Wednesday, April 25, 2007

"Special Tibetan Play by Tibetans in Beijing"

I got so excited when my friend texted me and asked me to go and see a Tibetan drama in the China Ping Ju Grand Theatre. She told me the play would be performed by quite a few famous Tibetan players from Lhasa Drama Troupe such as Dorjie, Nyma, Rersel Labala and so on. My friend got five tickets for the special play through her personal relationships. Although I was not sure about the theme of the drama and the theatre was very far away from my college, I decided to go there without hesitation, for it was the first time for me to have the opportunity to see a Tibetan play by many of my favourite Tibetan actors in Beijing. I thought this kind of drama would occur only once in a thousand years in Beijing.

So I went there with four of my Tibetan friends. It took us about an hour and a half to get to the theatre. We had to take a very complicated and energy-consuming route, first by bus, then subway then taxi. When, we arrived at the showplace we were a little bit late. On arriving there, we were welcomed by friendly Tibetan ushers with white khatas and a programme of the play. We felt honoured and happy to receive this familiar way of welcoming. The play had already started and we quietly rushed into the theatre.

As soon as I had taken my seat, I was very happy to see so many familiar faces of Tibetan actors onstage. Weirdly, though, they were all speaking fluent Chinese. I never thought that some famous older actors like Nyma la and Rersel Labala could speak such perfect Chinese as from my childhood I had been seeing numerous classic performances of theirs only in Tibetan I wondered what the play was about and began to read the programme with the light from my mobile phone. Reading the introduction of the play, I was shocked and upset to find out that the play was named Traversing the Summit and is about the Qinghai -Lhasa railway. So without seeing the details of the play, I could already guess what kind of dialogues would come up and the theme of the play. As the play went on, it turned out that I had guessed right. The theme that the play was trying to convey was as usual a one-side story. From the play, the audience was supposed to know how much the Chinese railway workers had suffered during the construction of the Qinghai – Lhasa railway; how they had overcome so many unimaginable challenges; how and what the railway workers had done to protect the weak ecology of the Qinghai –Lhasa plateau. There was an episode that was dedicated to Tibetan antelopes. The railway workers stopped their work in order to give way to the immigrating antelopes. The workers began to dance (I am not sure what kind of dance it was but the dancer imitated the action of Tibetan antelopes) in the end all of the dancers were calling the “Zang lingyang”( Tibetan antelope). I guess this episode was intended to be very heart-warming showing the workers’ overwhelming love towards antelopes. However, the exaggerated confession of love made me very uncomfortable; the workers’ love toward Tibetan antelope was too strong and unclad to believe.

Another thing that made me uncomfortable was that most of the characters in the play are Chinese but all of them were played by Tibetan actors and actresses. All the Chinese was so perfect that they sounded exactly like native Chinese. It was weird as well as sad to find on the programme all the names of the players are typical Tibetan names, while on the stage the Tibetans look exactly like Chinese people speaking fluent Chinese including some Chinese dialects. I am sure a lot of Tibetan people consider this phenomenon as a significant improvement of Tibetan people’s education. But from my point of view, this phenomenon is more likely to be an obvious assimilation of Tibetan culture.

I’d rather wish all the actors and actresses were Chinese instead of Tibetans. At least then I would be happy to listen to standard mandarin. However, it is already a fact that most of the actors are Tibetans. So it is pointless for me to complain about this play. I am sure for most of the actors to speak Chinese was not their will. I just hope that the actors will pay attention to their mother tongue and give more performances in Tibetan for Tibetan people.

This article was written anonymously in English by a Tibetan student in Beijing in April 2007.

(天路/Tian Lu or Road to Heaven sung by Han Hong, a song in Chinese
about the railway to Tibet)
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