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RESISTANCE AND REVOLUTION

These interviews highlight efforts by Tibetans - many of whom were Buddhist monks - to fend off the Chinese invasion and protect His Holiness the Dalai Lama before he fled to India.

ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEWS

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Bylakuppe, India (2007)
1. Thupten Chonphel (#26)
2. Tashi (#11)
3. Gadak (#75)
4. Tashi Topgyal (#70)
5. Yeshi Wangdu (#78)
6. Tenzin (#80)
7. Wangdu (#87)
8. Jampa Tashi (#3)
9. Ngawang Lobsang (#13)
10. Kunchok Jungnay (#22)
11. Tsering Tashi (#35)
12. Thupten (#36)
13. Thupa (#40)
14. Lobsang Khetsun (#45)
15. Khenrab Dakpa (#46)
16. Tinlay Dorjee (#47)

Mundgod, India (2010)
1. Yidham Kyap (#28M)
2. Namgyal (#55M)
3. Tsering Tashi (#64M)
4. Anzi (#10M)
5. Sherap Jungnay (#17M)
6. Tenzin Namgyal (#19M)
7. Dhondup (#36M)
8. Kalsang Thakhay (#63M)
9. Lobsang Tenpa (#68M)

Dharamsala, India (2012)
1. Dhungpa Jamyang (#5D)
2. Dakpa Samdup (#8D)
3. Jampa Thinlay (#25D)
4. Samten (#42D)
5. Karma (#49D)
6. Gyendun Tashi (#52D)
7. Jiga (#54D)
8. Tehor Phuntsok (#55D)
9. Norbugya (#62D)
10. Ati (#63D)
11. Nawang Jampa (#71D)

USA (2013)
1. Thinley Paljor Shasok (#3C)
2. Tsondue Kunga (#9C)
3. Lobsang Thardo (#14C)

 

 

 

 

 

 


© 2009-2015 Tibet Oral History Project. These translations and transcripts are provided for individual research purposes only. For all other uses, including publication, reproduction and quotation beyond fair use, permission must be obtained in writing from: Tibet Oral History Project, P.O. Box 6464, Moraga, CA 94570-6464.




Thupten Chonphel (#26)

Born in Kham Lhorozong, Thupten Chonphel lived with his parents and six siblings in a remote village. At the age of 10, he joined a Bonpo monastery, but alternated his time between helping his parents at home and studying at the monastery. The Chinese arrived in their village in 1949 and villagers were forced to transport Chinese supplies on any animals they owned.

When the Chinese oppression increased, Thupten, Chonphel along with about 100 people, tried to resist and fight the occupation. When the the Chushi Gangdrug Volunteer Force entered his region, he joined them and fought with weapons they received from the United States. After the fall of Lhasa, over 3,000 guerrillas began to flee along with thousands of other Tibetans.

After 11 months working on road construction in India, Thupten Chonphel went back to Mustang and joined the Chushi Gangdrug again in 1960. They received more weapons from the United States along with the arrival of six Tibetans trained by the CIA, but food was scarce and they suffered greatly. After fighting for nine years, Thupten Chonphel went to Nepal and later to India , where he took his vows at a Gelugpa monastery.

Topics Discussed:

Kham, childhood memories, monastic life, life under Chinese rule, forced labor, resistance fighters, Chushi Gangdrug guerrillas, escape experiences, life as refugee in India.

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Tashi (#11) (alias)

At the age of nine, Tashi became a monk and remained at the monastery for ten years. During this time many people from the region of Kham moved to Tashi’s region of Gyangtse in order to escape Chinese atrocities and ongoing battles. Later, the Chinese also overtook Shigatse and Gyangtse. Food shortages became a problem after the Chinese invasion and many children were taken away from their families, never to return.

When the armed conflict started in 1958, Tashi and a monk companion joined the Chushi Gangdrug Defend Tibet Volunteer Force in Tsethang, where the biggest Volunteer Force camp was based. Tashi describes the Tibetan guerrilla force, its formation and equipment. He also gives an account of how the Chushi Gangdrug guerrillas challenged the Chinese army with their limited manpower and inferior weapons.

Tashi and many other Chushi Gangdrug fighters fled to India under fire from the Chinese. Tashi describes early life in exile. He later joined the Indian Army where he served for 20 years.

Topics Discussed:

Childhood memories, monastic life, religious festivals, invasion by Chinese army, forced labor, Chinese oppression, Chushi Gangdrug guerrillas, escape experiences, life as a refugee in India.

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Gadak (#75)

Gadak tells how Bon, the earliest religion of Tibet, originated and how Bon and Buddhism complement each other. Gadak, who belonged to a wealthy nomadic family, describes how the Chinese disturbed the nomads’ harmonious coexistence with nature by extracting minerals from Tibetan land and by harvesting medicinal plants from the soil.

Determined to fight against the Chinese occupation, Gadak helped form a resistance group, which received air-dropped weapons from the United States. After 22 days of intense fighting, he and his only remaining companion surrendered to the Chinese. They were imprisoned and forced to perform hard labor. Many of the prisoners died from unsanitary conditions or went insane and were shot by the guards. Gadak was eventually released and sent back to his village.

Gadak witnessed the Cultural Revolution in 1965-66 in Tibet, when the Chinese destroyed Buddhist monasteries and subjected Tibetans to thamzing ‘struggle sessions.’ Gadak fled in 1966, but when he reached Bhutan, the Indian Intelligence agencies suspected he was a spy for China.

Topics Discussed:

Nomadic life, Bon, first appearance of Chinese, resistance fighters, life under Chinese rule, Chushi Gangdrug guerrillas, imprisonment, forced labor, brutality/torture, thamzing, escape experiences.

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Tashi Topgyal (#70)

Born in Shopo in the Ba region, Tashi Topgyal fondly recalls the childhood days he spent with his family there. He became a monk at a very young age and joined Zeze Monastery, a large monastery of 800 monks located 3-hours away from Shopo. He explains that religion was so embedded in the Tibetan way of life that every family sent one son to practice the Buddhist dharma as a monk. Tashi Topgyal describes his monastic life in detail, reporting that it represented an important phase of his life.

At the age of 19, he left his monastery to travel to Lhasa and joined the Drepung Monastery there. He was completely transformed at the age of 22, when he joined the Chushi Gangdrug guerrillas to fight against the Chinese army in 1959. Tashi Topgyal says the Chushi Gangdrug could not fight the Chinese for long because their stock of arms and ammunition quickly dwindled. That same year, he and many other resistance fighters escaped to India.

In 2007 Tashi Topgyal visited Tibet and spent eight months in his village. He describes his impression that, though Tibet’s bigger towns have developed, the isolated regions, such as his native village, remain very poor.

Topics Discussed:

Childhood memories, monastic life, brutality/torture, Chushi Gangdrug guerrillas.

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Yeshi Wangdu (#78)

Yeshi Wangdu hails from Gyerong, which is located between the Tibetan provinces of Dhotoe and Dhomay. His hometown is close to the Chinese border and had been dominated by the Nationalist Chinese for many years before the Communist Chinese invaded.

Yeshi Wangdu’s family engaged in farming as well as cattle-rearing. His mother refused to accede to the Chinese’ demand to send him to school in China and instead she sent him to Lhasa. In order to survive there, Yeshi Wangdu donned monk’s robes and joined the Drepung Monastery near Lhasa.

Later, hearing about the Chushi Gangdrug Volunteer Force fighting the Chinese, Yeshi Wangdu left the monastery to join the Force. He describes how the Chushi Gangdrug guerrillas escorted His Holiness the Dalai Lama safely out of Lhasa. He also describes how he confronted Chinese soldiers at Yarlung Phodang and the protective amulet he wore, which he believes protected him from the Chinese bullets.

Topics Discussed:

Childhood memories, first appearance of Chinese, monastic life, Norbulingka defense, Chushi Gangdrug guerrillas, Dalai Lama’s escape, escape experiences, life as a refugee in India.

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Tenzin (#80)

Tenzin was ordained as a monk in his village in Amdo at the age of eight. Years later, when the Chinese arrived in Amdo and began oppressing the villagers, he left for Lhasa hoping it was safer there. Tenzin joined Sera Monastery and later gave up his vows in order to volunteer as a security guard at Norbulingka to protect His Holiness the Dalai Lama from the Chinese.

Tenzin gives an eyewitness account of the events that occurred in Lhasa around March 10, 1959. He and perhaps over 1,000 men surrounded Norbulingka until the Dalai Lama was able to escape. Tenzin describes in detail the shelling of Norbulingka and the burning of the Jowo Ramoche statue by the Chinese.

 After leaving Lhasa Tenzin joined the Chushi Gangdrug Guerrilla Force, but because they were ill-equipped, they could not withstand the weapons used by the Chinese. After being fired on by Chinese airplanes Tenzin and other Chushi Gangdrug fighters fled to India. Tenzin returned to Tibet in 1986 and 2005, visiting Norbulingka where he saw the Golden Throne, built for the Dalai Lama before he fled to India.

Topics Discussed:

Childhood memories, monastic life, life under Chinese rule, Norbulingka defense, March 10th Uprising, Dalai Lama’s escape, Chushi Gangdrug guerrillas, escape experiences, life as a refugee in India.

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Wangdu (#87) (alias)

At age 17, Wangdu joined the Tibetan army as a form of tax payment for his family. The Tibetan peaceful policies were supported by the fact that the Tibetan army was more engaged in construction work than in military training and exercises. Wangdu provides a description of the unique construction methods used to build a palace in Lhasa.

Wangdu served as a Potala Palace guard from 1956 to 1959. He was an eyewitness to the shelling of the Potala Palace by the Chinese and the Tibetan uprising on March 10 and 12 of 1959. Wangdu explains how the Tibetans in Lhasa attempted to protect Norbulingka and prevent His Holiness the Dalai Lama from being captured by the Chinese.

Wangdu refused to surrender and escaped from the Potala Palace with a group of fellow guards to collect more weapons from a far away storage depot. They were unable to complete their mission because the Chinese had already taken over that area and the guards decided instead to follow the Dalai Lama’s trail into exile.

Topics Discussed:

Childhood memories, Norbulingka defense, March 10th Uprising, Dalai Lama’s escape, invasion by Chinese army, resistance fighters, escape experiences.

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Jampa Tashi (#3)

Jampa Tashi is from Markham in eastern Tibet. He became a monk at the insistence of his parents and enrolled in a monastery in his village. Later, he left the monastery, went to Central Tibet and engaged in business until the Chinese occupation of Lhasa in 1959.
 
Jampa Tashi personally witnessed the events at Norbulingka in Lhasa on March 10, 1959 when the Chinese used artillery shells to suppress the Tibetan uprising. He was one of the volunteers who gathered to guard His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He saw the dead bodies of men and horses lying around Norbulingka during the uprising. On his escape to India he joined up with a group of Chushi Gangdrug guerrillas.

In India Jampa Tashi was sent to Simla to work on road construction. Life was hard and the climate was harsh. Later, he came to Bylakuppe when the settlement project started. Initially, life was very difficult as the place was a thick jungle. He and other Tibetans cleared the jungle, built roads and made a place for other Tibetan refugees who followed.

Topics Discussed:

Monastic life, invasion by Chinese army, Norbulingka defense, March 10th Uprising, Dalai Lama’s escape, Chushi Gangdrug guerrillas, life as a refugee in India.

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Ngawang Lobsang (#13)

Ngawang Lobsang led a multi-faceted career—as a monk, a trader and, later, as a guerrilla fighter. He joined a monastery at age 7 or 8 and as a young adult left the monastery seeking revenge for his father’s death. Then he became trader, transporting food, cooking utensils and clothing on yaks, which he traded for butter and cheese with nomads in Bhutan.

Ngawang Lobsang became a member of the Chushi Gangdrug Resistance Force around age 20. In spite of their limited man power and weapons, the Chushi Gangdrug fought the Chinese successfully over 20 times. Ngawang Lobsang provides detailed accounts of some of these encounters and pays tribute to Chushi Gangdrug’s leader, Andrug Gonpo Tashi. He believes he and his companions escaped death as a result of the protective amulets they wore and their modus operandi of fighting during the day and changing camp locations at night.

After fleeing to India, Ngawang Lobsang soon traveled to Mustang in Nepal, where other soldiers had regrouped to form a fighting unit. After training for two or three years, lack of food and weapons eventually forced many guerrillas to return to India. Before coming to Bylakuppe, India, where he started a family, Ngawang Lobsang served in the Indo-Tibetan Border Police.

Topics Discussed:

Monastic life, trade, invasion by Chinese army, Dalai Lama, thamzing, Chushi Gangdrug guerrillas, CIA training, escape experiences, life as a refugee in India.

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Kunchok Jungnay (#22)

Kunchok Jungnay first became aware of the Chinese in Tibet when he saw an airplane fly over his region, which caused great fear among the people. Never having seen an airplane before, they called it the chasha ‘iron bird.’ When the Chinese initially arrived in his village, they flattered the small children and gave them cigarettes. Once they became addicted to the nicotine, the Chinese would not give them any more cigarettes.

Kunchok Jungnay left his village, Birizong, at around 23 years of age and joined the Tibetan Chushi Gangdrug Volunteer Force at Chatsa Diguthang. The Chinese army approached in large numbers, while the resistance fighters numbered only 50 to 100 horsemen at the most. The Chushi Gangdrug members fought for three days and nights, but ultimately lost the battle. Kunchok Jungnay recalls terrifying moments during the attack when bullets from Chinese guns were “popping like grains frying over a fire.”

After escaping to India, Kunchok joined the Indian Army at Chakrata. He served there for 14 years and then moved to Bylakuppe, India, where he lives with his family. When Kunchok visited Tibet in 1989, Kunchok learned that his parents had died of starvation in 1969.

Topics Discussed:

First appearance of Chinese, resistance fighters, Chushi Gangdrug guerrillas, Dalai Lama’s escape, escape experiences, life as a refugee in India.

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Tsering Tashi (#35)

Tsering Tashi’s recalls working from an early age in the fields with his parents. Since they did not own their land, they had to work twice as hard to pay taxes. When the Chinese arrived they began demand grains from the farmers. Two years after the Chinese’ arrival, Tsering Tashi’s father died while working at a Chinese construction site. It fell upon Tsering Tashi to take care of his family because his older brother was a monk living in a monastery.

Being young and daring, Tsering Tashi decided to join the Chushi Gangdrug Volunteer Force in their fight against the Chinese. When their resistance efforts were crushed by the Chinese military, Tsering Tashi escaped to India with the remaining guerrillas. Crossing over the mountain passes, the Resistance Fighters reached Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, India, where they survived by taking turns begging.

After spending four months in the extremely hot region of Missamari and watching six or seven Tibetan refugees die each day from the poor conditions, Tsering Tashi was sent to construct roads in Bomdila. He subsequently joined the Indian army in 1961 and later settled in Bylakuppe in 1975.

Topics Discussed:

Farm life, taxes, life under Chinese rule, Chushi Gangdrug guerrillas, escape experiences, life as a refugee in India.

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Thupten (#36)

Thupten’s earliest memories of the Chinese are from when he was a monk. He explains how the Chinese befriended the monasteries to gauge the actual power of the monks. He believes the Chinese feared the monks more than the Tibetan Army, which had limited arms and manpower.

Thupten was in Lhasa in March of 1959 and describes the uprising of the Tibetans, who stood united against the Chinese’ plot to kidnap His Holiness the Dalai Lama. During the mass uprising of March 10, 1959, a Tibetan was publicly stoned to death at Norbulingka for conspiring with the Chinese to kidnap His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

When the war began in Lhasa, Thupten and many young monks stood guard at the Sera Tseri. After seven days, the monks learned that Lhasa was lost to the Chinese and that His Holiness had left for a foreign country. They began their own escape, walking for over a month and evading the bombs dropped daily by Chinese airplanes. In contrast to his early tranquil days as a monk at Sera Monastery in Tibet, Thupten joined the Indian Army and fought in Bangladesh.

Topics Discussed:

Childhood memories, monastic life, first appearance of Chinese, invasion by Chinese army, Norbulingka defense, March 10th Uprising, escape experiences, life as a refugee in India.

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Thupa (#40)

Thupa hails from a family of farmers and his father served as a leader of the region’s nomadic division. Thupa happily became a monk at age 10 when his family carried out the tradition of sending the youngest son from the family to the monastery. He loved performing the cham, an annual Buddhist dance performance, and delighted in scaring the spectators with the masks worn by the dancers.

Thupa was given the job of treasurer for the Tindhu Tulku, a reincarnated lama, and was required to travel for trade to distant places. He found it difficult to remain a monk and received permission to leave the monkhood while retaining his position as treasurer. He later married the sister of the Tindhu Tulku.

The Communist Chinese entered Thupa’s region around 1949. When fighting between Tibetans and the Chinese increased, Thupa was asked by the Tindhu Tulku’s father to keep the Tulku safe. The Tibetans tried to impede the Chinese military and obstructed their water supply, but they could only temporarily stop the advancing troops. Thupa describes the many dangers he faced and was eventually able to escort his family and the Tindhu Tulku safely into exile.

Topics Discussed:

Childhood memories, religious festivals, monastic life, invasion by Chinese army, resistance fighters, life under Chinese rule, escape experiences.

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Lobsang Khetsun (#45)

Lobsang Khetsun’s parents inducted him into Gaden Monastery as a monk when he was 7 years old. He describes the various monastic organizational structures and daily rituals at the monastery. Gaden Monastery was not initially affected by the Chinese invasion.

In 1959, during the Monlam festival, Lobsang Khetsun along with 50 monks each from the Sera, Ganden and Drepung monasteries were requested to volunteer as security guards for His Holiness the Dalai Lama at Norbulingka, His Holiness’ summer residence near Lhasa. The monks relinquished their vows in order to take up guns and changed from their monk’s robes into layman’s clothing. They were provided with guns by the Tibetan government and were trained to use them.

Lobsang Khetsun tells the complete story of the bombardment by the Chinese army of Norbulingka and Chokpori, atop which stands the Tibetan Medical Centre. After the shelling ended the monks guarding Norbulingka fled and Lobsang Khetsun made his way to the Indian border. In India he joined the Indian Army and fought in Bangladesh.

Topics Discussed:

Monastic life, Norbulingka defense, Dalai Lama’s escape, escape experiences, life as a refugee in India.

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Khenrab Dakpa (#46)

Khenrab Dakpa belonged to a farming family from the village of Boompa where nearly 300 families lived. He earned a living as a mule driver, traveling to China, India and Lhasa transporting goods. He and other traders witnessed the Communist Chinese mistreating the Kuomintang Chinese during travel to China and they anticipated the same fate for the Tibetans. Villagers began preparing by trading sheep for guns, while others were doubtful that the Chinese would harm them.

Khenrab Dakpa was captured by the Chinese when he was 31 because the Chinese considered travelers like him to be troublemakers. He was sent to labor camp and interrogated frequently. After escaping from prison after six months, Khenrab Dakpa joined the Chushi Gangdrug Resistance Force. He estimates there were 3,000 people at the guerrilla camp in Lhoka.

Khenrab Dakpa discusses the courage and sacrifice of the Force’s members. He makes special mention of Andrug Gonpo Tashi, founder of the Chushi Gangdrug, who is also known as Jindha ‘Sponsor’ for his offerings to the great monasteries of Tibet. Khenrab Dakpa also praises Lukhangwa, who was the representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, for his heroism and loyalty to the Tibetan people.

Topics Discussed:

Childhood memories, trade, invasion by Chinese army, resistance fighters, Chushi Gangdrug guerrillas, imprisonment, forced labor, escape experience.

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Tinlay Dorjee (#47)

Born in Lingpar village in Gyego District, Tinlay Dorjee spent his early days tending cattle and collecting firewood for his family. Occasionally he had to do field work as a form of paying taxes or penalties to the Tibetan government.

After the Chinese arrived and claimed to be liberating the Tibetans, they ordered the villagers to attend lengthy evening meetings. He describes in detail how the Chinese segregated the Tibetan society and how the sadhak landlords’and ngadhak ‘leaders’ were subjected to thamzing ‘struggle sessions.’ Tinlay Dorjee was falsely accused of possessing a gun and relentlessly harassed during the night meetings. The Chinese instituted a policy called "Three Oppositions and Two Allowances" in which Tibetans no longer had to pay taxes or repay loans.

Tinlay Dorjee describes in detail the efforts of the Chushi Gangdrug guerrillas, who were desperately trying to defend the Tibetans against the superior weapons of the Chinese. Both of Tinlay Dorjee’s brothers, who were monks, decided to join the Chushi Gangdrug. Villagers supported the Resistance Force by offering food and supplies. When the Chushi Gangdrug were forced to flee to India, the villagers were left on their own under the Chinese occupation.

Topics Discussed:

Childhood memories, life under Chinese rule, Norbulingka defense, Chinese oppression, Chushi Gangdrug guerrillas, escape experiences, life as a refugee in India.

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Yidham Kyap (#28M)

Yidham Kyap was born in the village of Tongkhor Nyipa into a family called Damdha. He became a monk at the age of 9 at the insistence of his parents. His father was the village leader and the Chinese promoted his father after occupying the village. His father was later demoted when he refused to lead his people in the destruction of the local monastery.

Yidham Kyap stayed in the monastery for only three years before everything changed. The Chinese waged a war in his region of Tibet. He provides an account of the destruction and killings and the resistance of the Tibetan people like his father and the leaders of the Serta, Tiwu and Tsangma regions of eastern Tibet. Yidham Kyap escaped to the hills where over 1,000 had joined the resistance army, but that group was soon captured by the Chinese and he fled again.

Yidham Kyap joined another group of 200 fleeing people, which took more than a year to reach India. He describes his experience of some of their 33 battles with the Chinese. He tells of the various hardships they faced due to the Chinese attacks, shortage of food and the severe cold weather. They traveled along the banks of the Yangtse River and through the regions of Zachukha, Nagchukha and the Changthang before they reached Mustang in Nepal and then Buxa (West Bengal, India) and finally Mundgod in southern India.

Topics Discussed:

Childhood memories, monastic life, religious festivals, invasion by Chinese army, life under Chinese rule, resistance fighters, escape experiences, life as a refugee in India.

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Namgyal (#55M) (alias)

Namgyal remembers the Chinese first appeared in his village on the 13th day of the 3rd month of the Tibetan Lunar Calendar of 1949. He was a 16 year old soldier of the local resistance group at that time. He recounts how the Chinese misled the poor people by bribing them with dhayen 'Chinese silver coins,' food supplies and false propaganda making the people believe that socialism would bring much happiness to them.

Namgyal speaks in great length about the resistance movement Tibetans attempted against the Chinese invasion, how ill-equipped the Tibetans were in terms of both men and weapons and his own involvement in this effort. Namgyal and one other fighter were captured by the Chinese after the rest of his group was killed. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Namgyal served rigorous imprisonment for 13 years and forced labor for the rest of the time. Those were horrible days when the prisoners were tortured by different methods, so much so that out of 8,000 prisoners at Pongdha Lungten, only 1,000 survived. Indoctrination attempts were also carried out among the prisoners through books on communism. Namgyal was labeled as a “rebel” and the Chinese tried to coerce him to confess to crimes he did not commit. They threatened to kill him and also tried to convince him to commit suicide.

Topics Discussed:

First appearance of Chinese, invasion by Chinese army, resistance fighters, imprisonment, brutality/torture, forced labor, life as a refugee in India.

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Tsering Tashi (#64M) (alias)

Tsering Tashi became a monk at Gaden Monastery at the age of 8. When he was 14 years old, he accompanied his teacher to collect offerings for the monastery in far off nomadic regions of Kham and Amdo for three years. He recounts his first experience with Chinese soldiers in Chamdo—how they appeared, their behavior and the gradual changes in their attitude towards the Tibetans. He witnessed their repressive policies and torture sessions targeting the wealthy and village leaders. Along with many people from Kham, he and his group fled to Lhasa.

Tensions were also rising in Lhasa and the monks of the three great monasteries were given guns by the government to protect their monasteries. In 1955 His Holiness the Dalai Lama had distributed protective amulets to all the monks of Sera, Drepung and Gaden monasteries and Tibetan soldiers. Tsering Tashi believes the Dalai Lama had anticipated fighting with the Chinese and gave the amulets to protect the Tibetans from being wounded by bullets.

Tsering Tashi joined the Chushi Gangdrug Defend Tibet Volunteer Force, but he received no training and had no gun. After being defeated by the Chinese army, he and many Chushi Gangdrug fighters made a difficult escape to India. He became a road construction worker in India and explains how he helped purchase the first vehicle for His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Topics Discussed:

Childhood memories, monastic life, first appearance of Chinese, invasion by Chinese army, resistance fighters, Chushi Gangdrug guerrillas, escape experiences, life as a refugee in India.

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Anzi (#10M)

As a child, Anzi led a happy life playing with his friends and occasionally helping his family in herding their animals. In his teens he made the decision to become a monk as did many of the village boys. At the age of 18, he left for Lhasa to join Gaden Monastery near Lhasa. He talks about his long journey from his village to Lhasa to the monastery.

Anzi explains how people from far away regions who came to join the three great monasteries of Sera, Drepung and Gaden were specifically assigned to one of the monastery’s khangtsen ‘houses’ based on their place of birth. He describes the holder of the throne of Gaden, the highest position in the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Anzi gives a detailed account of his life as a grain collector for his monastery. The grains were loaned to people of the villages and collected along with an interest at the time of harvest.

After the Chinese invasion, Anzi voluntarily joined the Chushi Gangdrug [Defend Tibet Volunteer Force] to fight against the Chinese forces. Anzi gave up his monks’ vows in order join the Force because he believed strongly in defending the Dalai Lama and his country. He and many other monks from Gaden collected guns from the Potala Palace and witnessed the turmoil in Lhasa at that time, including a protest by the Tibetan Women’s Association.

Topics Discussed:

Childhood memories, monastic life, oppression under Chinese, Chushi Gangdrug guerrillas, Dalai Lama's escape, March 10th Uprising, life as a refugee in India.

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Sherap Jungnay (#17M)

Sherap Jungnay was born in Lhasa to a Chinese father and a Tibetan mother. He became a monk at the age of 6 by joining Meru Monastery, which is believed to be the first monastery built in Tibet. His father's livelihood was making Chinese boots known as shurtsi and his mother engaged in jewelry trade. He describes the intricacies of the jewelry business in Lhasa.

Sherap Jungnay first saw the Chinese presence in Lhasa when he was around 12 years old. At age 14 he sang in a traditional opera as part of the installation ceremony for the 14th Dalai Lama.

The people of Lhasa decided to organize secret resistance movements under the pretext of different activities such as Serti Mimang 'Peoples' Golden Throne,' Sangrup Mimang 'Peoples' Incense Group' and Dupthola Mimang 'Peoples' Saint.' Thousands of people joined the meetings to secretly discuss how to deal with the Chinese. Sherap Jungnay describes how the plans formulated were executed and how the ultimate plan to kill two Chinese officials failed.

Sherap Jungnay likens the attack on Lhasa in 1959 to “a tragedy similar to hell on earth.” He joined a group escaping to India, which included Gyerong Khen Rinpoche and relates his success in escorting the incarnate lama safely to India along with a book of scriptures.

Topics Discussed:

Childhood memories, trade, monastic life, Dalai Lama, religious festivals, resistance fighters, escape experiences.

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Tenzin Namgyal (#19M) (alias)

Tenzin Namgyal attended school at Shol in Lhasa for two years where he learned basic reading and writing. Then he joined the Mentsekhang 'Medical Center' and studied astrology for nine years. He talks about the two forms of astrology called kartse and nagtse, which had their uses in the daily life predicting auspicious dates and marriage compatibility.

Tenzin Namgyal decided to leave his studies and join a monastery because two of his brothers were already monks and his mother thought it would be better life for him. He became a monk at the age of 20 at Gaden Monastery and describes the daily routine. He explains that some monks faced the difficulties due to the lack of food because they were too far from home to receive enough rations from family and had to go work in the fields.

Tenzin Namgyal depicts the turmoil in Lhasa in 1959 when thousands of Tibetans gathered to protect His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The event culminated in the stoning to death of a Tibetan man believed to be a Chinese informer, which his mother witnessed. Tenzin Namgyal left the monastery and joined the guerrillas of the Chushi Gangdrug [Defend Tibet Volunteer Force]. Despite several encounters his unit had with Chinese soldiers, he was able to reach Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, India through the Mangola Pass.

Topics Discussed:

Childhood memories, education, monastic life, invasion by Chinese army, Norbulingka, March 10th Uprising, Chushi Gangdrug guerrillas, escape experiences.

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Dhondup (#36M)

Dhondup became a monk at the young age of 7 at the Tashi Gomang Monastery in Amdo and does not remember much about his family since he left home so early. When he was 21 years old he travelled to Lhasa, journeying for three months and 21 days to join Drepung Monastery.  

After three years in Drepung Monastery, Dhondup went to Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, the seat of His Holiness the Panchen Lama, on a pilgrimage. He decided to join this monastery as many monks of his village resided there. He recalls his life at the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, seeing the the Panchen Lama and the presence of the Chinese in the region.

Dhondup vividly recalls his personal experience of the capture of the Khadhang Unit of the Tibetan Army, which served as the bodyguards of the Panchen Lama. He explains the role played by the Commander of the Unit, who acted as an informer for the Chinese and facilitated the capture. The Panchen Lama was taken away to China and Dhondup stayed in his monastery until June of 1959 when he escaped through Sikkim. He left the monkhood while working on road construction in Simla, Himachal Pradesh, India.

Topics Discussed:

Amdo, childhood memories, monastic life, first appearance of Chinese, invasion by Chinese army, Panchen Lama.

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Kalsang Thakhay (#63M)

Kalsang Thakhay was born in a village near Rikong in Amdo Province. His parents eloped to China because their parents opposed their marriage and he was left with his grandparents at the age of 3. Before age 4 he was sent to the local monastery as a monk where he lived until age 12 when he and another monk ran away to Lhasa. They spent a year en route in Kongpo constructing roads for the Chinese. Kalsang Thakhay recalls his good fortune of receiving blessings from His Holiness the Dalai Lama on his journey to China in 1954.

Kalsang Thakhay joined Gaden Monastery near Lhasa and worked in a monastery store and as a teacher. In March of 1959 monks were requested guard the Potala Palace. Kalsang Thakhay volunteered and describes how the monks received weapons from the Tibetan Government and were barely trained by soldiers. They were told to guard their monasteries, but Lhasa was bombed that day. The monks were then ordered to join the Chushi Gangdrug guerrillas.

Kalsang Thakhay recounts an incident where the Chinese shot at the Tibetans from an airplane and the guerrillas shot back. He witnessed the final moments of the resistance movement when some wanted to stay and fight and others felt it was useless and wanted to flee. Kalsang Thakhay later joined the Indian army with the hope to return to Tibet and fight against Chinese soldiers.

Topics Discussed:

Amdo, childhood memories, monastic life, Dalai Lama, first appearance of Chinese, invasion by Chinese army, resistance fighters, Chushi Gangdrug guerrillas, life as a refugee in India.

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Lobsang Tenpa (#68M) (alias)

Lobsang Tenpa is from a village very close to Lhasa. His parents admitted him as a monk in Gaden Monastery at the age of 13 to prevent him from being sent to school in China. Earlier to that he passed his time grazing goats and sheep. Lobsang Tenpa was very happy to become a monk and stayed at the monastery until age 20.

Lobsang Tenpa shares how his life at the monastery came to an abrupt end in 1959 due to the unrest in Lhasa. He describes in detail how the monks from the three great monasteries of Sera, Drepung and Gaden were given weapons by the Tibetan Government to protect their monasteries from Chinese attack. Lobsang Tenpa recounts the difficulties they faced while going to the Potala Palace to get the guns and the very tense situation in Lhasa on March 10, 1959.

After a brief training on how to use the guns, Lobsang Tenpa and his fellow monks were delayed in returning to Gaden Monastery and could not do anything to protect it because the Chinese had overtaken Lhasa by then. They fled to join the resistant group, Chushi Gangdrug [Defend Tibet Volunteer Force], and Lobsang Tenpa describes his experiences with the Chushi Gangdrug guerrillas and an encounter with Chinese troops. The might of the Chinese army forced them to flee to India arriving in Mon Tawang, where they had to beg for food.

Topics Discussed:

Monastic life, invasion by Chinese army, resistance fighters, March 10th Uprising, Chushi Gangdrug guerrillas, escape experiences.

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Dhungpa Jamyang (#5D)

Dhungpa Jamyang is from Thoe Dhingri also known as Dhingri Gangkar and his family grew crops. Since his father was a soldier in the Tibetan Army, the family moved to Shigatse, Nagchu, Chamdo and various other regions in Kham to help secure the border as part of the Gadhang Regiment. After the death of his father Dhungpa Jamyang was inducted into the army at the age of 13. After five or six years he became a dhungpa 'conch blower' in the army. He describes his various responsibilities and trainings.

Dhungpa Jamyang went to Lhasa where he worked as a servant to a trader after the regiment was defeated by the Chinese army and permanently disbanded. He was then appointed by the Chinese as a leader of 6-7 families in his village. The families were required to cultivate crops and Dhungpa Jamyang had to evaluate their work efforts. He was not happy with his life under Chinese occupation and fled to India in 1974.

Topics Discussed:

Childhood memories, farm life, Tibetan army, resistance, life under Chinese rule.

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Dakpa Samdup (#8D)

Dakpa Samdup's parents came from Kham and settled in Lhasa where he was born. He was educated for a few years at a private tutor's home where learned to write Tibetan script. His father traveled trading different goods such as, rice, wheat, cloth, horses, mules and guns. Later Dakpa Samdup and his sister moved to Medo Balo where his family leased a large estate owned by the monastery, which was partially divided up and provided to tenant farmers.

Dakpa Samdup describes how such a system works as well as a similar exchange for managing livestock. Dakpa Samdup recounts his first encounter with the Chinese and the formation of the Chushi Gangdrug Defend Tibet Volunteer Force by Andrug Gonpo Tashi to resist the Chinese invasion. Dakpa Samdup joined the organization and describes the tactics employed by the guerrillas to fight against the Chinese.

Dakpa Samdup recounts his experience of the grueling escape to India over snow-covered mountain passes with his fellow Chushi Gangdrug soldiers and 50 Chinese prisoners-of-war. He then spent two years in Mustang helping the Chushi Gangdrug continue their fight against the Chinese using training and equipment from America.

Topics Discussed:

Childhood memories, trade, religious festivals, tenant farmers, first appearance of Chinese, Chushi Gangdrug guerrillas, escape experiences, guerrillas in Mustang, life as a refugee in India.

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Jampa Thinlay (#25D)

Jampa Thinlay was born into a farming family in Tawu in Kham Province. He became a monk at the age of 10 in order to serve his paternal uncle, who lived in a local monastery. He recalls with gratitude that his uncle taught him to read and recite prayers. When he was older he moved to Gaden Jangtse Monastery to take his final vows, but was unable to stay long due to the Chinese invasion.

Jampa Thinlay feels that there was only misery once the Chinese appeared in Tibet. He describes how the Chinese deceived the Tibetan people with dhayen 'Chinese silver coins' and subsequently confiscated everything that the Tibetans owned. He talks about the destruction of holy statues and how they were transported to China and melted down.

Jampa Thinlay recounts how he and his fellow monks joined the Chushi Gangdrug Defend Tibet Volunteer Force. He wanted to volunteer to escort the Dalai Lama out of Tibet, but his horse was not good enough for the journey. Jampa Thinlay details the numerous confrontations the guerrillas engaged with the Chinese army and the limitations they faced while fighting the enemy. He explains the guerrillas' efforts in Mustang, Nepal and the support they received from the United States. The men fighting at the Nepalese border were advised by the Dalai Lama to surrender arms to the Nepali army and Jampa Thinlay was very angry at that time. He talks about how he came to live in Dharamsala, India.

Topics Discussed:

Kham, monastic life, first appearance of Chinese, Norbulingka, Chushi Gangdrug guerrillas, Dalai Lama's escape, guerrillas in Mustang, life as a refugee in India.

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Samten (#42D)

Samten became a monk at the age of 10 at his parents' insistence. He joined the Sera Monastery near Lhasa and wanted to study the scriptures. He gives a description of a monk's daily routine and different responsibilities as well as the sources of food and income for the monastery. He was forced to give up his monk's vows at the age of 25 when he chose to pick up a gun and try to fight against the occupation of Tibet by the Chinese.

Samten recalls how the Chinese deceived the Tibetans with money and development. Samten was one among the group of 2,000 monks who went to the Potala Palace to fetch weapons to try to resist the Chinese army. He witnessed the shelling of the Chokori, a hill facing the Potala Palace, and Norbulingka [Dalai Lama's Summer Palace]. They could not see any Chinese soldiers to challenge to a fight. He speaks about the people of Lhasa surrounding Norbulingka to stop His Holiness the Dalai Lama from leaving to attend a Chinese show. He also relates the stoning to death of a clergyman in the Tibetan Government suspected to be a Chinese spy.

Samten and the other monks waited for a chance to attack the Chinese army camp, but soon learned the Dalai Lama had escaped to India and were told to flee. He felt that he was a failure for not being able to defend his country, but was happy to know that the Dalai Lama was safe in India. Samten worked for the Tibetan Government's Home Department in Dharamsala, India for 18 years.

Topics Discussed:

Monastic life, invasion by Chinese army, Norbulingka, resistance fighters, Dalai Lama's escape.

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Karma (#49D)

Karma came from the Kongpo region of Utsang Province. His was a family of farmers that grew wheat, peas and barley. Karma spent nine years under the Chinese occupation. He was aware of thamzing 'struggle sessions' on the wealthy and land owners, but did not himself have any bad experiences with the Chinese. He cut trees from the forest and made coal at the request of the Chinese and was paid well for this work.

Karma explains the circumstances that compelled him to join the Tibetan Government Army at the age of 21, which he belonged to for two years. They were trained well and stood guard over the region of Sok Tsendhengong, but never had to fight in a battle. His commander told the troops the Chinese had arrived and that he was going to meetings with them; soon after the Tibetan Army was disbanded.

Karma touches briefly on the struggles of the Chushi Gangdrug Defend Tibet Volunteer Force as they were pursued by the Chinese through Karma's region. The loss of Lhasa became apparent to the villagers only when they saw the Chinese troops leading the beautifully decorated horses that belonged to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Karma fled to India in 1959 after hearing about the Dalai Lama's escape. He visited Tibet again in 1990 and saw that only the farmers remained because the wealthy and former leaders had been wiped out.

Topics Discussed:

Tibetan army, first appearance of Chinese, invasion by Chinese army, Chushi Gangdrug guerrillas.

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Gyendun Tashi (#52D)

Gyendun Tashi became a monk at the age of 11, but left the monastery at age 17 due to the Chinese invasion. He recalls that Communist Chinese appeared in his village in 1951 guided by Kuri Rukhong, who was formerly a Tibetan monk and later a Chinese spy. An uncle of Gyendun Tashi and an associate killed Kuri Rukhong because he declared that the monasteries must be destroyed. The villagers harbored Nationalist Chinese refugees and were able to resist the Communists for a few years. During a pilgrimage, Gyendun Tashi witnessed the forced sterilization of Tibetan young men and women near Tso Ngonpo.

In a most elaborate manner, Gyendun Tashi narrates the various facets of life in his village since the occupation by Chinese, which included numerous skirmishes, hide and seek with Chinese soldiers in the mountains, dropping of arms by Nationalist Chinese to help the Tibetans' resistance movement in his region, and the surrender of weapons. Gyendun Tashi even travelled to China with a group of Tibetan delegates to meet with the Chinese in 1957.

Gyendun Tashi went to Lhasa where he joined the Chushi Gangdrug Defend Tibet Volunteer Force to resist the Chinese onslaught. He describes how the Force was initiated, its Chief Andrug Gonpo Tashi, the many encounters with the Chinese, the risks, perils, the scarcity of food and his narrow escape over snow-covered mountains into Mon Tawang, India.

Topics Discussed:

Amdo, first appearance of Chinese, destruction of monasteries, invasion by Chinese army, life under Chinese rule, sterilization, Chushi Gangdrug guerrillas, life as a refugee in India.

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Jiga (#54D)

Jiga hails from a nomadic background. He remembers women in the family milked the dri 'female yaks' and made dairy products. At the age of 16-17, Jiga become a transporter, delivering goods on yaks. He describes the journey of the transporters who carried tea leaves for traders towards Lhasa. Later the yak transporters worked for the Chinese by moving their army supplies. Thousands of yaks were hired and they were paid very well with silver coins.

Jiga's livelihood of transportation slowly ended due to changes in the Chinese attitude toward the Tibetans. Many people were being arrested and property confiscated. Unable to bear the Chinese oppression, his region's people fled to the mountains and tried to hide from the Chinese. They suffered from lack of food and were only able to eat meat from stolen animals or hunted wild animals. Occasionally they tried to raid the Chinese communes to get supplies. Jiga gives a detailed description of their numerous encounters with Chinese troops and the casualties they suffered that reduced the group of 112 to 38 people.

Jiga traveled for months to reach the Nepalese border and then joined the Chushi Gangdrug [Defend Tibet Volunteer Force] in Mustang. They attempted several attacks on the Chinese troops and Jiga believes he survived due to the blessing of his protective amulet.

Topics Discussed:

Childhood memories, Kham, herding, first appearance of Chinese, resistance, escape experiences, guerrillas in Mustang, life as a refugee in Nepal.

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Tehor Phuntsok (#55D)

Tehor Phunsok was born in Tehor in the Tiwu region of Kham Province. Tehor Phunsok's father served as a group leader, overseeing 50-70 families. Two large monasteries, Minyak Gonpa and Jora Gonpa, were the center of people's lives and he recounts the revered reincarnated lamas.

Tehor Phunsok relates his first experience the Chinese, who initially lured the Tibetans with candies, cigarettes and assistance. They took leaders from Tibet on a tour of China to win their support, but the leader from Tehor Phunsok's region remained distrustful. The Chinese began their "liberation" process, declaring that no changes would be implemented for monasteries and nomads, but the farmers must give up their weapons and possessions.

The people of Tehor Phunsok's region attempted to resist the Chinese in 1956, but were defeated. Many were arrested and others including Tehor Phunsok fled into the forest to hide, but were coerced to return after the wives and children were threatened. His father was arrested, but Tehor Phunsok was able to join a resistance movement in Golok Serta. After a few years of fighting, the Tibetans were finally surrounded by Chinese troops. A few hundred escaped and battles continued as they journeyed towards Lhasa. Tehor Phunsok was shot three times. When they learned that the Dalia Lama had fled to India, the resistance fighters changed their plan and headed to Mustang and then to India.

Topics Discussed:

Kham, childhood memories, first appearance of Chinese, invasion by Chinese army, resistance fighters, imprisonment, escape experiences, life as a refugee in India.

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Norbugya (#62D)

Norbugya was born in Dhongku in Amdo Province but grew up in Nangra. He recalls sadly that his father and elder sister passed away from an illness when he was 11 years old and later his grief stricken mother became blind. Norbugya grew up as a farmer and explains the types of crops he grew and how the neighbors assisted his mother with fieldwork. There were many monasteries nearby and Norbugya explains the circumstances when monks were requested to do prayers for the villagers.

Norbugya remembers that Chinese troops first appeared at Gangdu and the people of his region moved to the border to stop them. An armed unit consisting of men above the age of 18 and below the age of 60 was formed to resist the Chinese under the leadership of Khambu Wangchen. Norbugya recalls that they managed to stall the advancing Chinese for three years until supposedly 80,000 Chinese troops came and forced the Tibetans to surrender. The Chinese made Khambu Wangchen a leader and coerced him to subjugate the Tibetan people.

To escape further persecution after having all of his grain supply taken away by the Chinese, Norbugya fled to Lhasa without informing his wife and two sons, whom he later learned died from starvation. Many others starved to death as well and there were several suicides in his region. In Lhasa Norbugya joined the Chushi Gangdrug Defend Tibet Volunteer Force.

Topics Discussed:

Amdo, farm life, first appearance of Chinese, invasion by Chinese army, resistance, Chushi Gangdrug guerrillas.

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Ati (#63D)

Ati belonged to a nomadic family and recalls herding yaks as a child with his mother. He became a monk at the age of 10, studying and living at a hermitage, and later joined Gyukhu Monastery. However, he left monkhood at the age of 14 in order to return home and help his mother. Ati then became a bodyguard to Gyari Nyima, the chieftain of the region. Ati travelled to various villages where Gyari Nyima went to settle disputes and look after the welfare of his subjects.

Ati describes in detail how in 1956 the invading Communist Chinese affected liberation and how the chieftains of various regions decided to rebel against the Chinese. He provides an elaborate account of the numerous fierce and dangerous encounters he and his people had with the Chinese army until they were defeated in 1959. Then the rebels and their families were forced to flee to the mountains. They were pursued by the Chinese and eventually their wives and children were either captured or killed and only 18 men survived.

After escaping to India, Ati decided to join the Mustang Unit of the Chushi Gangdruk Defend Tibet Volunteer Force in Nepal. He gives an in-depth account of how the Mustang Unit was organized in 1960 and the troops were trained by 12 Tibetans who had received training in the United States. Ati describes his involvement and the operations carried out inside Tibet to attack the Chinese. He went to India after the Nepalese Government disbanded the unit in 1974.

Topics Discussed:

Kham, herding, monastic life, government/administration, invasion by Chinese army, resistance, Chushi Gangdrug guerrillas, escape experiences, guerrillas in Mustang.

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Nawang Jampa (#71D)

Nawang Jampa's father worked in the fields and also did tailoring. The family herded animals and produced dairy products. Nawang Jampa became a monk at Chamda Monastery and lived there for around 25 years. He alternated between living at the monastery when there were prayer sessions and living at home to help with the fieldwork.

Nawang Jampa recalls that he walked from his home in Kham to Shigatse in Utsang Province for nearly a month after the Chinese appeared in his region. He was around 30 years of age and became a transporter. He used mules to carry textiles for wealthy merchants between Phari and Shigatse.

Learning about His Holiness the Dalai Lama's escape, Nawang Jampa fled to Kalimpong in West Bengal, India. After working briefly on a road crew, he was told by the Chushi Gangdrug [Defend Tibet Volunteer Force] to join the Mustang Unit. He gives a brief description of his experience in Mustang, Nepal. He talks about the scarcity of food, living in tents and the guerrilla tactics they adopted in attacking Chinese convoys. The Nepalese forced the disbandment of this unit after Nawang Jampa had been there for 14 years. The group surrendered their arms and the men were imprisonment by the Nepalese for six months.

Topics Discussed:

Kham, childhood memories, monastic life, trade, guerrillas in Mustang, life as a refugee in India.

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Thinley Paljor Shasok (#3C)

Thinley Paljor Shasok belonged to a middle class family living in Shigatse, one of the main trading centers between India and Tibet. His father and elder brother were merchants buying wool from Changthang in western Tibet, selling them in Kalimpong, India and bringing goods from India to be sold in Tibet. Thinley Paljor was one among the very small group of Tibetans who went to school. He recounts attending a private school in Tibet and later his elder brother enrolled him in an international school in Kalimpong where he learned English.

Thinley Paljor lost contact with his family in Tibet after the Chinese invasion in 1959. Around that time he was persuaded by Mr. Gyalo Thondup, brother of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, to act as an interpreter for a very secret mission and help the Tibetans fight against the Chinese. He explains how he was temporarily stationed with a small group of Tibetans in Saipan and then Okinawa before finally being transported to Camp Hale in Colorado. The CIA provided military to train the Tibetans in guerrilla warfare, weapons and intelligence gathering.

Thinley Paljor served as an interpreter for the trainees. He shares his views on why the Americans helped the Tibetans and also why the support abruptly ended. Thinley Paljor talks about his role as a translator during the training and what this operation meant to him as a Tibetan. He explains how the trainees were returned to Tibet and Mustang, Nepal to fight.

Topics Discussed:

Utsang, childhood memories, trade, education, invasion by Chinese army, CIA training, resistance fighters, guerrillas in Mustang.

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Tsondue Kunga (#9C)

Tsondue Kunga fondly remembers his birthplace Digunang, near Lhasa as a beautiful village with a river, flowers, fruits and forests all around. He recalls that his family cultivated grains, mustard and peas and raised animals as well. They leased their land by paying with yaks. Tsondue Kunga was inducted as a monk at age 9 at the Ngagpa Datsang of Sera Monastery at the request of his mother. He shares his experience of 15 years in the monastery, such as memorizing the scriptures and the specialization in tantric practice at the monastery. He then recounts the sudden change in his life when he and other monks went to the Potala Palace to fetch guns to counter the Chinese army. He witnessed the shelling of the Norbulingka Palace and the attacks on Sera Monastery, where many lives were lost trying to resist the Chinese bombardment.

Tsondue Kunga gives a detailed account of how and why the monks decided to flee Sera Monastery and join the Chushi Gangdrug Defend Tibet Volunteer Force. They had numerous encounters with the Chinese army and then an arduous escape journey through difficult terrain and he suffered from hunger and the grief abandoning many animals. Tsondue Kunga gave up the monkhood in exile and moved to the United States in 1969 to become a logger in Maine. He had a joyous reunion with his mother when he visited his village again after 22 years in exile.

Topics Discussed:

Utsang, childhood memories, herding, taxes, monastic life, Buddhist beliefs, invasion by Chinese army, defense of Potala Palace, Chushi Gangdrug guerrillas, escape experiences, life as a refugee in India.

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Lobsang Thardo (#14C)

Lobsang Thardho was born in Minbuk in Banashol, Lhasa. His father was a government administration secretary. At the age of 5-6 began school at the Potala Palace under his maternal uncle, who was also an opera singer. He learned to read and write, but also was allowed to play games and singing opera songs. His father established a school on the order of the 13th Dalai Lama to improve education, so Lobsang began studying at home instead.

Lobsang Thardho became a monk at the age of 13 and explains his studies and daily routine at Gaden Monastery. At age 19-20 his teacher passed away and he was appointed as an office member due to his writing skills. He was also appointed as an attendant to His Holiness the Dalai Lama who stayed temporarily at Gaden while taking his exams.

A large influx of Chinese began coming in vehicles to Lhasa. Lobsang Thardho He and many other monks give up their vows to join the Defend Tibet Volunteer Force. He describes in detail a risky assignment to deliver a message back to Gaden Monastery. The situation became chaotic as many Tibetans fled from Lhasa and Lobsang Thardho was tasked with redirecting those with weapons to join the resistance. He himself finally ended up in battle but the untrained fighters were no match for the Chinese and fled to India.

Topics Discussed:

Utsang, childhood memories, education, customs/traditions, monastic life, first appearance of Chinese, government/administration, Chushi Gangdrug guerrillas, escape experiences.

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Short videos created by Tony Sondag.