In the Western imagination, Tibet is often conceived as a symbol of heaven on Earth; it is generally perceived as a land of compassion, peace, and harmony. However, this is not the only image of Tibet. Before the 1950s Tibet could be characterized as a primitive economy that could barely support its population. During this period, most of the population comprised of monks, and the monasteries were therefore in charge of judicature, administration, education, and taxation. Slavery was based on a brutal serf system that brought about suffering for many. Present day Tibet, which is under the control of the Chinese Communist Party, has two sides. Those in exile claim that their religion is already destroyed, and that their traditional culture and language are on the verge of disappearance. Tibetans have also become a minority as Han Chinese have immigrated to their land. From the perspective of the Chinese government, however, social reform during the 1950s resulted in the abandonment of the serf system.
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