Place: Tagong, Western Sichuan, China
Interview by Lena Dorfschmidt
My story starts in 1962. At that time the political structure in China was different. Village were governed by village leaders and the population had to work for them – the government. There was a police back then, that private property like the animals we had, yaks, sheep and horses, were communalized. We suddenly didn’t own them anymore, they were collected and then belonged to the public.
Everyone had to work for the state, too. Men would work far away from the village, cutting trees and making coal, while the women had to look after the cattle, make butter and cheese. These were the only two occupations.
We men left our villages for long periods of time. We had to work for seven or ten days without returning to our families. Only when we finished the food we had brought some members of the group we were working in would be allowed to return to the village to bring more. But imagine, we were working in groups of ten people and only three would be allowed to go.
There was a special system according to which the salaries were distributed. We would be rated stars. Men got seven stars, women eight, because they were working with the yaks. Some people would only have four or even just three and a half stars.
The women had a problem: When they had small children, they couldn’t work.
Every month we received our salaries. Big families might earn about twenty Yuan all together – small families only ten.
The monthly salaries were only for buying food. In the end of the year we got another income that could be used for different things. This income was between two and three hundred Yuan per family. They also distributed butter, cheese, barley… But it was only very little, maybe only five kilos of Barley.
Our neighbors for example had many children. Often they didn’t have enough to eat, so they made debts. They were working all year through, but still the money wasn’t enough. The government borrowed them money, but they had to pay it back of course. And the government was very strict about that. They came to collect the money, and if you couldn’t pay, they took whatever you had: Sattel, or yak hair, that we used as ropes.
Even if you didn’t have anything – they still found something to confiscate, and if it’s just a used vessel, they will would take it.
The women were usually only working in the mornings, milking the yaks and making butter. After that they were free, so some women tried to make some extra money by collecting Caterpillar Fungus.
Not everyone could do that. Some people had to work all day and they became poorer and poorer. Others were lucky and could make some extra money. At least they had enough to survive.
Mao said that everyone should be the same. There shouldn’t be rich and poor people. There is the example of the fingers. All fingers should be in one line, the same length.
Three times they came to Tibet to push their policies through – and every single time they failed. Some people would always have at least a little more money then others.
We Tibetans believe in Karma. All of us know, that you cant make everyone equal. Some people have the Karma to become rich, others have bad Karma and are to be poor. It is impossible to make everyone equal.
He tried it three times, but he failed.
There was a resistance movement against the communist party in China and slowly, slowly our situation improved.
Tibetan people had suffered a lot.
In 1978 the village leaders and the local government were overthrown. No village leaders, no work for the government anymore. On from 1978 we could work for our own benefit. The government distributed the yaks, sheep, horses, everything. Big families got a few more animals, small families less.
I had seven members in my family at that time, so I got twenty yaks, twenty-seven sheep and one horse.
Imagine, after that we were working for ourselves. We had to pay taxes, about thirty-five Yuan per year, but we were free to work for ourselves. For six years we were paying this tax, then the government dropped it.
On from 1991 we finally had enough food – all of us.