Strongly built Tibetan women with ruddy cheeks, a common sight throughout Tibet, have joined their male counterparts in creating both material and cultural progress in the autonomous region.
Tibetan women, filled with both eternal and great maternal love, have given birth to an industrious and brave race on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.
Tibetan women love things of beauty, and have created unique highlands clothing featuring exaggerated coloring and rough lines. They fill their homes with beauty by using nimble hands to express their deep understanding of nature, including the sky, earth and all living things, as well as the braveness of man, in patterns on rugs. Their mere presence adds beauty to the mysterious Tibetan highlands.
Tibetan women are good vocalists, and break out into song no matter whether tilling the land, building enclosures, herding sheep or cows, weaving woolen rugs, churning butter or harvesting highland barley. They not only sing while engaging in labor, worshipping Buddha, drinking wine and meditating disputes. Most learned to sing and dance as children and find no difficulty in rendering a song no matter how difficult the situation at hand. They sing no matter whether happy or sad, with their songs expressing the ideals and pursuits of the Tibetan race.
Tibet reeled under the cruelty of feudal serfdom, a system often described as being much barbarous than that found in Europe in Middle Ages. The broad masses of Tibetan serfs and slaves suffered from both overt suppression and oppression, with women relegated to the lowest rung of society. Women were in fact subject to the abuses of political power, as well as the authoritarianism of the clan, religious officials and husbands. Local government codes in old Tibet clearly stipulated: "Women have no right to discuss state affairs," and "neither slaves nor women are permitted to involve themselves in military and political matters." Women were also subject to untold verbal abuses such as "believing the words of a woman will cause weed to grow on one's roof." Simply stated, Tibetan women shouldered the heaviest labor burdens, but were relegated to the lowest social status. They gave birth to and raised their children, but enjoyed no right to learn to read or write. They wove brightly colored clothing, but were forced to wear rags. This was indeed the cruel fate of women in old Tibet.
However, historic changes have taken place since the founding of New China in 1949, and Tibetan women have since been the masters of their own fate. Tibetan women have truly exhibited their brilliance in the new era, with many former female slaves and servants, headwomen and female Living Buddhas, as well as the wives of nobles assuming new professions as teachers, writers, judges, lawyers, tourist guides, officials, police officers, singers, dancers, economists and engineers. Tibetan women indeed continue to fully exhibit their graceful bearing.
A large number of Tibetan women hold high-ranking positions with government institutions. The long list includes Balsang, a former serf; former medical worker Cering Zholgar who now serves as vice-chairperson of the people's government of the Tibet Autonomous Region in charge of cultural and public health activities in the region; Degyi Zholgar, deputy director of the Shannan Prefecture Administrative Office; Garma, deputy director of the Nagqu Prefectural Administrative Office; and Baizhoin, a magistrate in Nedong County. Each of the women have truly distinguished themselves in their new careers.
Tibetan women have traditionally been good managers and traders, with large numbers having excelled during the ongoing reform and opening program. They include Cering Yanzom, general manager of the Tibet Guest House; Qungzholma and Lhazhoin, respective director and deputy director of the Tibet Branch of the Bank of China; and Cering Zholgar, director of the Chenguan Rugs Factory in Lhasa.
Tibet is also home to a number of talented female artists, including famous singer Cedain Zholma; Yumei who distinguished herself in performances of the ballad King Gesar; Degyi Medog, a first-class state artist; and Baigyi, a famous dancer. Numerous Tibetan women have also joined troupes completing highly acclaimed tours abroad.
Tibetan women have also contributed greatly to the development of traditional Tibetan art. For example, female weavers have inherited the region's outstanding weaving tradition and have proceeded to create colorful hats and accessories to meet the needs of the region's advancing society.
Tibetan women, who quite simply love life and are devoted to common work, are excellent housekeepers and faithful neighbors. Just as their male counterparts, women are faithful Buddhists who undertake pilgrimages to monasteries and holy mountains to pray for good health, a happy life for their families, and the continuing modernization of Tibet.