In 1959, the Dalai Lama alone owned 160,000 liang of gold, 95 million liang of silver, over 20,000 pieces of jewelry and jadeware, and more than 10,000 pieces of silk and satin fabric and rare fur clothing, including over 100 robes inlaid with pearls and gems, each worth tens of thousands of yuan, revealed in the white paper titled "Fifty Years of Democratic Reform in Tibet" published by the Information Office of the State Council, or China's cabinet on March 2,2009.
The white paper shows that before 1959, the family of the 14th Dalai Lama possessed 27 manors,30 pastures and over 6,000 serfs, and annually squeezed about 33,000 ke (one ke equals 14 kilograms -- ed.) of qingke (highland barley), 2,500 ke of butter, two million liang (15 liang of silver equal one silver dollar of the time) of Tibetan silver, 300 head of cattle, and 175 rolls of pulu (woolen fabric made in Tibet) out of its serfs.
According to the statistics in the white paper, each Dalai Lama had two money-lending agencies. Some money coming from "tribute" to the Dalai Lama was lent at an exorbitant rate of interest. According to re-cords in the account books of the two agencies, in 1950 they lent 3,038,581 liang of silver as principal, and collected 303,858liang in interest.
Statistics released in the early years of the Qing Dynasty in the 17th century indicate that Tibet then had more than three million mu of farmland, of which 30.9 percent was owned by the local feudal government, 29.6 percent by aristocrats, and 39.5 percent by monasteries and upper-ranking lamas. The three major estate-holders' monopoly of the means of production remained unchanged until the democratic reform in 1959.
A survey done in 1959 showed that the three major monasteries, namely Drepung, Sera and Ganden, in Lhasa lent 22,725,822 kilograms of grain and collected 399,364 kilograms in interest, and lent 57,105,895 liang of silver and collected 1,402,380 liang in interest. Revenue from usury made up 25 to 30 percent of the total revenue of the three monasteries. Most aristocrats were also engaged in usury, with the interest accounting for 15 to 20 percent of their family revenues. Serfs had to borrow money to survive, and more than 90 percent of serf households were in debt.
Meanwhile, the white paper says that serfs were burdened with new debts, debts passed down from previous generations, debts resulting from joint liability, and debts apportioned among all the serfs. The debts that were passed down from previous generations and could never be re-paid even by succeeding generations accounted for one third of the total debts.
By People's Daily Online