Tibetan residents visit the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Feb 20, 2019. [Photo by Zhu Xingxin/China Daily]
On March 28, 1959, the central government dismissed the old Tibetan government. In 2009, the Tibet regional government decided to name the date "Serfs' Emancipation Day", and it has since been celebrated annually.
"The first step of democratic reform is to give people freedom. That reform wasn't achieved until 1962, when the land and other means of production were allocated to the people," Zhang said.
When Dewa's family received 1.26 hectares of land, they burned the leases they had signed with the old master. They were told that everything they harvested belonged to them, and all the serfs and house slaves of Khesum Manor became residents of Khesum village.
"Being freed may sound easy, but for some it was pretty hard to adjust," said Guo, from the Tibetan Academy of Social Sciences. "Many house slaves didn't know how to farm or make a living, so people formed aid groups to help each other."
Sixty years on, almost all the manor houses in Tibet have been demolished. However, people can still distinguish the descendants of the aristocratic families from their family names and the way they speak.
"A descendant of an aristocratic family once told me that his family name is no longer associated with any privilege. Still, people are curious about his family history whenever his name is mentioned," Guo said.
Sipping tea in a courtyard in front of Phalha Manor, Palo, head of Paljor Lhunpo village, said, "If not for the manor, the villagers and other people would not be able to get a real picture of the past."
Every year, the villagers gather in the courtyard on March 28 to celebrate Serfs' Emancipation Day.
"Only one former manor serf is still alive in the village, but he's in the hospital due to poor health. I'm not sure if he will be able join the celebrations this year," Palo said.
"I should have recorded the stories of all the village's serfs and house slaves and shared them with the younger generation so they won't forget the past. Now it's just too late and I have to live with that regret."