The fate of Tibetans has dramatically changed over the past fifty years ever since the Democratic Reform began in Tibet in 1959.
This was a heartfelt message conveyed recently by Qiong Ji, a 50-year-old Tibetan woman, who has been working as a guide to an ongoing exhibition in Beijing that marks the 50th anniversary of reform in Tibet Autonomous Region. The exhibition opened on February 24 at the Cultural Palace of Nationalities and will run until April 10th.
At the exhibition, Qiong Ji, together with a few other fellow artists from Tibet, introduced visitors their just-concluded Tibetan New Year's preparation by making Ghee-flower, painting thangka and explaining folk customs.
However, Qiong is a little different from other fellow artists onsite. She was a guide in Beijing before. "In 1979 I flew to Beijing from Lhasa for the first time", she said, "then I was educated to be a guide and worked in the Cultural Palace of Nationalities for three years. This is the forth time I've come back for such an exhibition."
Qiong recalled 1979 exhibition on the 20th anniversary of reform in Tibet and said, "That exhibition occupied only one hall (West Hall) compared to the current one that takes up three halls. This year's one needs larger space to present the miraculous progress Tibet and its people have achieved over the past 50 years with the support of the central government and all the Chinese people."
The exhibition covers three aspects: The peaceful liberation of Tibet; The crack-down on the armed rebellion; and The reform of the autonomous region.
Qiong emotionally introduced each part of the exhibition. "I was born in 1959, in the year the reform began, but my parents were serfs in noble houses when they were young." She felt very depressed, "They were hard times. Serfs led a miserable life and they even had no freedom of movement. The instruments in the exhibition have presented a real old Tibet."
On display are instruments used to torture the serfs when Tibet was still under the serfdom, scenes vividly representing the miserable life of serfs, and the jubilant celebrations when the serfs were emancipated after the abolishment of oppression and exploitation of feudal serfdom system.
In 1951, the central and Tibetan governments signed the Article 17 Agreement to liberate the Chinese region. In 1959, the ruling elite of Tibet staged an armed rebellion in Lhasa. The central government disbanded the local government of old Tibet and crushed the rebellion after a two-year conflict, paving the way for reform.
After the reform, lives and personal freedom were protected and safeguarded by the Chinese Constitution and law. "Serfs no longer suffered from the serf-owners' oppression, forced labor and inhuman treatment", according to Qiong.
Compared with her parents, Qiong feels lucky to have been born in 1959, when the reform in the region began and the fate of Tibetans started to change dramatically in Tibet. Many of the first guides at the Cultural Palace of Nationalities' Tibet exhibition were former serfs. Some of them even received education in the Central University for Nationalities before working as guides.
Qiong was educated to be a guide, which was impossible in old Tibet. She works in Tibet as an exhibition organizer and witnessed the liberation of the working people and the extraordinary social development in Tibet over the past 50 years.
When mentioning the past Tibetan New Year, she said, though she lost the chance to stay with her family, she felt happy with her work in the exhibition because national senior officials came to visit them on that special day.
Compared with Qiong, she said her two children are more fortunate to live in such a modern society. "They have decent jobs. My son works in the local culture bureau and my daughter works in a museum."
What impresses Qiong most is the improvement in education in Tibet. Her parents had no chance to get education at all but she was lucky to have the opportunity to study in the Central University for Nationalities during her teens. Her children's lives have totally changed after schooling in Tibet.
"My children have received good education compared to my generation," she said, "In Tibet, most children have received university education and some even have postgraduate or doctoral degrees." In the recent years, many schools have been built in Tibet. "English education even starts in kindergarten!" she said.
Visitors at the exhibition appreciate Qiong Ji's work in giving them an opportunity to better understand Tibet's past and what Tibet looks like nowadays. They have confidence in Tibet.
"I look forward to a brighter and more prosperous future in Tibet." Zhang Min, a retired woman said.