It contains 44 ethnic groups. Besides the Han, China's majority, there are Tibetan, Hui, Tu, Salar and Mongol ethnic groups.

Yushu, an "autonomous" Tibetan prefecture, has been the worst hit in the latest earthquake.

It is located in south of Qinghai province which borders Tibet and covers an area of 267,000 square kilometres with a population of about 280,000.

It lies at an average altitude of 4,000 metres and is at least 12 hours' drive from the provincial capital of Xining.

Most people in Qinghai make their living as farmers and herdsmen, while the hydropower industry is also key to the economy.