Former serf Tseyong Dranzong: smashing shackles and embracing new life

"Have you eaten?" In the spring breeze on an April day, as villagers walk on the flat and clean cement road in Sifangxianghe New Village, a relocation village in southwest China's Tibet, they happily greet each other.

Tseyong Dranzong said that if it were in old Tibet, they would only ask: "Whose serf are you?"

Tseyong Dranzong cannot forget her life of misery as a serf in old Tibet.

"There were six people in my family, and we were all serfs of the Lhokong Family. My father was a carpenter for relatives of the serf owner and my mother spent all day from morning till night taking care of the owner's livestock, planting the fields, polishing snuff bottles, washing clothes, and fetching water," Tseyang Dranzong said.

"But we went hungry every day." She said resentfully that a dozen hours of work could only be exchanged for a bit of tsampa and wild vegetables from the serf owner. They were really hungry, so they secretly grew some plants that were used to feed the cattle and horses. Their clothes were full of patches, and sometimes they didn't have cloth to patch up the holes. There were only a few pottery bowls in the house and no tables, chairs, or beds.

"Not only was life hard, but we were often bullied," Tseyong Dranzong said. "I had to act as the 'step' for the serf owner to get on his horse. Sometimes when my mother came back, I could see that her eyes were red. I would ask her what was wrong but she never said. Still, I knew that the manger must have bullied her. The manager had one sentence that would scare us: 'Cattle are compliant under yoke, and serfs are compliant under sticks.'"

In the early 1950s, when the People's Liberation Army (PLA) entered Tibet, Tseyong Dranzong and her family had formed an indissoluble bond with them.

"I clearly remember that winter it snowed a lot. Twenty or so soliders of the PLA came to our house to stay overnight and live for three months," Tseyong Dranzong said proudly and gave a smile.

"The first bowl of rice I ever ate was given by the PLA," said Tseyong Dranzong with her eyes filled with tears. She will never forget when her family was hungry, a 50- or 60-year-old PLA soldier brought them a large bowl of steaming white rice, and the family were moved to tears.

"It is so precious that we were all reluctant to have it alone, so at the end we boiled a pot of porridge with it. In my memory it is the most delicious meal I have ever eaten. The PLA soldier was wearing his military uniform, and he had a badge on his shoulder that was particularly shiny."

Three months later, her older brother Tenzin Ngawang joined the PLA. Later, Tibet carried out democratic reform, serfs like Tseyong Dranzong who had been oppressed for generations earned the freedom to engage in their own means of production and became their own masters.

"In the past, I suffered in hell. Now I am enjoying life in heaven. My life is hundreds of times better than before!" said Tseyang Dranzong standing on the balcony of her own small building and basking in the sunshine.

At the end of 2018, Tseyong Dranzong's family was relocated to Sifangxianghe New Village and moved into a brand new building. The windows in the new Tibetan-style building are clear and clean, and all kinds of furniture are available. Tseyong Dranzong happily told reporters that the bed, cabinet, and television were all provided by the government.