Name: Ngawang Chodak
Interview Age: 79
Date of Birth: 1936
Birthplace: Shungru, Utsang, Tibet
Year Left Tibet: 1960
Political Prisoner: Yes
Interview No.: 30N
Location: Tashiling, Pokhara, Gandaki, Nepal
Categories: Culture and History
Keywords: childhood memories, escape experiences, festivals, imprisonment, nomadic life, salt trade, Utsang
Ngawang Chodak was born into a nomadic family in Utsang Province. His family reared sheep and yaks for their livelihood. The nomads migrated four times a year in search of pastures and transported all of their belongings on their yaks. The grazing lands were allotted to the families by the leader, who was elected by the public.
Ngawang Chodak provides details about salt gathering, which was done in the spring and summer. The selected men would journey to the saltpans driving yaks. He describes how the salt formed in the lake and how the salt was gathered and dried. They filled saddle bags with the salt and loaded them on the yaks. The salt was taken to farmers and traded for grain.
Ngawang Chodak recalls the horse racing festival which featured a running race and a trotting competition. He vividly describes the riders' clothing and adornments on the horses. The galloping race lasted for over two hours and the riders were normally ages 12-15.
After the Chinese appeared in his region, many people began to flee and Ngawang Chodak's family left suddenly without even bringing any food on the journey. Ngawang Chodak was captured and imprisoned for one month under harsh conditions. He then made a successful escape to Nepal and was able to join his wife and parents there.
- Tenzin Yangchen (Interpreter)
- Katharine Davies Samway (Interviewer)
- Dhiraj Kafle (Videographer)