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Story of Tibet: a Tibetan family in 6 decades
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Monks were forced to resume their secular life, they participated in the ordinary labor and fed flocks and herds like any other common herdsmen.

Destiny changed

Tsering Gyalpo's eldest sister Dorje Drolma was appointed as a cadre of the Red Flag Commune in 1975.

She often went to the countryside with her colleagues to promote Maoism. In order to help local herdsmen to understand more about the Communist Party, Dorje Drolma worked together with herdsmen on their land and told them that the Communist Party cared about them very much.

Ngari, an administrative area in the western part of Tibet Autonomous Region rests about 4,500 meters above sea level. (File photo)

From then on, Tsering Gyalpo's family changed a lot: his eldest brother became an electrician; Tsering Gyalpo began his school life due to his good Tibetan language foundation and the lack of accountants and primary school teachers in his hometown.

At that time, the policy "set Dazhai as a model" was in process and it encouraged people to develop agriculture. "Only three people were allowed to be responsible for grazing the 600 sheep, other family members had to work on the land as farmers according to the policy", said Tsering Gyalpo's third elder sister Tsewang Drolma.

Thanks to the production team leader's support, Tsering Gyalpo went to school as usual.

Two years later, he went to Gar Middle School because he had excellent exam results. "Actually what we learned was quite elementary knowledge except for an accounting course," said Tsering Gyalpo.

Meanwhile his 8-year-old brother, Wangdra, became the herdsman for his family.

"I admired my older brother very much and said to my father that I wanted to go to school as well, I didn't want to tend sheep," Wangdra – now the general manager of Ngari Prefecture's Tobacco company -- recalled.

His father never promised him this.

Regulations at that time stipulated that every year only four Tibetan students could get the opportunity to receive higher education. Fortunately, after two years of schooling at Gar, Tsering Gyalpo got a chance to further his education at the Lhasa Teacher's College (Tibet University nowadays).

The college was more like a training course at that time. Among 20 students, the eldest one was 60 years old and the youngest was 14.

Tsering Gyalpo studied pinyin and Mandarin from a teacher who was from Shanghai. "Students would receive punishment if they did not speak Mandarin at this teacher's office and it was very effective. He ate only steamed bread and slept in his office, he was a good teacher," Tsering Gyalpo recollected.

In 1981 Tsering Gyalpo took the University Entrance Exam. That year the Central University for Nationalities in Beijing accepted 26 Tibetan students. Tsering Gyalpo was one of them.

Depart versus Back

In 1978, some policy changed. Herdsmen got their own cows and sheep because of a new policy. "Production contracted to each household" signified that people could have their own business.

The new policy disappointed one person – Tsering Gyalpo's younger brother Wangdra, who, at the age of 12 that year, was eager to go to school.

Wangdra's first dream at the age of 9 was to eat steamed bread and wear Sun Yat-sen's uniform. "I met many difficulties trying to achieve my dream and felt that my parents would never let me go when new policy came into being," recalled Wangdra.

Wangdra's family had 300 sheep, 8 cows and a horse. He became the main person to tend sheep because his eldest brother was an electrician; his eldest sister was one of the area's cadres; his second older sister was married and his other two older brothers were studying in Lhasa.

His chance came in a summer's afternoon in 1978.

Wangdra saw a jeep parked near him, so he went to check on it. A man looking like a bureaucrat approached him and asked if he wanted to go to school. Wangdra answered without hesitation: "That is my dream, take me please!"

Wangdra left his home without saying goodbye to his parents, because he knew they would prevent his departure.

Later Wangdra found out that the man had come to Ngari to enroll new students. The "production contracted to each household" policy caused many parents to keep their children at home to help with farm and herding work but the Gar government mandated that at least 36 students had to receive an education. These two reasons forced education personnel to take children away without asking their parents.

He studied in Gar Middle School for one year and then went to a teacher's course in Ngari Prefecture. After another three years he went to the local post office to learn how to do code translation and how to send a telegram. Eventually he became an official post office worker after half year.

However, Wangdra was still not satisfied. He applied to go to the inland for further education, and asked the post office to accept him if he got his diploma.

Finally, he received an offer from the Chinese Language and Literature faculty of the Henan Normal University. The school gave him a preferential treatment and reduced his fees from 3,000 yuan to 1,200 yuan because of his Tibetan capacity. "I also needed to work a part time job to support myself," said Wangdra.

He got his college diploma after two years and the post office as promised accepted him again. He became a deputy director of its administrative office.

Yet he still wasn't satisfied with his position. He wanted to be a businessman and earn more money.

Compared with Wangdra's special experience, Tsering Gyalpo was more regular. He studied Master course in Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing after he finished the undergraduate degree.

In 1991, Tsering Gyalpo married a Tibetan girl, his classmate.

After getting his Master's degree, Tsering Gyalpo worked for four years in Beijing. Because he missed his family deeply, he returned to Lhasa.

Wangdra: jump into the sea of business

Wangdra now is a successful businessman. He said that he "would like to change a little bit" if he hadn't undergone a big operation two years ago.

In 1992, a strong business wind blew across the mainland.

Although his family members were quite satisfied with what they had, Wangdra still "would like to change something".

The post office invested 300,000 yuan to open a little company, called the "Communications Development Corporation", but it lost 250,000 yuan within five years. Wangdra proposed to renovate it. With the remaining 50,000 yuan, a 70 or 80-square-meter shop front and a hand-me-down Dongfeng truck as startup funding, he signed an agreement with the post office. "During the contract period of three years, 250,000 yuan must be returned in cash. Every year, 100,000 yuan must be remitted to the post office."

"I sold everyday commodities. I did whatever I could to earn money," Wangdra said. During the contract period of six years, he earned 3 million yuan.

The post office then decided to take over the company and invest 3 million more yuan to enlarge its scale. Wangdra was invited to take the position of general manager, but he refused.

Wangdra had his own plans. "I bought a truck of ghee in Amdo. Some cost ten yuan per bucket while others cost only six or seven yuan. I sold them along the way, so they might be sold out before reaching Ngari. However, if I do business for the government, a truck of ghee has to be carried to Ngari and stored in the warehouse before sale. That would greatly increase its cost and we could not make much profit," Wangdra said.

Leaders admired his ability and invited him back to return to his previous work.

In 1999, the local tobacco company was close to bankruptcy. The prefecture administrative leaders believed Wangdra had a talent for management, so he was invited to work as a manager in charge of tobacco. In 2003, Wangdra was promoted as the director of the Ngari Tobacco Monopoly Bureau as well as the general manager of the tobacco company. To date the annual revenue of the tobacco company has grown to 10 million yuan.

Indeed, Wangdra has been a successful businessman. He said that he "would like to change a little bit" if he hadn't undergone a big surgery two years before.

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