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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

"How did my mother participate in the revolution?" by Woeser

October 14, 2008
October 11, 2008

This is a translation from Chinese to English by High Peaks Pure
Earth. The original article was published on Woeser's blog on 26th
January 2007 and can be viewed here. This is the first time that it
has been translated into English. In addition to being a fine poet,
Woeser writes moving prose and is an accomplished essayist.

Year: 2005

Place: Beijing

People: My mother and I. Below are my mother's words.

The first time I saw Chinese people was maybe in 1952. They were
Chinese people who were preparing to build the roads, carrying
banners, whistling and holding various instruments. The adults all
called them ?Gyami Serbo?, meaning they were yellow Chinese as the
clothes they wore were a yellow army uniform. Before that time we had
heard about Chinese people, that they ate babies and were devils. So
when the Chinese arrived at the village, children in the village were
both frightened and excited and went fearfully and secretly to look
at them. The interpreter was a Tibetan. He grabbed a young boy and
asked him a question, the young boy was frightened and spluttered
some nonsense that made all the Chinese laugh. The children were all
surprised and whispered in each other?s ears: look, look, the
laughter of Chinese people is the same as ours.

Our village is now Wu Yu Township?s Tashi Gang village which at the
time belonged to our family Kangga. Kangga is the name of my father?s
original family, and after my father lived apart from his family and
established a new family, the new one was named Dejang. I was born
into Kangga family in Wu Yu Township in 1943. Below Tashi Gang there
was some wasteland where barley can not be grown, and it was all rock
and sand. Later, during the period ?Agriculture learns from Dazhai? a
lot of energy would be exerted to reverse it from this state but
barley still wasn?t to grow there. At that time, a great many tents
of the construction teams were tidily pitched there, which gave us
the feeling that they would be there forever.

The arrival of the construction teams was perhaps in 1953. At first
they were all Chinese and later they enlisted some local Tibetans.
The highway was built from Lhasa to Shigatse, but this is not the
same road as the present new highway. The old highway being built at
that time is on the whole not used anymore but can be used from time
to time. In the past there had been an army depot near the village
which was now abandoned.

The Han Chinese road workers wore blue so everyone called then ?Gyami
Ngonbo? meaning ?Blue Chinese?. At that time, our Dejiang family had
started to build a new house which later became Wu Yu Township?s
village government, now it?s already been torn down. My father was
the owner of Numa manor and would often receive dinner invitations
from the road teams. Maybe because I had a nice appearance, my
parents always took me along to attend these banquets. It was at
these occasions that I ate fried peanuts for the first time. They
were so fragrant and tasty that I could not help stopping eating. An
official of the road team placed a bowl of fried peanuts in front of
me, I was very happy and put the fried peanuts into the front pocket
of my chuba. As a result, the chest part of my chuba was stained with
oil. At that time I had just turned 10 years old.

Han Chinese people from the road teams often came to our home, and
their translators were always Tibetans. My older sister fell in love
with one of the translators called Gonpo Tseten, an Amdo Tibetan. He
was tall and wore a peaked cap and a Mao jacket. The first time he
came to our home, my sister fell under his spell. However our parents
had already promised her to an ugly, dark skinned, big-nosed man from
an aristocratic family in Shigatse. When he and his father visited
our home, I had a good look at him whilst pretending to pour tea and
then rushed to describe his appearance to my sister, who could not
appear before them. My sister absolutely did not want to marry him.

The road team's cook liked our family's barley beer, so I would often
take a servant and go and deliver barley beer to him. I was just at
the age of being very curious and liked to look at strange things. On
seeing them eat white rice with black peas it looked far worse than
our food at home. The cook often repaid us with a bowl of Sichuan
spicy bean sauce which doesn?t taste the same as Indian peppers and
taste very good. The bowl was white with red Chinese characters
written on it, later when I fell in love with your father I saw that
he also had this kind of bowl.

The road teams stayed at my home village for over a year, they had
headquarters and a hospital. They even built a stage and a basketball
court. The road teams would sometimes show films. The first time I
saw a film my eyes opened very wide in amazement but I have forgotten
what film it was that they showed, also I didn?t understand a word of
Chinese. Propaganda teams would often come and perform carrying
various coloured goose feather fans in their hands during their
dances. I cherished these performances and after returning home would
make these fans out of wool and learn their dances.

In 1953, my older brother came back from Lhasa. He had been sent to
Lhasa very young and went to study in a private school run by
Nyarongsha doctor. My brother is 6 years older than me, and at that
time he was already very revolutionary in character. At home whilst
20 or 30 servants were eating he sat among them and said that he
wanted to divide the land and animals amongst them. The servants all
lowered their heads and smiled stealthily and must have all thought
that the young Dejiang master was mad. My parents were very angry and
later scolded my brother; they told him that if a flood flooded the
whole village, it would not leave a dry rock but seeing as that
situation had not yet occurred what nonsense had he been spouting?

At that time, my brother had already cut his hair into the
revolutionary cropped hairstyle. He took a pair of scissors and to
cut everyone?s hair. He cut the maid?s plait and he also cut mine. I
didn?t agree to it and as soon as my brother cut my plait off with
his scissors I could only cry and accept my fate. I was so shy, my
family members called me ?Gyami Go? meaning ?Chinese head? and from
then on I always wrapped my head in a scarf.

On the second day after the haircut, Han Chinese men from the road
team came to our home to buy tsampa. The highest ranking official
with a camera wanted to take a photo of me as soon as he saw me. So
my photo was taken on the roof of the house. I was wearing everyday
clothes and was leaning against the ladeng (Shigatse dialect, in
Lhasa dialect it is called lazu and it?s a long narrow pole to insert
a tree branch with prayer flags on the roof during Tibetan new year).
Later, my mother saw the photo and was not happy, she said that I
could lean anywhere but not against the ladeng.

The official who took the photo only had one eye. He always wore
sunglasses with deep dark lenses so you could not see his eyes. The
village children all wanted to see him without his dark glasses, one
time they really saw him and in his blind eye?s place was something
that looked like a crystal ball which frightened them all. Thinking
about it, at that time among the Han Chinese it was he who looked
like a devil so when he wanted to photograph me, I didn?t dare to
refuse but when he took the photo I wasn?t even smiling a little bit.

At that time, the translator that came with them was not the Amdo one
that my sister liked, it was a Dartsedo Tibetan called Palnor who
later served as the Director of the district?s traffic department and
is now retired. Sometimes we would bump into him on mahjong playing
occasions. A few days later, he brought over the developed photo to
give to us, he had developed a few copies.

Soon after, I was taken to Lhasa by my brother to go to school. We
lived in our Uncle?s home which was around near Meru Temple. My Uncle
had been the governor of Pali County. When the PLA advanced into
Tibet. he was Chamdo governor Ngapo?s bodyguard. After the Chamdo
battle was over, he was also held captive by the PLA. I started to
attend the newly established Lhasa Primary School but I missed home
very much. When I received my Chinese woollen suit I cried out to go
home but my brother did not agree to that and simply forced me to
study almost one term. Then it happened that my father came to Lhasa
for some work. I went back home with my father and gave the Chinese
woollen suit to the servant?s son.

The happy days at home didn?t last long, my brother came back again
after which he took me back to Lhasa again to continue studying at
Lhasa Primary School. My brother was becoming more and more
revolutionary and joined the Lhasa Youth Federation which was a very
fashionable group at the time similar to a group of performers. Many
young aristocratic boys and girls were part of their activities but I
was still young and not interested in those kinds of things. I just
wanted to go home. In 1955, my brother went to Beijing to study at
the Central Institute for Nationalities. As soon as he left I
returned to Wu Yu Township on horseback.

In 1956, my father was poisoned and killed. The next year my sister
and I went to Lhasa and it would be many years before returning to Wu
Yu. My sister was escaping marriage and I did not like the new
stepfather. The two of us started to attend the Tibetan Cadre School
which was a school for training Tibetan Cadres. It was at this point
that I started to participate in the revolution.

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