Ulag (corvee labor) |Tibet|History 文章标题,heytibet
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Ulag (corvee labor)

Ulag, a joint name of taxes, corvee and land rent, means forced labor given gratis. It includes various items, corvees, taxes and levies, rents, etc. Although required corvee were stipulated, serfs and slaves should still go to their servitude for the needs of the serf-owners whenever necessary. People divided Ulag into two parts. One was Rkangdro. Literarily it means corvee finished with feet, including the servitudes of men, cattle, horses and donkeys. The other was Lagdon. Word for word, it refers taxes handed over with hands, including goods and money. Land rent would be paid with a fixed volume of grain, such as Da set down by Thralpas to contribute grains every year according to the area of rented land; there were also some special taxes, such as fagot and money contributions to religious activities, grain contributions for the Resident Commissioners in Tibet; some special corvees, such as service to government-owned lands; others involved business taxes, etc. Major items of Ulag to local government were forced labor completed by both men and animal, including transports of personnel and goods with the governmental Ulag labels, receptions and accommodations to the travelling officials and passing-by Tibetan forces, and levies of goods, such as grain, butter, beef and button. All of those mentioned above were outdoor servitude. Not any a person could tell the figure of such corvees. According to an incomplete statistics of kashag government only there were 1,892 kinds of Ulag.

Indoor servitude referred to goods and labor provided by serfs and slaves owned by nobles and temples. Indoor servitude was unpaid. The more self-managed lands the nobles and temples controlled, the more indoor servitude would be required and the heavier exploitation the serfs would suffer. Daubo Xika of the Gundeling Monastery in Maizhokunggar County had 300 ke self-managed lands and only 165 ke lands as lotment cultivated by serfs as their payment. So the serfs in this manor would bear a rather heavy burden of corvee. A surprising corvee specifications and exploitation rate could be showed from the next example. People could make it clear of indoor levies of Dudchhongs. Migmar, a Dudchhong in Lhunbo Xika Manor managed by Kashag Government directly, was obliged for planting 15 ke land for the land for the land owner. This family was levied a year-long corvee of one man, to shear wool for a day by one person, to repair irrigation project for a day of one person, to grease oil for a day by one person, to plough land for four days by one person and with two farm cattle, to transport fertilizer in autumn for five days by one person and two oxen, to watch plants for 60 days by one person, to thresh grain for two days by one person. Besides, there also need one person on Taba lagvkhyer (people had ropes) for a day, one person on Tibo lagvkhyer (people had thumbs) for a day, one person or Zorra Lagvkhyer (people had sickles), one person on Zaschen Zaschung (reaping) for two days, one person to cut straw for a day, one person to transport firewood for four days and with one cattle, one person responsible for sending letters for a day. All the corvees and taxes added together was 20 items, which would be accomplished by one person with 477 days, a farm cattle for 8 days and an ox for 14 days. All those figured out above did not involve in the items from religius field.

Every Dalai Lama had a special organ to administrate his own wealth, named Tsecha Lekhung. They then practiced usury by lending money to Tibetan people, from which they got extra interests. According to incomplete data of counting books of Tsecha Lekhung of 1950, the then the Dalai Lama lent Tibetan silver coin higher to 3,038,581 liang, with which he could get 303,858 liang as interest a year. Kashag Government, local administrative departments, such as Chikyaps and Dzongs and nobles, as well as regional temples, no matter big or small, turned to be loan sharks. Reaping colossal interests from usury became their major income. About 10 percent of the annual income of Kashag Government was from usurious loan. In fact, temple was the biggest usurer. The three major monasteries not only imposed usury among serfs on their land, but also practiced within the manors of other feudal lords. They spread their hands onto the whole of Tibet. And interests from usury amounted to 25 to 30 percent of the total income of the three major monasteries. Ordinarily, nobles only practiced usurious loans within their own manor. Interest from loans usually made up 15 to 20 percent of their family income. The Dalai Lama was the biggest manor owner, and the largest loan shark, who could get 25 percent family income from practicing usury.

The three major lords practiced different loan interests, 10 percent, 80 percent and 120 percent. It had been universally seen that serfs had to borrow debts. Some borrowed new to return for the old, some paying for tax and corvee, some to satisfy with eating and seeds. There were some usuries imposed by the three major lords. For example, Palha Tudain Oindain, a noble of Gyangze, forced every household in Bongtod Xika to borrow 75 ping (1=50 liang) Tibetan silver coin. Some serfs had their debts piling up for several generations. They could not remind themselves of the debt they borrowed at the first time and what they had returned. The only standard was receipts for loans. People described these outstanding debts as "debts of descendants." According to the local law, the coming generations were responsible for repay debts left by their forefathers. Cering Goinbo's grandfather had borrowed 50 ke (1=14kg) grain from the Sera Monastery, and consequently repaid it for dozens of years. And this debt was handed down to his son for 40 years and to his grandson for 18 years. Then Cering Goinbo was told they only paid 4000 ke grain and was still indebted to the creditor 10,000 ke grain.

There still had another debt named "chaining guarantee system." When one household was in debt, there should be other household to be its guarantors; when they all got into debt, they should be guarantors of each other; when all the villagers went into debt, they were all responsible for repaying the debt. When one excaped from or was unable to pay off the debt, or died in debt, others should repay instead. A substitute was also responsible for returning back the loans of the escaped or died debtors. Gaisang, a serf in Maizhokunggar County, lived in a manor with other nine serfdom household. When eight of them fled for their life, the lord imposed all the debts onto him and the other serf. As a serf only renting 22 ke land, he should repay debts higher to over 400,000 ke. It was in common being in debts. Local lords could wantonly loot grain, animals and farm tools of the serfs or even their children as mortgage. When the lord found nothing valuable to extort, he would take back the rented land.

Grassland and animals were also owned to the three major lords. Serfs here also should bear the burden of Ulag of pasture. Herding rent was stipulated by the way of animal tending of the herdsmen. One was Chiyod Skyeyod, meaning some born while some died. It referred to fixed number of rented animals. Herdsmen were asked to tend the rented animals and hand butters by the rented dams. All the newly breed animals belonged to the herd owners. One Female ox was asked to give 2 to 3 ke (1=3kg) as tax, accounting for 55 percent of the total produced butter. The other was called Chimed skyemed, meaning no born and no died. It referred to that rented animals were fixed. New breedings belonged to the renter while, if some died, the herdsmen should repay for them. It was a long-term fixed tax, with one female cattle contributing 2 ke butter. Chimed skyemed, which is apparently a contract method with fixed tax, is in fact a forcible economic exploitation. Although herdsmen were unwilling to sign this kind of contract, the herd owners imposed apportions arbitrarily on them. The herdsmen could not defy on this obligation. Those having accepted the herding lease would not cancel this tenancy. Even if all the leased animals died, the descendants of the herding serfs would hand in the scheduled taxes, which became a real "posterity debt." Once all the family members died, the relatives and neighbors of this lessee were unfortunately become the successors of this lease.

Those without animals and tents who lived on labor provision called herding helper. They were hired permanently by herd owners, engaging on herding, milking and making butter. Although the helpers had no fixed employment links with herd owner, they still should hand in labor tax to the former owner when they changed another job, showing the personal subordination. Cewang Doje, a herdsman in Damxung County, leased a cattle by the way of Chimed skyemed with the marketing price of 30 liang Tibetan silver coin. During the following 12 years counting together, he totally gave the owner 8,295 liang Tibetan silver coin, with the exploitation ratio higher to 275 times.

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