Text by Tan Xingyu
On May 23, 1951, the central government joined local Tibetan authorities to sign the Agreement on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet (known as”17-Point Agreement”) in Beijing, which officially marked the peaceful liberation of Tibet. An important historic event in contemporary China, the signing of the agreement marked a turning point in Tibetan history. Since then, Tibet has emerged from the shadows. A democratic, prosperous, and harmonious Tibet has gradually taken root on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, and Tibetan history has since turned over a new leaf.
At the foot of the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Xoi Village was home to Tibetan servants working around the Potala Palace over the ages. Phurbu’s family made a living doing the village’s laundry for generations. As a child, Phurbu and her mother gathered dirty clothes from the homes of local lords and wealthy clans and washed them in the Lhasa River. Their labor was typically rewarded with zanba (roasted barley flour) and other leftover food. Occasionally, some would pay them money or give them used clothes. Moreover, the family had to provide various corvee labor for their landlord. Each year, they were forced to whitewash the walls of the Potala Palace for 15 days, gather yak dung for 15 days, and sweep fallen leaves for 15 days in Phabongkha on the northern outskirts of Lhasa. Also, they had to work on Lhasa River dyke construction. They were required to perform forced labor at least two months a year.”At that time, we had no right to choose our way of life,” Phurbu recalls.”The house we inhabited was dark and cold, and its roof leaked on rainy days. When I was 18 years old, my father died from working so much.”
In the 1950s, Phurbu was elected into the village’s first-ever residents’ committee. From 1959 to 1966, she acted as its Security and Sorority Director.”My family members finally had their own land and house,” Phurbu smiles.”My mother and I subsisted by farming our croplands north of town. We also raised two cows. After 1966, I acted as vice director of the residents’ committee until I retired in 1982.”