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From serf to actor - a Tibetan life
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Wangdui, former head of the Tibetan Drama Theatre and executive director of China Theatre Association, is now in receipt of a State Council special allowance. 

Wangdui, former head of the Tibetan Drama Theatre and an actor now receiving the State Council special allowance, starred in the film Serfs (Nongnu) when he was 30, just one year after he graduated from Shanghai Theatre Academy.

The film, made by the August First Film Studio in 1963, created a stir in China. It portrayed the miserable life of serfs in Tibet, and at the time was hailed as a sensation in the modern film industry.

After this first success, Wangdui went on to play parts in many films and dramas, but he believes that the role he played in Serfs was his best. A life experience comparable to that of the leading role contributed to the success of the film.

Wangdui was a native-born serf and his family carried a heavy tax burden. He was forced by the serf owner to herd sheep and cattle when he was only 13. At that time, he didn't have enough to eat.

Wangdui escaped from the serf owner when he was 20 and became a monk. But he went through hardships at the temple, doing cleaning tasks every day and being ill-treated.

Wangdui was disillusioned with his life at the temple, and fled to a farm run by the People's Liberation Army, where he learned how to drive a cart. "That was the happiest time I had known; I had enough to eat and warm clothes and no one abused me," Wangdui remembers. At the same time he was also afraid that he would be retaken by the serf owner, since serfdom had not yet been abolished.

In 1958, the 26-year Tibetan went to college. Serfdom was abolished in Tibet in 1959, which reassured Wangdui that the serf owner could no longer take him back and he had no further grounds for fear.

Tibet has experienced great changes since Wangdui returned to his hometown at the age of 29. Wangdui believes that a man's character shapes his fortune. "My courage and intelligence helped me make a success of my life," he says.

(China.org.cn by Yang Xi, March 19, 2009)

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