railway to border areas with Nepal. The railway will stretch out for another 540 kilometers from Xigaze, a Tibetan city, to Jilong county which sits on the border of China and Nepal.

Shakya sees a potential benefit for his business in these development plans.

“It means that my Buddhist wares might not be sent to China by air anymore in the future, which can greatly lower the transportation costs,” Shakya said. “I never lose confidence about life.”

By: Lv Dan

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