Text by Ton Xlngyu
No one can denythat mountains of´change have takenplace on the "Roofof the World;´ over the past 60years. Throughout Tibetan his-tory, srich change is unparal-leled in the previously closed,backward society that formerlypreserved feudal serfdom. Now,the evolution of the prosperousnew society continues with eachpassing day. What does Tibet´sdramatic social progress reallymean in the era of globaliza-tion? With this question irimind, China Pictoria/ reporterschatted with Tanzen LhunaLip,deputy director or the Socialand Economic Institute of Chi-na Tibetology Research Center. Born in 1964 in Lhasa,Tanzen is China´s first Tibetanscholar to receive a Ph.D. insociology. In 1988 he beganconducting field research inLhasa, Shannan, and Shigatseareas, from which he gatheredloads of data. As an inhei-itorof timeless Tibetan culr.ure aswell as a researcher bound tomodern scientific approaches,Tanzen is a premier authorityon the stat.us quo of Tibet. "Tibetan society barelydeveloped before 1951," beganTanzen´s speech to review thegreat changes in Tibet over thepast six decades. After the mid-17th century, Tibet graduallyestablished a hierar-chical social system aspart of its theocracy,with the Dalai Lamaas its head, which re-mained unchanged for300 years.
"Back then, reli-gion overpowered pol-itics and all govern-ment activity servedthe interests of religion," he continued. "The r.heocraticregime supported a strict hierarchicaJ system, a rigid so-cial structure, and Iittle communication between classes.Aristocrats´ descendents would remain aristocrats andchildren of serfs were destined to be serFs, which heavilyhindcrcd the social and economic development of Tibet.The only chance the underclass had to climb the socialladcler was to work towards becoming a high-rankingmonk through decades of strict religious practice, buteven those opportunities were rare."