Zizirong Village could be reached by a smooth paved road going up the mountain. This Tibetan village of 388 households of farmers and herders is located in King Songtsen Gampo’s hometown -- Maizhokunggar County in Lhasa City, Tibet.
Like most villagers here, Kelsang Norbu lives in a two-story house with a yard. His home is decorated in Tibetan style; the matching tables and chairs show off the intricate workmanship of Tibetan handicrafts. The kitchen is renovated with a European style, and is complete with all appliances, including a utensil sterilizer. Potted flowers are everywhere in the house, adding a sense of energy.
Kelsang Norbu has four kids, one of whom works locally after graduating high school. Two other kids are studying at the Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Shanghai’s Zhufeng High School; and his daughter Nyidron had just graduated from the Southwest University for Nationalities in Sichuan, and was preparing to take the civil servant exam.
"They have educational grants every year for studying in inner China. Actually, all of their tuition was reimbursed starting from last year. My wife and I have no financial pressure.” said Norbu.
His daughter Nyidron said there are a lot of Tibetan students at the Southwest University for Nationalities, but not many are from Tibet. Ninety percent of them choose to return to Tibet to work. “It’s nice seeing a big city, but my hometown is better!” she said, while her father looked gratified and seemed to agree with her choice.
Tibet is a relatively underdeveloped province in all of China’s provinces due to its harsh natural conditions and a high number of impoverished residents. The effective poverty reduction for residents is an ongoing challenge for the government. Currently, supportive government policies is one of the effective ways in alleviating poverty.
Residents of Maizhokunggar County enjoy three types of government subsidies: one, children of farmers and herders enjoy 100 percent compensation of higher education costs, with 200 yuan/student in monthly stipend, which continues through graduate school;
two, farmers and herders enjoy free medical insurance and 100 percent compensation of any other medical costs after using the benefits;
three, farmers and herders over 60-years-old enjoy annual pension benefits at the following rates: 60 to 69-years-old: 300 yuan/person; 70 to 79-years-old: 400 yuan/person; 80 to 89 years-old: 500 yuan/person; 90 to 99-years-old: 600 yuan/person; over 100-years-old: 1000 yuan/person.
Maizhokunggar County is known as the cradle of Tibetan culture because it gave birth to the Tubo Kingdom, where the legendary King Songtsen Gampo (617-650) was also born. In the 7th century, King Songtsen Gampo unified all tribes of Tibet and moved the capital to Lhasa, and ever since, Tibetans have regarded this area as the “King’s Hometown.”