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Anyone 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 don't have.

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 inner being.

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 their culture.

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.

Thank you sincerely,



Sacred sites at the Mount Kailash  |  Senge Tenzin Rinpoche  |  Ngari: western Tibet  
                                          |  Limi: northwestern Nepal  | Dolpo: eastern Nepal