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Listen to what a Southern Mongolian says about his country, which has been ruled by Communist China for over half a century


Damba Darjaa, a Buddhist monk from Inner Mongolia, spoke at the Sunday@Sunset lecture series of Earthville Network , about his motherland which has been ruled by the People's Republic of China for 53 years in the year 2000. This is the longest period of Chinese rule among all the non-Chinese territories annexed by the PRC.

              ----- Translated and compiled by Dugar Gyab









As you all may already know, the people of the Mongol nation, who have been living in the northern part of Asia, became strong in the 13th century under the leadership of Chinggis Khan. And further, the Mongols were reknowned in the world. The social condition then was, unlike nowadays, that science and technology were not developed. To develop a country and guarantee peace, they had to rely mainly on the military, and in those days, the mounted army was the most advanced type of military force. The Mongols have always been nomadic people, and they owned numerous horses. This and the nomadic lifestyle itself, created very good conditions for the Mongols to develop themselves into a strong nation with one of the strongest armies in the world.

After they advanced militarily, and guaranteed peace and development within their own country, it became necessary to have peaceful neighbors: to create a peaceful atmosphere to live together peacefully. For this, they needed to establish friendly relations with China - the closest neighbor geographically. The Mongols actively attempted to gain friendship of China and Russia for a long time. According to the history of those days, the offer by Mongols to establish a friendly relationship with China wasn't accepted by the then rulers of China. Thus came the countless fighting between the two. However, the Mongol rulers those days were seemingly a bit too proud of their military might. From my own point of view, perhaps the Mongols were too cruel and oppressive to the people of China. For this I personally feel sorry.

From the end of the 13th century, the Mongols started becoming interested in Buddhism, first of all, Tibetan Buddhism. One of the most important concepts in Buddhism is compassion. So after the Mongols converted into Buddhism, the teachings about compassion definitely influenced people's minds. With the wide spread of Buddhism in Mongolia, violence and fighting have naturally and gradually decreased.

In my personal opinion, about this part of Mongol history, I would like to make two conclusions: One, as far as politics is concerned, that [the beginning of the spread of Buddhism in Mongolia] was the beginning of the decline of this nation; and two, as far as religion is concerned, the Mongols accepted Buddhism and this helped them to lead a peaceful life rather than fighting all the time. This is the positive side.

The above was a brief description of the most important period of Mongol history. Up to this century, Mongols were basically living like this. They accepted Buddhism during this period, Buddhism widely spread in Mongolia, and this had been a lot of help to Tibetans. The Third Dalai Lama visited Mongolia, and a friendly relation between Mongolia and Tibet was established. I feel proud that, even today, the Mongol word "Dalai" is known to the world as the title of the spiritual leader of Tibet.

While Buddhism was spreading in Mongolia, China and Russia gradually became strong countries. After the peak time of the Mongols as a strong nation had passed, Communism was being introduced into both Russia and China, and they have been looking for chances to eliminate Mongolia as a country. Their methods were, first to divide their land, and to destroy their religion and culture. With the two great powers working together as the challengers, Mongolia was gradually divided. On this issue, there is the responsibility of religion, and there are historical and geographical strategic reasons as well for the Chinese and the Russians to be succeeded. The result nowadays is that, within Russia, there are three parts of Mongolian territories, and all are divided into different parts and different administrative regions, like the Republics of Buryatia, Republic of Kalmykia and Tuva. And within China is the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region which has already lost some of its own territory. Those were cut off from the Mongol region and annexed into some other native Chinese provinces. So all of Mongolia is already being divided into at least six or seven different parts. And there is an independent country which is called Mongolia nowadays. It is the only part of Mongolia, which of course does not control the whole territory of Mongolia. And what we're calling Mongolia here doesn't include territories that were conquered by the Mongols in 13th century, but is the real, the original Mongol territory.

Since about 1947, Inner Mongolia, the same as Tibet and Eastern Turkestan, has been subjected to the control of China for more than 50 years. The present situation is that they have lost almost all their religion, customs, and other type of cultural identity.

The same as the other ethnic minorities, who are also under the Chinese rule, the Mongols in Inner Mongolia have been suffering for decades. To take one example, during the Cultural Revolution, they used a name "the case of Inner Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party" to eliminate intellectuals, leaders and people who cared and loved their nation. Even according to the official Chinese source, there were 16,222 people were executed. But according to independent researches, the figure should at least be about 150,000.

By experiencing this campaign, the Mongol nation in Inner Mongolia was largely weakened, and merely the name was left. Religion was forbidden. As Mongols we weren't allowed to study our own language and writing, instead everything should be done in Chinese. As myself an example, when I was young, and started going to school, I had to study in Chinese.

About 30 years of tremendous suffering went by like this. Starting from 1979, Chinese policies had some changes and they allowed the ethnic minorities to study their own languages. By then I had been in school for nine years. So, as soon as it became possible to study Mongolian, I started from the lower grades with little children to study Mongolian.

Time was passing by like this. As a Mongolian, I determined to study my own language very well, to be able to speak, read and write well. Although I felt grateful for getting the chance, in fact I ended up speaking Mongolian with a Chinese accent. Even today, although I speak and write in Mongolian, I am not able to do it at a really standard and satisfactory level. In 1989, when I was studying in Beijing, my Chinese friends asked me why, as a Mongolian, I write so well in Chinese. My answer was that this is thanks to "Our Party" who forced me to study only Chinese.

While I was in school, in our text books, there was nothing about Mongolian history. History lessons were all about Chinese history and was translated from the Chinese language into Mongolian. We had to study it. Because I receive this kind of education, although I'm a Mongolian, until now I have not been very knowledgeable of my nation, its history, people and culture. When I was in school, we were supposed to be against the religion. We were taught in school that religion is a tool to make fools of people and to exploit the people.

In 1983, I traveled to some places including Beijing and Wutaishan. In Wutaishan, which is the most important Chinese Buddhist site, I met an eighty four year-old monk. As soon as I saw the old monk, I had a strangely pleasant feeling and an urge to talk to him. So I went to talk to the monk and asked him questions about Buddhism, and asked him how come he spent the whole of his life in such a useless way. Then the old monk told me what now turned to be the most basic things about Buddhism in a very comprehensive way. In the end, the old monk told me something that deeply impressed me. He repeated that I am a young man, so I should remember his words. The words were: "Religion is to help sentient beings. Even if it cannot help, it wouldn't do harm." It was this one word that made me to be a monk and to wear this robe.

By then, I was already about twenty. Looking at society, between individuals there are always conflicts. In my observation, as a human being, rather than spending a life with meaningless fighting and conflicts, it would seem better if you could spend it with smiles.

I went to Wutaishan for the second time to become a monk. After becoming a monk, I had new problems, because as a Mongolian, in order to be a Buddhist monk, one must learn Tibetan first. So again, same as I studied Mongolian, I went back to study Tibetan with small children, starting from the beginning. Then in Wutaishan, there were only a few people who knew Tibetan. Therefore, in 1986, I came to Lhasa to study in a monastery.

In Lhasa, because I didn't speak Tibetan, when I went shopping at the Barkor, I spoke Chinese to the Tibetans. I noticed that the Tibetans were upset with me because I spoke Chinese. They pointed out that they find it strange that I speak in Chinese while I'm a monk.

These words helped me a lot. From that point, I started studying Tibetan hard. I came to speak Tibetan almost the same as Tibetans. Because my physical feature is like a Kampa, most Tibetans mistook me for a Kampa. Because my accent is that of Lhasa, so they also mistook me as from Lhasa. Mongolia is relatively near Amdo, so I also told them that I'm an Amdo. So I contain features of all three regions of Tibet in myself.

Two years passed very well like this. At the time my plan was to continue my study like that. But it did not last long. On 29 September, 1987, there was a big demonstration in Lhasa. At the time, I was there and I also joined in it.

After the demonstrations, soon Chinese officials they started carrying out "education" on us. They told me that because I did not belong to theTibet Autonomous Region, I should leave Tibet for my own region, and they kicked me out.

Being kicked out from Tibet, I went back home and then Wutaishan. And while I was staying in Wutaishan, one day the Buddhist school that the late Panchen Lama opened in Beijing accepted me a student. It was 1989. I went to Beijing to study. We Mongols regard the Dalai and Panchen lamas the most superior, as the greatest lamas. As such an ordinary man as myself, to be accepted to the school that the Panchen Lama founded, gave me such great delight that I cannot describe.

Only a few days after my arrival in Beijing, the student movement had started. Although I didn't join in it, I was curious and went there to see it everyday. After continuing for about a month, one night we heard gun shots. Because it was at night, we didn't know how many were killed and how. But when we went out after a few days, we saw bullet holes on the walls of buildings that surrounded the site of the demonstrations. Many parts in the walls appeared dark.

From 1989 to 1990, for one year, I stayed in the school, and studied with many important rinpoches from Tibet. My level of learning wasn't high enough to be studying together with those rinpoches. But the one year of study left me the impression that there is no end to learning. I wanted to continue my Buddhist study further, but could not do it in Wutaishan. Not in Amdo region. Nor Kam or Lhasa. So, in the end came the decision to come to India.

I arrived to Dharamsala on the 25th of October, 1990. From the name Dharamsala, I was assuming it a very big place. The reason is, when I was in Lhasa, my Tibetan friends sometimes would invite me to their homes and would show me video tapes of the Dalai Lama's speech. And they told me a lot about the Tibetan situation outside Tibet. So I had some knowledge of Dharamsala before I came here. But getting off the bus in Mcleod Ganj, I could not believe this is Dharamsala. It was such a tiny place, and I was feeling strange. After a few days, along with Tibetans, I went to see His Holiness. After the Dalai Lama gave a speech for about ten minutes, he received people one by one, asking each some questions. When it was my turn, I told him that I'm Mongolian, and the Dalai Lama shook my hand and was very pleased.

His Holiness has been very kind to me. He told me that I'm the first Mongolian from the Chinese-controlled Mongol region. Therefore, he told me, that I should let him know without hesitation, if I have any difficulties, and he would do his best to help me. In fact, help or no help, it wasn't really necessary, since the Tibetan government has been helping me. From my personal history, when I was younger, I never even dreamed that I would one day meet either the Dalai or the Panchen lamas. I especially never expected this much privilege that when I came to India the Dalai Lama would shake hands with me, welcoming me so warmly and being so kind to me. Even today I feel that it was the happiest moment in my life.

During the ten years in this country, I was called by His Holiness twice to his palace to talk to him. He inquired in my life, study and everything else. From my personal side, I was very grateful. From religious side, initially, I counted myself very fortunate. But when I thought deeper, then I concluded it that it is not only my own fortune, but that His Holiness is concerned with the four million Mongols who are under the Chinese regime, leads to his kindness to me.

While being blessed by His Holiness, I had a picture of myself shaking hands with His Holiness. I sent home a copy of the photograph. I couldn't send it directly, so I managed to send it to my Chinese friends to pass it on. Later I heard that my parents and relatives were very delighted at seeing the photograph and they even went on to celebrate it among relatives.

After that, the Chinese police found out about it and came to know that I escaped to India. So they carried out an investigation on me by sending a policeman from Beijing to Lhasa to gather information on me, as I later heard. After this incident, it brought a lot of trouble for my relatives. After my younger brother finished his school, they didn't allow him to get a job. When he tried to study in Japan on his own expense, they wouldn't let him. And he's still in this kind of difficult situation up to now.

When we compare the situation of Inner Mongolia with that of Tibet, the Tibet situation is that the Dalai Lama is outside in exile, and so many Tibetans managed to get out and are living abroad. There is a considerable degree of support from the international community, and there is always mention of the Tibet issue. Therefore the Chinese are not really being as harsh on Tibet as they might want to be. As for Inner Mongolia, although there is an independent Mongol state to the north of it, they are afraid of the Chinese, and if we escaped to the independent Mongolia, they would catch us and would extradite us to the Chinese. The situation with China today is that the government is most afraid that the ethnic minorities, namely Inner Mongols, Uighurs, and Tibetans, would unite and rebel together. Historically, the Mongols are close to the Tibetans. Therefore, the Chinese rulers today are also very wary of the possible new contacts between the Mongolian and Tibetan freedom struggles. I'm the first Mongolian to come here from that part of Mongolia. Therefore the Chinese are determined to be tough on this first example, and this is the reason why they are doing all these things to my relatives.

This was the basic situation in my homeland Inner Mongolia based on my own experience. I just came here for a few days, and was informed about this talk only after I arrived. I am very happy to get this opportunity at this place to speak about my country to this many people. I appreciate your time and attention. Thank you.

Whenever I see people like you who are from the free countries, there grows deep in my heart an admiration. The reason is that, not just Inner Mongolia, not just Tibet, but in our wholr world today, there are many people who are suffering for different reasons, being oppressed because of religion and politics and so on. I always wish that all these people be freed from whatever their sufferings are.

Thanks again!






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Grasslands and Grassland Science in Northern ChinaGrasslands and Grassland Science in Northern China: A Report of the Committee on Scholarly Communication With the People's Republic of China

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