OPPRESSION AND IMPRISONMENT

These interviews document eyewitness accounts of arrests, beatings, imprisonment and forced work in labor camps after the Chinese invasion.

ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEWS

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Bylakuppe, India (2007)
1. Tsetin (#71)
2. Lobsang (#89)
3. Chonzom (#5)
4. Chonphel (#85)
5. Tenzin Chokdup (#90)
6. Gelong (#16)
7. Dickey (#68)
8. Lhakpa Tsering (#69)
9. Tenzin (#66)
10. Kalsang (#38)
11. Jamyang Samten (#41)
12. Nangpa Kyipa (#43)

Mundgod, India (2010)
1. Tashi Lhamo (#6M)
2. Ngawang Sangpo (#9M)
3. Tsewang Dorjee (#54M)
4. Kalsang Dolma (#56M)
5. Sonam Tsomo (#45M)
6. Tsewang Norbu (#50M)
7. Tinlay Dhondup (#52M)
8. Tenzin Tsomo (#60M)
9. Gyurme Chodon (#65M)
10. Kyizom (#66M)
11. Tenzin Sangmo (#70M)

Dharamsala, India (2012)
1. Kanying Lobsang Deckyi (#1D)
2. Dhingri Ngawang (#2D)
3. Lobsang Tashi (#7D)
4. Namdol (#18D)
5. Sonam (#19D)
6. Pasang Tsewang (#21D)
7. Dolma (#27D)
8. Samten (#34D)
9. Phuntsok Tashi (#37D)
10. Jangchuk Nyima (#41D)
11. Ama Adhe (#61D)
12. Tenzin Dechen (#70D)
13. Tenzin Phuntsok (#72D)
14. Tenzin Namsay (#73D)

USA (2013)
1. Naljorma Jangchup Palmo (#13C-Part 1)

Bylakuppe, India (2013-14)
1. Keotsang Tulku Jamphel Yeshi (#1B)
2. Jampa Gyaltsen, Geshe (#17B)
3. Bagdro (#22B)
4. Tsering Norbu (#25B)
5. Namdol Dolkar (#26B)
6. Yeshi (#9B)


 

© 2009-2015 Tibet Oral History Project. These translations and transcripts are provided for individual research purposes only. For all other uses, including publication, reproduction and quotation beyond fair use, permission must be obtained in writing from: Tibet Oral History Project, P.O. Box 6464, Moraga, CA 94570-6464.




Tsetin (#71) (alias)

Tsetin’s father travelled often to China to trade goods and witnessed hardships imposed there by the Chinese government. When she was 12 years old, Chinese soldiers arrived in Tsetin’s village and at first they were “very loving” and even started schools for the children. Later, when many people were arrested, the entire community rose up in rebellion. Chinese airplanes bombed monasteries and bullets killed villagers as they tried to resist the invasion.

Many monasteries in Tsetin’s region were completely dismantled and turned into agricultural land. People were afraid of being captured and began to flee into the forest. Her parents were able to escape to India, but left Tsetin with relatives in Tibet. She and her relatives attempted to escape at a later time, but two relatives were killed by the Chinese. Tsetin was forced to return to her village and was later imprisoned for one month and beaten.

Tsetin describes the failure of the commune system implemented in 1973-74, which caused severe starvation among the people. When she learned around 1980 that her mother was still alive, she escaped to India and was reunited with her family.

Topics Discussed:

Childhood memories, farm life, first appearance of Chinese, life under Chinese rule, destruction of monasteries, imprisonment, forced labor, Chinese oppression, brutality/torture, thamzing.

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Lobsang (#89) (alias)

Lobsang became a monk at the age of 5. His days were spent in the Phuntsoling Monastery, memorizing the scriptures and learning philosophical debate. As he studied, his knowledge of Buddhism increased, allowing him to join Sera Monastery in Lhasa. At age 33 he was sent back to his monastery in Phuntsoling to teach the monks how to debate.

While at Phuntsoling Monastery, Lobsang first encountered the Chinese, who were engaged in creating discord among the people by inciting the poor to turn against upper class villagers. Lobsang and many other monks were imprisoned and forced to labor under unbearable conditions. Lobsang was almost on his deathbed due to starvation when the Chinese released him after seven years. He was told to return to his village and work in isolation.

In 1969, Lobsang fled Tibet and continued to serve as a teacher at the Sera Monastery in Bylakuppe, India. He shares many views about the harm that Communism can do to the world and the belief that other nations should urge China to adopt democracy. Lobsang strongly advocates for a more powerful United Nations Organization so that the world can live in peace.

Topics Discussed:

Childhood memories, monastic life, first appearance of Chinese, life under Chinese rule, imprisonment, forced labor, brutality/torture, thamzing, life as a refugee in India.

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Chonzom (#5)

Chonzom’s family was Samadok, those who did pastoral farming. Samadok lived in houses built of stones and mud. There were no schools and Chonzom worked in the fields and also took animals to graze. At the age of 8 Chonzom was offered to the village nunnery as a form of tax. She performed various duties for the nunnery and at the age of 25 she became the accountant. She provides insight into how the nunnery functioned and how they supported themselves.

When the Chinese arrived in her village, Chonzom was arrested simply for being in charge of the nunnery. She was imprisoned, beaten, insulted and publicly humiliated. After release from prison she was sent to back to her village and as a punishment, she was made to kill rats and flies and report her killings to the Chinese. 

Chonzom’s uncle urged her to marry another former prisoner and escape to India. She and her husband suffered terribly during their journey to India after they ran out of food. They had to hide during the day and travel only at night. Chonzom describes this as the most difficult phase of her life and believes she was near death by the time they reached India.

Topic Discussed:

Farm life, monastic life, first appearance of Chinese, life under Chinese rule, brutality/torture, thamzing, escape experiences, life as a refugee in India.

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Chonphel (#85)

Born in Gyangtse to a family of telpa ‘tax payers,’ Chonphel’s father was a genpo ‘village leader.’ His family was shung-wok, meaning they were tenants on government-owned land. Chonphel explains the various categories of tenants in Tibet depending on who owned the land: the monasteries, the government or private property owners. He also describes the ma-tel ‘butter tax,’ sha-tel ‘meat tax’ and wool tax, and how the taxes were paid to the correct authorities.

Chonphel was the first person from his village to be arrested by the Chinese under false accusations. Relating his miserable prison days, he describes the difficult labor of plowing fields and constructing buildings, while given very little food. Prisoners resorted to eating rats from the fields and leather. He suffered in this way for seven years.

After releasing Chonphel from prison, the Chinese sent him back to his village, where he was subjected to thamzing ‘struggle sessions’ because he had been a genpo. He worked as a laborer and married again because his first wife remarried while he was in prison. A year later he and his second wife fled to India.

Topics Discussed:

Taxes, imprisonment, forced labor, Chinese oppression, thamzing, escape experiences, life as a refugee in India.

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Tenzin Chokdup (#90)

Born in 1962, Tenzin Chokdup’s childhood was one of unimaginable suffering under the control of the Chinese. His family was labeled as ngadhak ‘those holding leadership positions’ by the Chinese, which made them targets for the worst abuse and degradations. He recounts the horrifying methods used during thamzing ‘struggle sessions’ when people were violently beaten and degraded by ex-servants who were “brain-washed” and intimidated by the Chinese.

Tenzin Chokdup’s mother died from torture while being subjected to thamzing and his two older brothers died of starvation after the death of their mother. From the age of 6 or 7 Tenzin Chokdup lived alone while his father was forced to work for the Chinese. With no one to care for him, he endured severe physical pain, extreme poverty, prolonged starvation, and forced labor. When his father died in 1985, Tenzin Chokdup decided to leave Tibet.
           

Tenzin Chokdup’s main goal in life was to become a monk, which became possible in India. He now lives at Sera Jey Monastery in Bylakuppe. His most cherished and unforgettable memory is his audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama after arriving in India.

Topics Discussed:

Childhood memories, life under Chinese rule, forced labor, Chinese oppression, brutality/torture, thamzing, escape experiences, life as a refugee in India.

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Gelong (#16)

When he was a child in Tibet, Gelong’s family owned a huge herd of sheep and fierce dogs to guard them from wolves. Gelong had the difficult responsibility of grazing the animals in the mountains, often separated from his family for extended periods of time. He recalls the beautiful animals like lynx, gazelles and wild asses that used to roam in Tibet. Once, as a young boy, when Gelong (originally named Namgyal Tenzin) grew sick, his family consulted a lhapa ‘medium.’ The lhapa believed Gelong to be a reincarnated lama and renamed him “Gelong,” a name typically reserved for high lamas. Then he recovered from the illness.
 

After the Chinese came to his village, Gelong’s family was subjected to the thamzing ‘struggle sessions’ initiated by the Chinese on Tibet’s wealthy and influential families. Gelong relives those sad moments when the Chinese turned his family out of their house and confiscated their assets. He also talks about his experience of forced labor under Chinese rule; Gelong had to help build roads. When the road work was completed he returned to his village, only to find that his family had fled to India. He soon he followed them and helped to build his settlement in India.

Topics Discussed:

Childhood memories, herding, life under Chinese rule, forced labor, Chinese oppression, thamzing, escape experiences, early life in Bylakuppe, life as a refugee in India.

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Dickey (#68)

Dickey is from the village of Lhopra, which is located near a large lake where people traveled for pilgrimage. Her father passed away when she was young and the burden to raise four children fell on her mother. So at five years old, her mother “gave” Dickey to her uncle as an adopted daughter. She explains that adoption is an accepted practice among Tibetans, especially among siblings when one has many children and the other none. 

Dickey describes her early life at her uncle’s home as a happy one. Then the family endured many hardships when her uncle was captured by the Chinese and labeled a rebel because he was wealthy. Dickey recounts horrifying memories of thamzing ‘struggle sessions’ in which Tibetans were beaten and tortured under the direction of the Chinese. She was also imprisoned.

Dickey was married at age 23, but became separated from her husband when he fled to India in 1959. Dickey was able to escape in 1960 after being released from prison. Although she searched for her husband after reaching India, she could not locate him. Finally, she received the sad news that her husband had died in Bhutan. To sum up her experiences Dickey says, “My whole life has been suffering and nothing else.”

Topics Discussed:

Childhood memories, nomadic life, life under Chinese rule, imprisonment, Chinese oppression, brutality/torture, thamzing, escape experiences, life as a refugee in India.

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Lhakpa Tsering (#69)

Lhakpa Tsering’s family engaged in farming and transportation work in Domo. He talks about childhood memories, such as playing a game of bows and arrows with his friends, and transporting goods on mules between Phari and Kalimpong.

Lhakpa Tsering recalls the Chinese arrived in his village when he was 13 years old and then “everything was in chaos and they caused misery.” He describes the numerous hardships imposed on the Tibetan people, including the daily arrest of 15 to 20 people from his village without any specific reason. To avoid being arrested, he and other young men hid themselves in the hills for a week.

After the Dalai Lama left for India in 1959, the Chinese suspected that many Tibetans, such as Lhakpa Tsering, might flee and they began making more arrests. Lhakpa Tsering and his wife were kept in prison for six months and then released with a strict warning that “if you are caught [fleeing], you’ll never leave the prison.” He and four others escaped to India in 1960. He says, “Though life was difficult working as road construction workers, we were happy because there was no fear of being captured.”

Topics Discussed:

Childhood memories, farm life, religious festivals, trade, life under Chinese rule, Chinese oppression, imprisonment, escape experiences, life as a refugee in India.

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Tenzin (#66)

In Tibet Tenzin lived in Gye village in the Gyantse district. His family owned a small farm and 40 or 50 animals. He is proud to say that he had a contended life and never faced any hardships while he was young.

When the Chinese came to his region, he and many others tried to escape in order to avoid pressure to send their children to China for education. Caught by the Chinese in his escape attempt, he was imprisoned and subjected to daily interrogation sessions and accused of organizing those who fled. After over 5 months in prison, he was released and soon he escaped and was able to reach Sikkim where he joined his family, who had fled there earlier.

Tenzin participated in the “Peace March” in India twice, first in 1972 and again in 1982, walking from Dharamsala to Delhi. He did so to express his sentiment against the Chinese government’s occupation of Tibet.

Topics Discussed:

Childhood memories, nomadic life, first appearance of Chinese, life under Chinese rule, imprisonment, forced labor, escape experiences, life as a refugee in India.

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Kalsang (#38)

Kalsang became a monk at the early age of 5 and lived at the monastery until he was 17 and forced to leave. In 1959 the Chinese closed the monastery and ordered the monks to return to their families.

Kalsang’s family, who were well-off, became targets of the Chinese. He and his family were tortured and humiliated in struggle sessions instigated by the Chinese. They were forced to state “that China was very good, that the Tibetan society was bad and that we were very happy under the Chinese government.”

Kalsang was required to work in the fields and all the harvests were taken by the Chinese, who gave the workers an insufficient grain ration that often left them hungry. Kalsang’s father was arrested and died after eight years in prison. Later Kalsang learned that he too would be arrested so he decided to flee. He was unsure of how to proceed and he hid for 18 months in a small space underneath a friend’s house, only emerging occasionally under the cover of darkness. Eventually his friends were able to find someone to show Kalsang the way to Bhutan.

Topics Discussed:

Monastic life, life under Chinese rule, forced labor, Chinese oppression, brutality/torture, thamzing, escape experiences, life as a refugee in India.

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Jamyang Samten (#41)

Jamyang Samten was born in a small village called Sarzo Gyalsa. Until the Chinese arrived in their village, he and his family led a contented life farming and tending their animals. Once the Chinese arrived, Jamyang Samten and others like him became paupers while the Chinese turned those who previously had been poor and beggars into the new village leaders.

Jamyang Samten and some of his friends rebelled and attempted unsuccessfully to remove the Chinese from their region. As a result of this incident, they were sent to perform hard labor. Jamyang Samten provides a vivid picture of the difficulties he faced in the labor camp, including “question-answer” sessions in which each worker would be forced to reveal faults of the others.

After his release from prison camp, fearing future arrests, Jamyang Samten and four of his friends fled to Lhasa. They visited holy places in Lhasa and received blessings from His Holiness the Panchen Lama. Jamyang Samten and his friends then escaped to Kalimpong, India in 1959, where they soon received news that Lhasa had been taken over by the Chinese. Jamyang Samten misses his country and his wife and family he left behind; his one wish is to die in Tibet.

Topics Discussed:

Childhood memories, farm life, wildlife, invasion by Chinese army, life under Chinese rule, resistance fighters, forced labor, Chinese oppression, escape experiences.

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Nangpa Kyipa (#43)

Nangpa Kyipa grew up near Phari in a place where abundant hot springs cured illnesses. Her family members were farmers and there was plenty of food to eat. With hundreds of cattle, they had enough butter and cheese to trade in nearby Bhutan for bags of rice.

Nangpa Kyipa recalls the Chinese telling the villagers that they would eradicate poverty by taking from the rich and giving it to the poor. She was told to give away half of her possessions. Her husband and brother were imprisoned by the Chinese. They were educated and the people from the village looked up to them so they were falsely accused of having ill-treated the villagers. Both were subjected to hard labor and many prisoners died from starvation. Nangpa Kyipa’s husband was fortunate enough to escape, but her brother remained imprisoned for years.

Nangpa Kyipa then recounts her early days in Bylakuppe, India, and how they built the settlement to its present status. About Tibet, she says, “I can see the snow capped mountains. It’s okay to even die on the mountain pass if I could see Tibet from there. My heart will feel that I am in Tibet.”

Topics Discussed:

Trade, life under Chinese rule, Chinese oppression, early life in Bylakuppe, life as a refugee in India.

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Tashi Lhamo (#6M) (alias)

Tashi Lhamo was the middle child among her eight siblings. Her family lived in a three-storied house which was used for various purposes, such as living quarters, storage for the grains and as an animal shed. The family's occupation was farming as well as rearing animals. Tashi Lhamo describes the process of milking, making butter and their unique storage methods.

Tashi Lhamo recalls the difficult life she led first under the Tibetan system of paying taxes to the wealthy families and then under the Chinese commune system. She witnessed the starvation that began in Tibet in 1960-61 with the implementation of the commune system—when the majority of food the villagers grew was taken away from them by the Chinese. She describes many instances of death due to starvation, imprisonment and thamzing 'struggle session.'

She spent 37 years under Chinese rule and experienced the difference in their attitude when they first appeared, giving away dhayen 'Chinese silver coins' in her village and the gradual suppression leading to capture, imprisonment, thamzing and death of the wealthy and influential people. She narrates her family's suffering under Chinese rule and her decision to leave Tibet in order to see His Holiness the Dalai Lama and be near her sons already living in exile.

Topics Discussed:

Childhood memories, farm life, herding, first appearance of Chinese, invasion by Chinese army, life under Chinese rule, forced labor, oppression under Chinese, brutality/torture, thamzing, commune system, life as a refugee in India.

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Ngawang Sangpo (#9M)

Ngawang Sangpo hails from a small village consisting of 14-15 families. His was a middle-class nomadic family and he recalls going on a trade expedition to Lhopra, where they bartered their butter, cheese, and wool for grains from the farmers. This trade relation existed for many generations and occurred once each year.

Everything in Ngawang Sangpo’s village changed when the Chinese arrived in 1957-58. He says they were excellent in deception, first giving gifts to the Tibetans and then gradually oppressed the people, so much so that people began to commit suicide to escape thamzing ‘struggle sessions.’ Most monks from the local monasteries volunteered to join Chushi Gangdrug [Defend Tibet Volunteer Force]. Ngawang Sangpo tells how the monks had no weapons, but resisted with stones and boulders against the Chinese forces’ guns and other weapons.

Ngawang Sangpo’s parents feared the Chinese would take him away to school in China like other village children and sent him into exile while they waited for the release of his maternal uncle from prison. Ngawang Sangpo first arrived in Bhutan and then went to India, where he decided to become a monk. He later suffered from seizures and describes being treated by a Tibetan doctor with a golden needle.

Topics Discussed:

Childhood memories, herding, trade, taxes, life under Chinese rule, oppression under Chinese, thamzing, Chushi Gangdrug guerrillas, escape experiences, life as a refugee in India.

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Tsewang Dorjee (#54M)

Tsewang Dorjee was born in a nomadic family in Thoe Ngari in western Tibet. He was the eldest child of his parents. Though there were no government schools, he studied for a short while with a private tutor. Then he engaged in herding yaks and sheep. Besides herding, his family also engaged in salt trade.

Tsewang Dorjee recalls how his father traded with Indian traders, which had been going on for thousands of years. He fondly remembers the biggest trade fair in Ngari at a place called Gya Nyima. Traders from every part of Tibet and neighboring countries gathered to do business. He speaks in great detail about the fair and the various goods available.

Tsewang Dorjee recounts his memories of the liberation process brought about by the Chinese and how they misled the people. He goes on to discuss about the commune system during which people died from starvation and the great Cultural Revolution in 1967-68 when monasteries were destroyed and people imprisoned. He shares the story of his own capture and imprisonment after the Chinese discovered his plans to escape. He was forced to watch the execution of three prominent people of his region. He managed to flee to India only in 1973 after two failed attempts.

Topics Discussed:

Childhood memories, education, nomadic life, trade, first appearance of Chinese, life under Chinese rule, forced labor, commune system, Cultural Revolution, oppression under Chinese.

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Kalsang Dolma (#56M) (alias)

Kalsang Dolma is the eldest of five siblings. Her father owned a horse-cart and earned a living by transporting wood from the forest of Dromo to the Chinese army camps. Later when her father was imprisoned, she carried on the work of her father. She recounts her experience during the Cultural Revolution. She describes how her parents were arrested in the middle of the night, imprisoned, tortured and labeled as “Dalai Clique.” The different kinds of thamzing 'struggle session' inflicted on the prisoners are discussed in detail.

Kalsang Dolma talks about the ordeal she and her mother went through to obtain food for the younger children and imprisoned father. The miserable life of her family and other Tibetans during this period and her desperate wish as a child to see a miracle of His Holiness the Dalai Lama appearing in the sky are some of her vivid descriptions.

Kalsang Dolma is concerned about the environment of Tibet and talks about how the Chinese denuded the forests of Dromo and carted away centuries-old wood to China. She describes the serious impact it has had on the environment such as the melting of snow and rise in temperature.  

Topics Discussed:

Childhood memories, farm life, environment/wildlife, life under Chinese rule, oppression under Chinese, Cultural Revolution, imprisonment, thamzing, brutality/torture, forced labor.

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Sonam Tsomo (#45M)

Sonam Tsomo’s parents were farmers and paid taxes to the government in the form of butter, grains and flour as well as medicinal plants that they acquired from tribesmen living on the border between Tibet and India. She explains that taxation was often an overwhelming burden passed down from one generation to the next. Many people struggled to meet the taxes and could face punishment by the tax collector if they could not make full payments.

Sonam Tsomo describes the first appearance of the Chinese in her region, who originally came with wives and children, but were gradually replaced by soldiers. As a child she witnessed the thamzing ‘struggle session’ of her aunt, who hailed from a rich family. Her aunt and other wealthy villagers were subjected to beatings by their own servants, who received strict instructions to do so by the Chinese. Her aunt was forced to wear her maids’ clothing and move into the servants’ quarters, while the former servants occupied her home.

Sonam Tsomo’s family decided to escape and she recounts their strategy in leaving their belongings in the house as if they were still living there to escape the prying eyes of the watchful Chinese soldiers. Their escape journey was wrought with difficulties, which included crossing a bamboo bridge that swung dangerously and a short airplane ride.

Topics Discussed:

Childhood memories, taxes, first appearance of Chinese, life under Chinese rule, thamzing, oppression under Chinese, escape experiences, life as a refugee in India.

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Tsewang Norbu (#50M)

Tsewang Norbu’s family owned around 100 yaks and about 1,000 goats and sheep. They were among the richer nomad families. He gives information about the nomadic way of life, explaining that in winter they stayed in a proper house and lived in a tent during grazing time. They practiced the barter system, exchanging butter, cheese and meet for grains and peas with the farmers from a nearby region.

The chirim ‘community prayer’ was held annually where people from different nomadic villages assembled to pray, sing and dance. Another enjoyable occasion was when all the animals of Phuma Changthang gathered at the gangpu ‘community land.’ Tsewang Norbu describes the five levels of tax payers who had to remit taxes to the government for use of the grazing land. Every three years the government conducted an animal census of each family’s herds.

Tsewang Norbu remembers seeing the Chinese first come to his village in 1957 to survey and photograph the area. Later in 1959 many people fled through their village and related the battles between Tibetans and Chinese. As the Chinese oppression increased, his uncle was beaten and then committed suicide and his father was imprisoned. Tsewang Norbu and siblings escaped from the grazing area leaving behind everything that they owned.

Topics Discussed:

Childhood memories, nomadic life, trade, religious festivals, customs/traditions, taxes, first appearance of Chinese, life under Chinese rule, thamzing, escape experiences.

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Tinlay Dhondup (#52M)

Tinlay Dhondup’s began grazing animals at the age of 8 and working in the fields from the age of 11 years. His village followed the system of lakhor, which is work performed jointly by all the people in turns.

Tinlay Dhondup recalls his experience of going on pilgrimage to Lhasa in 1946 and in 1950. He visited the holy shrines and the great monasteries. He is overwhelmed by shops in the Bakor, central market square, and caught a glimpse of His Holiness the Dalai Lama for the first time during the Monlam ‘Prayer Festival.’ He speaks of the raka who collected fees from recent arrivals for the disposal of corpses of people who were visiting and died while in Lhasa.

Tinlay Dhondup first saw Chinese in Lhasa who were civilians engaged in running restaurants in Lhasa, and on his second visit he now saw soldiers constructing houses. He tells of an encounter in Tsethang between the Chinese and the Tibetan soldiers. Tinlay Dhondup describes how the poor people of his village were trained by the Chinese to conduct thamzing ‘struggle sessions.’ He then witnessed three rich and influential people being subjected to thamzing by the trainees.

Topics Discussed:

Childhood memories, pilgrimage, first appearance of Chinese, life under Chinese rule, oppression under Chinese, thamzing.

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Tenzin Tsomo (#60M)

Tenzin Tsomo fondly remembers the village and the happy life she led. Her family was among the richest in the village, owning a large tract of land and animals. Her father was a representative of the government who was responsible for collecting taxes.

The practice of polygamy was prevalent in those days, her mother being married to three husbands who were brothers. Tenzin Tsomo recounts the amicable situation at home mainly due to the fairness of her mother. She explains how the husbands take on different responsibilities in the family and how the wife and children treat each one equally.

When the Chinese first appeared in her village they would occupy her home for a night and move on to another village the next day. Later Chinese took up residence in the village and arrested her mother’s three husbands, who were subjected multiple times to public humiliations and beatings. Tenzin Tsomo’s family was not allowed to speak with other villagers and her family property and crops were distributed among the poor people. She relates her dangerous escape journey. She almost drowned crossing a river and was briefly separated from her parents.

Topics Discussed:

Childhood memories, customs/traditions, taxes, first appearance of Chinese, life under Chinese rule, forced labor, imprisonment, oppression under Chinese, thamzing, escape experiences.

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Gyurme Chodon (#65M)

Gyurme Chodon was a well-loved child of a wealthy family in Kongpo. Her family owned 70-80 acres of land and employed 13-14 workers. Due to their wealth they paid a lot of tax to the Tibetan Government. She describes her family’s property and her three-storied house. The house was destroyed during an earthquake and collapsed on her mother.

Gyurme Chodon was punished by the Chinese for not going to school in China by spending six months working on a construction crew. She describes how influential people such as her maternal uncle were subjected to thamzing ‘struggle sessions’ and imprisoned. After escaping from prison her uncle told his family how prisoners suffered immensely due to lack of food, so much so that they ate human excreta to stave off death from starvation.

The whole family decided to flee the village. In preparation for the escape, Gyurme Chodon’s family buried many of their household articles expecting to return in a few months or a year. Once in India the family had to work several years on a road crew in Bomdila until the region was bombed during the Indo-Chinese war of 1962. They had to flee immediately without collecting any of the few belongings they had brought from Tibet.

Topics Discussed:

Childhood memories, taxes, first appearance of Chinese, forced labor, imprisonment, thamzing, escape experiences, life as a refugee in India.

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Kyizom (#66M)

Kyizom hailed from the village of Tsang Samtenling near Gyangtse. Her family farmed as well as engaged in raising animals. During summertime they lived in a huge tent made from the hair of yak and grazed their animals in the grasslands. They returned home in time for the harvest each year. As a child, Kyizom along with her large dog, helped herd the yaks and sheep.

Kyizom recalls that when the Chinese first appeared in her village, the children were terrified and distrusted them. The Chinese wearing blue or yellow uniforms lured the villagers with gifts, but gradually changed their attitude and then started oppressing the Tibetan people. Kyizom and her family were forced to move to the ground floor of her house and Chinese officials occupied the second floor. The Chinese distributed all her family’s animals to village beggars.

Kyizom witnessed the thamzing ‘struggle session’ of her father and aunt, who was the umze ‘chant leader’ of the local nunnery. Kyizom vividly describes the horrible way they were humiliated in front of the whole village. Both her father and aunt were subjected to thamzing two more times and then imprisoned where they eventually died, most likely from starvation. Kyizom feared for her safety and fled to India through Bhutan with many others from her village. The normal 2-day journey took 15 days in order to hide from the Chinese.   

Topics Discussed:

Childhood memories, farm life, herding, first appearance of Chinese, life under Chinese rule, imprisonment, forced labor, thamzing, oppression under Chinese, escape experiences.

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Tenzin Sangmo (#70M) (alias)

Since her childhood, Tenzin Sangmo and her family suffered under Chinese rule in Tibet. She describes the resistance put up by her father and all the men in her village who were above 15 years old. They were defeated by the Chinese and many were killed. She talks in great detail about the sufferings of her uncles who were torture and imprisoned by the Chinese for being monks and practicing Buddhism. Many other villagers were also tortured and died as a result.

Tenzin Sangmo secretly took the first step to becoming a nun at the age of 30 during a pilgrimage to Lhasa. There were no nunneries in her village and she dreamed of seeing His Holiness the Dalai Lama in person so she vowed to risk her life to escape to India. She pretended to go on pilgrimage then embarked on a very long journey to reach India. She escaped with a fellow nun and two young monks climbing over the mountains without knowing the way. Eventually they crossed over the border into Nepal and found a bus going to Kathmandu.

After working for some time in Kathmandu Tenzin Sangmo was able to travel to Dharamsala, India, and meet the Dalai Lama. She requested that he let her be ordained as a nun and joined a nunnery in Mundgod. She made one final journey back to her village, during which she was imprisoned on the way and then closely monitored at home, but she eventually returned to India.

Topics Discussed:

Life under Chinese rule, resistance fighters, brutality/torture, oppression under Chinese, thamzing, escape experiences, life as a refugee in Nepal.

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Kanying Lobsang Deckyi (#1D)

Kanying Lobsang Deckyi was born into a very affluent aristocrat family in Thoe Tsaprang of Ngari district. Until the age of 13, she led an extremely luxurious life because her family had many servants and five palatial buildings. She fondly recalls the grand celebrations of the Tibetan New Year with a variety of music, food and chang 'home-brewed beer.'

Kanying Lobsang Deckyi describes the responsibilities of her father, the District Administrator of the region, which entailed collecting taxes on behalf of the government. She visited the Panchen Lama several times with her father and remembers the advice he offered. She believes that the administrators governed compassionately including offering of loans and exempting major debts. When the Chinese first appeared they tried to entice the aristocrats by holding elaborate dances and giving them dhayen 'Chinese silver coins.'

Accused of supporting the rebellion in Lhasa, Kanying Lobsang father was tortured and imprisoned for 18 years while Lobsang Deckyi was banished to a desolate place called Gyisha. She struggled to survive by farming, but most of the crops that grew were taken by the Chinese. Her son and husband both died from starvation. She was publicly beaten many times, resulting in many scars and blindness in one eye. She escaped into exile in 1982 with four children.

Topics Discussed:

Childhood memories, festivals, taxes, government/administration, Panchen Lama, first appearance of Chinese, oppression under Chinese, imprisonment, thamzing, brutality/torture, forced labor.

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Dhingri Ngawang (#2D)

Dhingri Ngawang's father was a soldier in the Tibetan army and died when Dhingri Ngawang was 8 year old. His father issued an oral will at the time of his death asking the army major to take care of his children. To honor this will, Dhingri Ngawang was recruited into the army at the age of 10 years old. He talks in detail about the army, his responsibilities, the types of guns used by the Tibetan soldiers and the rankings in the army.

Dhingri Ngawang's describes many aspects of Tibetan laws, including those to prevent the killing of wild animals, punishment for crimes, and the taxation system. He also tells about the crops that were grown by the farmers, the barter system between the farmers and the nomads, and the various breeds of domestic animals of Tibet.

Dhingri Ngawang talked at length about his 21 years in prison, including 11 months in solitary confinement. He talks about torture and forced labor, specifically how the prisoners were made to build an electricity plant in Lhasa. He reveals how he and some prisoners formed an underground organization and how they suffered when the Chinese discovered the group.

Topics Discussed:

Childhood memories, Tibetan army, farm life, taxes, environment/wildlife, life under Chinese rule, forced labor, imprisonment, brutality/torture, thamzing, life as a refugee in India.

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Lobsang Tashi (#7D)

Lobsang Tashi was born in Shidong in the Gongka Lama District. He was the third in line of eight siblings. His parents were farmers and he began working at the age of 12 by herding cows. His first experience with Chinese was in 1949 when there were skirmishes between the Nationalist Chinese and the forces of the Gongka Lama in his region. He talks about the conflict between the Nationalist Chinese and the Communist Chinese as well as the regional authority of the Gongka Lama.

The Communist Chinese took over Lobsang Tashi's region in 1959 and he recalls that his father and uncle who fought against the Chinese were killed by grenades. Lobsang Tashi then joined the resistance movement at 18 years of age. Armed with a rifle from a relative, Lobsang Tashi took part in 13 encounters with the Chinese, during which he was shot in the face and the leg.

Lobsang Tashi narrates the events that led to his capture and subsequent prison term. He recounts how the prisoners were falsely implicated, forced to confess, beaten brutally and starved to death. They were forced to labor on the construction of the electricity plant in Chamdo. After five years he was released from prison and returned to his village, but remained under Chinese surveillance until he finally fled to India along with his daughter in 2005.

Topics Discussed:

Kham, childhood memories, first appearance of Chinese, taxes, resistance fighters, imprisonment, forced labor, thamzing, brutality/torture, commune system.

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Namdol (#18D)

Namdol comes from a large farming family, which owned a vast tract of land. As part of the land tax, she was sent to be a servant for a private estate. She describes her arduous task of making compost, how the owner mistreated her and other servants, and the poor food and housing they were given. After 12 years she ran away to Shigatse because the estate owner would not release her from servitude. In Shigatse Namdol met her husband, a personal attendant to the Panchen Lama.

Namdol witnessed the early appearance of the Chinese, who provided assistance to the Tibetans and presented many musical shows where they declared that the Communist Party was coming and would bring food and clothing for the Tibetans. Then Shigatse was taken over by the Chinese army and Namdol witnessed the beating and arrest of many monks and leaders.

When the Chinese collected all the paper money from Tibetans and set fire to it, Namdol protested and was herself imprisoned for one week in a government storehouse. She recalls how she and her husband concocted a false story to obtain a travel permit in order to escape from Tibet which was then heavily guarded throughout by the Chinese army.

Topics Discussed:

Childhood memories, servitude, first appearance of Chinese, invasion by Chinese army, Panchen Lama, brutality/torture, imprisonment, life as a refugee in India.

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Sonam (alias) (#19D)

Sonam was born into a middle class family—his father was a trader and his mother was a farmer. It was a "happy life" with freedom to go to the monasteries, and they had good food and clothing. When the Chinese invaded his village at age 13, Sonam's father escaped to the mountains when people were ordered to surrender their weapons. He recalls how his father was shot in the legs by the Chinese and died from starvation in Dhartsedo prison.

The Chinese gave Sonam's mother the symbolic "hat," the symbol of a counter revolutionary because of the financial status of the family and his father's escape. Sonam describes the Chinese' oppressive rule and the meetings that were held three times a week to torture and insult the accused villagers like his mother. His family lived in fear and Sonam did hard labor, cutting wood, digging earth and building houses.

Sonam also experienced commune life started under Mao Zedong during which everybody had to work together and people had no freedom, even to visit neighboring villages without seeking permission from Chinese officials. He also speaks about his life after the commune system was dissolved and a small amount of religious freedom was restored. Sonam finally left Tibet in 2011 with his wife in order to see His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Topics Discussed:

Kham, childhood memories, invasion by Chinese army, life under Chinese rule, thamzing, oppression under Chinese.

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Pasang Tsewang (#21D)

Pasang Tsewang hails from Phari, near Bhutan. His family farmed and paid taxes to the government of Tibet. His father also engaged in trade between Kalimpong in India and Phari. He purchased goods in India then traded with nomads for wool and butter. The Chinese appeared in Phari when Pasang Tsewang was 12 years old. They first lured Tibetans with gifts and silver coins and assisted them in their daily chores. He goes on to relate in depth the larger acts employed by the Chinese to befriend Tibetans, such as opening a hospital, starting schools, constructing roads, giving aid to the poor and salaries to the wealthy.

After the initial friendliness, the Chinese revealed their plans to "liberate" Tibetans and confiscated land and possessions from many townspeople, including Pasang Tsewang. He witnessed and participated in thamzing 'struggle sessions.' He also gives an account of the extensive interrogations, tortures, forced labor, starvation and executions that the Chinese carried out. He himself was imprisoned for 2.5 years and forced to study Communist doctrines.

Pasang Tsewang gives a vivid account of the underground association that was established with the objective of escorting His Holiness the Dalai Lama back to Tibet. He describes the founders and activities, which were mainly tracking the movement of Chinese troops. After eight years of secret meetings, 21 members were imprisoned after the association was discovered.

Topics Discussed:

Childhood memories, education, first appearance of Chinese, oppression under Chinese, imprisonment, forced labor, brutality/torture, thamzing, commune system.

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Dolma (alias) (#27D)

Dolma is from Gonjo in Kham Province where she worked in the fields and grazed animals as a young girl. She recalls that no money was used and everyone produced their own food and clothing. She was fortunate to be taught a little reading and attempted a few times to run away to Lhasa with other village girls. Dolma married a trader from Amdo and they decided to go to Lhasa after he travelled to China and anticipated problems soon coming to Tibet.

Dolma remembers the turmoil in Lhasa and the decision of her husband to join the Chushi Gangdrug Defend Tibet Volunteer Force to resist the Chinese onslaught. She recounts the horrifying experiences she underwent along with her one-year old son after her husband left. Dolma was arrested after the March 10th uprising in Lhasa and subjected to forced labor. She recalls stories of the prisons and many deaths and suicides as well as starvation due to severely limited rations.

Dolma narrates how the Chinese caught her twice as she fled from her home in Lhasa. She talks about the experiences of being the wife of a "rebel" as the Chinese labeled her. Dolma briefly describes her third and final attempt to escape into Bhutan and her fortunate reunion with her husband.

Topics Discussed:

Kham. childhood memories, life under Chinese rule, March 10th uprising, defense of Norbulingka, Chushi Gangdrug guerrillas, forced labor, imprisonment, oppression under Chinese, thamzing, escape experiences.

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Samten (#34D)

Samten is the youngest of 3 children and his parents were farmers in Yawu who grew barley, peas and wheat in their field. He coughed frequently as a young child and recalls a divination that declared he should become a monk in order to live a long life. So at the age of 5 he joined the local Gyangtse Shinay Monastery. Samten describes the famous Gyangtse Bakor Chorten, one of the biggest stupas in Tibet. He talks about his daily routine and assignments as a monk at the local monastery and later Drepung Monastery.

Samten spent only six years at Drepung and then returned to the Gyangtse Monastery. He vividly remembers how the Chinese launched the Reformation program when the 2,000 monks from 16 monasteries in his region were forced to assemble and interrogated. Many false accusations were made by spies among the monks and arrests were made. Earlier some of the monks had left the monastery to join the Chushi Gangdrug Defend Tibet Volunteer Force.

All of the monks in the local monasteries were expelled and told to go home. Samten and a small number of monks decided to remain in the monastery when the Chinese offered them "freedom of religion," but later realized that the promise was false. He relates how the monks were forced to labor in the fields and constantly lectured about how religion was poison. After more than half of the monks were arrested, Samten and three other monks fled to Buxar in India.

Topics Discussed:

Monastic life, oppression under Chinese, destruction of monasteries, imprisonment, thamzing, Chushi Gangdrug guerrillas, forced labor, escape experiences.

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Phuntsok Tashi (alias) (#37D)

Phuntsok Tashi spent his childhood playing and grazing animals. When he grew older, he engaged in farming and carried salt to Nepal to barter for rice. His mother was extremely compassionate and took in travelers passing through on pilgrimages to India. He describes important festivals of Nepal when salt and sheep were traded and the custom of animal sacrifice during the festival.

Phuntsok Tashi recounts how some people suffered due to taxes and debts from loans of grain they received in times of poor harvest or heavy debts. He explains about the reformation system introduced by the 14th Dalai Lama to waive old debts accumulated over the years and to seek partnership with the rich aristocrats to build bridges.

The Chinese came as early as 1948-49 to his region, first seen was a lone Chinese on horseback who asked many questions and then they gradually increased in numbers. He describes his imprisonment along with many others from the region and the various forms of torture, beating, and harassment methods used on the prisoners. Phuntsok Tashi was fortunate to serve as camp cook and received better treatment than many other prisoners. After his release he returned to his village, but all his family had already escaped. He soon escaped to Nepal where helped to establish houses and a school for refugees.

Topics Discussed:

Childhood memories, customs/traditions, trade, taxes, first appearance of Chinese, oppression under Chinese, imprisonment, thamzing, brutality/torture, escape experiences.

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Jangchuk Nyima (alias) (#41D)

Jangchup Nyima's parents separated when he was a small child. He lived with his mother and herded animals. Both of his parents supported his wish to become a monk and offered to admit him in the local monastery when he became older, but the Chinese attacked his village when Jangchup Nyima was 11 years old.

Jangchup Nyima describes how he and the people of his village fled to the mountains to escape being captured by Chinese soldiers. They hid for three years, suffering from starvation and inhospitable weather conditions. They continually moved from place to place and were pursued and attacked by Chinese troops.

Jangchup Nyima recalls finally being captured and all the prisoners were sent to a village to join the commune system. He describes life in the commune which included strenuous field work and long meetings at night where one was forced to insult lamas and former village leaders. Food rations were too small and starvation and death was rampant until the mid-1960s. Jangchup Nyima's mother died after only one year and he became so weak he could hardly walk. Much later in life Jangchup Nyima fulfilled his wish to become a monk, travelling first on pilgrimage to Lhasa around 1995 and eventually to Dharamsala, India.

Topics Discussed:

Kham, childhood memories, invasion by Chinese army, oppression under Chinese, life under Chinese rule, thamzing, commune system, monastic life, Buddhist beliefs.

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Ama Adhe (#61D)

Ama Adhe was born in Nyarong in Kham Province to a middle class family. She was a devout Buddhist from a very young age, practicing as her parents taught her. She describes her feeling of terror upon seeing the Chinese for the first time and recounts how they tried to lure children with silver coins and their pretense to help Tibetans.

Ama Adhe and her husband planned an escape to Lhasa, but her husband was poisoned by the Chinese before they could leave. Ama Adhe then inspired other women to help the Tibetan men who fought against the Chinese by supplying food and provisions to them. When the rebellion was crushed some of the women and many men and monks were arrested. Some of the stronger ones like Ama Adhe were taken away to a prison in Changshita, China. Only four out of the 300 women in that prison survived the ordeal of starvation there.

Ama Adhe is one of the Tibetans who served the longest prison terms, which was 27 years and ended only when Deng Xiaoping pardoned the political prisoners. During her incarceration she suffered torture and forced labor. The Chinese tried to instill in her that the Buddhist dharma and the Dalai Lama were bad, but she continued to pray daily. She believes her deep faith in the Dalai Lama and the Goddess Tara saved her from death. She emphasizes her wish to tell the world the suffering of prisoners who died under Chinese oppression.

Topics Discussed:

Kham, first appearance of Chinese, destruction of monasteries, resistance, imprisonment, forced labor, brutality/torture.

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Tenzin Dechen (alias) (#70D)

Tenzin Dechen was born into a large family in 1952. Her father was put in charge of all the property that the Chinese confiscated from wealthier villagers. He took pity on refugees arriving from other villages and gave them housing and supplies. For this her father was sent to prison when she was only 9 years old. Tenzin Dechen's mother and aunt struggled to feed and clothe the large family on their own. They lived under the commune system launched by the Chinese, who awarded stars to the workers on the basis of which a person was allotted food grains.

Tenzin Dechen recounts her father's suffering in prison for six years and his stories about prisoners who died of starvation. She talks about how the biography of Jetsun Milarepa inspired her to become a nun at the age of 25 and how she covertly wore robes and covered her shaven head because religious practice was not allowed under Chinese occupation.

Tenzin Dechen escaped to India in 1982. She recollects her escape, the suffering during the journey, arrest by Chinese, the vision of His Holiness the Dalai Lama she saw and her life in the Gaden Choeling Nunnery in Dharamsala for 13 years. She describes her trip to Tibet to visit her siblings in 2011 and her imprisonment by Chinese.

Topics Discussed:

Kham, childhood memories, Dalai Lama, destruction of monasteries, imprisonment, starvation, life under Chinese rule, commune system, Buddhist beliefs, escape experiences, life as a refugee in India.

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Tenzin Phuntsok (#72D)

Tenzin Phuntsok is from Lhozong in Kham Province. She was 12-year old when the Chinese first appeared in her village. On that day she was directed by the elderly women of the village to go out and wave a white flag as an act of surrender. Six of her family members were imprisoned by the Chinese because her sister's husband joined the resistance fighters. The Chinese sent Tenzin Phuntsok to do road construction, but she was unable to perform well and was sent back to the village.

Tenzin Phuntsok describes how the Chinese conducted thamzing 'struggle sessions' and the different methods applied to torture the Tibetans. Tenzin Phuntsok's family was labeled as counter revolutionaries and she speaks vividly about the ordeal her father, brother, maternal uncle and others endured in prison.

Tenzin Phuntsok travelled to Lhasa to search for her maternal uncle, a reincarnate lama who was sentenced to 30 years in prison. He advised her to stay in Lhasa because there was slightly more freedom to practice religion there than in Kham. She secretly became a nun at the age of 34 and lived in Lhasa for 31 years. She speaks of her pilgrimage to Mount Kailash from where began her escape to India with the sole intention of seeing His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Topics Discussed:

Kham, first appearance of Chinese, destruction of monasteries, life under Chinese rule, oppression under Chinese, thamzing, imprisonment, forced labor, brutality/torture, escape experiences.

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Tenzin Namsay (#73D)

Tenzin Namsay was born in Shidong into a wealthy family. They owned a large area of land and she led a very happy life until the age of 12. Her family's life changed completely after the Chinese appeared. She narrates her painful experience of running away to the mountains with all the villagers while the monks of the monastery and the men tried to resist the Chinese. Her father was imprisoned and her mother died during the first year of hiding in the mountains.

After three years Tenzin Namsay and her younger siblings returned to their village, but their property had been confiscated by the Chinese and they were forced live in a tiny shack. They struggled to grow crops in the poor soil allotted to them. Tenzin Namsay talks about the misery she faced as a messenger delivering letters to distant regions for the Chinese. She describes her suffering of excommunication and work on a road crew.

Tenzin Namsay was subjected to thamzing 'struggle sessions' on many occasions and recounts those horrible experiences. She speaks about how the Chinese divided the Tibetan community into different categories, how the wealthy and influential were accused on false charges, and how they were made to confess their "crimes" by force. Wanting to become a nun for many years, she was finally able to take her vows around the age of 40.

Topics Discussed:

Kham, first appearance of Chinese, destruction of monasteries, oppression under Chinese, forced labor, starvation, brutality/torture, thamzing, monastic life.

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Naljorma Jangchup Palmo (#13C - Part 1)

Naljorma Jangchup Palmo was born in Jang Namru to a wealthy and influential family. Her father was the leader of the village. She remembers fondly visiting their monastery every winter which was six days away on horseback. During the summer, her family hosted the monks in their home and there was a horse race every year. At the age of 13 Naljorma Jangchup Palmo's family sponsored a special series of Buddhist teachings and required her to listen to them daily for three months. She explains about her unique nature and interest in Buddhism from a very young age.

Naljorma Jangchup Palmo describes visiting Lhasa at the age of 14 and her first experience with the Chinese. She notes their initial attempt to win over aristocrats and other influential Tibetans with dhayen 'Chinese silver coins,' but later came a change in attitude as the Chinese began arresting and subjecting the leaders and the influential people to thamzing 'struggle sessions.'

After receiving news that the Chinese had occupied Lhasa, her father led the village in a vain attempt to flee. Her father was killed by the Chinese and Naljorma Jangchup Palmo was shot several times and detained. She describes another foiled escape that resulted in the death of more family members and finally her successful third attempt. She then practiced the Buddhist dharma at Mt. Kailash for several years and learned to forgive the Chinese.

Topics Discussed:

Utsang, childhood memories, Buddhist beliefs, invasion by Chinese army, brutality/torture, escape experiences.

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Keotsang Tulku Jamphel Yeshi (#1B)

Keotsang Tulku Jamphel Yeshi was born in Lhoka in Nethong District of Utsang Province. He describes Lhokha as a very large area with a population of around 10,000. His family engaged in farming as well as raising animals. He was recognized as the reincarnation of the previous Keotsang Rinpoche at the age of 2. He recounts his migration to Lhasa to his own monastery called Keotsang Ritoe and the role of his teacher and the chanzo 'business manager.' He spent his time memorizing scriptures and was disciplined by beatings if he did not study well.

As a teenager Keotsang Tulku Jamphel Yeshi went to Sera Monastery near Lhasa to study and practice debating. He witnessed the initial period of the Chinese occupation when they claimed to come to liberate Tibet and develop it. He witnessed the bombing of Sera Monastery and Norbulingka and the uprising in Lhasa. He and his teachers attempted to escape but were eventually arrested by the Chinese. Keotsang Tulku Jamphel Yeshi suffered tremendously having to undergo thamzing 'struggle sessions' and 17 years in prison followed by three years of hard labor. He narrates in detail about the suffering prisoners underwent like starvation, torture, hard labor and political reeducation.

Topics Discussed:

Utsang, monastic life, first appearance of Chinese, Dalai Lama, resistance, brutality/torture, life under Chinese rule, oppression under Chinese, imprisonment, starvation, forced labor, thamzing.

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Jampa Gyaltsen, Geshe (#17B)

Geshe Jampa Gyaltsen was born in Ladakh in India to parents who were farmers. He recalls being the youngest of 10 siblings and herding goats at the age of 7. At age 12 he became a monk and then at the age of 17 he traveled to Tibet. He joined Drepung Monastery to study philosophical debating and lived there for 20 years.

In 1959 Geshe Jampa Gyaltsen was captured by the Chinese and imprisoned for two years for attending a meeting in protest against the Chinese occupation. He was subjected to hard labor for six months and admits that his hardship made him contemplate suicide. He describes the earlier attack on Drepung Monastery and how the Chinese captured the abbots and business managers of the monastery. He witnessed the thamzing 'struggle session' that the monastery's business manager was subjected to. Along with other foreigners, Jampa Gyaltsen was jailed in Drapchi prison for eight months. Food was limited and religion was banned.

Geshe Jampa Gyaltsen was released from prison after intervention from Indian authorities. He moved to the relocated Drepung Monastery in Mundgod, south India. He recounts taking his geshe 'Buddhist philosophy' degree and then moving to Gyumed Monastery in Hunsur for further studies. He describes his providential escape from three nearly fatal accidents.

Topics Discussed:

Childhood memories, monastic life, imprisonment, forced labor, thamzing.

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Bagdro (#22B)

Bagdro was born to a nomadic father and a farming mother near Lhasa. Due to fear of the Chinese, his parents did not teach him anything about life before the Chinese occupation. He did not even know who the Dalai Lama was. He was perplexed as a child that the Chinese purported to bring liberation and progress, but the Tibetans remained poor while the Chinese prospered.

Bagdro experienced the Cultural Revolution. Monasteries were destroyed and sacred texts were desecrated. The Chinese indoctrinated Tibetan children into Communism. He describes thamzing 'struggle sessions' and imprisonments that he witnessed. Bagdro's 4-year old sister was one of the victims of starvation that became widespread after the Chinese occupation. He was forced to beg for money from foreign tourists and for food from Chinese restaurants in Lhasa.

Seeing that monks were well-fed, Bagdro joined Gaden Monastery. Monks could say prayers but also had to study Communism. Bagdro finally learned about the true situation in Tibet and was determined to fight for his country. After a protest in Lhasa, he was arrested. He describes the suffering the political prisoners underwent, including torture, forced labor and death due to starvation. He was finally released due to his poor health. He escaped to India to tell the world about the suffering of his prison mates and request a trial in the Spanish Court.

Topics Discussed:

Utsang, childhood memories, life under Chinese rule, destruction of monasteries, Cultural Revolution, thamzing, Panchen Lama, imprisonment, brutality/torture,s, starvation.

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Tsering Norbu (#25B)

Tsering Norbu belonged to a wealthy family in Tsang, Tibet. The family tilled land and his father was also a merchant. His mother died when he was 7 years old and at the same time his father lost all his merchandise to robbers during a trade mission. The unfortunate circumstances led his father to give up family life and begin studying Buddhism. Tsering Norbu was placed in Tashi Lhunpo Monastery at the age of 8. He witnessed the grand arrival of the Panchen Lama coming from China.

Tsering Norbu ran away from the monastery at age 12 and returned to his village where he joined a hermitage called Dhuesar Gonpa. Tsering Norbu's life changed when the Chinese appeared. He and all the monks were forced to leave their monasteries and submit to Chinese political education. The Chinese instructed people to denounce the old society and trained them in conducting thamzing 'struggle sessions.' He witnessed the thamzing of the leadership class, land reforms and redistribution of wealth.

Tsering Norbu's father was going to be arrested for helping others escape, so his family chose to escape themselves. In India Tsering Norbu spent 16 years in the Indian Army and also participated in a rebellious attack on the Chinese embassy.

Topics Discussed:

Utsang, childhood memories, monastic life, Panchen Lama, life under Chinese rule, oppression under Chinese, thamzing, starvation, escape experiences, life as a refugee in India.

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Namdol Dolkar (#26B) (alias)

Namdol Dolkar was born in Chamdo. After her mother's death, she looked after her four younger siblings. She also tended the store where the family sold goods from Dhartsedo. When the Chinese first arrived in Chamdo Namdol Dolkar was 14 years old. She recalls a great panic amongst the townspeople and shops closed to avoid selling goods to the Chinese. The Chinese attempted to lure Tibetans to their aid with the initial approach of posing as humble, generous and helpful. Then the Chinese gradually changed their attitude and created hostilities between the Tibetans and Chinese.

After moving to Lhasa as a bride, Namdol Dolkar witnessed the Chinese attack on the Potala and Norbulingka Palaces. Many people and animals were killed in the streets and their bodies burned. She was labeled a reactionary and subjected to oppression as a community prisoner performing hard labor. She gives describes instances of torture, imprisonment and thamzing 'struggle sessions.' Death and suicide became commonplace. Namdol Dolkar and many others suffered from starvation when the Chinese restricted food distribution.

Topics Discussed:

Kham, childhood memories, first appearance of Chinese, March 10th Uprising, Norbulingka, oppression under Chinese, forced labor, thamzing, brutality/torture, imprisonment, sterilization, starvation.

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Yeshi (#9B) (alias)

Yeshi lost his parents at a very early age and was raised by his grandparents. They were poor and did not own any land so they earned a livelihood by catering to travellers. He recalls being ordained as a monk at the age of 8 in Lhatse Choedhe, the local monastery, and successfully memorizing the Buddhist texts.

When he was 23 years old, Yeshi left for Sera Monastery in Lhasa to study advanced Buddhist philosophy. Yeshi remembers that he was at the choera 'debating courtyard' of Sera Monastery when the Chinese army bombarded the Potala Palace in 1959. He hid in his room as bombing of the Palace continued for two days and the shelling of his monastery as well. Many monks went to gather weapons and defend the monastery.

Yeshi recounts the story of his escape from Sera Monastery back to Lhatse Choedhe hoping for a normal monastic life. The Chinese army soon arrived in his village and introduced the Revolution of Democracy. The monks continued to try and practice Buddhism but also had to grow their own crops, which they had never done before. The Chinese held indoctrination classes and forced some monks and laypeople to rise against their past leaders. Yeshi witnessed many thamzing 'struggle sessions' of the senior monks of the monastery. He then gives an exciting story of his escape to Nepal.

Topics Discussed:

Utsang, childhood memories, monastic life, life under Chinese rule, thamzing, escape experiences, life as a refugee in India.

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Short videos created by Tony Sondag.