Mo Wei (left), an officer responsible for maintaining a section of National Highway 318 in Pashoi county, Chamdo city, Tibet autonomous region, shows a new recruit how to fill cracks with asphalt. (ZHANG YANGFEI/CHINA DAILY)
Notorious for constant mudflows, roadbed collapses, landslides and rockfalls, this stretch of road has seen so many vehicles and passengers plunge over the abyss that the local people have awarded it the grim nickname "Tongmai graveyard", a reference to the nearest town.
Despite its fearsome reputation, the section is unavoidable once drivers set off along National Highway 318, which runs for more than 2,000 km from Sichuan province to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet.
Since 1996, the highway - dubbed one of the most dangerous roads on Earth by guidebook publishers, travel magazines and adventurers - has been manned year-round by members of the Chinese People's Armed Police Force. The officers maintain the road surface, guide traffic and try their best to protect travelers' lives.
The deep, quick-flowing Yigong Tsangpo River, which runs through the "graveyard", is straddled by three bridges of differing sizes and materials. In 2000, a catastrophic landslide hit the gorge, causing severe flooding that cracked a concrete bridge built in the 1950s.
To keep traffic flowing, local authorities began erecting a temporary steel bridge. At the same time, a small wooden bridge was built alongside it so construction materials could be delivered to the officers.
The bridge, a single-track structure only capable of bearing a maximum load of 20 metric tons, was completed at the end of 2000.
Wang Faming, an armed police officer, was deployed at one end, and while his mission - to ensure the safety of the bridge and repair the damaged road - may sound simple, the work was tough.