China celebrates end of Tibetan “serfdom.”

August 2022 Forums General discussion China celebrates end of Tibetan “serfdom.”

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    Old Tibet not the nightmare painted by Maoist writers:

    (From Wikipedia):

    Traditional Tibetan society consisted of feudal class structure, serfdom and slavery, which was one of the reasons the Chinese Communist Party claims that it had to liberate Tibet and reform its government.<sup id=”cite_ref-92″ class=”reference”>[92]</sup>

    Professor of Buddhist and Tibetan studiesDonald S. Lopez stated that at the time:

    Traditional Tibet, like any complex society, had great inequalities, with power monopolized by an elite composed of a small aristocracy, the hierarchs of various sects . . and the great Geluk monasteries.<sup id=”cite_ref-93″ class=”reference”>[93]</sup>

    These institutional groups retained great power down to 1959.<sup id=”cite_ref-94″ class=”reference”>[94]</sup>

    The thirteenth Dalai Lama had reformed the pre-existing serf system in the first decade of the 20th century, and by 1950, slavery itself had probably ceased to exist in central Tibet, though perhaps persisting in certain border areas.<sup id=”cite_ref-95″ class=”reference”>[95]</sup> Slavery did exist, for example, in places like the Chumbi Valley, though British observers like Charles Bell called it ‘mild’,<sup id=”cite_ref-96″ class=”reference”>[96]</sup>and beggars (<i>ragyabas</i>) were endemic. The pre-Chinese social system however was rather complex.

    Estates (<i>shiga</i>), roughly similar to the Englishmanorial system, were granted by the state and were hereditary, though revocable. As agricultural properties they consisted of two kinds: land held by the nobility or monastic institutions (demesne land), and village land (tenement or villein land) held by the central government, though governed by district administrators. Demesne land consisted on average of one-half to three-quarters of an estate. Villein land belonged to the estates, but tenants normally exercised hereditary usufruct rights in exchange for fulfilling theircorvée obligations. Tibetans outside the nobility and the monastic system were classified as serfs, but two types existed and functionally were comparable to tenant farmers. Agricultural serfs, or “small smoke” (<i>düchung</i>), were bound to work on estates as a corvée obligation (<i>ula</i>) but they had title to their own plots, owned private goods, were free to move about outside the periods required for their tribute labor, and were free of tax obligations. They could accrue wealth and on occasion became lenders to the estates themselves, and could sue the estate owners: village serfs (<i>tralpa</i>) were bound to their villages but only for tax and corvée purposes, such as road transport duties (<i>ula</i>), and were only obliged to pay taxes. Half of the village serfs were man-lease serfs (<i>mi-bog</i>), meaning that they had purchased their freedom. Estate owners exercised broad rights over attached serfs, and flight or a monastic life was the only venue of relief. Yet no mechanism existed to restore escaped serfs to their estates, and no means to enforce bondage existed, though the estate lord held the right to pursue and forcibly return them to the land.

    Any serf who had absented himself from his estate for three years was automatically granted either commoner (<i>chi mi</i>) status or reclassified as a serf of the central government. Estate lords could transfer their subjects to other lords or rich peasants for labor, though this practice was uncommon in Tibet. Though rigid structurally, the system exhibited considerable flexibility at ground level, with peasants free of constraints from the lord of the manor once they had fulfilled their corvée obligations. Historically, discontent or abuse of the system, according to Warren W. Smith, appears to have been rare.<sup id=”cite_ref-97″ class=”reference”>[97]</sup><sup id=”cite_ref-98″ class=”reference”>[98]</sup> Tibet was far from a meritocracy, but the Dalai Lamas were recruited from the sons of peasant families, and the sons of nomads could rise to master the monastic system and become scholars and abbots.<sup id=”cite_ref-99″ class=”reference”>[</sup>

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