“Tibet: No Longer Mediaeval”

Tibet: No Longer Mediaeval

Foreign Languages Press, People’s Republic of China, 1st edition, 1981

“Tibet is a part of China that is much talked about but little understood. For centuries it was sealed off from the world not only by the Himalayas but also by feudal barriers. In modern times, misinformation about the region and even deliberate misrepresentation of conditions and events there have added to the confusion… The old Tibetan regime – feudal serfdom in its cruellest form – survived essentially unchanged for centuries, right up until the democratic reform that began in 1959. This followed in the wake of an abortive rebellion by serf-owners involving the flight of the Dalai Lama and many other members of Tibet’s former ruling class – events that have ben widely misunderstood abroad. The democratic reform that swept over Tibet emancipated 95 per cent of the population that had lived in virtual slavery. It paved the way for the socialist transformation of every aspect of the old feudal society: social, political, economic, cultural, educational, and medical.”

Free medical services

“Free medical service for the common people was introduced for the first time in Tibet’s history.” 

“In 1949, when China’s War of Liberation was approaching victory, the imperialists wanted to grab something for themselves out of the imminent downfall of the Kuomintang regime. They set out to seperate Tibet from China – a century-old design – by engineering an “expulsion of the Hans” in which all Kuomintang officials in Tibet were suddenly ousted by the local Tibetan authorities… During these intrigues, the Tibetan local government went against the interests of the Tibetan people by refusing to respond to the call of the central authorities for the peaceful liberation of the people… In October 1950, the PLA crossed the Jinsha River and liberated Qamdo, crushing a force of imperialist-based local Tibetan troops… Tibetan people who came into contact with them called them “New Hans,” in contrast to the reactionary rulers of past times who had practiced national discrimination and oppression. They received the new arrivals warmly.”

In the fields“Like thousands of cadres and workers of Han nationality, these young people from the Changjiang valley have helped to build a new Tibet. With the training of Tibetan cadres in huge numbers, the great majority of the Han cadres and workers will be transferred back to the interior provinces with the next three years.” 

“The overcoming of ancient superstition and the spread of scientific farming is one of the major achievements. One can cite numerous examples to illustrate such progress. When members of the Red Flag Commune in Damxung County decided to breach a nearby lake to irrigate their pastures, a one-time serf-owner spread the myth that this lake was “a concubine of the Nyainqentanglha Range.” He said “Breaching it will enrage the mountain god and all Danxung County will be destroyed.” Some people began to waver. It too much patient explaining on the part of the local Party branch to drive away their fears. Afterwards, everyone pitched into the irrigation project.”

In the factory

“Tibetan and Han spinners share their experience.”

“SOL AI, meaning industry, is a new word in the Tibetan language. It was introduced only in the early 1960s. Old Tibet had no industry at all. Apart from a tiny electric light plant built by the British near Lhasa to serve the aristocracy, the nearest thing to an industrial enterprise was a mint attached to the local Tibetan government, where a few dozen serfs struck silver and copper coins by using primitive methods. Though the mechanism of the wheel was widely applied in Tibet, it was confined to prayer-wheels… Peaceful liberation in 1951 created conditions for ending industrial as well as social backwardness in Tibet… The days when people had to exchange a sheep for a few boxes of matches have disappeared forever.”


“Tibetan dance done by the Regional Song and Dance Ensemble.”

“Tibet’s national culture and art have developed vigorously since the people came to power. (This, of course, does not apply to the years of the “cultural revolution” when the “hundred flowers” withered away.) Feudal elements have been sifted out, but national artistic forms are used and developed to present contemporary themes reflecting the life and spirit of new, socialist Tibet.”

Department store

“In the well-stocked department store in Lhasa, purchases are made by people who were themselves sold and bought only two decades ago.” 

“In the long years before liberation, the real face of Lhasa was hidden from the outside world. Only a tiny number of foreigners had reached it, some on imperialist errands. Writers (including some who had not been there at all) described the golden-roofed Potala Palace and lamaseries or even simply imagined a “holy city” in a mystical Shangrila. Those who did not close their eyes to the squalor and horrors that went with its “glamour” failed to indict the cause: the feudal serf system. In fact, the old Lhasa was one of the unholiest places in the world, riddled with parasitism, class oppression and disease, its streets filthy, its common people ragged, hungry and illiterate. It is the revolution that has bought real health and beauty to Lhasa, and transformed it in two decades into a producer-city that belongs to the people, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region of China… The brothels and gambling houses are gone. So are the foreign-owned fancy shops that supplied the richest families, clustered here from all over Tibet, with imported luxuries ranging from the highest-grade British cloth to the costliest Swiss watches and Parisian perfumes. Today, a multitude of state-run and co-operative shops serve the common citizen… The main buyers are ex-serfs and slaves, who, until liberation, were themselves bought and sold as “talking animals.””


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