History and Origine of Monba Ethnic

Various actions had been taken by Tibetan authorities over the centuries to consolidate their rule over Menyu area. The area became the hereditary manor of Tibetans' Zhuba Geju (faction) during the mid 14th and early 15th centuries. In the mid-17th century, the Fifth Dalai Lama united the whole of Tibet and established the yellow sect of Buddhism as the dominant religion. He sent two of his disciples to Menyu to set up an office there. They enlarged the Dawang Monastery and began the integrated rule of religion and politics over the area.

The Monba People, 1960. (Photo by Ma Jingqiu)

In the mid-19th century, the Resident Minister of the Qing court in Tibet and the Tibet local government also posted two officials in Menyu to administer their rule and to give the monastery special administrative powers. Each year, the Tibet local government would send officials to the area to levy taxes, purchase rice and administer trading of salt and rice. Local officials appointed by the government were responsible for passing on orders, settling local disputes, and running village and township affairs.

The Monbas became poverty-stricken under a system of feudal serfdom following the establishment of the rule of the Zhuba Geju (faction) over them in the 14th century. Traces of this primitive system remained until the liberation of Tibet.

They used the simple slash-and-burn method of agriculture. Fields were left to nature's mercy, and productivity was very low.

Hunting was an important part of survival. Game was distributed among villagers, with the hunters getting double portions. Some game was bartered for grain and other necessities.

The three types of manorial lords -- the Tibet local government, the nobility and the monastery -- each possessed large areas of land, forests, pastures and other means of production, while the Monbas were made serfs and slaves.

There were two categories of serfs -- the tralpa and the dudchhung. The tralpa rented small plots of land from the manorial lords, and paid rent in cash and kind, such as butter tea, timber, dyes and charcoal, in addition to doing unpaid labor. The dudchhung were mostly immigrants from central Tibet and border areas, and were at the bottom of the social ladder. They were the poorest and most cruelly oppressed of all. They had to pay heavy taxes and do heavy unpaid labor. Some had to rent land from the tralpa.

Today, vestiges of this old society can still be found in certain clans and villages, where part of the land, pastures, hills and forests are communally owned. Villagers can reclaim wasteland and chop wood and bamboo free of charge at the consent of their headman. Outsiders who want to do the same must also have the headman's permission.

The Monbas lived like beasts of burden under the cruel oppression and exploitation of the three manorial lords. They were forced to do unpaid labor for as many as 110 days a year. Many died as a result, and some hid deep in forests to escape.

On many occasions they revolted against this criminal rule. They sabotaged communication links and refused to do unpaid labor or pay taxes.



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