Commoners and Nobles

Hereditary Divisions in Tibet

by Heidi Fjeld

  • Published:
  • Pages: 188 pp.
  • illustrated
  • Series number: 96
Available from NIAS Press worldwide

This study explores how Tibetans manoeuvre within two contradictory value systems - those of old Tibet and the new PRC - balancing between ideals and pragmatism. Specifically, it asks how and why it is that the social categories of pre-communist Lhasa persist and are made relevant in daily life despite decades of Chinese rule and the comprehensive restructuring of Tibetan society.

Written by one of the few scholars who has been able to conduct long-term fieldwork in the TAR, this study explores how Tibetans manoeuvre within two contradictory value systems - those of old Tibet and the new PRC - balancing between ideals and pragmatism.

More specifically, it asks how and why it is that the social categories of pre-communist Lhasa persist and are made relevant in daily life despite decades of Chinese rule and the comprehensive restructuring of Tibetan society. More specifically, particular attention is given to the former nobility of Lhasa and their ascribed role as custodians of Tibetan culture.

by A. Tom Grunfeld, Empire State College, SUNY
From journal:
China Journal, No. 55 (2006)

 Heidi Fjeld has written a short, dense, but highly accessible study of hereditary class divisions in Lhasa today. Based on extensive fieldwork in Lhasa, she demonstrates that the old hereditary class divisions remain – albeit in modified form – despite the momentous changes in Tibet in the past half-century. … This is a fascinating study.

 Heidi Fjeld has written a short, dense, but highly accessible study of hereditary class divisions in Lhasa today. Based on extensive fieldwork in Lhasa, she demonstrates that the old hereditary class divisions remain – albeit in modified form – despite the momentous changes in Tibet in the past half-century. … This is a fascinating study. Heidi Fjeld has opened a window into contemporary Tibetan life and demonstrated how Chinese policies intended to dampen nationalism among the Tibetans have done just the opposite. … [T]his is an important contribution to our understanding of contemporary Tibetan life.

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