The Tibetan Family
Family life is the core element that defines the population of a country. It gives Identity to a group people by the way they carry out their day to day operations and the customs and ideals that are unique to that group of people. Family life can be difficult to define as it comprises so many elements; such as housing, education, gender roles, family size, health, education, and religion. These are all critical inputs that ultimately determine the situation in a family and how that group of people goes about their lives.
There are no ‘typical’ Tibetan families; some are rich, some are poor, some are nomadic others are urban, some families live in Tibet but there are also a great number living in exile in other countries. They all have one thing in common though; every Tibetan family has been either directly or indirectly affected by the Chinese occupation. The Tibetan people have been forced to abandon their old methods and principles that defined who they were as a culture and now have to try to adapt to the new ones that have been forced upon them.
This paper will examine the many ways in which Tibetan families have been directly and indirectly affected through examining the inherent components that define a Tibetan family, and how these have changed since the Chinese occupation. Family life in Tibet has changed forever and the Tibetans have been forced into a metamorphosis and restructuring of their family life to assume a new form. It looks as though their former heritage is likely to be lost forever.
Defining a ‘typical’ Tibetan family is a near impossible task because the structure and dynamics of every family are as unique as the individuals that comprise them. I will begin by first examining the broad similarities that exist within Tibetan families with respect to family structure.
In order to consider family life in Tibet it is important to have some background on the underlying class system that exists. Tibet is considered a very stratified society. A class dichotomy existed between the wealthy noble families and the more numerous serf class, and seemed contrary to the Buddhist ideals of equality among human beings that they seem to cherish so much. The wealthy lived in relative splendor in Tibet, their homes were thick-walled (not to be underestimated in the climate) and they had little to do in terms of household chores as they would have stewards do this for them. The woman in particular would have little to do except prepare for parties, gamble with dice or play mahjong. The peasant or serf class lived in far less decadence and there was a clear and observable separation between the serfs and the nobles. For example one westerner remarked on a visit to Tibet that the poor were looked down upon as though they ‘could have been different races.’
There was also very little social interaction and few cases of intermarriage between classes. Some people suggest that slaves were utilized in...