STATUS OF NOMADIC
PASTORALISM IN PALA,
THE NEW CHINESE ECONOMIC AND CULTURAL POLICIES implemented in Tibet in the 1990s have produced a major transformation in Fiila. Following commune dissolution, the nomads' economy immediately reverted to the traditional household system of production and management which, enhanced by the concession on taxes, has led to an overall improvement in the standard of living, despite the fact that local-level officials have not completely implemented an -market system. The new policies have also led to increasing open
involvement in the market economy and dramatic social and economic differentiation.
Equally important, the policies of the 1980s have fostered a cultural and social revitalization that has allowed the nomads to rebuild the foundations of their traditional way of life and openly express their commitment to traditional values and customs. These reforms created the conditions whereby the nomadic pastoralists of Pala were able to regain control of their lives as individuals and recreate for themselves a matrix of values, norms, and beliefs that are psychologically and culturally meaningful.
Despite their lack of confidence in Beijing's long-term commitment to the new policies and their perception of vulnerability vis-avis the arbitrary and sometimes exploitive practices of the government's representatives, life in Pala today is closer to the traditional era than at any time since China assumed direct administrative control over Tibet in 1959 and began to implement changes. With no Han Chinese officials to deal with, and Tibetan written and spoken language their medium of interaction with the government, there is no day-to-day reminder of ethnic subordination and conflict.
The new policies have, in essence, vindicated the nomads' belief in the worth of their nomadic way of life and their Tibetan ethnicity. The nomads of Pala like their way of life and want to maintain it in the years ahead, choosing to incorporate or ignore new items as they see fit. They want nothing more than to be allowed to pursue the life of their ancestors, and flourish or fail as the gods and their own abilities dictate. Although there are problems and issues yet to be resolved, for now, and for the foreseeable future, the nomadic pastoral way of life is alive and well on the Changtang -and all of us are richer for it.
-The "a" in Changtang is pronounced equivalent to the English /la" in father. Unless otherwise noted, all Tibetan letters "a" are pronounced this way.
-Pastoralists are people who subsist by raising livestock. Ranchers, therefore, are pastorahsts. Nomadic pastoralists are people who not only subsist by raising livestock, but move with their herds to different pastures during the year, normally living in tents.
-The TAR is almost exactly the same geographic area as the realm ruled by the Dalai Lama in the 1930 and '40s.
-The "o" in drok is pronounced like the "o' in so, and the "a" in "ba" like the "a" in alone.
-Not all monasteries, however, had estates with subjects. In Pala, for example, a small monastery of about 30 monks known as Tongling subsisted by leasing out to nomads the 1,600 female sheep and goats it had obtained over the years as gifts. It used a common lease system called "No birth, No death." This meant that the person who took the 1,600 animals had a fixed amount of butter (about a kilogram per animal) and wool to pay annually regardless of births or deaths to these animals. If the herd increased, the lessee profited since he still had to only pay for the 1,600 original animals. But if the herd decreased, he lost since he was still responsible for the fee for the original 1,600 animals.
-So scant is the early new growth that it is common to see sheep and goats busily digging the loose topsoil with their feet to get at the new vegetation growing just below the surface.
-With the exception of a few head of breeding stock, all male nor are castrated. The term yak, therefore, actually refers to castrated males, bo-a being the term for uncastrated breeding males.
bo-a stud yak
ddja women's black make-up
Drabye name of salt flat
dri female yak
drokba nomadic pastoralist
drong wild yak
gersha private animals during commune
gowa Tibetan gazelle
gurum hard molasses cake
gyenlo name of Red Guard group
kabrang satellite encampment
lokbar nomads'basic garment
mangtso "the masses"
marks pasture unit in old society
Motso Piinnyi Two Sisters L,ake
na blue sheep
naki blue sheep hunting dog
ngatsab a social class-"representatives of the lord"
nor generic name for yak
nyamdre name of Red Guard group
poba wooden drinking cup
rima sheep and goat dung
rogre "mutual-aid" groups
shang village administrative unit
shima home-base encampment
tsamba flour made by grinding popped barley grains
tii mixture of butter, cheese, hard molasses and tsamba
yo popped whole grain barley
THIS STUDY WAS CONDUCTED incollaboration with the Tibet Academy of Social Sciences, whose scholars we wish to thank for their advice and superb assistance. We also want to thank the various local Tibetan officials for their cooperation, our field assistants for their extraordinary help and insight, and last but not least, the people of Pala who endured our endless questions and measurements with the good humor and dignity that typify their way of life. Funding was provided by The National Academy of Sciences' Committee for Scholarly Communication with the People's Republic of China (the National Program for Advanced Research and Study in China), the National Geographic Society's Committee for Research and Exploration, and the National Science Foundation. We also deeply appreciate the support of Wilbur E. Garrett, Editor of the National Geographic Magazine who first suggested that we try to put together an article on our research and provided film, processing and invaluable technical advice that led both to the June 1989 article in that magazine, and this book. Our thanks also go to William Graves and William Allen, our remarkable National Geographic text and illustrations editors, whose insightful suggestions and encouragement played a major role in bringing this project to fruition. Finally, we also thank our current editors Magnus Bartlett and Deke Castleman, and designer David Hurst for their work and encouragement in the construction of this book.
Melvyn C. Goldstein and Cynthia M. Beall
Case Western Reserve University