A video journalist Ryan Jasper travels across Tibet to make a report about a Chinese project that is an important part of the Chinese belief in modernizing Tibet, i.e., replacing the traditional Tibetan houses made of earth that is structured with a mix of mud and straw with concrete ones. Ryan tells that the suppression of Tibetan culture and traditions is very strong and increasingly strong during the recent times.
The journalist records the opinions of many Tibetans along his way about the replacement of the houses in the local Tibetan community in his article titled ‘Bulldozing Tibet’s Past?’ and he finds that the opinion is divided among them.
The Chinese authorities are replacing the traditional Tibetan houses in earthquake prone areas with new concrete ones which according them will be safer as the existing ones are not very good.
“But there is a division of opinion over the Chinese government’s housing relocation plan; some seeing it as a genuine attempt to move families into newer, safer properties with electricity and other utilities, while others see it as an eradication of Tibet’s cultural past.” reports Ryan in the article.
“Do we have a choice? Everyone else has moved to the new houses, we’re not given a choice of where we’d like to live.” the report quoted a Tibetan as saying. According to the report, the Chinese concept that modern China is often said to view old and traditional practices as backward, and there is a strong force to push forward this project.
The reason brought in by the authorities for replacing the traditional houses does not align with those of the local Tibetan architects. “The rammed earth technique used in many Tibetan constructions utilises mud and straw mixed inside a wooden frame, and is strong, sustainable and easy to repair.” said the report. “In the event of an earthquake, less people can die, so in reality it’s a lot safer,” according to a local Tibetan.
Concrete houses can not be preferred on top of the traditional Tibetan houses both in terms of its high maintenance cost as well as poorer adaptability to the environment there. The traditional Tibetan houses made from the mud, stone and straw does a better job of keeping the residents warm during the cold nights in harsh climatic conditions of Tibet.
Therefore there is this fear that China is purposely suppressing the Tibetan traditional norms in the name of modernizing Tibet while the modernization could have also been carried out in the traditional way too without destroying these traditions.
photo: SBS Dateline