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Former female serfs recollect tragic past
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08:42, March 27, 2009

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Pedron was beaten by the lord because she did not lower her head and stick out her tongue to show the respect when she was five. Even worse, she asked for food.

Born to a serf family in southern Tibet's Shannan in 1946, Pedron, her parents, aunt, three brothers and sisters lived in a shabby and dark barn, alongside the cattle.

"Mom and aunt went up the mountain to chop wood and pull up herbs before dawn. They had to turn in five bundles of firewood or herbs daily to get two bowls of tsampa, a Tibetan food made of fried barley flour," said Pedron at a conference organized by the Tibet Women's Federation Tuesday.

"Mom had to carefully distribute the tsampa to make sure every one of the family could have something to eat when they felt starving," she said.

Pedron and her brothers mixed the oil dregs from the oil lamps with the tsampa to make it more tasteful.

"Whether clean or not, having a bite was a best memory in life," she said.

Lhadron, 82, from Xigaze, cried when she recalled the tragedy of her family.

Lhadron's brother was beat to death by the feudal lord. Her sister was sold to another lord and was tortured to death. Her younger brother was thrown into prison by his lord and died five years later.

"I had planned committing suicide several times," she said. "Thinking of some day Tibet would be better, I endured and survived," she said.

Lhadron was not given a place to live or food to eat by her feudal lord. She made a living by begging and eating from the garbage and lived in the field.

"My father tried to borrow some food from the lord but was kept in prison," she said.

Yanggim, 86, lost all four brothers and sisters in old Tibet as they either froze or starved to death.

"We were treated like livestock who could talk, or tools, not humans. There were no human rights to speak of at that time," she said.

Old Tibet inherited the system recorded in the code of the Tubo slavery regime (from the seventh to the ninth century). Under this system, people were divided into three classes and nine grades with women at the very bottom, said Degyi, a 50-year-old woman and vice chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region.

The year of 1959 was a turning point for Tibetan women. The Chinese government launched democratic reform that year to end the feudal serfdom system and liberate serfs and slaves.

Konjo Zhoima, 69, was happy to see her two brothers back from lama temples in 1959. In order to make a living, they became lama monks. Zhoima's family were given 0.47 hectares of land and they no longer needed to huddle in the shabby room.

Zhoima retired in 1990 as chairman of the Lhasa Municipal Women's Federation.

"It was impossible in the old times that a daughter of a poor family could secure a leading official post," she said. "It's new Tibet that gave me new life."

Lhadron became head of Dujung Town, Bainang County in 1959. The first thing she did was distribute the land and food confiscated from the slave owners to the serfs. She retired in 1987 as chairman of Xi gaze Women's Federation.

Yanggim, now an old woman, lives on the minimum living allowance of 310 yuan (48 U.S. dollars) and enjoys a government medical insurance.

"As a witness of both the old and new Tibet, I was grateful to the democratic reform," she said.


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