Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Most-Read Postings on High Peaks Pure Earth in 2009

A Happy New Year to all our readers from High Peaks Pure Earth!

This has been the first full year of translations and blog postings on High Peaks Pure Earth, thank you all for reading, commenting and getting in touch.

Expect to see not only more blog translations, commentary and original writings but also changes and improvements to the site on High Peaks Pure Earth in 2010.

For now though, here is a quick round-up of postings that were popular in 2009 top 5:

  1. 2009's most popular post on High Peaks Pure Earth was a summary of Tibetan and Chinese blogger reaction to the film "2012":

  2. Translations of Tibetan blogposts about not celebrating Losar (Tibetan New Year) this year were also highly read on High Peaks Pure Earth, see these two posts: and

  3. The most translated and most read Tibetan blogger on High Peaks Pure Earth is Woeser, the general link to her articles is one of the most-clicked links on the site. Woeser's articles about not celebrating Losar and instead commemorating 2008 were her most-read articles this year. See: and

  4. Translations of blog postings by Jamyang Kyi have been widely read on High Peaks Pure Earth. This year, Jamyang Kyi's third letter to her imprisoned friend Norzin Wangmo touched many readers and became one of the most-read posts of the year:

  5. Finally, Tibetan bloggers were often the first (and at times, only) sources of information about political detentions, imprisonments or activism inside Tibet. These kinds of translations by High Peaks Pure Earth have caught the attention of readers, see these postings on the Amdo singer Tenzin,  Tashi Dondrup, Kunga Tsayang and Tenzin Delek Rinpoche.
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Saturday, December 26, 2009

High Peaks Pure Earth Holiday Reading List

With our busy lives, the approaching holiday season is usually a good time to catch up on reading. In the cold winter months, High Peaks Pure Earth recommends some books for those interested in Tibet and particularly in Tibetan literature in translation. Click on the links to see the books on Amazon.

On Tibet and Tibetan literature:

Published in June 2008 by Duke University Press, "Modern Tibetan Literature and Social Change" provides an overview of modern Tibetan literature (literature from the last 30 years). This collection of essays brings together fourteen Tibetan literary scholars who examine the literary output of Tibetan authors writing in Tibetan, Chinese, and English, both inside and outside Tibet. 

Published in June 2009 by Columbia University Press, "The Culture of the Book in Tibet" is the first volume to trace the singular history of the book in Tibetan culture as material, intellectual and symbolic object.

The Struggle for Tibet by Wang Lixiong and Tsering Shakya

Published in November 2009 by Verso Books, "The Struggle for Tibet" features two leading Chinese and Tibetan intellectuals in a landmark exchange of views. Additionally, Wang and Shakya each offer their analyses of the 2008 events in Tibet.

Tibet's Last Stand?: The Tibetan Uprising of 2008 and China's Response by Warren W. Smith

Published in November 2009 by Rowman and Littlefield, "Tibet's Last Stand?" is the first book-length analysis of the 2008 Tibetan protests.

Published by Brill's Tibetan Studies Library in November 2009, this is the much awaited English edition of Shakabpa's two volume history book originally written in Tibetan and translated and annotated by Derek F. Maher.

Published in October 2009 by University of Washington Press, "Sky Train: Tibetan Women on the Edge of History" combines personal narrative with modern Tibetan history based on the perspective of Tibetan women. The author travelled in Tibet in 2007 and interviewed Tibetan women from all walks of life both inside and outside Tibet.

Authenticating Tibet: Answers to China's 100 Questions by Anne-Marie Blondeau and Katia Buffetrille

Published in March 2008 by University of California Press, "Authenticating Tibet" collects balanced responses by international scholars to 100 Questions about Tibet and the Dalai Lama that provide an accurate, historically based assessment of Tibet's past and present.

Published by International Campaign for Tibet and launched in October 2009 at the Frankfurt International Book Fair, "Like Gold that Fears no Fire" is a new collection of writings by Tibetans inside Tibet and opens with an original article by Woeser. The publication can be downloaded from this page on the ICT website.

"Murder in the High Himalaya" by Jonathan Green

Published by Public Affairs in June 2010, "Murder in the High Himalaya" tells the true story of two young Tibetan women who decided in August 2006 to escape Chinese rule in Tibet and flee to Dharamsala, India. Through a secretive underground network of Tibetan guides, the two friends, along with four dozen other refugees, embarked on a perilous journey that would lead them to Nepal along a dangerous former trade route: the Nangpa La Path, through Cho Oyu Mountain. On September 30, 2006, after weeks of harrowing travel, as they were nearing the border of Nepal, the band of refugees was fired at by the Chinese Army Guards. Kelsang, sick, frost-bitten, and delirious in the high altitude was struck by a bullet from behind. This event was witnessed by a group of Western mountain climbers including Sergui Matei, a Romanian hiker, who captured Kelsang's murder on video.

The murder of a young Tibetan nun by the hands of Chinese border guards at the rooftop of the world offers a unique parable for the tale of modern Tibet. Read an extract that was published in the Daily Mail in the UK here.

Tibetan Poetry in Translation:

Tibet's True Heart: Selected Poems by Woeser, Translated by A.E Clark

Published in 2008 by Ragged Banner Press, "Tibet's True Heart" is the first collection of poetry in a single volume by Woeser in English. Sample poems from the volume can be read on the website of Ragged Banner and the High Peaks Pure Earth review of the volume can be read here.

In the Forest of Faded Wisdom: 104 Poems by Gendun Chopel, Translated by Donald S. Lopez Jr.

Published in November 2009 by University of Chicago Press, "In the Forest of Faded Wisdom" is a collection of new translations of poetry by Gendun Chopel from Tibetan into English. Gendun Chopel wrote poetry throughout his life and this volume is a good introduction to one of Tibet's foremost twentieth-century cultural figures.

Tibetan Literature in Translation:

Tales of Tibet: Sky Burials, Wind Horses and Prayer Wheels by Herbert Batt (ed.)

Published in July 2001 by Rowman And Littlefield, "Tales of Tibet" brings together fiction on Tibet in translation by Tibetan and Chinese writers such as Tashi Dawa and Alai.

Published in November 2000 by Paljor Publications, this volume of short stories is still one of the few publications that offer English translations of work by Tibetan writers such as Dhondup Gyal, Tenpa Yargya and Tashi Palden.

Song of the Snow Lion: New Writing from Tibet (Manoa 12:2) by Frank Stewart (ed.)

Published in October 2000 by University of Hawaii Press, "Song of the Snow Lion" features fiction, poetry and essays from Tibet and an overview essay by guest co-editor Tsering Shakya.

Biography / Autobiography:

Jesuit on the Roof of the World: Ippolito Desideri's Mission to Tibet by Trent Pomplin

Published in October 2009 in USA and to be published in January 2010 in UK by Oxford University Press, "Jesuit on the Roof of the World" is the first full-length study in any language of Ippolito Desideri (1684-1733), a Jesuit explorer and missionary who travelled in Tibet from 1715 to 1721. 

Published in February 2008 by Columbia University Press, Khetsun's autobiography was translated into English by Matthew Akester. In his book, Khetsun describes everyday life in Lhasa after 1959 based on his personal experiences firstly in prison and labour camps and then later during the launch of the Cultural Revolution. The book also contains several photographs taken by Woeser's father, Tsering Dorjee, during the Cultural Revolution in Tibet.

Surviving the Dragon: A Tibetan Lama's Account of 40 Years Under Chinese Rule by Arjia Rinpoche

Published in March 2010 by Rodale Books, Surviving the Dragon is the life story of Arjia Rinpoche. At age two, Arjia Rinpoche was recognised as the incarnation of the founder of the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism and was made the abbot of Kumbum Monastery. He relates witnessing the torture and arrest of his monastic family as a young boy. In the years to come he managed to survive under harsh Communist rule, as he was forced into hard labour and had to endure public humiliation as part of Mao's Communist "reeducation".

After the death of Mao he rose to prominence within the Chinese Buddhist bureaucracy with the help of the Panchen Lama. In doing so, he was coerced into publically supporting China's increasingly anti-Tibet agenda, including taking part in carefully orchestrated rituals engineered to undermine the authority of the Dalai Lama. Spiritually and morally depleted, Rinpoche eventually escaped and now lives in America. Read an extract from the book here.

Tibetan Fiction in English:

Falling Through the Roof by Thubten Samphel

Although not a work of translation, High Peaks Pure Earth recommends this first piece of fiction by Thubten Samphel (born in Tibet, educated in India) that was published in early 2009 by Rupa & Co and focuses on a group of Tibetan students at Delhi University. Following on from Tsewang Pemba's 1966 work Idols on the Path and Jamyang Norbu's The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes: The Missing Years published in 2002, Samphel is the third exile Tibetan to tackle the novel form in English. Read a review of "Falling Through the Roof" from Himal magazine on the website TibetWrites.
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Monday, December 21, 2009

Tibet's Water Pollution and China's "Global Warming" by Woeser

Photo taken by locals of mining area in Gyama Village 

High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Woeser that was originally written for Radio Free Asia on November 19, 2009 and posted on her blog on December 16, 2009. Please scroll down for more photos.

Tibet's Water Pollution and China's "Global Warming"
By Woeser

Today, global warming is a fashionable topic; leaders of superpowers and popular environmental organisations all talk about wanting to curb global warming. An authoritative scientific publication reported that global warming will “impact every person’s life, with the poor and the weak being most severely affected”. Yet, all the elements that lead to global warming, such as environmental pollution, soil erosion and desertification, a sharp decrease in forest resources, water pollution, toxic waste pollution and much more, are in fact man-made and visible everywhere on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau, which is often exaggeratedly called 'the world’s last piece of pure land'.

The water of the Qinghai-Tibet plateau in particular is really deteriorating. Originally, as noted in the classic works, the Buddhist master Atisha uses graceful poetry to praise: “taste a mouthful of the water of the Land of Snows, it is ice-cold and tasty, fresh and pure, clear and fragrant; when one drinks it, it will not hurt one’s spleen or stomach, but it will moisten one’s heart. This is Tibetan water with its eight virtues.” But what about today? Nyima Tsering, a monk from Jokhang Temple, once said when interviewed by journalists, that in the past when he became a monk he could drink the water from the Lhasa River and it was absolutely not toxic, but now it was really a pity that one could not drink the river water anymore.

Hence, how is it possible that the once so fresh water has turned into dirty water? On the upper reaches of the Lhasa River, a variety of cultural and historic sites with long history as well as plenty of natural resources can be found. For example, Gyama village of Meldro Gungkar County is the birthplace of Songtsen Gompo, the greatest monarch of the Tibetan Empire. This place not only offers beautiful scenery, it is also rich in a variety of metals such as copper, lead, zinc, gold and silver, which, according to reports, have a potential economic value of 120 billion RMB. Hence, the place has also become a destination for many Chinese miners tending to their business of greed. The Gyama copper mine, which is home to polymetallic ore, is currently the mine that generates the largest daily turnover on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau with 12, 000 tons per day. The mining rights belong to the China National Gold Group, which has direct ties with the Chinese State Council.

A Han Chinese miner whose online name is “Tibet’s Stonemason” revealed on his blog: “Beneath this stunning scenery, everything is already heavily damaged. Originally, there were four or five companies mining for Gyama’s polymetallic ore. Moreover, these companies distributed the mining rights to many different mining groups. And those groups would open at least one, but often many new mining holes. Outside those holes, on the mountain slope, it would always be full of discarded stone scrap...”

Over the past few years, when I went to Gyama village, I learned that because in some mining areas there was none or no adequate sewage systems in place, this has caused dirty water polluted with chemicals to flow all over the place. It not only led to the nearby villages’ loss of drinking water but also forced them to gain access to drinking water through a primitive pipeline connected to the isolated and rugged area at the back of the mountain. The harvest of highland barley in the fields decreased massively and forage grass on the pasture land was also poisoned. Along with the worsening of the current situation, livestock has been dying more frequently and many farmers and herdsmen have contracted obscure and difficult to cure diseases, life has become very tough.

The locals of the region have repeatedly tried to submit petitions to the environmental departments requesting to solve the pollution problem. Last year they appealed to the authorities saying that “since mining started, four thousand mu (1 mu = 0.0667 hectares) of farmland have slowly been destroyed and it is even more difficult to measure the damage it causes to grassland, trees, livestock and wild animals [...] we have reported this to the higher authorities in the past but we were blamed for this ourselves, they say we should have reported it when the factories were first set up but we are just ordinary citizens, we could not know that the establishment of mining factories would bring about such disastrous consequences. This year, they are building another, even bigger processing factory, when the people did not agree to have the factory built, the township government forced us to give our consent…”.

On 20th June this year, because Tibet endured a drought that had never occurred before, the mining areas in Gyama village even used Tibetan people’s drinking water to wash the ore, which polluted the source of drinking water. Tibetans strongly opposed on just grounds but only suffered from Han Chinese violence leading to many Tibetans being severely injured. Tibetans gathered at the township government and protested, hence, the authorities sent out thousands of military police to suppress the protesters and arrested the Tibetans who led the protests with the excuse of “inciting separatism”.

This really left people greatly disappointed, what was originally about the exploitation of natural resources, and the associated problems of water pollution, was politicised by local officials; this is actually the thing that the authorities in Tibet are best at, they politicise all problems which are initially of social or an economic nature just to be able to unscrupulously pillage Tibetan people and gain access to the natural resources. But this also makes people even more anxious because of the harm that over-exploitation has done to the local people, another danger with specifically Tibet-related characteristics comes to the surface: should this not also be part of the current “global warming” debate in China today? 

Beijing, November 19, 2009

The following photos show Gyama Village and the polluted environment due to mining that has destroyed the area, as well as poisoned the villagers and livestock. (Photos taken by local Tibetans).

The following photos were downloaded from the internet from the Han Chinese miner "Tibet's Stonemason's" blog who photographed the mining area and revealed: "Beneath this stunning scenery, everything is already heavily damaged":

"Tibet's Stonemason's" blog exclaims: "This is located in Tibet's Meldro Gungkar county and shows Gyama township's newest core sample of black ore. Blue bornite and golden yellow chalcopyrite in the entire core, it's so abundant!"

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