Modern Life of A Tribal Headman in Tibet

Ninety-nine-year-old Dongniang, former headman of the Lopa ethnic group in Tibet, can not help getting excited whenever he takes up his axe, bows and arrows, which he had used for many years.

He said, "In the early years of my life, I used them to fight between tribes and get what I need from nature. Now, they are just ornaments of my house."

The Lopa ethnic group has a population of more than 2,600, who are mainly living in the Nanyigou, Mainling County to the south foot of the Himalayas.

In the old Tibet, Lopa people had a very low social status and were regarded as barbarians. They were only permitted to live in the high mountains and dense forest.

Following the peaceful liberation of Tibet in 1951, democratic reform was also introduced into Nanyigou in 1960. Local government allocated land, livestock and iron production tools to Lopa people. Lopa Autonomous Township of Nanyi was established in 1985.

Dongniang and his family now live in a wooden building surrounded by pine and cypress trees. They have bought a truck to transport goods.

Dressed in the traditional cyan Tibetan clothes, Dongniang looks very healthy. He said, "After the democratic reform, I got 33 cattle, 70 sheep and five horses."

He was also elected a member of the Mainling County Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and counselor to help local government maintain social order.

In 1944, a fight broke out among the Lopa people. Dongniang and his followers moved to Nanyigou.

Dongniang said, "when I was young, I killed many animals, and I also killed human beings." Hunting and revenge were his main activities in his younger days. After settling down in Nanyigou, Dongniang and his followers lived by hunting in nearby mountainous areas and exchanged their hunted animals for daily necessities.

As the headman of the Lopa ethnic group in Nanyigou, Dongniang not only led his people to fight against invasion from other tribes, but he also had to pay various taxes to the local government of Tibet at the time.

However, following the democratic reform, the state sent batches of iron production tools to Lopa people and sent technical workers to teach them how to farm and to publicize farming technologies among the people.

The state has invested more than 1.2 million yuan in comprehensive development of agriculture in Nanyi since the implementation of reform and opening to the outside world more than two decades ago. More and more Lopa people are putting down their hunting rifles to start farming.

As an eminent elderly man of Lopa ethnic group, Dongniang has visited many places in the interior area of China, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong, Tianjin and Jiangsu. He was also met with by the senior leaders of the central government.

Large changes in the inland area have made Dongniang become more concerned with construction at his hometown.

He put forward many proposals, such as "building two villages in the Nanyi River valley", "building Nanyi Forest Protection Zone " and "speeding up education of Lopa people", which have all been accepted by the government and put into practice.

Lopa people have moved into spacious and bright houses compared with caves and grass shelters where they lived in the past. The per capita income for the people has exceeded 2,300 yuan annually.

At present, 97 percent of the children of school age at Dongniang's hometown are now attending schools. Many are enrolled by universities and colleges in the inland area every year.

Dongniang said, his daughter Yabai, a graduate from the Nanjing University of Medical Sciences, is a chief physician at the People 's Hospital of Lnyingchi Prefecture.

His granddaughter Yayi, a graduate of Beijing Institute of Dancing and who now works at the Tibet Autonomous Regional Singing and Dancing Group, has performed in over 20 countries and regions worldwide, according to Dongniang.

(Xinhua 11/02/2000)

In This Series

Wizards Lose Job as Science Is Introduced into Tibet

First Liberated Tibetan City Creates Numerous Firsts

Tibet to Further Open to the World

Tibet's GDP Growth Surpasses National Average



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