Name: Thupten Choephel
Interview Age: 78
Date of Birth: 1937
Birthplace: Lhasa, Utsang, Tibet
Year Left Tibet: 1959
Political Prisoner: No
Interview No.: 18N
Location: Kathmandu, Bagmati, Nepal
Categories: Culture and History
Keywords: army -- Tibetan, childhood memories, children's games, customs/traditions, education, farm life, Utsang
Thupten Choephel was born in Lhasa at the Drapchi army base, since his father served as a shelngo 'major' in the Tibetan Army. Thupten Choephel explains the process of recruitment into the army. The government provided farmland to families, and depending upon the size of landholding, the family was then obliged to send family members or hired persons to serve in the army. Soldiers were not paid a regular salary and their food and clothing had to be supplied by a sponsor. The government did give the soldiers a grain allowance.
Thupten Choephel describes the games enjoyed by the soldiers' children such as swimming in a phakung, where bricks are made, or plucking peas in the wonga 'fields.' He recalls that there were no schools for poor children, but reading and writing might be taught individually at home by the parents. His father knew how to write and often wrote letters on behalf of others who were illiterate.
Thupten Choephel had witnessed Chinese presence in Lhasa since the age of 5 or 6. Although the Chinese stated they had only come to help and would afterwards return to their own country, Thupten Choephel believed they came to deceive the Tibetans. At age 14 or 15 he was sent to work on his uncle's farm, which he greatly enjoyed. But by age 18 he fled from Tibetan after the Chinese occupation in 1959 and eventually joined the Indian Army.
- Katharine Davies Samway (Interviewer)
- Henry Tenenbaum (Videographer)
- Palden Tsering (Interpreter)