THE NOMADIC TRADERS OF THE
BORDER REGION OF WESTERN TIBET AND NORTHWESTERN NEPAL
who has knowledge about the Tibetan landscape might be able to guess
what people’s lives would look like in the west of Tibet.
My native people were almost living in a purely natural way and
bartering for survival, living as our grandparents used to live
their lives. Some 20 years ago, in my village, there was no most
use for money. The way of maintaining livelihood was done by keeping
livestock such as cows, horses, goats, donkeys and so forth. My
family grows barley, beans, mustard and some vegetables as well.
The area around Mount Kailash
and Lake Manasarovar is the highest elevation in Tibet and there
is no hope for people to farm the land, but those areas are good
as pasture for animals. Therefore, those places are occupied with
nomads and yaks, sheep, goats, horses and some dogs. These are the
people's basic resources.
During three months in the
spring, all the nomads used to come to my village with salt, butter,
wool and cheese carried by their animals. At that time, our villagers
would have a lot of trading businesses to exchange our products
with what the nomads brought to us and we would also buy some animals
to kill for meat. In a similar way, nomads were collecting barley,
tsampa [roasted barley flour used for porridge and also taken with
yak butter tea], chilies, beans and some other things that they
In my village, we would buy
enough salt so that we could store it until the Nepalese traders
came back to the village. In the middle of the summer, then the
Nepalese traders return with a lot of rice and other things we need.
You might already know about Nepalese natural resources. I learned
that the Nepalese have almost no source of salt in their country,
but we had a lot. So, when the Nepalese came, we had a trading system
that worked well: we give all the salt to them and in return we
got rice and wheat, chilies, lamp wood and so on.
This barter system had been
used for centuries. I believe those traders had gained complete
harmony and happiness throughout their lives. I think I don't need
to explain why those people enjoyed life a lot. One reason was that
in their lives they didn't need money, which gave them tremendous
peace without having much desire, and they felt relaxed in their
I shouldn't discourage having
these modern developments like all kinds of machines. However, even
having things such as roads and vehicles has changed our area's
living system, and nowadays no more nomads bring salt on their animals
and they are getting everything they need at their doorstep. In
the same way, the traders now sell everything that they have for
money. Similarly, our farmers now need to sell our products for
money and purchase the things we need with money. These days, one
rarely sees people exchanging things each other.
When this big change happened,
those Nepalese who had long trading relations with our villagers
were also forced to use money to sell their rice and get their salt.
So, everything kept changing so quickly. The Chinese government
regards bartering with the Nepalese as an ‘export and import
business,’ which means the traders have to pay ‘taxes.’
Anyway, this caused an extreme
revolution within our villagers’ lives. These days, everybody
works for money and lives on money. As you see, there were many
different factors that came together to make life more difficult.
When those Nepalese traders came to my village, they always celebrated
with their natural talent and love of singing songs and dancing.
These days, no more Nepalese traders are able to come to our village
and it makes me sad, since I knew most of the old Nepalese and my
native people were enjoying what they had together.
I am not sure what the Nepalese
name is for those people. At my village we called them Humla Khampa
[not the famous Khampas of eastern Tibet; this is a different word
which sounds the same] or Khanpabalwa. The men wear clothing like
most men wear in Nepal but they more prefer clothes that are black
in colour. Ladies are beautified with their silver nose ring and
look pretty much like the majority of Nepalese hill women. But they
hang many small bells on their feed and waist. Those people speak
in Tibetan and they believe in Buddhism. The only difference between
them and my villagers is these Nepalese traders marry among their
own relatives, and regard this as one of most important parts of
Unfortunately, when those people
lost their grandparents, they sold all the sheep which had carried
their heavy loads and they had to settle somewhere in Nepal where
they could get a piece of land and start a new life. It is difficult
for them to gather in one place as a group. So, now they are settling
separately all over Nepal and I learned after a generation or two
this kind of happy people will slowly become just like common Nepalese
and their unique and joyful culture will be lost. Even if a few
of their people could stay in a group, it would be very hard to
keep their culture.
Since I have this precious
opportunity to speak with you, I am sincerely requesting all of
you to please help this unique group of Nepalese to get together
in a community, because now they are forced to settle down and live
far from each other.
Friend, please think a lot
about my request and please try to get information about those people
and do anything you can to help them to survive.