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English>>China Society

Second generation Tibetans

(Global Times)    10:23, April 15, 2015
A wedding ceremony of Tibetans (Photo/Xinhua)

Offspring of Han officials in Tibet act as bridges between two peoples

Xie Xiao (pseudonym), 38, felt a strong sense of alienation after a week in Beijing. The streets and alleys of her childhood memories are nothing like they used to be. The city is now a strange metropolis that makes her feel cramped and lost.

Later, Xie, a civil servant in the Lhasa environmental protection bureau in the Tibet Autonomous Region, went back to Lhasa.

"Lhasa is at 3,650 meters above sea level, but I don't get headaches or have problems breathing like I did on the Beijing subway," she said.

Xie moved to Tibet from Beijing with her parents when she was 13. She spoke no Tibetan language and suffered from altitude sickness at first. But it didn't take long for her to adapt.

With flushed cheeks and fluent Tibetan, she looks just like a Tibetan. She said she belongs to the group of "second generation Tibetans."

Sixty-five years ago, during the peaceful liberation of Tibet, hundreds and thousands of the People's Liberation Army soldiers and logistic staff arrived at Tibet. Most of them were sent by the central government to assist Tibet, becoming the first generation of Han officials to migrate to Tibet after 1949.

Their children, growing up in different prefectures of Tibet with Tibetan friends, have been given the name "second generation Tibetans" by local people. Some of them left Tibet after growing up or graduating from college, but many stayed and settled down. In 1994, the central government formally started another aid program, under which every prefecture in Tibet will be paired with a province from around China, with officials from the province sent to work there.

But unlike the first generation of cadres, most officials coming to Tibet after 1994 don't settle down here.

Not a real hometown?

When first moving to Tibet from Beijing, Xie suffered headaches caused by high altitude and butter tea, a special Tibetan tea boiled with butter and salt. But she began to love the city after discovering the cute goats in the house of her Tibetan neighbor.

She also enjoyed the city's blue skies, and attending Lhasa's festivals with neighbors and strangers alike. Later Xie attended college in Shandong Province, and returned to Lhasa to become a civil servant with no hesitation whatsoever.

Xie's husband come from a similar background.

"Most of the 'second generation Tibetans' marry Han people with similar experience, as it is easier for us to understand each other," Xie's husband Zhao Ximing, who works as a high school teacher in Lhasa, said.

Six couples reached by the Global Times in Tibet said their experiences were similar to Xie and Zhao: growing up in Tibet, coming back to work at government or public institutions after graduating from colleges, and getting married to people with similar backgrounds.

Tibet is their second hometown. But many of them still decided to have their children educated in other places, and to leave their "hometown" after retirement.

Wang Xisi, an official with the Nyingchi tourism bureau, recently sent his 12-year-old son to Chengdu to attend junior high school, a two-hour-flight away from Nyingchi.

"They can get a better education in other places. It makes it easier for the children to get into college," Wang said.

"If he wants to come back Tibet to work after graduation, I'm totally okay with it," Wang said. "We don't want to cut our connection with Tibet."

Many of them choose Chengdu because it is the nearest place to Tibet with a mild climate and low altitude. Zhong Airong, Wang's colleague in Nyingchi, also purchased a house in Chengdu, where her parents and child live. "The high altitude is not suitable for the elderly."

However, Zhong is not so sure if she could adapt to living in a big and crowded city.

She often hears her mother complaining about the situation in Beijing and how much she misses Lhasa. "But she's nearly 60, the high altitude will put too much pressure on her heart."

"So sometimes it feels like that we have not settled anywhere. And it really upsets me that I don't live with my daughter and take care of her myself," Zhong said.

A bridge between peoples

Wang Yuena still remembers how frightened she was upon hearing people knocking at her dormitory door on March 14, 2008, when riots spread through Lhasa, leaving 18 people dead and 382 injured.

Wang was 16, studying in Lhasa High School, located near the Potala Palace. There were only three Tibetan students in her class. Other students rarely spoke with them.

"People went mad. We stayed in the dorm from noon onwards. We didn't dare go to the canteen [for lunch]," she recalled. She opened the door and found her Tibetan classmate Ngawang, who told her that police had arrived at the campus and put a stop to the riot there.

Afterwards they became friends, and through Ngawang Wang found herself integrated into a wider circle of Tibetan students.

But her movement across cultures has produced some awkward moments. To her Han friends, she has to explain that Tibetan people actually take showers regularly and they don't smell strange. While talking with Tibetan friends, she reminds them not to make statements starting with "you Han people."

"I have to explain so much to both sides, and sometimes try to get those who have prejudices and misunderstandings together," said Wang, who now works in the county government of Chayu in Nyingchi. "It's a good thing for both sides to have fewer misunderstandings," she added.

An official with Nyingchi government told the Global Times on condition of anonymity that more than 10 percent of Han officials in Nyingchi are "second generation Tibetans."

"They are close witnesses to friendship as well as confrontations between Han and Tibetan people, and they have experienced and understand both cultures. They are very important bridges between the two peoples," the official said.

"But I'm not sure how many of their children will come back after studying in other places and work for Tibet," he added.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Zhang Yuan,Yao Chun)

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