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Tibet-Moinba-Lhoba relations study makes breakthrough

Author  :       Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2014-05-06

Moinba and Lhoha's designs of primitive totems

Filling a gap in current research on Tibetan relations with other ethnic groups, "Study on Tibetan Ethnic Relations in the context of Social Harmony: Relations of the Tibetan, Moinba and Lhoba Peoples" was recently concluded. The project was directed by Professor Chen Liming from Tibet University for Nationalities, with sponsorship from China's National Social Science Fund.

The Tibetan, Moinba (Monpa), and Lhoba ethnic groups have long inhabited the Tibetan plateau. "Along with the Mishmi, as well as the Sherpa, these minorities have been politically, economically and culturally interconnected with each other since the ancient times. They are the ones who jointly fostered the development of China's Southwestern borderlands, creating the splendid Tibetan culture," Chen Liming said. Chen explained that Tibetan-Moinba-Lhoba relations are an integral component of the Southwestern China’s overall ethnic relations, and even those of the whole country.

Liberation initiates common wealth

The Tibetan democratic reform has brought former serfs of every ethnic group, including Moinba and Lhoba, genuine hope to liberate themselves and become the masters of their own affairs. Sherab Tsomo, a woman of Moinba descent, was nearly sold into slavery before being rescued by the People's Liberation Army (PLA). She went on to become director of the Women's Federation of Lebu District in Cona County, Tibet and a deputy to the Third National People’s Congress. When she left Cona for the first time to participate in the National Minorities Amateur Stage Arts Festival in Beijng, she was greeted by Mao Zedong and other top leaders.

During his childhood, Da Ga could only afford to wear hides, rather than cloth gowns. After taking part in the revolution, he was selected as the chief of his township. Overjoyed by his freedom from serfdom and filled with admiration for the party and PLA, he trained hard as an archer, qualifying for the Second National Games of the People's Republic of China and winning or placing in several medals. These two stories capture the transformations of Tibet in the 1960s.

Since the beginning of the new era, the Moinba and Lhoba people have followed the Tibetans in pursuing common prosperity. In late October last year, Motuo County in the Moinba heartland officially got rid of its distinction as "the only county in China inaccessible from a highway." Hong Mei, a female Moinba scholar, Secretary of the Party Committee of the Further Education School at Tibet University remarked: "I'm over joyed that we finally have highway access in Motuo. It’s just like basking in the fragrance of a good wine."

Cultural affinity binds ethnic relations

Though there has been considerable interest in Tibetan ethnic relations in the past, scholarship has mostly focused on Tibet-Han relations and the central-local government relations. Little research has been conducted on the relations between Tibetan, Moinba and Lhoba.

According to Chen Liming, Tibetan-Moinba-Lhoba relations are characterized by long-established interconnectedness. Many myths and legends, as well as archaeological evidence and historical records shows that interaction and communication between these ethnic groups is a time-honored tradition, he said. Chen noted that today their relationship is further characterized by coordinated progress in political, economic and cultural communication, continuously reinforcing the bond between the three ethnic groups.

"Monyu, Luoyu and Xia Zayu have been China's sacred lands since ancient times. The ancestors of the Moinba and Lhoba have lived here for generations. Through hard work and wisdom, they settled this beautiful and bountiful frontier," said Chen Liming.

Working together with Cao Xiaoyan, Geng Dengcuo and Ma Ning, Chen has shown that these regions were administered and defended by the Tibetan, Moinba, Lhoba minorities ever since Monyu (the area traditionally inhabited by the Moinba people) and Luoyu (the area traditionally inhabited by the Lohba people) were annexed into the Tibetan Empire. Subsequent rulers of Tibet continued to improve the governance of Monyu and Luoyu. After the 17th century, the local Tibetan government established various administrative organs with support from the Qing Dynasty central government, further consolidated the political and cultural administration of the area. This increased the political cohesiveness, cultural affinity and economic inter-dependence among the ethnicities inhabiting Tibet.

Despite the cultural differences among the Tibetan, Moinba and Lhoba minorities, cultural affinity has shown through and won out in their interactions. Enabled by a shared sense of righteousness and dauntlessness, they resisted encroachment from foreign invaders and evaded a fate of colonialism. "We will forever pledge loyalty to our frontier and never breach the promises of our ancestors," they vowed. Chen Liming commented that the Moinba and Lhoba people have made great contributions to safeguarding China's national sovereignty and territorial integrity by protecting China’s southwestern frontier.

Study is just beginning

Today, Tibetan, Moinba and Lhoba people are working hard to build a secure, harmonious and prosperous Tibet.

Scholars from Tibet University for Nationalities have restored a great deal of Tibet-Han literature, documents in other languages and primary materials uncovered during fieldwork. Geng Dengcuo, a young scholar at Tibet University for Nationalities, said that researchers have been delving into historical materials on Tibet, investigating rarely used documents such as The Origins of Diwu Religion, History of the Dujun Religion, Biography of Tangdongjiebo, Biography of the Sixth Dalai Lama, History of the Monyu Religion, and Biography of the Fifth Dalai Lama. Some of these have never been translated into other languages, while others that have been translated have largely been neglected.

Several experts commented that "Study on Tibetan Ethnic Relations" has filled the vacuum, finally providing the world with a monograph-length study on the ethnic relations of groups within Tibet. However, Chen Liming maintains that this project should only be the beginning, and that follow-up research on the topic is still required. He advised that research on common prosperity through national unity is a lasting task, noting that Chentang Town in Dingjie County, an area inhabited primarily by the Sherpa people, is an important site for future fieldwork. Chen also recommended that scholars consider the contemporary value of Tibetan-Moinba-Lhoba ethnic relations in the context of pursuing the Chinese Dream.



The Chinese version appeared in Chinese Social Sciences Today, No. 570, March 12, 2014

The Chinese link:



  Translated by Bai Le

  Revised by Charles Horne

Editor: Du Mei

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