El­der says life much eas­ier now for Lixin vil­lagers

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By DA QIONG and PALDEN NY­IMA

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.

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