Exile in Nepal.: Becoming Minnesotan

Yangchen Dolkar, c.2005.
  • Name - Yangchen Dolkar
  • Age at interview - 55
  • Gender - Female
  • Generation - First Generation American / Immigrant
  • Date of Interview - 08.26.2005
  • Women weaving, Pekhu Tso, Western Tibet, 1988. Photo courtesy Wangyal Ritzekura.
    Protests against China, Tibet, 1987.  Photo courtesy Wangyal Ritzekura.

    Economics, Escape, Oppression, Tibetan, Work

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    Essential Question

    Life in the Old Country: What makes a country a person’s homeland?

    Politics & Government: How are other systems of government different than the U.S. government?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    In the 1950’s the Chinese invaded Tibet, declaring it part of China.  There were not only public executions and other acts of violence towards the Tibetan people there, but the Chinese would no longer let the people living there live freely as Tibetans.  Thus, many Tibetans fled to neighboring countries of Nepal and India. 

    Dingri  is a city in southern Tibet near the border with Nepal.  Today it has been renamed Tingri by the Chinese.  Many Tibetans who were fleeing from their homeland in southern Tibet crossed over into a part of Nepal called the Khumbu Region (or Sharkhumbu).  Namche Bazaar is a city in the Sharkhumbu region. 

    These Tibetan refugees would settle in refugee camps like Shorong Delekling in Nepal.  The Tibetans have worked very hard to support themselves, even in refugee camps and other settlements outside of Tibet.  There are several schools, training centers, and work places that were established to help Tibetans find work and support themselves while living abroad. 

    This narrator lived in Nepal for several years before being granted a visa to come to the U.S. as part of the Tibetan Resettlement Project.  

    To learn more about Tibetan history and culture, visit our Tibetan Community page.

    • Chapter 1
    • Chapter 2

    Download Yangchen Dolkar 2
    1:44 Minutes | 1.66Mb


    Note: Original interview was conducted in Tibetan.  Excerpt is read in English by Tsering Dolma.

    Narrator: Yangchen Dolkar (YD)

    Interviewer: Tenzin Yangdon (TY)

    YD:  I was born at a place called Dingri in Tibet and I grew up there.

    TY:  After Tibet, did you live in India?

    YD:  First place I went to and where I lived in is Sharkhumbu and then I moved to Nepal. At Sharkhumbu, I was a weaver and made carpets. In Nepal, I managed to make a living. With the kindness of His Holiness , my name came up and came to the United States.

    TY:  When you came to Sharkhumbu, how old were you?

    YD:  I was nineteen years old.

    TY:  Did you come direct from Dingri to Nepal?

    YD:  We traveled at night and slept during day. We slept in the snow.

    TY:  At Sharkhumbu, how were the living conditions of the Tibetans?

    YD:  At Sharkhumbu, the Nepalese did not let us go. They said they would hand us over to the Chinese when we fled from Tibet. We again left Sharkhumbu at night. From upper Khumbu, we came to Shorong Delekling, a place where there was a Tibetan settlement. We were taken care of by the Tibetan settlement. They taught us weaving.

    TY:  While escaping from Tibet, did any things worth remembering happen to you?

    YD:  In Tibet, Chinese did not provide education to small children; they made us work hard. We remained illiterate. That is why, when I came to Sharkhumbu, I was nineteen but did not know how to read or write Tibetan or English. That was the plight. Chinese made us work very hard. They did not let us mingle with the common people labeling us as Ngadak. They harassed us very much.

    TY:  When you came to Nepal, you did not go to school? What did you do in Nepal?

    YD:  I worked for others making yarns and weaving carpets. That is how I made a living.

    Continues in Chapter 2

    Download Yangchen Dolkar 3
    2:13 Minutes | 2.13Mb


    Note: Original interview was conducted in Tibetan.  Excerpt is read in English by Tsering Dolma.

    Narrator: Yangchen Dolkar (YD)

    Interviewer: Tenzin Yangdon (TY)

    TY:  I am sure you faced problems like financial problems. Could you tell us something about those problems?

    YD:  I worked hard as I had financial problems. I wove carpet during day and went home in the evening with wool and made yarn out of it for others. That is how I made a living.

    During those days, there were not many Tibetans in Nepal. We rented small rooms from Nepalese paying Nepalese currency 50. I bought daily ¼ kilo of meat and a couple of potatoes for food. That is how I lived.

    TY:  When you came from Tibet, you were nineteen years old. Did you come alone or were you with the parents?

    YD:  My parents passed away very early; I even don’t know when they died.

    TY:  Did your relatives help you escape or how did it happen?

    YD:  I came with some relatives. Chinese made us do hard work. They would not let us do the work of our choice. I did not feel like staying in Tibet. With some relatives, I traveled five, six days. We slept during day and traveled at night and at the end, we came to a place called Namche bazaar in upper Sharkhumbu.

    I spent eight years at Sharkhumbu working at a carpet center. The government was very helpful.

    TY: Was it a Tibetan government carpet center?

    YD:  Yes, it was Tibetan government’s. They gave us the job and also paid for the accommodation. Then I came to Nepal like many other Tibetans. I did not return to Sharkhumbu.

    TY:  How many years did you live in Nepal?

    YD:  In Nepal, I…may have lived over ten years.

    TY:  While in Nepal, did you get married?

    YD:  While in Nepal, I met with my children’s father although we did not have a marriage ceremony. We formed a family. Cost of living was better in Nepal and so we lived there. Life was quite hard!

    TY:  In Nepal, you worked at carpet center?

    YD:  I worked at other people’s carpet center and at night I made yarn at home. That is how life went on.

    TY:  How was the pay? Was the pay enough to live on?

    YD:  We just managed buying food and paying rent with the money made. We lived in a house covered with metal sheet.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Noun:  Lodging in a dwelling and food given to travelers.


    Noun:  1. A requirement or need, or a limitation.  2. A state or quality.


    Noun:  Money or other item used in transactions.


    Noun:  1. The state of being banished from one's home or country.  2. Someone who is banished from one's home or country.

    Verb:  To send into exile.  (exiles, exiling, exiled)


    Adjective:  Related to finances, the management of money and other assets.


    VerbTo run away; to escape.  (flees, fleeing, fled)

    His Holiness

    A title given to the Dalai  Lama, the supreme head of Tibetan Buddhism and spritual leader of the Tibetan people.


    Adjective:  Unable to read or write.


    Noun:  Short for kilogram, a unit of weight.  1 kilogram equals 2.2 pounds.


    Verb:  To mix, intermix, combine, or join.  (mingles, mingling, mingled)


    Adjective:  Of, from, or pertaining to Nepal, the Nepalese people or the Nepalese language.

    Noun:  1. A person from Nepal or of Nepalese descent.  2. The national language of Nepal.


    Noun:  Tibetan term for landlord, used negatively by the communist Chinese to label land owners or wealthy individuals.

    Listen to this word: 


    Noun:  A dire or unfortunate situation; condition, usually dangerous or risky.


    Noun:  A colony that is newly established; a place or region newly settled.


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access]. http://www.mnhs.org/immigration
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