Tibetans mark Serfs’ Emancipation Day




People of Tibetan ethnic group dance to celebrate the upcoming Serfs’ Emancipation Day

in Doilungdeqen County, southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, on March 26, 2015.

March 28 was designated as the annual Serfs’ Emancipation Day to commemorate the 1959

democratic reform in Tibet, which ended feudal serfdom and freed about one million

Tibetan serfs.   Photo by Purbu Zhaxi


People of Tibetan ethnic group attend an activity celebrating the upcoming Serfs’ Emancipation

Day in Doilungdeqen County, southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, on March 26, 2015.  

Photo by Purbu Zhaxi


People of Tibetan ethnic group dance to celebrate the upcoming Serfs’ Emancipation Day

in Lhasa, southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, on March 26, 2015.   Photo by Chogo





LHASA  |  2015-03-28 19:45:46


Tibetans mark

Serfs’ Emancipation Day


By Cao Kai, Huang Xing, Xu Wanhu and Li Hualing



Celebrations of the seventh Serfs’ Emancipation Day were held in southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region on Saturday of March 28.

Some 3,000 people gathered at Potala Palace Square in the regional capital of Lhasa Saturday morning to watch a national flag raising ceremony.

In 2009, the regional legislature established March 28 as a day to commemorate Tibetan democracy, which ended the feudal serf system in 1959, freeing 1 million serfs; 90 percent of the region’s population at that time.

Wearing a traditional woolen pulu coat, Cering Norbu, 80, a former serf who carried water for the feudal administration, traveled by public transport to attend the ceremony in the square.

Cering Norbu was a civil servant in the Lhasa environmental protection bureau after gaining his freedom in 1959.

“What tremendous changes have happened to me,” said Tubdain, a retired official who was once a beggar in the street in Lhasa. He was sent to college in the 1970s and worked in the regional educational department.

Tibet’s GDP increased to 92 billion yuan (15 billion U.S. dollars) last year from 174 million yuan (24 million U.S. dollars) in 1959. Per capita disposable income for rural residents in Tibet hit 7,359 yuan in 2014, with a double-digit growth for 12 consecutive years.

“Our life is getting better every year,” said Cering Norbu, who moved to a new Tibetan-style house last year.

In a park behind the Potala Palace, locals and tourists surrounded a temporary stage to watch performances of dance, song and drama depicting Tibetan life since emancipation.








BEIJING  |  2015-03-28 15:35:33


End of Tibetan serfdom

compared to abolition of U.S. slavery


By Cheng Zhuo



An article in the People’s Daily, flagship newspaper of the Communist Party of China, has described the end of serfdom in Tibet as comparable to the abolition of slavery in the United States.

Despite that the two events happened almost a century apart and against different backgrounds, they have many points in common, said the article written by Zhang Yun and published on Saturday of March 28, the 56th anniversary of the emancipation of Tibetan serfs.

Both movements ended brutal and inhumane systems, it said.

The systems in the U.S. and in Tibet at the time undermined national unity, economic and social development and human rights, according to the article.

The article said serfdom in Tibet had impeded development in the region and the 1959 reform made former serfs the masters of their region and country, with full liberty, equal rights, citizenship and dignity.

The article mentioned that both movements in Tibet and the U.S. had to resort to the use of force as the conflicts were both serious and irreconcilable.

Chinese authorities designated March 28 as the day to commemorate the 1959 democratic reform of Tibet, which freed about 1 million Tibetans, over 90 percent of the region’s population at that time, from a life of slavery.

“For the serfs in Tibet, the day of March 28 was just like the year of 1865 for slaves in America. Both events will be remembered as immortal achievements for civilization and human rights,” it said.








CHENGDU  |   2015-03-27 20:55:20


Long-term prosperity, stability

stressed for China’s Tibetan regions


By Zuo Yuanfeng



Top Chinese political advisor Yu Zhengsheng has called for efforts to coordinate development and improvement of people’s livelihood, promote religious and ethnic harmony to maintain long-term prosperity and stability in Tibetan regions.

Yu made the remarks during an inspection in the Tibetan-Qiang Autonomous Prefecture of Aba in southwest China’s Sichuan Province on March 25-27.

“The ultimate goal for accelerating the development of Tibetan regions is to improve people’s livelihoods, and improving people’s livelihoods should be a key criterion for evaluating the quality of development,” Yu said, urging more funds and projects that favor the grassroots, rural and pastoral regions.

During the inspection, Yu visited schools, hospitals, monasteries and held symposiums with local officials.

Stressing education in both Mandarin Chinese and local ethnic languages, Yu noted that the teaching of science and engineering should be strengthened to boost the ability of students of ethnic minorities.

“Great efforts should be made to develop local medical services and cultivate high-level health workers in the Tibetan regions,” Yu said.

Yu stressed that local religious work should be conducted in line with the principle of rule of law, and religious figures should actively guide Tibetan Buddhism to adapt to a socialist society, while resolutely resisting the influence from foreign forces.

While meeting with local officials, Yu praised social and economic achievements of Aba and urged the region to map out an employment-oriented development plan that combined infrastructure and environmental protection.








LHASA  |   2015-03-27 17:12:59


Archives reflect

pain of old Tibet


By Wang Shoubao, Liu Ziming and Wang Ruoyao



The regional archive of Tibet has made public historical documents that offer a glimpse into the tragic lives of serfs before they were emancipated more than five decades ago.

The 18 files, released ahead of Serfs Emancipation Day on March 28, include agreements on trading of serfs and directives on torture of them, as well as proof of serf owners’ economic exploitation.

Serfs Emancipation Day is a day set to mark the 1959 democratic reform freeing one million Tibetans from serfdom.

Under the theocratic rule that lasted a millennium until the abolition of feudal serfdom, over 90 percent of the region’s population had no personal freedom, while serf owners — officials, aristocrats, manor owners and senior monks — held the vast majority of land, livestock and houses.

Among the documents, a contract inked in 1925 showed that four female serfs owned by a manor would be traded for three male serfs belonging to another. Both manors were in the possession of the prominent Zhaibung Monastery.

A 1914 agreement said an insolvent borrower would use his four serfs — a mother and her three daughters — to pay off his debt.

Other lowlights include a directive issued by the Gaxag government (the former Tibetan local government) ordering that the feet of a low-ranking monk, who was accused of leading a riot against authorities, should be cut off. Another dictated that authorities should cut off the limbs of two serfs who allegedly stole from a monastery.

Serf owners also exploited serfs by imposing forced labor, taxes and levies, and rents for land and livestock. Serfs had to contribute more than 50 percent or up to 80 percent of their labor, unpaid, to the owners, according to a 2009 white paper issued by the Chinese government.

In a letter a serf wrote to the aristocrat to plead for tax reduction, he said, “During the past 26 years, we farmed a tiny plot of land… the heavy taxes and levies made our life a living hell”.

He said the family must pay the poll tax and additional tax in lieu of military service. The family was also ordered to contribute manpower gratis whenever the serf owner needed.

Due to the unbearable economic burden, serfs had to borrow money to survive, and most serf households were in debt. Aristocrats were engaged in usury, with the interest accounting for 15 to 20 percent of their family revenues, according to the white paper.

“Serfs were starved and beaten, and some were forced to wear foot shackles when working, just like prisoners,” said Pubu Cering, whose parents were serfs.

Pubu Cering is caretaker of Phalha Manor, the best-preserved Qing Dynasty manor in Tibet. In the 82-room building with 5,000 square meters of grounds, a 150-square-meter courtyard used to accommodate 60 serfs serving the noble Phalha family.

“Their room was too small. So for a fine day, a serf family would sleep outdoors, and for a rainy or snowy day, they would squat on the bed through the night,” he said.







BEIJING  |   2015-03-27 19:15:06


Documentary about

life on Qinghai-Tibet Plateau

to debut on National Geographic Channel


By Wu Chen



A Chinese documentary about life on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau will be broadcast by the National Geographic Channel, according to a contract signed by producers and the channel on Friday of March 27.

The 276-minute documentary, Roof of the World, co-produced by China Central Television (CCTV) and Beijing Five-star Legends Culture Media Co., Ltd, focuses on how people on the plateau get along with the nature and their spiritual world, said the producers.

It features footage shot under the world’s biggest lake at more than five kilometers above the sea level and on a 200-meter high cliff alongside the Yarlung Zangbo River.

It took the crew 500 days to travel more than 100,000 kilometers to get the stories in Tibet, Qinghai, Sichuan, Yunnan and Gansu.

The documentary’s Chinese version has already been showed on CCTV-4 and it will be the debut of its ultra high-definition (4K) version on the National Geographic Channel.

The channel is also interested in co-producing versions adapted for European and American audience, producers said.










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