LHASA, March 28 (Xinhua) -- A national flag-raising ceremony was held in the heart of Lhasa Monday morning to mark the 52nd anniversary of the emancipation of Tibetan serfs.
More than 3,000 people from all walks of life gathered in a square in front of the Potala Palace to watch the flag being raised, sing the national anthem and celebrate the historic date that marks the beginning of freedom and equal status for all Tibetans.
Monday is the third "Serfs Emancipation Day," an occasion celebrated across the plateau region with Tibetans decking themselves out in traditional costumes, singing, dancing and staging dramas based either on their own experiences or the experiences of their fathers' generation.
On the eve of the anniversary, a group of farmers in Nedong County, Shannan Prefecture, staged a self-directed drama to recount their miserable past.
The drama, titled "Tears of the Serfs," tells the tragic life of serf Trinley Dorje and his family. Despite its simple plot, the drama moved many people to tears.
Padma Yonten, 63, cried when he saw Trinley Dorje's preteen son being whipped by a housekeeper at the Khesum Manor where the family of six worked as slaves.
"I was like that poor child. All serfs' children began working at 8 years old, herding or running errands," he said.
In 2009, March 28 was designated the day to commemorate the 1959 democratic reform in Tibet, which ended feudal serfdom and freed about one million Tibetan serfs, more than 90 percent of the region's population.
Many of the former serfs are still alive today.
"It was like a ray of sunlight that dispelled the dark clouds, and we became masters of our land," Padma, 71, said, comparing the democratic reform to sunshine.
Padma, a native Lhasa resident, was born a serf. She remembers her father being sold, at least six times, from one serf owner to another and flogged for minor offences during her childhood.
"My father died young and never witnessed the happy life I had," she said.
PATRIOTIC EDUCATION FOR CHILDREN
Da Tenphel, a fourth grader at the Second Primary School in Lhasa's Chengguan District, knew little about serfs and Tibet's democratic reform until a school assignment required him to prepare a presentation about Serfs' Emancipation Day.
He browsed the Internet and went through books at the school library to finish the assignment.
After some research, Da Tenphel submitted a paper with two pictures he sketched to show Tibetans' lives before and after 1959. On the first picture was a serf owner flogging a man in ragged clothes under a dark and teary sun. The second picture showed young Tibetans dressed in traditional costumes or jerseys smiling under the sun.
Tenzin Wangden, 11, said the miseries of Tibetan serfs actually sounded familiar, because his deceased grandfather was a serf in Xigaze.
"Still, I was shocked to hear babies were often born in yak sheds and the serf owners never cared when they were ill or died," he said.
Having benefited from Tibet's economic boom, Tenzin Wangden and most of his peers enjoy material abundance, speak Tibetan, Mandarin Chinese and English, and have ambitions for the future. Tenzin Wangden wants to grow up to be a surgeon.
"It's essential to remind the children of Tibet's past, so that they'll learn to be grateful and cherish what they have today," said the school's vice principal Armanu.
DEVELOPMENT, STABILITY STRESSED
Since the 1959 emancipation of serfs, Tibet has maintained rapid social and economic growth.
Last year, Tibet's GDP reached 50.8 billion yuan (7.75 billion U.S. dollars), with an annual growth rate of 12.4 percent, said Padma Choling, chairman of the regional government, in a televised speech Sunday.
Meanwhile, the per capita net income of both farmers and herdsmen hit 4,319 yuan, twice the 2005 figure.
The average life expectancy of Tibetans in Tibet nearly doubled, from 35.5 years before 1959 to 67 years, he said.
He underscored development and stability as two critical tasks for Tibet while warning that any attempts to jeopardize Tibet's stability and progress were doomed to fail.