I Want to Go Out of the Mountain – Wang Lixiong

From Boxun, Translated by CDT:

On the train from Lhasa to Shanghai, I met a Tibetan woman who was on the bunk across from mine. Her hometown is in Deqin County (德钦县) of Diqing District (迪庆州), Yunnan Province. Across a river is the Tibet Autonomous Region. She was in Lhasa seeing her parents, who were making a pilgrimage there. Then she took the train to Yangzhou, Jiangsu Province, where she is leading a dancing troupe composed of several Tibetan girls. The team is performing for a few entertainment places, or for various opening celebrations or other events. She can make about 7,000 to 8,000 yuan a month after paying all the expenses. But she said her brother, who is singing at a night club in Tibet, can make 1,000 yuan a night.

When they were little, the brother and sister were just like other Tibetan children. They dropped out of school after a few years to help their parents at home. Every year, they had to go to the mountain to dig for medicinal herbs and collect pine mushrooms. They also inherited a talent for traditional Tibetan singing and dancing. In the late 1990s, businessmen from inland China slowly turned their attention to the remote Tibetan areas, where there are good-looking girls and boys who have been able to sing and dance since they were little and who can perform on the stage almost without training. Their performance also carries folk characteristics. Therefore the brother and the sister were recruited by a commercial dance troupe. They followed the troupe to perform in Hainan, Beijing, Tianjin, and other places.

A few years later, they slowly noticed that the payments they got from the boss were scarce, while the boss made a lot of money. Dancing solely depends on youth. What can they do when they get older? They started considering this question, and decided to leave the boss and start their own business. They returned home, recruited several Tibetan girls, just as the boss recruited them before, and established a dance group. After a few years, she has built many connections. And she has been to Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang Autonomous Region, and Northeast China. Since last year, she has stayed in Yangzhou. Her brother went to Lhasa to sing. And she married a Han national. The couple is now running the dance troupe.

She said that she will not go back to her hometown anymore, except to see her parents. She will stay with her husband. Among nine girls of her same age from her village, six are married to Han nationals. I asked her why. She said Tibetan boys are good-looking, but they are idle and like drinking and gambling. They are not people with whom you can spend a life. Last year when she went back to her hometown, all the young men were out of town working, and there were only old people left at home doing farm work. After a few years working in cities, young men will not be willing to go back the countryside.

I asked her what will those girls, who she took to cities to perform, do when they get old and can’t dance. What are those girls’ futures? She said she doesn’t know, and she can’t figure it out. A lot of girls from her hometown went to cities to dance. They also perform to entertain rich people when they are drinking and eating. Sometimes the patrons will pay the girls tips to let the girls drink with them. She said her dance troupe doesn’t allow her girls to do this, because it will ruin them. How can she explain to their parents if they were ruined? I guess the best future for those girls is to marry a Han national in the city, just like she did.

At the end, she said she misses the days when she was in her hometown. Although she made less money, she felt happy. Those days were gone. She will cry every time she recalls those times.

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