When my cousin Yangsi was in her late twenties she met a man and fell in love. Most young Tibetans meet at community gatherings, are family friends or neighbours. After a time of getting to know one another, the couple seek permission from their families to marry and if their families agree, then the formal arrangements commence. Yangsi’s Father did not agree. He had hopes for a marriage which would be advantageous for the family, to improve their prospects. So Yangsi ran away with her lover. She was promptly found and brought back home and a suitable husband was arranged. Shoyong was a teacher at the local school, half Tibetan and half Chinese. He was well educated, had a good job and a home in the Provincial capital, Xining.
On the night before her wedding, Yangsi begged her father to change his mind and let her marry the man she loved but he would not. The next day she seemed resigned to the idea if not a little excited, at least for the festivities ahead. She got ready with some friends and a car came to pick her up and take her to the hotel where the wedding party was to take place. Incense burnt at the doorway where two men kept a record of gifts given to the young couple. More than two hundred guests arrived, food and drink was plentiful if not excessive, pop singers serenaded the young couple and all the guests presented Yangsi and Shoyong with khata, ཁ་བཏགས, a white scarf blessing.
The next time I was on my own with Yangsi I asked her how she felt. She said she was happy, her father had made a good choice for her. Shoyong was kind and gave her gifts, he was tall and reasonably good looking, if a bit spotty. In a society where cinema going is rare the concept of a fairy tale Hollywood romance does not exist, I wondered if having fewer expectations of a husband meant it was easier to find happiness.
Writing this, I am aware that it would be easy to give the impression that Tibetan women are repressed by their society but the fact is, most of the Tibetan women I know acquire seniority within the family quickly and are, more often than not, the ones who call the shots.
All Images © Rinchen Lucy 2015