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The Culture of the Book in Tibet

With a new preface, and obituary describing the life and career of Hugh Richardson , by co-author David Snellgrove. Peasants and Workers in Nepal by D. Seddon, P.


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Blakie and J. Cameron Chapters on the changing circumstances of workers and peasants, minor beaurocrats and small businessmen all acknowledge the complexity of Nepalese society and economy, and the need for a correspondingly sophisticated approach. By Independence in the Government of India recognized nearly entities varying from the size of the United Kingdom, to several that consisted of a single village within less than a square mile.

What do you envisage for the future? I hate to say this, but we have to learn from Wittgenstein and think of words not as a label that describes just one thing but as a signpost that points in various directions depending on the context. I think a lot of the people talking about freedom in Tibet, and outside of it, are not necessarily thinking of independence, or not only of independence. The more desperate the situation becomes, the more many Tibetans see the key issue as policies that erode their culture and identity, and for those, the idea of freedom probably is reduced to simply any kind of relaxation by the current regime — anything that diminishes the dominating role of Chinese in their everyday lives.

So for many of Tibetans the dream of independence and the memory of past independence is certainly strong, but may now take second place to more pragmatic aspirations. Some would still like independence — it seems is that a rapidly increasing number view Tibet as having been independent in the past — but in the minds of many people almost anything is better than the policies in Tibet now.

But his ascendancy is symbolically very important for Tibetans, especially inside Tibet, because it confirms that the Dalai Lama has kept his fundamental commitment, unlike China, to complete the process of democratisation and to give over the role of government to an elected democratic leader.

Here are the top three books about Tibet tour.

In terms of the bigger issues of Tibet-China relations, realistically these will still remain with the Dalai Lama. But they depend entirely on whether the Chinese will agree to resume talks. This was the book that really showed me how difficult it is for Westerners in particular and foreigners in general to talk or think about the Tibetan issue without introducing our own histories.

He writes about Tibet with a freshness and alertness to detail that is so invigorating. Whether they were conservatives from the monasteries or radicals who were sympathetic to the Tibetan communists in Lhasa, he treated these people as if they were his intellectual equals, if not more. He comes out in , and discovers that his country has been defeated, and that everything he had been taught to stand up for had been a fascist dream and a disaster of its own kind.

But the difference between them is so striking. For Harrer it seems to have been primarily a cultural experience, or semi-spiritual if you accept the version given in the Brad Pitt film. Harrer respected the people that he knew, but his writing tends to be about teaching them how movie projectors worked and how to dam a river or map a city.

Kimura too described Tibet as a place where he met extraordinary people and learnt about this rather little-known culture, but he was able to talk to people as a fellow-thinker, to really listen to the different views that people had and to appreciate the intellectual discussions that were happening amongst Tibetans, in a way that was infinitely more subtle. He treated people as thinking beings.

Tell us about A Tibetan Revolutionary , and the context of those who viewed Communism as the way to modernise Tibet in the s.

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This is an extraordinary book, the first of its kind. How can we prevent the disaster of being swallowed up in the future? This biography describes Tibetan attempts to change their society and create a modern Tibet by themselves, a project that is underscored by the tragedy that followed from the s onwards.

Should we think of him as a collaborator? He has been seen by more superficial writers as a collaborator, because he joined with the Chinese Communist Party in when they advanced into Tibet and then worked with them at a very senior level. He had become a communist secretly in the s with less than ten other Tibetans, and it seems that then they had no intention of being part of the Chinese Communist Party.

Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies

This book seems to be a carefully worded, and indeed dangerous, indication that the Tibetan Communist Party was founded by him and others as part of a vision of constructing a modern but separate Tibetan nation. And some seven years afterwards, even though he was then the highest level Tibetan in their ranks, the Chinese discovered that he had this internationalist view of communism.

He spent the next 18 years in prison, all of it in solitary confinement. Here Tsering Shakya, the leading Tibetan scholar of his generation, takes that history into the second half of the century.

Books on History of Tibet

He shows the efforts of Tibetans to reach out to the British, Americans and other Western powers at the time when they realised that Mao was going to win in China and come into Tibet. Then he shows the period after the arrival of the PLA, with an even-handed discussion of the Chinese attempts to deal with the Tibetans, at first quite carefully and then more aggressively.

All these nuances are picked out by Shakya, at the same time as describing the responses of the international community to what was happening in Tibet from the s up to the s, and the dramatic, disastrous efforts to transform Tibet into a revolutionary socialist society after The book is a very careful, detailed study of all these questions.

For the first time in English we get a sense of the detail, of the smallness of historical experience for those who lived through it. Not everything consists of massive episodes and crises such as those we read about in newspapers or normal histories — a revolution here, a massacre or atrocity there. Instead we are given insight into the nature of extreme control that continues over decades, its banality and its everyday effects. But he talks about small things, like the incessant desperation of the Chinese cadres to impress Tibetans with good works, as with the irrigation of fields where hundreds of Tibetans were forced to dig canals that went uphill.

At other times they were made to dig terraces on mountainsides to grow rice where nothing would grow, or add chemical fertiliser to their crops because this was seen as modernity, while actually it made the ground dry up.

These were outcomes of the conviction of the Chinese that they were helping Tibetans by imposing modernisation on them — the endless, grinding detail of the everyday blindness of authoritarian benevolence. But at the same time, it helps us understand why officials promoted such policies, and why it is still so hard for them to accept criticism. The typical Chinese view of trouble in Tibet today is still that protesters are biting the hand that feeds them. I suppose we all have to learn to remind ourselves of other perspectives in order to see how such outcomes eventuate.

Wide reading seems one of the best ways to do that.

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So I feel we have to privilege books like this one, where a writer, even in profound disagreement, can still indicate how the Chinese thought they were doing good, as many of them are still convinced that they are. As outsiders, I think we have to factor that into our judgments, while still making criticisms and proposals as appropriate, in the hope of finding ways that can be heard by the other side. The Stuff of Books 2. The Editor's Texts 3.

The Scholar's Dream 4. The Physician's Lament 5. The King's Canons 6. The Contents of the Buddhist Canons Appendix 3.

A Tibetan Revolutionary

About the Author Kurtis R. Schaeffer is a student of the cultural and intellectual history of Tibet.