The Dalai Lama and Feudal Theocracy in Tibet

3 responses to “The Dalai Lama and Feudal Theocracy in Tibet

  • Thomas Canada

    Dalai Lama’s quiet White House exit foiled

    Feb. 19: Attempting to keep his visit from being too public, the Dalai Lama left through a seldom-used door where they pick up the trash. NBC’s Brian Williams reports.

  • Thomas Canada

    Of all the photos that NBC could show on National Nightly News. Williams chose to pan for a full 45 seconds more or less on the Dalia Lama exiting the White House through a trash laden back door says tons of stuff as far as I am concerned. We are getting the message across to the powers that be that this lama is a bunch of hooey!

  • Thomas Canada

    The Dalai Lama group published an article, China’s Claim that ‘Old Tibet’ was a Feudal Serfdom is Fiction, on Jan. 4, 2010. The article claimed that before 1949, “Tibet was neither an ideal society nor a feudal serf system”, describing old Tibet as a beggar-free rule-of-law society without famine in which tenants were wealthy and the economy was self-sufficient. The article claimed that, compared with China at the same time — and even China of today — Tibet was a “far more civil society”.

    It has been unprecedented for the Dalai Lama group to ignore the historical facts and to openly hail its feudal serfdom past which was similar to Europe’s Dark Ages. Such an audacious move was also thought-provoking.

    I. It was the consensus of the international community that old Tibet was ruled by the theocracy implementing feudal serfdom.

    Whether or not Tibet before 1959 was ruled with a feudal serfdom system by the theocracy should not to decided by those speaking on behalf of the interests of serf-owners. Chinese and foreign historical archives, as well as research by professional scholars, is what is most persuasive.


    Many Tibetan language archives have records that prove the existence of serfdom in old Tibet.

    A permanent residency license issued to local serfs and administered by the Common Assembly(Bla-spyi) of Drepung Monastery in Lhasa, which is held by the Tibet Historical Archives Anthology, said:

    “All male and female slaves, land, and meadows donated by serfs belong to the monastery’s Losel-ling College. In addition, serfs are not allowed to lease their land to others before reporting it to the college, and slaves are not allowed to escape. Serfs are not allowed to marry those administered by other monasteries for fear of serf loss, and they should behave themselves and pay their corvee taxes to the monastery on time.”

    This archive proves the following facts: Firstly, the license issued by the Drepung Monastery openly admitted that serfs existed in old Tibet and slaves in monasteries were property and did not have any individual freedoms.

    Secondly, serfs were confined within the monastery’s territory and were not allowed to move out.

    Thirdly, serfs did not have the marriage freedom.

    Finally, serfs were merely talking tools that would only pay corvee taxes to the monastery.


    There were also records on Tibet’s social system in Chinese writings from the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) to 1949. They showed objectively the basic features of a feudal serfdom society.

    For instance, when author and scholar Chen Jianfu talked about “classes among Tibetan people” in his book “Tibetan Issues,” published in 1937, he said: “Noble families extend their control over most parts of Tibet. They have the money and power, and rule the land hand in hand with the monasteries. They act like an exclusive class. … The nobles are cruel to their tenants, who constantly suffer from beatings that leave them covered with cuts and bruises and afraid to revolt.” Moreover, “tenants have no freedom as they are restrained by their landlords.”

    According to “New History of Tibet,” compiled by Xu Guangshi and Cai Jincheng in 1911, “some 41 articles of Tibet’s criminal law were derived from the region’s local customs, many of which are extremely brutal.” “Criminals who commit robbery or homicide shall be sentenced to death, no matter whether they are the principal culprit or not. The culprit will be tied to a pillar and be shot to death with arrows, or he or she will be beheaded and the chopped-off head will be shown to the public. Or the culprit would be forced alive into a cave of scorpions. For those who commit theft, their family members will be detained, and the suspects will be ordered to compensate a figure several times the value of the thievery. Then his or her eyes will be gouged out, the nose cut off, or hands and feet will be chopped off.”

    These writings showed old Tibet was a theocracy comprised of the nobility and the leading monks. Extremely brutal criminal law was exercised in the region and tenants were deprived of personal freedom

    Many foreigners travelled in Tibet in the period from the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) to 1949. Some recorded what they saw and heard. The writings describe a backward, stagnant society based on feudal serfdom.

    Edmund Candler, a British national, wrote in his book, The Unveiling of Lhasa: “The people are medieval, not only in their system of government and their religion, their inquisition, their witchcraft, their incantations, their ordeals by fire and boiling oil, but in every aspect of their daily life.”

    Another Briton, Charles Bell, who spent much time in Tibet in the 1920s, wrote in his book, Tibet Past and Present, that old Tibet was still in the feudal stage:

    “The nobles of Tibet exercise great power and influence… The nobility, side by side with the leading priests, rule the land. Like the monasteries, they own large landed estate.”

    French explorer Alexander David-Neel said in his book, Old Tibet Faces A New China: “All the farmers in Tibet are serfs saddled with lifelong debts, and it is almost impossible to find any of them who have paid off their debts.”

    An Indian scholar, R. Rahul said, “Peasants in (old) Tibet, particularly those on the estates belonging to the aristocracy and the monasteries, are in a sense serfs.”

    An American scholar, Dorsch Marie de Voe, talked about how the serf owners conducted spiritual control by using religion in his article, The Donden Ling Case: An Essay on Tibetan Refugee Life With Proposals for Change. He wrote: “From a purely secular point of view, this doctrine must be seen as one of the most ingenious and pernicious forms of social control ever devised. To the ordinary Tibetan, the acceptance of this doctrine precluded the possibility of ever changing his or her fate in this life. If one were born a slave, so the doctrine of karma taught, it was not the fault of the slaveholder but rather the slaves themselves for having committed some misdeeds in a previous life. In turn, the slaveholder was simply being rewarded for good deeds in a previous life. For the slave to attempt to break the chains that bound him, or her, would be tantamount to a self-condemnation to a rebirth into a life worse than the one already being suffered.” A large number of records show that old Tibet was a theocratic feudal serfdom society.

    II. The Dalai Lama group’s description of old Tibet totally ignores historical fact.

    The Dalai Lama group’s glorification of old Tibet’s social conditions in their article flies in the face of truth for the following reasons:

    — Describing the severe punishment and harsh laws based on old Tibet’s strict hierarchy as an “advanced” and “civilized” rule of law.

    In order to glorify the old Tibet legal system, the Dalai Lama group claims in the article that the “legal system, and the rule-of-law (in the old Tibet), became more advanced over the centuries,” and that the essence of old Tibet’s laws were that “the rulers should act as parents to their subjects,” which was reflected in the “Thirteen Guidelines of Procedure and Punishment,” and other codes of laws issued by the old Tibet’s rulers. “On the whole the system worked equally well for rich and poor (in the old Tibet),” they said.

    However, these codes of laws, which were practiced in old Tibet for centuries, divided people into different social ranks. According to the rank, the value of the lives of the higher ranked people, such as princes and living Buddhas, was equal to their body weight in gold.

    For the lower ranked, such as women, butchers, hunters and craftsmen, the value of their lives was equal to a straw rope. Courts and prisons were set up by the local governments of old Tibet, as well as by big monasteries. Religious and secular landlords were entitled to set up their own private jails. Punishment was extremely savage and cruel at the time, and included the gouging out of eyes, the chopping off of hands or legs, the pulling out of tendons, skinning and drowning. U.S. scholar Tom Grunfeld once quoted a Briton who lived for two decades in old Tibet as saying that she had witnessed countless eyes gouging and mutilations, while another in the late 1940s reported that “all over Tibet I have seen men who had been deprived of an arm or a leg for theft.”

    — Describing the extremely backward and poverty-stricken feudal serfdom society as a “self-sufficient” one.

    The Dalai Lama group claimed in the article that the old Tibet was an “economically self-sufficient” society. “A very small percentage of the population – mostly in Central Tibet – were tenants. They held their lands on the estates of aristocrats and monasteries, and paid rent to the estate-holders in kind or in physical labor,” the Dalai group wrote in the article, suggesting that those tenants were “relatively wealthy and were sometimes even in the position of loaning money or grain to the estate.”

    However, the fact was that all the arable land, pastures, forests, mountains, rivers and beaches, and most of the livestock in old Tibet were owned by government officials, aristocrats, and high-ranking monks, as well as their representatives. These people made up only five percent of old Tibet’s population. Meanwhile, tenants, who had no means of production and personal freedom and survived by working on rented land, made up about 90 percent of the population. Another five percent of the population had been slaves for generations, and were regarded as “tools that speak.”

    According to statistics from the 17th century during China’s Qing Dynasty, Tibet had about 200,000 hectares of arable land. About 30.9 percent of the land was possessed by the local feudal government, 29.6 percent owned by aristocrats, and 39.5 percent by monasteries and high-ranking monks. The dominance of the means of production by the above three classes in old Tibet did not change ever since that time.

    In his book, “Tibet Past and Present,” Sir Charles Bell wrote that children were sometimes stolen from parents to become slaves in the old Tibet. Parents who were too poor to support their children would also sell them in exchange for sho-ring, or “price of mother’s milk,” to other people, who would bring up the children, keep them, or sell them again as slaves, he said. He also wrote in the book “Portrait of a Dalai Lama: the Life and Times of the Great Thirteenth” that the spread of diseases “caused the population, so sorely needed, to grow less and less. The huge number of monks, who are celibate, leads to the same result. Pneumonia, goiter, influenza and smallpox are also prevalent, the last being greatly dreaded… Children have to rough it in food and other ways, and many die young.”

    The Dalai Lama group said in the article that “throughout her history Tibet never experienced famine and the number of beggars could be counted with your fingers.” In fact, due to its low levels of abilities to resist natural disasters, and the corrupted reign of the feudal serfdom under theocracy, the old Tibet was hit by various levels of snow and frost disasters as well as wars and plagues almost every year. Aside from Buddhist prayers, there was no effective way to deal with those natural and man-made disasters, which often led to famine, mass deaths of people and livestock, widespread disease, and the rampant presence of beggars. Flocks of beggars, including the old, women and children, could be seen in Lhasa, Xigaze, Chamdo, and Nagqu in old Tibet. According to statistics, of the 37,000 people living in Lhasa before the peaceful liberation of Tibet, about 5,000 were beggars.

    — Glorifying monasteries under the theocracy in old Tibet as model of traditional moral life.

    The Dalai Lama group claimed in the article that “the role of monasteries as highly disciplined centers of Tibetan education and intellectual hubs was central to the traditional Tibetan way of life.” But in fact, before the Democratic Reform of Tibet, monasteries occupied about 1.21 million ke of farmland (15 ke equal to 1 hectare) and possessed large numbers of livestock and pastures.

    The three monasteries of Drepung, Sera and Gandan housed over 10,000 monks, with a possession of 321 estates, up to 10,000 ke of farmland, 450 pastures, 110,000 livestock, and more than 60,000 serfs. Monasteries were also the biggest usurers in old Tibet.

    According to the book “Tibetan Interviews,” by U.S. journalist Anna Louise Strong, one fourth of Drepung monastery’s total income came from usury lending, with an interest rate much higher than the apparent 20 percent.

    Strong said that when herdsmen could not afford to pay back the loans, they would enter serfdom for 25 years, of which only a few could survive hard living conditions.

    The late 10th Panchen Lama once said in April 1988, when interviewed by the National Unity magazine, that in old Tibet monks and landlords had prisons and private jails: “The punishment was extremely savage and cruel at that time, including the gouging out of eyes, the chopping off of hands or legs, the pulling out the tendons and drowning. Gandan, one of the biggest monasteries in Tibet, had lots of torture instruments such as handcuffs, fetters and sticks,” he said.

    In conclusion, the fact that old Tibet was reigned by the theocratic feudal serfdom is undeniable. The reason why the Dalai Lama group try so hard to defend the social system of old Tibet is that they have always stood for the backward theocratic feudal serfdom, representing the interests of feudal serf-owners. They staged an armed separatist rebellion in 1959 to try to save the system. And they have never given up their dream of restoring serfdom rule in Tibet since they fled abroad.

    Nowadays, the dark rule of the theocratic feudal serfdom in old Tibet has been examined by more and more people, and thus the Dalai Lama group have to make up all kinds of lies to cover the truth and defraud the public.

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