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Rhythm A Day Blog for March 28, 2020: Serfs' Emancipation Day, Tibet

Posted by Wolf Murphy on

Serfs' Emancipation Day, Tibet

Like so much else in history, you have to read kinda deep to get any idea whether or not whatever you are looking at was a good thing! Serfs' Emancipation Day was established on March 28 in 2009 to celebrate the start of Tibetan democracy, which ended what the "liberating" Chinese referred to as a feudal serf system in Tibet, thus "freeing" one million Tibetan serfs—about 90 percent of the region's population.

Chinese troops flooded the Himalayan plateau in 1959 to quell an uprising, took direct control of Tibetan government in Lhasa and enforced radical changes. China’s Communist leaders claim they abolished a feudal, theocratic system and compared it to the peasants of medieval Europe. 

Critics say China greatly exaggerated the cruelties of traditional Tibetan life to disguise what was actually no more than a Colonializing power grab. Tibetan nationalists say the Chinese swept away a great deal that was good, and destroyed an indigenous government that was already introducing more sensitive reforms. 

Many Tibetans are angry and frustrated by the lack of true freedom under Chinese Rule, and see the commemoration of the “emancipation” of Tibet on this day as a counter-propaganda tool of the Chinese, initiated as it was a year after the Tibetan Unrest in March of 2008. Thus this festival has the danger of sparking unrest at a volatile time. 

There was a period of protest and unrest in March of 2008 against the Chinese Rule: an estimated 150 riots, protests, and demonstrations starting in Lhasa, the capitol city. The Chinese official media outlet Xinhua claimed 23 people were killed during the riots; but the Tibetan government-in-exile claimed that 203 Tibetans died. International protests supporting the Tibetans targeted Chinese embassies, including protestors entering and raising Tibetan flags.

Protest in support of Tibet during the 2008 Tibetan unrest in Ginza, Tokyo - 20080506

Protest in Ginza, Tokyo in support of Tibet during the 2008 Tibetan unrest
(Photo: 山中紘治./CC BY 2.1 JP)

The Chinese blamed separatists and claimed the disturbances were orchestrated by the Dalai Lama; he denied this and pointed out the wide discontent in Tibet.

To read in greater depth about this, see: Tibet serf debate shadows China's "emancipation day".

Tibetan Drumming

Drums play an important part in Tibetan spiritual life! The temples are adorned with gorgeous instruments. 

Tibet-5903 (2674468550)

The great hall where the monks gather, Baiju Monastery, Gyangtse, Tibet.
(Dennis Jarvis from Halifax, Canada/CC BY-SA)

One common type of drum is the damaru, a flip-drum, that is used to keep time at festivals and in ceremonies. 

Ritual Pellet Drum LACMA M.85.298.2 (2 of 2)

Tibetan Damaru drum (also referred to as pellet drum or flip drum for the small pellets taht strike the drum when it is rotated). This one is made from kapala: human bones. These parts of the skull are preserved in this fashion to honor the attainments of monks who have ascended to enlightenment during their lives!
(Photo: Los Angeles County Museum of Art/Public Domain)

 The importance of drumming in Tibet descends as in so many places from traditions of Shamanic drumming, featuring a very bassy drum played with a curved stick, called a Dhyangro

We are going to play some simple patterns from group drumming for chanting and meditation from public festivals. The officiant of the ceremony may play both instruments—a small hand bell, and a large flip drum—simultaneously.

Today's Vlog Lesson


Here is an example of one of these ceremonial group drummings, Note: turn the volume DOWN before you start!

Landing page photo: Dhyangro Player dressed as Faerie in Ritual.
(Photo: Arian Zwegers from Brussels, Belgium/CC BY)

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