Located at the southern foot of the Himalayas, Chongdui Daman Village in Gyirong Town, Gyirong County, Shigatse City, Tibet Autonomous Region is surrounded by lush vegetation and clouds. At the foot of the snow-capped mountains, there live “the descendants of ancient cavalry”: the Daman people.
From January 19 to 23, the Fourth Session of the 11th Tibet Committee of the CPPCC was held in Lhasa. Reporters met with Basang, a regional political advisor and director of the Chongdui Daman Village Party Committee in Gyirong Town, Gyirong County, who attended the meeting.
Basang told reporters that after becoming Chinese citizens, the lives of the Daman people are getting better every day, from having no fixed home and daily salaries of 1.5 yuan (0.23 US dollars) to having clean and bright homes and daily salaries of more than 200 yuan (30.9 US dollars).
“Before becoming Chinese citizens, life was difficult for our family. There was nothing to eat, nothing to wear, and nothing to live in.” Basang said that at that time, they were living in other people’s houses. “If the owner told us to move out tomorrow, we had to leave the next day.”
At that time, the Daman people depended on iron and miscellaneous activities to make a living. “The daily salary was only 1.5 yuan.”
“A daily salary of 1.5 yuan?” reporters asked Basang.
“Yes, 1.5 yuan. If you work for two days, you could only receive one day’s salary, because you borrowed to live in someone else’s house, so you had to use another day’s salary to cover the rent.”
In 2003, with the approval of the State Council, the Daman people formally became Chinese nationals and citizens. “The state helped us build homes, get furniture, quilts, and everything we need in daily life.”
Villagers in Chongdui Daman Village take a group photo.
Basang (right) and his family.
A corner of Chongdui Daman Village.
Homes of villagers in Chongdui Daman Village.
Daman women are hand-knitting.
Basang said that there are now more than 200 Daman people living in Chongdui Daman Village. In the summer, young people go to the mountains to dig for cordyceps and gastrodia elata, they also ride motorcycles to work in nearby construction sites. “Now salaries are high, 240 yuan a day for men and 220 yuan a day for women. They go out in the morning and come back in the afternoon.”
In addition, there is also a professional cooperative of traditional handicraft processing for farmers in the village. The elderly work in the cooperatives sell iron pots and farm tools, while the women sell handmade Tibetan blankets, knitwear, and other hand-woven products. “Women’s knitting skills were taught by two teachers specially appointed by the government in 2018. Now women in the village are capable of earning a basic income.” In 2020, the per capita income of the villagers reached 18,000 yuan (2782.8 US dollars).
Housing is guaranteed, no one has to worry about food and clothing, and infrastructure such as water, electricity, communication, and Internet is also complete. Basangs also have their new wishes. “We didn’t have access to study before; now we just hope our children can study hard.”
In 2018, Basang had the opportunity to visit Chengdu, Chongqing, and Beijing. This was his first time flying and traveling far. “We visited the countryside in the inland. The local people’s lives are particularly good and their concepts are very new. Compared with them, we still have a lot of work to do.”
Basang said that the current national policies are good and living conditions get better and better. Bags and barrels of grain and oil that were never seen before are stored at home. “This encourages us to work harder to create better lives.”
In our chatting, Basang said that his children were very envious about his travel in inland areas, “they wanted to take plane to inland areas, too.”
He should take advantage of the holidays and take his family to visit the mainland, so that they could gain insight and learn from the experience.
Compared with their grandparents’ and parents’ generations, the new generation of Daman people has a better future worth looking forward to.