In the southwest of Tibet in China, there is a beautiful county called Jilong. With an average altitude of more than four thousand meters, it has long been off the beaten track, with only the indigenous Tibetan people living in the area. However, just in this county, there is a special part of the community that lives with the Tibetans.
This group is known as the "Damans", and although they are classified as a Tibetan group, they have many differences from the Tibetans.
For example, although they all speak Tibetan, the Damans look like they have high noses and blue eyes, which is not the same race as the Tibetans; and they practice a different religion than the Tibetans.
Moreover, the history of the Damans is not ancient; they were formed in the late Qing Dynasty. After the formation of their tribe, they began to wander and wandering life, and since no one was willing to accept them, the Damans even continued to wander for hundreds of years!
May 26, 2003 is a day that will go down in history for the people of Dammam. Because finally someone was willing to recognize their identity, and that was our China. The local villagers have since successfully possessed Chinese nationality and become Chinese!
The Damans were greatly moved by this day when they finally had an official identity. Thereafter, the young people of the village joined the army to serve their country and a craze was formed. In a community of just over 200 people, it is amazing that close to ten people have joined the PLA!
So how exactly did the Damans come into being? What are the major events that have happened in their more than 100 years of development? How did they live after they became Chinese nationals?
Origin of the Dammans
There are many academic debates about the origins of the Damans, but in general there are only three. The first one is the cavalry theory, which is the one widely accepted at present.
The origin of "cavalry" mainly comes from the Tibetan pronunciation of "Daman", many people believe that "Da" in Tibetan means "horse", while "Man" has the meaning of "army", together they are "cavalry".
This statement is mainly related to an incident that occurred during the Qianlong period of the Qing Dynasty. At that time a part of Russian Aryan cavalry, who invaded southward to India, then entered the territory of Nepal. After merging with the local people, they formed the Gurkhas.
The Gurkhas live in the southern foothills of the Himalayas, where they have developed a knack for rock climbing and wall walking, and are physically strong and brave. In 1769, they unified the southern Himalayan region.
This country is known as the Gorkha State and is as large as three Nepalese. The Gurkha king was unbeatable and thought the Qing Dynasty was weak and bullyable, so he led a large army to launch a brazen war of invasion. Local Tibetan officials begged to pay a tribute of silver in exchange for stability, which temporarily allowed the Gurkhas to retreat.
However, the promises made by the Qing officials were like a blank check, and the Gurkha king was late in waiting for the result, so in 1791, he again assembled a large army to attack Tibet. This matter finally could not be concealed any longer, and when Qianlong learned about it, he assembled an army of more than 10,000 men, with Fukangan and Hailan as the commander-in-chief, to repel the Gurkha army.
The Gurkha army only had 3,000 men, so how could they be a match for the Qing soldiers? Beaten and scattered, a hundred of these cavalrymen led the plundered possessions along the way and ran away to wander in the foothills of the Himalayas. The Gurkhas at the foot of the mountains were afraid of the Qing government's army, so they gave up force and turned to interchange with the local residents.
The plundered possessions of this Gurkha were quickly spent and they wanted to return to their homeland. As a result, the Gurkha state considered the defeat a disgrace and did not allow the wandering cavalry to return to their country. In this way, the Gurkhas wandered around and finally found a place to accept them, and that was Geelong.
"Jilong" means "Happy Canyon" in Tibetan, and it was once the main route for Sino-Indian and Sino-Nepalese exchanges, and was the main battleground for the previous battles between the Gurkhas and the Qing army. To this day, there are many graves of Qing soldiers in the area.
The Gurkhas returned to the land, gave up forceful resistance and worked for the local Tibetans, in addition to hoping that the Gurkha state would accept them. However, this illusion was still shattered and the Gurkhas had to work for the local Tibetans as servants and slaves, and so a hundred years passed.
The Gurkha cavalry lost their original names and became known as "Damans", and lost their original language and learned Tibetan. This is one of the most circulated stories about the origin of the Damans.
The second is the "blacksmith theory". The Damans are good at making iron, and their craft has been passed down from ancient times to the present, but in Nepalese and Tibetan cultures, blacksmithing has always been the lowest class of work, and they are unlikely to have the opportunity to join the cavalry.
This is why many people believe that the "cavalry theory" is a figment of the Damanis' imagination, because the Damanis have been oppressed and exploited for a long time, and they hope to find some comfort in this way.
And "Daman" is also very likely to be the meaning of blacksmith, the iron element is the symbol of their people. In Nepal, there is also a group of cavalry descendants who reject the idea that the Damans call themselves cavalry descendants.
The last one is the "wandering theory", which means that the Damans wandered here due to the unrest in Nepal and begged their way to the Sino-Nepalese border.
Either way, the Damans have a deep connection with Nepal, but Nepal refused to accept them, but the Chinese culture is so inclusive that they have settled in China ever since.
It is also precisely this argument that adds a bit of mystery to their people and makes people curious to explore the origins of this people. Although the Damans have learned the Tibetan language, there are still many differences between them and the Tibetans, and what are these differences?
In fact, the Damans did not get along well with the Tibetans at first, which was inextricably linked to religious factors and their status as outsiders.
As the saying goes, "When one is under the roof, one has to bow down." The development of the Daman people is just like what this saying says. At first the Damans spoke their own language and traded with the Tibetans. But after a long time, the Damans lost the advantage of their own goods, and the iron they produced could only be sold at a very low price.
Many families have gone bankrupt and come to work as slaves in Tibetan homes. During this time, the two peoples believed in different religions, and the Damans believed more toward the Hindu and Nepalese sects. Many of their philosophies differed from Tibetan Buddhism, and religious conflicts continued, leaving the Damans to reform their own sects.
Under this transformation, their customs gradually became incestuous. For example, at the time of grand Tibetan religious festivals, the Damans also follow and participate, but none of the rituals that should be done, instead of drinking and celebrating.
The locals, out of the psychology of making fun, gave them a name called "Omya", "Soba" name. Daman people have no choice but to call themselves "Soba". This is a kind of behavior that can not be helped.
However, they also retained their own characteristics, first of all, in the marriage system, the Damans were strictly monogamous; while the Tibetans still retained polygamy or polyandry at that time.
A Daman marriage is considered a marriage when two young people move out directly with the consent of their parents, without a marriage ceremony; Tibetans, on the other hand, need a parental order and there is a strict hierarchy, with a grand ceremony for people of high status to get married.
Also because of the small number of Damans, for them, their marriages are more like a network of relations through kinship, and it is because of the bond of blood that they are so united; but the Tibetans obviously have to consider more about status, position, genus restraint, etc.
In addition, the special festival of the Damans called Dasan Festival originally came from Nepal, but developed to be very different. The festival refers to the sacrifice of a goat to the gods by the men of Daman families to pray for the protection of the gods in the process of iron making and land cultivation.
In the religion of Dammam, women are considered a symbol of "impurity" and therefore the entire ritual has to be performed by men.
The goddess they worship is also a woman, and it is said that this goddess is bloodthirsty and must be tributed with the blood of cows and sheep. Later, however, after the Damans became naturalized in China, they also slowly stopped this festival and turned to drinking and eating meat on this day.
Finally, the Damans believe very much in ghosts, and they have a kind of trust in ghosts that surpasses other peoples. Whenever the Damans are sick, the first thing they think of is not to see a doctor, but to go to a magician to exorcise the ghosts, and they still keep this habit to this day.
But "ghost" may also be a metaphor for the strong, because their people have been oppressed for a long time and have an innate fear of the strong, and because of this, they use "ghost" to express their fear.
They have also grown in confidence with the help of the state after they joined Chinese nationality. It is believed that soon, their fear of ghosts will be reduced and they will believe in science more. After joining China, the lives of the Dammans have changed dramatically.
Huge improvement in living standards
The Damans were once a much-loathed people who wanted to return to Nepal, only to be unwelcome there and live with the Tibetans, who always rejected them as outsiders. In recent times, some western scholars have been interested in them as a tribe and had done some brief studies.
Researchers found that these Daman people can only eat one meal a day, simply not a human life, every day before dawn, have to go to work early, work until very late to go home to rest. The Tibetan nobility looked at them like cattle and horses.
According to their findings, the West considers the Damans to be as unpopular as the Gypsies displaced in Europe. Since then, the Damans have been called "Eastern Gypsies". This shows the dilemma of this people.
But since the peaceful liberation of Tibet in 1951, the living conditions of the Daman people have attracted the attention of the state. Tibet used to retain a serfdom system for thousands of years, which was the dregs of the old times, and the serfs had to live in small underground spaces.
The same goes for the Damans, some of the local toffs see them as deviants and keep them in barns, where they really live out of sight! If someone were to interview the Damans today, their recollection of what it was like half a century ago would be: misery and poverty!
In the early years of the country, only 14 out of 49 Damanian families had houses of their own, with an average housing area of less than two square meters! It can be seen the predicament of the Damans, who were treated as slaves and suffered humiliation, which attracted the attention of the state, which abolished serfdom, and the Damans finally saw a ray of light.
After the reform and opening up, the government began to take the lead in doing their statistics and was ready to grant them Chinese nationality.
The year 2003 came and went, and everything was ready for the naturalization process. On May 26th of that year, the government gathered all the 154 Damans in the Gyirong area, built a new village, and issued them identity cards and hukou books, and enrolled them into a Tibetan ethnic group, enjoying preferential policies for ethnic minorities.
The moment the Dammans got their ID cards they rejoiced and they sang with excitement! For this people, the recognition of their country is their long-awaited wish! With their identity cards, they could no longer be oppressed and live in this land forever.
From then on, the government started to help build up the Damans. In 2004, the government spent 1.5 million to build 49 houses and 3 small buildings, with an average of 60 to 70 square feet per family, from then on, the Damans have their own houses and no longer have to live under the hedge.
The local government also spent 170,000 to buy cabinets, table mats and other daily homes, and invested another 170,000 to connect to running water, and Daman people finally enjoyed the freedom of drinking water.
Because of the extreme backwardness of the area, they don't even know what a TV is, much less what China is like. So the government gave them a cable signal and an 18-inch TV for each family, and from then on they finally saw the outside world.
Daman people are very grateful for the kind care of the Party and the government, they spontaneously hang the national flag in their homes, and since then the national flag in every household has become a beautiful local scenery!
Of course, this alone is not enough, Daman people still have to live on iron after they have a village residence. The government built a special blacksmith store, so that the village people take turns to work, and highly skilled blacksmiths can get more than 10,000 yuan a year income.
The government also provides a number of public service jobs, such as forest rangers for 5,000 yuan a year, village cadres for 3,500 yuan a year, border subsidies for one person 1,000 yuan, low income insurance for one person 1,500 yuan, etc. One of the rangers is democratically elected, and one family is elected for one year.
Ever since the Damans were recognized by the state, they have received frequent exposure on television, and many people have learned that there is more than just Tibetans in the far Tibetan region, and that there is such a special presence.
Therefore, many scholars and tourists come to the area to experience the local customs and culture. As more and more Han Chinese visit the area, the young people of Daman have begun to gradually change their mindset, attaching importance to learning and education, and also wanting to see the outside world.
And how will the lives of local young people change?
Join the army to serve the country and be inspired to study
The government has invested a lot of money in Dammam, the most important of which is in education. If Dammans do not embrace Chinese culture, their sense of belonging and identity to the country will be weak. Therefore, local Daman students are exempted from school fees and given extra credit policies when they enroll in school.
In July 2005, Geelong Primary School welcomed the first batch of Daman students, and since then, batches of students have been sent to study in the school. Daman's students are hungry for knowledge, and no one has ever read a book since the day they were founded as a people.
Therefore, the local government pays considerable attention to these students and pays attention to the psychological condition of the children so that they do not develop low self-esteem and low self-confidence.
After a few years, the students are almost all fluent in Chinese, and there are many local aid workers from the eastern region who need to communicate in Chinese. Since then the local Chinese language has gradually become popular.
Today, only half a dozen elderly people in Daman speak Nepali; those who speak Tibetan have become second; and the first local language has become Chinese, and the sense of national identity has become stronger and stronger.
Many Dammam local college students enrolled in vocational and technical schools, they hope to contribute to the construction of their hometown. 2017, the village is the first college students, the young man named Dawa Dorji successfully enrolled in Wuhan University of Technology!
I believe that more college students will also appear in Dammam in the future and devote themselves to the construction of their hometown. Originally, many young people in the village hoped to get out of the village by studying, but I never thought they would be interested in becoming soldiers because of an earthquake.
In 2011, a major earthquake occurred in India, and the strong shock waves it generated also greatly affected the productive life of the people of Dammam, and many villagers' houses collapsed. When everyone was at a loss, a helicopter glided through the sky, carrying none other than the People's Liberation Army.
The PLA soldiers and civilians fell from the sky to help the local residents overcome the difficulties, and their upright posture and heroic performance left an extremely deep impression on the locals. The local government also allocated 5.64 million yuan to help them rebuild after the disaster.
Soon after, a local guy named Basang successfully joined the PLA after the earthquake, which was the first local person to join the army in Dammam.
According to Pasang's own description, he was indelibly impressed by the PLA who came to the disaster relief at that time and did not know how to sign up at that time. Luckily, the local government knew and helped him patiently, and he finally realized his dream and became a border guard.
Pasang communicates with everyone in the army in stumbling Chinese, which creates a lot of inconvenience. His comrades were very generous and gave him a helping hand. The first Chinese word they gave him was "China"!
The enthusiasm of his comrades also encouraged Pasang's enthusiasm for learning, and he made rapid progress, being patient when he encountered problems he did not understand. Soon Basang, with his excellent performance, stayed in the area and became a border guard!
Basang said: "Comrades from all over the world, I also know from their mouths the local customs, I feel that I have become more knowledgeable! My comrades are also very good to me, I feel that this is my second home!"
As of 2020, eight PLA's have come out of this small village of 200 people in Dammam. They are sweating at their posts and contributing to the border defense of our country!
Nowadays, Daman has made a fortune by bringing goods online and selling iron products, and has slowly taken off the hat of a poor village, and they are striding forward on the right track to build our motherland together.
We believe that in the near future, Daman will become one of the business cards of Tibet and form a beautiful scenery. Daman people will not forget the help from the country and more talents will appear in the future to build the beautiful motherland.
"The sea is full of rivers, and there is tolerance". The inclusiveness of Chinese culture is an important reason why China has been able to stay in peace and stability for a long time, and the wealth and strength of China today cannot be achieved without the joint efforts of all ethnic groups. The development of the Daman people today is a microcosm of the development of the Chinese minorities today, and they will all be better and better, just like the motherland!