Elder says life much easier now for Lixin villagers
The Sherpas are an ethnic group that lives in the Himalayan valleys in eastern Nepal and the southwest of China’s Tibet autonomous region.
Sherpas are regarded as excellent mountaineers because of their adaptability to and knowledge of the local terrain.
They were immeasurably valuable to early explorers of the Himalayas, serving as guides at extreme altitudes, particularly for climbing Mount Qomolangma, also known in the West as Mount Everest.
Ngkwang Gyaltsan is an elderly Sherpa resident of Lixin village in Tibet’s Dam township. The township is called Khasa in the Nepalese language.
The 77- year- old man speaks six languages, and said he is happy to see the positive changes in his village in the last few decades due to much support from the government.
“When I was a child, life was hard as we did not have enough farmland to plant corn and potatoes,” he said.
He said in the past, the villagers made their livings by herding goats, sheep and cattle on the high mountains.
“We also had to walk to Nepal to carry rice and trade it with salt in Nyanang county.
“Every trip took two days on foot to finish, and many of our neighbors died while working building bridges over rivers,” he said.
Ngakwang Gyaltsan said he cherishes the progress made during the past few decades.
“Our livelihood was largely improved under the leadership of the Communist Party of China,” he said.
He said thanks to the government, the infrastructure of his village has vastly improved, and their quality of life has risen also.
Due to China’s reform and opening-up policy and the development of the Khasa Port, many local residents along the Sino-Nepali border become richer, Ngakwang Gyaltsan said.
“Since the 1990s, many locals have been engaged in border trade, beginning to convert their lifestyle from being nomads to traders.
“Khasa Port opened in the 1980s, and many border residents in our village benefited from it,” he said.
Ngakwang Gyaltsan is now a forest ranger in Lixin.
The village has a forest protection team of 28 villagers, and Ngakwang Gyaltsan is the oldest among them. He earns 5,700 yuan ($920) annually.
“Under the country’s preferential policies on education, three of my five children have been admitted to good schools,” he said.
The policies include exemption of tuition fees at primary and middle schools and allowances for college education, he explained.
His wife Lhamo said many of the college students from their village receive financial support from the local government.
“As we are border residents, our kids get extra points when they take the entrance exam for middle school,” said Lhamo, who works at Khasa Port as a porter.
“We also receive subsidies from forest protection, so our children do not have any financial difficulties,” she said.
While working as a forest ranger, Ngakwang Gyaltsan enjoys planting trees and vegetables in his garden.
“The government buys the saplings every year, and I consider planting trees a contribution to the environment,” he said.
After his daily work and religious practices, Ngakwang Gyaltsan likes to play guitar.
Each time he mentioned his past, he said he is especially proud of his trips to many regions of China.
“I am very pleased with my experience of going out everywhere as a representative of the Sherpa people, as every time I learned many new things and felt the care of the government for our people,” he said.
Ngakwang Gyaltsan and his wife said the villagers began to collect caterpillar fungus, valued as a herbal remedy, 10 years ago and, since then, have stopped herding animals.
“Currently, our villagers no longer herd animals and plant corn, and only a few plant potatoes. Most villagers grow other vegetables,” he said.
“Today, we can afford to buy food and life necessities without heavy farm work,” he added.
After his daily work and religious practices, Ngakwang Gyaltsan likes to play music.