Interview Age: 75
Date of Birth: 1935
Birthplace: Gerze, Utsang, Tibet
Year Left Tibet: 1960
Political Prisoner: No
Interview No.: 25M
Location: Doeguling Settlement, Mundgod, Karnataka, India
Categories: Culture and History
Keywords: escape experiences, imprisonment, Chinese rule -- life under, Chinese -- oppression under, resistance, taxes, trade, Utsang, salt trade
Sonam was born in Gerze near Changthang 'Northern Plateau' in the Ngari region. He was the eldest of seven children of his parents. His family was nomadic and reared yaks and sheep. They also engaged in salt trade. He talks about the mountains of salt and how salt was gathered and packed in woolen bags called luka. The bags were loaded on to the sheep to be transported to the trading locations. Sonam describes accompanying his father many times on these trade missions to places such as Gya Nyima, Sharlo and Kotey near the Indian border. He also recalls the long and arduous journey which took about 30 days. Sonam explains the tax system and why they did not remit salt tax.
Sonam recounts how the people of nearby Gerge chose to resist the Chinese occupation while the leader of Gerze instead agreed to surrender the villagers' arms to the Chinese. All automatic weapons were given up, but Tibetan-made guns were kept until a later time when even those had to be surrendered.
Sonam's uncle, a deputy leader of Gerze, was arrested simply for a being a leader and the rest of the family awaited his release before planning their escape to India. His uncle was released after three years. Although they tried to take their herds with them as they fled, most of the animals died before reaching the border.
- Rebecca Novick (Interviewer)
- Ronny Novick (Videographer)
- Namgyal Tsering (Interpreter)