CHINA> Regional
Jubilant Tibetans embraces coming Tibetan new year
Updated: 2009-02-22 16:12
LHASA -- After hanging on the door strips of hada, a white long silk scarf considered as a token of blessing, Degyi Drolkar paced excitedly through her new, 198-square-meter home in Gongka Township near Lhasa as she decorated for the Tibetan New Year which falls on Wednesday.

 Sixty-eight-year-old Tibetan farmer Danzeng Basa adjusts his solar powered kettle outside his recently built house in a small village outside Lhasa, Tibet February 12, 2009. [Agencies]

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She also hung the portraits of current and former top Chinese leaders, including that of Chairman Mao Zedong, on a most conspicuous position of the wall.

She looked forward to spending a happy and warm Tibetan New Year in her new house with her family members.

"Never have I imagined owning such a big house," the 36-year-old Tibetan woman said.

"My family used to squeeze into a small room, which was dark and humid, and now each of my three sons can have their own room," she beamed.

Neither had Degyi ever imagined paying only 6,000 yuan (about $878 ) for a new home. Thanks to a housing program for low-income rural families, however, the woman and 24 other households in Gongka, will  celebrate the traditional Tibetan New Year in new homes.

She also got a set of furniture valued at 8,000 yuan from the township government for free.

The program was launched in 2006. In 2008, the regional government earmarked 680 million yuan to help about 57,800 households of farmers and herdsmen improve their living conditions, according to the Construction Department of the Tibet Autonomous Region.

The government expects to resettle all farmers and herdsmen into safe and affordable houses within two years.

While rural Tibetans like Degyi and her neighbors decorated their new houses, urban residents were busy with a shopping spree before the festival.

Granny Kelsang in Zetang Town, 150 kilometers southeast of the regional capital Lhasa, is preparing to buy "enough" things for the new year with subsidies from the government.

"My husband and I used to depend on our children for special purchases for the new year, but this year we can depend on the government," she said.

The regional government distributed a 800-yuan (about $117 ) coupon to each low-income urban resident who is qualified for basic living allowances, and retirees from stateowned enterprises.

"We have 1,600 yuan to spend. And it's more than enough for the New Year," smiled the granny.

As the most important traditional festival draws near, many Tibetans are planning to travel, including Losang Cering in Lhasa.

"I spent the week-long Spring Festival holiday a month ago for sightseeing in Chengdu. Now I'll have another seven-day holiday in my hometown Shannan with my family. I'm really happy," said the 27-year-old factory worker.

There will be a four-hour TV gala on the new year's eve. The show will be available to 87 percent of Tibet's 2.88 million population.

The broadcast will include nearly 800 performers from Beijing and the Tibetan communities in Tibet and Sichuan, Yunnan and Gansu provinces.