Friday, February 26, 2010

“I am Tibetan!” By Woeser

High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Woeser that was originally written for Radio Free Asia on February 9, 2010 and posted on her blog on February 14, 2010, which was also the first day of Losar (Tibetan New Year).

In a blogpost of February 4, 2010, High Peaks Pure Earth commented on the rise in Tibetan online activity asserting Tibetan identity. This blogpost was subsequently translated into Chinese and posted on Woeser's blog on February 6, 2010. Using this blogpost as a starting point, Woeser's article below expands on her own ideas about Tibetan identity.

For High Peaks Pure Earth readers who have not seen the "I Am Tibetan" video clip Woeser refers to, watch the video with English subtitles here:

At this moment, the Tibetan calendar year 2137 (Year of the Iron Tiger) is beginning. It is also the Spring Festival according to the moon calendar. I wish all my friends who visit my blog, Losar la Tashi Delek (good luck for the new year)! 
(The picture was downloaded from a Tibetan website, I only changed “2010 Year of the Iron Tiger” to “2137 Year of the Iron Tiger”). 

“I am Tibetan!” 
By Woeser

The English language Tibet blog High Peaks Pure Earth sharply noted in a post titled “I am Tibetan” that “there has been an upsurge in online activity by Tibetan netizens about being Tibetan and Tibetan identity.” Tibetan video clips, poems and pictures complemented the post as examples and evidence.

When we browse through Chinese video clip websites, which can be accessed without having to “climb the (fire)wall” or when we browse through YouTube, which can only be accessed by having to “climb the (fire)wall”, we get to see one particular video showing Tibetans conveying an aura of the snowy mountains, who use their local Amdo dialect to proudly, freely and firmly express “I am Tibetan”. This makes us without a doubt feel deeply moved and inspired.

This really is “the strongest, and the most creative video from Tibet”. The actually quite simple sentence “I am Tibetan” in fact widely opens up every person’s innermost being and reveals every person’s true character. It is just like the strong message and effect of advertisements, on the one hand, the video draws attention to the people’s differences, and on the other hand, it is like a single spark, which ignites the entire Tibetan homeland and the land of those living far away.

Another video uses standard and elegant sounding Lhasa dialect to emphasise: “‘ka kha ga nga’ (Tibetan alphabet) is my heart and my soul”, repeatedly urging “everybody to come and speak pure Tibetan”. It warns and awakes the Tibetans to realise that our native tongue  “has actually been infected by harmful viruses from different languages.” The situation has already turned into a state of desperation; with a feeling of sorrow without self-injury and a feeling of anxiety without protest, this video clip stirs all Tibetans; “to guarantee the further existence of our nationality, let’s all speak Tibetan, let’s all speak pure Tibetan.”

I really like this video; I particularly appreciate the kind-heartedness, the elegance, and the tolerance, which Tibetan civilisation encompasses. There are no sad cries of sheer anguish, no angry voices or hard words, no seeking revenge for an angry look, which one can observe in other cultures that have been damaged by totalitarianism. For instance, in the Chinese national anthem it says, “let our flesh and blood become our new Great Wall!” Similar examples can easily be found. “Everybody come and speak pure Tibetan”, what makes us feel gratified is that in some places of Amdo and Kham during winter and summer holidays, extra teaching activities in Tibetan language are organised for pupils. Some people with breadth of vision who attach great importance upon the teaching of the mother tongue invited a Tibetan teacher, and the local people responded very positively so that the children had ample opportunity to become very familiar with their mother tongue from an early age.

There might be some people who think that the upsurge in comments regarding Tibetan identity seems a little bit extreme; yet, this is in fact the only way to seek survival. Because in reality, such as in Tibetan primary schools, they always play songs in Mandarin instructing “how to properly name relatives”; yet, Tibet actually has its own children's songs. Tibet also has its own names for relatives; hence, the assimilation has an imperceptible but profound influence upon Tibetan children. For example, at the entrances of many primary schools in Lhasa, one comes across the following slogan: “I am a child of China, I like to speak Mandarin”. The Chinese government clearly disrespects the regional autonomy for nationalities, which it has in fact drawn up itself. Another example could be the past half-century’s “patriotic education”, entirely carried out by various means of force and which “brainwashed” several generations of Tibetans. The goal is to make Tibetans give up their original identity. However, as the Economic Nobel prize winner Amartya Sen wrote in his book 'Identity and Violence: the Illusion of Destiny': “the organised implementation of classified identities is often the prelude to persecution and killings”.

A Chinese mainstream academic bluntly summarised in an article titled 'Discussion of the Aim of the Fusion of China’s Ethnic Groups', “the development of China’s diverse ethnic groups has in fact one precise aim, which is to establish the Han Chinese identity as an overall Chinese national identity and this identity is not encompassing each of the 56 ethnic groups in the modern sense, it is merely consisting of one main ethnic group. In a nutshell, it might as well be called “hua zu” of Chinese descent identity…” Whereas “when the fusion of various ethnic groups reach a certain phase, it is simply a matter of technological problem to change IDs.” However, Tibet, which is also supposed to be “fused” does not at all approve of this imposed identity, hence, it has raised its increasingly resonant voice: “I am Tibetan!”  Let me add one more sentence. Apart from declaring, “I am Tibetan”, Tibetans must also know: Today, what else do we have? What have we lost today? This is essential.

February 9, 2010, Beijing
Read Full Post>>>

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

“I Am the Master of my Own Fate” by Woeser

High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Woeser that was originally written for Radio Free Asia on February 4, 2010 and posted on her blog on February 8, 2010.

In this blogpost, Woeser refers to another Tibetan female poet and blogger called "Drugmo" who is based in Canada. In the week prior to this blogpost, Woeser had posted three poems by Drugmo on her blog in the original English and Chinese translation.

The poems were titled "The Other...", "For Tibet, Again" and "Booth". For High Peaks Pure Earth readers who want to keep up with Drugmo's writings, this is the address of her blog:

The photo shows Tibet’s fight against violent repression in March 2008. 
Young Tibetan pupils produce slogans 
“Tibetans stand together in life and death” on a Chinese campus, 
carrying out a sit-in protest.

“I Am the Master of my Own Fate” by Woeser

This morning I was woken up by a phone call from the United States. It was a friend who is currently doing a PhD. Although he is Han Chinese, on Twitter he wrote the following lines: “I cannot possibly choose my descent, but emotionally, I have been Tibetan already for a very long time”. We have been acquainted for many years and after 2008, his humanitarian sympathy for the Tibetan people turned into having the same feeling. On the phone, he was deeply moved by three poems, which I had recently published on my blog. The author of the poems is the young Tibetan woman, Drugmo. I have never actually met her in person, only received her warm greetings on Facebook and she also introduced me to her blog. She has lived in India, Tibet and North America and she uses English to write. Her grasp of the English language and her poetic and literary talent has astounded this Han Chinese friend of mine, he calls her work the utmost enjoyment.

He even quotes some lines from Drugmo’s poems – “I dare them to kill me right there, 
I am the master of my own fate.” – he praises it as being a true national epic, in which the poet uses language to express a spirit, which language is not able to express. Yes, when I glanced over her blog and used Google Translation, I more or less came to understand that as well and that’s why I selected those three poems and asked the Taiwanese "Rosaceae", who lives in far away UK, and who has already translated many Tibet related articles, to translate them. The verse mentioned above, which is part of “The Other”, clearly indicates that it is written for those friends in Tibet who live a dual life. I am very familiar with the poem’s background, the specific circumstances as well as the emotional repression, for example:
“Buddha lies hidden under a silk scarf,
 Tucked in a drawer at home in Lhasa,
 At night I restore it, and say my prayers, 
Prayers to forgive my cowardice,
 Prayers to relieve me of suffering. I look from afar at the giant monastic doors,
 The believers walk in with their prayer beads,
 I have pledged my hands to communism, 
I can’t go in with my old butter lamp.”

Of course I am not intending to write a commentary about poems. What I really want to express is that a poem written by a Tibetan living in exile can deeply move people living in different parts of the world, for instance a Tibetan living in Beijing, a Chinese or Taiwanese living far away in England or the US. This world really isn’t that big and we can observe communications and exchanges of spirits and ideas between different countries and different nationalities. What I also want to express is similar to what the intellectual Edward Said, who is regarded as the “voice of Palestine”, once said: “wherever the identification with politics is threatened, culture is a way to resist extinction and being wiped out. Culture is a way for ‘remembrance’ to resist ‘oblivion’. In this respect I believe that culture is of the utmost importance … it holds the strength to analyse, it can go beyond hackneyed expressions, it can penetrate and look through the blatant lies of the officialdom, it can question the authority and look for alternative solutions. All this is one part of the arsenal of cultural resistance.”

Authoritarian people always think that they are invincible. Hence, there are members of the Chinese Communist Party, who are always driven by pernicious behaviour such as “spitting on the ground” or they make a great uproar about “themselves having to thoroughly secularise Tibet, competing with the Dalai Lama for the masses”.  Or when facing national and international media, they foolishly ask the Dalai Lama to “clarify calling himself the ‘son of India’”, they preposterously criticise the American President for preparing to meet the Dalai Lama by saying that “first of all, it is unreasonable and second of all, it is unprofitable”. But looking at the so-called “unprofitable” claim, there couldn’t be anything that more vividly sets out how in today’s money-grabbing Chinese society “people recklessly come and leave all for the sake of profit”. Maybe those money-grabbing officials believe that everyone in this world is just like them, blinded by greed, only driven by profit, and completely oblivious to the feelings and treasures of beauty, wisdom, and conscience. To think that “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun” and “money talks” are the only magic formulas that can control the will of the people, this can only be the extremely short-sighted and superficial view of disgraceful and sad materialists.

At least, for example because of the resonance of Drugmo’s poems, the fact that among the people, the delusion with regards to authoritarianism has already been dispelled, proves: culture really is a way to resist extinction and being wiped out.

February 4, 2010, Beijing

Read Full Post>>>

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

"In a Hostile Atmosphere, What is There to Talk About?" By Woeser

High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Woeser that was originally written for Radio Free Asia on January 27, 2010 and posted on her blog on January 31, 2010.

On Monday, January 25, 2010 a short press statement by the Secretary to the Dalai Lama announced:

His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Special Envoy Lodi G. Gyari and Envoy Kelsang Gyaltsen will arrive in China tomorrow for discussions with the representatives of the Chinese leadership. This is the ninth round of dialogue. The Envoys are visiting China after a gap of 15 months in the process that began in 2002.
The visit of the envoys to China therefore started on Tuesday 26 January, 2010 in Hunan province and carried on to Beijing the weekend of January 30 and 31. As the state-run English language media outlet Global Times reported on January 27:
The envoys arrived in Hunan Province Tuesday, and were expected to be in Beijing "very soon" for talks.
The above Google map shows Changsha, the capital of Hunan province,
towards the south and Beijing to the north

The very idea of the envoys in Hunan province has invited cynical responses from both Tibetans outside Tibet and from Woeser herself, in fact it is the starting point for Woeser's article below and commentary on the dialogue process.

The picture shows a scene on Potala Palace Square at the end of September 2008
(photo supplied by my friend on Twitter williamxu)

In a Hostile Atmosphere, What is There to Talk About?
By Woeser

This Tuesday, an event happened that was directly related to Tibet: marathon talks between the Chinese and the Tibetan sides were once more launched after the reign of terror in 2008. What was, however, unimaginably perplexing was that the Dalai Lama’s special envoys first arrived in the province of Hunan, which most certainly was not their personal wish. So why choose Hunan? Is it because of the spicy Hunan cuisine?  Or is it more because of the town of Shaoshan, the famous “sacred revolutionary place”? In fact, it's the birthplace of Mao Zedong, who 50 years ago claimed to want to liberate Tibetans from the forces of imperialism, and who actually sent huge military forces into Tibet. Isn’t the real aim behind this to make the Dalai Lama’s special envoys travel along the classic "red" tourist route and to go to Mao Zedong’s birthplace and “thank the martyrs for their great achievements and relive the red memory” and receive “a lesson in patriotism”?

Once more, the media paid a great deal of attention to these long overdue talks, debating over whether they were going to present any results. Of course there will be a result, but the result is that there is no result at all. All previous talks were like this, they started with talking and they ended with talking. The Tibetan side regrettably once more played the part of the “talking partner”.  Those who claim that they placed any hope upon the talks, unless they are completely unfamiliar with the situation or are totally oblivious to the Chinese side who are well versed in  “The Thirty-Six Stratagems” or “Sun Zi’s Art of War”, are really hypocrites. But most of them only praise the talks on the surface; deep down they know exactly what is going on. Even more people argue that talking is always better than not talking at all. If they talk, it means that both sides are in contact with each other. That is right, this is a fact, no matter at what time or in what situation, dialogue is a matter of prime importance.

However, regardless of that, the basis of a dialogue is always equality and honesty, otherwise what would be the point in talking? Moreover, the parties involved in the dialogue should at least hold a minimum degree of courtesy; it is a sign of respect for the other party and for oneself. However, the words spoken by the representative of the Chinese side, the United Front Department Deputy Secretary, Zhu Weiqun, are still ringing in my ears. On public TV, he repeatedly used words full of contempt to refer to the Dalai Lama’s special envoy as “those people like Gyari”. It is really difficult to imagine whether next time when this arrogant Deputy Secretary, Zhu Weiqun, meets “those people like Gyari”, who he so much despises, he will be able to squeeze out a smile on his face. If this is politics, it simply is filthy and hypocritical! What makes people sad is that we seem not to have any choice; yet, do we really have no other choice? It is a bit like Edward Said’s comment on the present situation in Palestine: “only when we really respect ourselves and understand the genuine dignity and righteousness of our struggle, only then will we truly understand why no matter how we regard ourselves, there are so many people in the world who […] are willing to stand by our side.”

We should remind the world and remind ourselves that just before the current talks, the country’s former head of the Department for Religion, the Party’s high ranking official, Ye Xiaowen, who is responsible for brainwashing the religious personnel at present, published an article. It said that along with the recent rapid economic development in Tibet, the “body” of some temples in Tibet and other Tibetan areas had inflated – not only did their number and their size increase, but also their functions. Some temples “raised a group of lazy people and kept a number of bad people”; at the same time, the Dalai Lama “as the god” was just like a “political leader” integrating religion and politics, which is in fact quite far off. In order to positively steer the traditional Tibetan Buddhist to suit Tibet’s enormous development, the “body” has to be deflated, the “god” has to be fixed, and “faith” has to be reformed.

Mr. Ye’s so-called “deflation” is greatly offensive. Does he actually regard Tibetans as “lumps” or even “tumours”? And how will his so-called “deflation” be carried out? A human rights lawyer in Beijing once said to me that he had observed when the authorities tried to settle with Tibetan intellectuals in the past few years, they searched on the internet, and all the ones that were arrested were Tibetan intellectuals from Tibetan areas. This has definitely nothing to do with punishing criminals, but it clearly is about smothering a nationality’s culture and spirit. Yes, from Amdo, U-Tsang to Kham, from temples and the common people to the internet, traditional and contemporary intellectuals have one by one been expelled or in severe cases been sentenced; their wrongdoings or crimes were often merely speaking the truth. Also, Tibetan intellectuals’ exposure to this ruthless “deflation” reveals their long-lasting and profound intentions. However, in this abusive and tyrannical atmosphere, which is just like the dense fog that clouds above Beijing, we should clearly see the path that has been obscured.

Beijing, January 27, 2010
Read Full Post>>>

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Tradition of ‘Gu-thug’ Before Losar

As Losar (Tibetan New Year) is quickly approaching this year on February 14, and Tibetans in Tibet and all over the world are proudly asserting their Tibetan identity, what better way to start the year 2137 with a traditional bowl of hot steaming Gu-thug on Friday evening? 

High Peaks Pure Earth would not want anyone to partake in this tradition without knowing the ins and outs! High Peaks Pure Earth is therefore very grateful to Tsering Dhondup for allowing us to post his translation of "The Tradition of ‘Gu-thug’ before Losar" taken from "The Collected Works of Chabpel Tseten Phuntsog" ('chab spel tshe brtan phun tshog gi gsung rtsom phyogs sgrigs') and first published by China Tibet Educational Publishing House ('krung goi bod kyi she rig dpar skrun khang) in 1993. This article has also previously appeared in a newsletter published by Tibet Foundation, based in London.

Many Tibetans will be spending Gu-thug night far from home. Below, High Peaks Pure Earth has posted a 2008 video made by Tibetans studying in universities in Beijing. The video shows them preparing Gu-thug together and playing games. The video has three songs as its soundtrack, two Tibetan songs and one Chinese song. The first Tibetan song is by exile Tibetan pop star Phurbu T Namgyal called "Phayul Mayul", meaning "Fatherland, Motherland" and the second Tibetan song is by the most prominent Tibetan singers in Tibet, Yadong, Kunga, Tsewang and Gangshuk called, "Sems Kyis Log Phebs", meaning "Mentally Return". Both songs urge Tibetans to unite and assert their identity strongly.

The Tradition of ‘Gu-thug’ Before Losar

On the eve of the pen-ultimate day of the outgoing year, i.e. the 29th day of the twelfth month according to the Tibetan calendar, most Tibetans in and outside Tibet uphold an ancient folk tradition by having a family get-together for a special dinner called ‘Gu-thug’. Many people wrongly think that 'Gu-thog' derives its name from the nine different ingredients added to the broth when in fact it's a reference to the 'thugpa' taken on the 29th day.

This ritual symbolises the banishment of all evil and malevolent spirits that may be lurking in the house-hold. It appears to be a form of ancient folk rather than religious tradition of exorcising evil spirits because no monks and 'tantric' practitioners, whether Bon and Buddhist, are invited to participate in the ritual ceremony. The ritual involves neither prayers nor making offerings to deities for blessings or favours. The secular origins are evident from the fact that all members of the family, male and female, old and young, unite to share the ‘Gu-thug’ and then ritually drive out all evil spirits without help from holy men.

Given the regional variations that have occurred during the course of thousands of years, the following description of ‘Gu-thug’ ritual is primarily based on the tradition peculiar to the ‘Tsang’ region of Central Tibet, according to Chabpel Tseten Phuntsog on whose accounts this article is based.

The 29th day of the last month may be seen as a ‘spring cleaning’ when the family busy themselves in dusting, cleaning and tidying all the rooms. The layers of dust, soot, grime and all filth accreted during the year are got rid of, as much as possible. As the day wears off, it’s time to start preparations for cooking the ‘Gu-thug’.

Unlike the usual broth of meat in which small chunks of kneaded dough is cooked, care is taken to add special dough balls of varying shape and design, (see Table A) each supposed to symbolise the character trait of the person who draws it in his or her bowl of porridge. Twelve other dough balls of identical shape and size are made in which are inserted objects symbolising different human characteristics (see Table B). These special balls are dry-baked slightly on a fire so that they would hold their shape once they are mixed in the boiling stew of meat and chunks of dough. In addition, it's become common to add nine different ingredients such as cheese, radish, peas, ‘droma’ (wild sweet potato), salt, pepper, meat, dough balls, etc.

Another group of the family members may busy themselves preparing the dough effigy of a human figure to serve as the scapegoat for ritual banishment. The effigy is always placed in a broken piece of pottery or any other worthless utensil or expendable container. All around the effigy are placed all sorts of things such as dregs of tea-leaves, ‘bang ma’ (leftover grain after barley beer is made), bits and pieces of rubbish collected during the day’s cleaning, etc.

Then the members of the family gather and begin the ritual cleaning of oneself by rolling and wiping from head to toe with pieces of kneaded dough held in each hand.

Whilst rolling, rubbing and wiping oneself, one is supposed to face the dough effigy and say aloud things like, "Hey, you Scapegoat! Take away with you all sorts of pain, hurt, physical ailment, mental afflictions; all the four hundred and twenty four kinds of diseases and all of the eighty thousand kinds of impediments induced by  malevolent spirits that strike during the course of ‘360’ days or twelve months of the year and any other such disagreeable things that remain. Take them all with you across the great limitless ocean!” No taking chances here!

Finally, after about sunset, members of the family take their seats according to age and seniority in readiness for the ‘Gu-thug’ broth to find out who draws what kind of character predicting special dough balls. Traditionally, two empty bowls are placed in front of the family elder. Then the lady of the house starts serving the ‘Gu-thug’ with her eyes covered with a white sash to ensure impartiality whilst serving the prophetic dough balls.

Members of the family begin to help themselves to the ‘Gu-thug’ with mixed feelings. The special dough balls are fished out to discover what symbolic dough ball one has drawn. The discovery of positive predictions attract envious comments and congratulations but those who draw the negative predictions could feel very embarrassed as everyone seems to rejoice in having a laugh at one's cost. This is an occasion for great commotion and laughter depending on the person concerned and the draw made. The favourable dough balls drawn are collected in one bowl and the negative balls in the other bowl. At the end, each adds a bit of their left-over ‘Gu-thug’ around the Scapegoat effigy. The bowl containing the negatives draws are also poured around the Scapegoat. The bowl with the positive symbols are taken upstairs or on the roof-top.

Then follows the actual ritual of exorcising the evil spirits from the household. Two younger male members of the family carry a flaming torch fashioned with cloth, straw or bramble, and go from room to room shouting menacingly “Come out! Come out, you evil spirits and demons!” A female member of the family then carry out the broken pottery or container with the Scapegoat mired in a pile of leftover food and refuse. The men with the flaming torch follow her in mock chase of the evil spirits. Others clap their hands in ritual to signify good riddance. Then the door is tightly shut behind.

A significant point to note for those escorting out the banished Scapegoat is not to cast any backward glances towards their home while going out and not to look back towards the castaway Scapegoat while returning lest the evil spirits follow them home. The Scapegoat is placed at the nearest cross-road and the flaming torches are also left there. Often, as people from different families in the neighbourhood gather at the cross-road for the same purpose, they all linger on to sing and perform circle dances as a celebration of the successful banishment of the evil spirits.

In the family home, they have to keep handy a tinder and bunch of dry bramble, a pail of water, ladles and bucketful of ‘tsampa’. As the Scapegoat escorts return and knock on the door to be let in, a voice from inside challenges them, “Our door needs a description before we can let you in.” And in response, the returning escorts sing, “Open up, the wooden-frame above the door is made of yellow gold. Open up, the thresh-hold below is made of turquoise. Open up, the four frames are made of purplish ‘mchong’ stone. Open up, the 'melong' frame is of red sandalwood. Open up, the door bolt is made of white conch shell.”

Finally, those inside hurriedly kindle the bunch of dry bramble and open the door.  As the escorts hurriedly walk in and leap over the crackling bundle of bramble, others from the sides douse them with water and sprinkle ‘tsampa’ over them as ritual cleansing and prevention of any evil spirit that might attempt to sneak in with them.

Then follow a happy period of drinking ‘chaang’and merry making with songs in praise of those who had drawn positive character traits and teasing of those who had drawn negative character traits, who are often parodied according to what kind of person they are supposed to be. The partying and merry making lasts until the wee hours, to mark good riddance to all things negative and to usher in the New Year that is hoped to bring health, happiness and success to all the members of the family.

Table A - Dough balls of varying shapes and their symbolism

Shape and design of dough ball
Name and symbolism
Spherical sun ‘Nyima’ – glory and fame
Barbed wire with sharp points ‘Zema Rago’ – wicked, hurts everyone
A crescent ‘Dawa’ – glory and fame
Like a cashew nut with the pointed end bent ‘Ma Nue Tse Kyog’ – incompetent sloth
Like a drop of pearl ‘Lama Konchog’ – honest and altruistic
Like a grain of rice or barley with pointed ends ‘Yar Nyung Mar Nyung’ – malicious, slanderer, instigator
Like a volume of scriptures ‘Dam Choe Puti’ – educated and cultured
Like a cashew nut with the pointed end tapering straight ‘Tog La Tse Nyung’ – greedy and gluttonous
A flat cuboid ‘Den Chung Dru Zhi’ – a life of ease and luxury
Like a 'Damaru' hand drum ‘Damaru’ – unreliable, two-faced person
A fat darkened spherical ball ‘Dug Droe Gormo’ – Gluttonous sloth
A smaller ball joined atop another larger ball ‘Lan Chag Gyabkhur’- illegitimate child-birth or illicit affair

Table B – dough balls of identical size and the symbolism of their contents

Content Symbolism
Round white marble stone Kind hearted, noble spirit
Ball of white wool Forbearing, patient, good-natured
Thread rolled inwards Introspective, withdrawn, introvert
Thread rolled outwards Extrovert, creative, open-hearted
Piece of china Loves food but hates work
Piece of charcoal Scheming, calculating, vicious
Piece of chilli Abrasive and hot headed
Piece of paper Tendency to petty theft and pilfering
A ball of green pea Cunning, scheming, deceptive
A piece of onion Bag of farts
A piece of rock salt Bum laden with salt-bag, lazy, sloth
‘Khul bu’ short soft undercoat of animals Short tempered, ill-natured
Read Full Post>>>

Thursday, February 4, 2010

I Am Tibetan

High Peaks Pure Earth has noticed an upsurge in online activity by Tibetan netizens about being Tibetan and Tibetan identity.

This video "I Am Tibetan" was first posted on a Chinese video-hosting website on December 19, 2009 and has been circulating widely. It came later to be posted on YouTube by a Tibetan called Jigdo and is now being disseminated by Tibetans all over the world through social networking sites such as Facebook. To those who don't know Tibetan, the video seemingly looks like a random talking heads video. Once you understand what the people are saying, it is one of the most powerful and creative videos we have seen from Tibet. The camera focuses on random Tibetans, each statement begins with “I am Tibetan” and the next speaker goes on to describe the reason. The video has already inspired Tibetans in Dharamsala to replicate the concept.

High Peaks Pure Earth has translated the YouTube video and added English subtitles:

The dramatic music in the background creates a strong sense of mood and urgency. The emphatic statement “I am Tibetan” is a powerful assertion of how the people identify themselves. In the statements there is no sense at all of being“a minority”. As readers know, over the last two decades the Chinese government has been carrying out patriotic education campaigns, the objective being for Tibetans to identity themselves as a subject of China and identify himself or herself as a Chinese national. 

In an earlier blogpost High Peaks Pure Earth posted pictures of a banner hanging outside school gates in Lhasa, one of which proclaimed, “I am child of China, I like to speak Mandarin”.

This second video "Let’s (all) Speak in Pure Tibetan" 

has also been on a Chinese video-sharing website for sometime now. The video narrates a verse that is spoken in Lhasa dialect and urges everyone to speak pure Tibetan.  In the translation, it is evident to what the video is saying and we shall leave the analysis to our readers.

There is a strong assertion of  Tibetan-ness emerging in Tibetan and Chinese language cyberspace. It is is as though the Tibetan nation is being recreated in cyberspace it is here that the Tibetans are finding a voice.  This poem is a good example of this:

Let’s (all) Speak in Pure Tibetan

I’ve a means of survival passed on by my Ancestors.
I’ve a path to the future hewn by my Ancestors,
I’ve a Testament entrusted by my Ancestors,
I’ve a hope to fulfil as expected by my people,
(My) language is Tibetan. It’s my abiding tool.

The Tibetan alphabet is the heart and soul of my existence.
Let’s all speak this Tibetan language (of ours) for the continued survival of our nation(ality).
Let’s (all) speak in pure Tibetan.
Even though you may know a variety of languages, when we Tibetans talk amongst ourselves, let’s (all) speak in Tibetan.

When we converse in Tibetan, let’s speak in pure Tibetan.
Even though our native-tongue is self-reliant and rich as the precious jewels,
It’s widely infected with the scourge of hybrids from different tongues.
O my beloved brethren from  the three provinces of Tibet of the Land of Snows!
The rise and fall of our nation ultimately hinges on this root issue.
(My) language is Tibetan. It’s my abiding tool. (My) language is Tibetan. It’s my abiding tool.

The Tibetan alphabet is the heart and soul of my existence.
For the sake of continued survival, let’s all speak this Tibetan language of ours. 
Let’s (all) speak in pure Tibetan. 
If  you are a (proud) descendant of the Land of Snowy Ranges who love and care about your nation, 
Then, let’s not use any hybrid language when conversing in our day to day life, O people of the Land of Snows!

On Tibetan blogs, High Peaks Pure Earth has followed this poem "I Am Tibetan" that spread to numerous blogs throughout 2008 and 2009. The same poem can be found here, here and here, just these examples show that the poem was being posted as early as March 27, 2008 and as recently as August 16, 2009.

Here is the English translation exactly as the blogger's are pasting it, including all typos (!)

my derma is bronze-colored
I am Tibetan
I like deep red color
my frame have engrave ancestors's instruction
my blood shed the sounds of horse's hoof
my eyes fill of fragrance highland barley wine
my body blooming glamorous Gesar flower

I am Tibetan
The name matches the reality of Tibetan
The liberal And courageous of Tibetan

Don't ask me what is your surname
I'm not Mr Li, not Mister Wang
If you insist ask me
I will tell you my surname is King Gesar

I am strong nation blessed by Tibtan Gods
my lift (left) arm is goshawk
my right arm is yak
my life is under the Buddha niche of lamp brilliant forever

Finally, Tibetan identity is also being proudly displayed in the form of profile pictures on Tibetan social networking sites, here are a selection that High Peaks Pure Earth has seen:

Read Full Post>>>

“We Have our own Religious Symbols, our own Culture and History!” 

By Woeser

Ancient Tibetan mural depicting the origins of Tibetans

High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Woeser that was originally written for Radio Free Asia on January 20, 2010 and 
posted on her blog on January 25, 2010.

Woeser has written on similar themes in the past, follow this link to read her poem "2005-2008: Nothing Left but a Windblown Flame" translated by Ragged Banner. Woeser also refers to the Dragon Boat Festival in the fourth paragraph of her article below and last year, High Peaks Pure Earth translated a sarcastic and cutting commentary on the enforced celebration of Chinese festivals on minorities by a Tibetan blogger which is worth reading or reading again!

We Have our own Religious Symbols, our own Culture and History!
By Woeser

At the beginning of the New Year, the Chinese education department issued a new notice asking the entire country’s various kinds of schools during Spring Festival to organise their students to participate in an event “wishing the beloved motherland a happy and prosperous new year”.  The essence of this “congratulating the motherland” event is absolutely trivial: first, praise the magnificent native soil; second, praise the legendary early ancestors, Yan and Huang Emperors; third, praise the past dynasties’ outstanding figures; fourth, praise the revolutionary martyrs; fifth, praise all exemplary heroes; sixth, praise the millions of common people. A Chinese university professor sarcastically wrote on his blog: “our magnificent native soil has been continuously exposed to destructive exploitation and severe pollution affecting the lives of our descendents.” Furthermore, it has bit by bit been broken up into personally owned territories by the high officials and wealthy people, “which the poor will never get to see”.

Meanwhile, the following criticism will certainly stir up many people’s emotions: “praising the legendary early ancestors, Yan and Huang Emperors, means forcing people to all entertain the exact identical belief. The two emperors, Yan and Huang, are pre-historical legendary characters who are mainly worshipped by Han Chinese as their earliest ancestors… In the 21st century, the education department has come out asking all schools to organise the worshipping of the Yan and the Huang Emperors as the earliest ancestors, hence, forcefully interfering with people’s own beliefs and not respecting other minority nationalities’ own ancestral worship”. This reminded me of when the Uighur professor Ilham Tohti during his talk at the Central University for Nationalities two months ago where he particularly emphasised that “we are not the Yan and Huang Emperors’ descendants, neither are we the descendants of the dragon, we have our own religious symbols, our own culture and history!”

Gangchenpa, who has lived on the snowy highlands for generations, is of course also like this. There has never been any legend passed down since ancient times, nor has there been any page in ancient records and accounts that expresses or acknowledges how we are connected to the utterly irrelevant Yan and Huang Emperors. Opening up our Blue Annals, Red Annals, White Annals and so on, all of them written beautifully and sentimentally, describing the beauty of the snowy highlands, where “the three circles of Ngari on the upper parts are like a pool, the four wings of U-Tsang on the middle parts are like a canal, and the six hills of Khamo on the lower parts are like a field.” There the ape, the embodiment of the Bodhisattva Avolokiteshvara, and the rock demoness, who is the embodiment of the most venerated Tara, gave birth to the black-headed Tibetan people. The earlier Bon religion has in fact a creation myth of more ancient times. Many of the old legends are actually more related to India, especially the origins of our religion.

Recently I have been reading “Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny” by Economic Nobel Prize winner Amartya Sen. He expresses that “only if we recognise diversity and variety in our lives, only if we regard ourselves as world citizens, think rationally and do not place people firmly inside a set of rigid boxes, can we perhaps realise peace in the contemporary world.” It is a shame that the more and more fascist China is brandishing the principles of nationalism and patriotism like two sharp swords, and is even abandoning the pretentious opposition to “Han Chauvinism” during the Mao era. It is simply going to assimilate the various “minority nationalities” under its control, and speed up the pace of the assimilation. One year ago, the Chinese Premier promulgated the decree that the traditional Chinese festivals, including the Qingming Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival and the Mid-Autumn Festival, were to be turned into official national holidays by law, requesting the country’s 56 nationalities to celebrate those three Han festivals on exactly those three days, thus, turning them into “faces of China” just like the Han. Furthermore, today, they simply start with the “babies in the cradle”, who have their own minority cultural background and inheritance. Since childhood, when they are just like a blank piece of paper, they are forcefully tainted by such ritualised events as “wishing the beloved motherland a happy and prosperous new year” thus applying a type of “Chinese quality” that is specific to totalitarianism.

Totalitarianism is the most violent form of terrorism. Totalitarianism does not only seize land, it also seizes the people living on the land, and it even more seizes the people’s memory and spirit. For this reason, following the everything but soft hearted military colonisation, now there exists the highest degree of cultural colonisation. However, identification with a country can by no means be achieved by using a gun against people’s minds. Otherwise, how is it possible that on the vast highlands of the three provinces in the past half-century, almost every 10 or 20 years desperate protests erupted everywhere?  How can Tibetans not know that bullets kill, that prisons exhaust life? Also, the identification with a country can neither be obtained through the superior feeling majority nationality’s charity. Just like one Uighur intellectual said: “If there is a certain degree of the Chinese people’s identification with the Uighurs, then there will be the same degree of Uighurs’ identification with the country.” These lines articulate the deepest agony as a result of discrimination, prejudice and severe impairment.

Beijing, January 20, 2010
Read Full Post>>>

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

"2009 Tibetan Personality of the Year" Preliminary Results Announced

Following our previous translation Tibetan Bloggers Nominate the "2009 Tibetan Personality of the Year", High Peaks Pure Earth has translated the announcement of the preliminary list of winners which was posted on the official blog of TibetCul on February 2, 2010.

Visitors to TibetCul are mostly college students based either in Tibetan areas or colleges around China. Their initial voting very much reflected their interest and concerns which seemed to be social work and contemporary/popular culture. The lists below, edited by the TibetCul webmaster do not reflect the votes cast by individuals. This is notable in the omission of Woeser who received many nominations from netizens.

For more background on the people and the poll, please see our previous post. High Peaks Pure Earth will publish the eventual winners once they are announced! : "2009 Tibetan Personality of the Year" Preliminary Results

Who is 2009 Tibetan Personality of the Year? Let us discover together, choose together, document together and let their spirit and power warm us, inspire us and guide us.

Another year comes to an end - at the end of 2009, which Tibetans attracted widespread attention? Which Tibetans in Tibet made an outstanding contribution to society? Which Tibetans used their individual powers to expound the outstanding spirit of the Tibetan nationality? Which Tibetans in 2009 who affect our lives are we proud of?

They may already be famous or perhaps are completely unknown; some may be high-spirited and some may be awe-inspiring. In 2009, these people remain in our field of vision. Their life paths mark this era.

Therefore, at the end of December, TibetCul launched a major activity to select the "2009 Tibetan Personality of the Year", a selection which lasted over a month where netizens could make recommendations and nominations, TibetCul allowed netizens to choose anyone they wanted and, following careful investigation and consideration, the preliminary "2009 Tibetan Personality of the Year" list is announced, once again for the consideration of online users and readers of the TibetCul official blog, the consultation period is February 2, 2010 - February 11, 2010 for netizens and readers to express their views on the list. Based on this, TibetCul will release the final list on February 11, 2010.

"2009 Tibetan Personality of the Year" Preliminary List for Individuals:

Penor Rinpoche (Master of Nyingma Tibetan Buddhist teachings, passed away on March 27, 2009)

Ngapo Ngawang Jigme (Tibetan official, Vice-Chairman of the CPPCC National Committee, passed away on December 23, 2009 due to illness)

Jampel Gyatso ("Gesar" Research Centre, doctoral tutor)

Jigme Gyaltsen (Tibetan educator, Jigme Gyaltsen Welfare School)

Haxi Tashi Dorjee (environmental volunteer, Vice Secretary General of The Snowland Great Rivers Environmental Protection Association, Qinghai)

Wangchuk Tseten (Founder of TibetCul, Tibetan publisher, poet, scholar)

Pema Tseden (Tibetan director, screenwriter, filming in their mother tongue)

Karma ("King of Dzi", Tibetan businessman, environmentalist)

Gadai Tsering (young Tibetan poet, representative Tibetan figure in poetry circles)

Sonam Tashi (Tibetan singer, 2009 "Girl, I Love You", the most listened to online and downloaded Tibetan song in the country)

"2009 Tibetan Personality of the Year" Preliminary List for Groups:

All the monks of Labrang Monastery

Staff of Qinghai Tibetan TV
Read Full Post>>>

Monday, February 1, 2010

"Everything Is Getting Worse But" by Woeser

High Peaks Pure Earth has published an article by Woeser that was written for the first issue of the Hong Kong Magazine “Dongxiang” (Trend) on January 5, 2010 and published on her blog on January 17, 2010.

"Everything Is Getting Worse But" 
by Woeser

"So many horrible things have happened proving that this regime is brutal".

This is what a foreign journalist who had been to Xinjiang earlier last month, said to me. Later on, at the end of last month, right before Christmas Eve, he stood in the cold wind in front of the entrance to the Beijing Court waiting for the controversial Chinese intellectual Liu Xiaobo, who was being interrogated inside. I told him that on the very day of Liu Xiaobo’s interrogation, there was in fact another piece of bad news related to Tibet. A respected religious leader, the 53-year-old Buramna Rinpoche was wantonly framed by this brutal political regime. He had been deprived of his personal freedom since 18 May 2008 which ended with facing an eight and a half year, dark prison sentence.

Reserved as he was, the journalist could not hold back his anger, not to mention myself. Moreover, I felt defeated. Last year, when the court interrogated Buramna Rinpoche for the first time, I thought we could probably save him from this disgraceful frame-up simply with the help of the attention, media reports and appeals of the outside world. Many people have been working hard on this, Rinpoche’s relatives, Beijing’s human rights lawyers, renowned international media representatives as well as numerous human rights organisations.

However, just as the year before, last year was a year in which we suffered disasters. As proven by news from different regions in Tibet, there are still many Tibetans secretly being arrested, sentenced and harshly punished. I have been trying my best to record all these happenings on my blogs but all of them are such bad news, which makes us really despair. Just as President Obama arrived in Beijing referring lightly to “fundamental rights, which all humans possess”, the two authors Kunchok Tsephel and Kunga Tsayang were harshly punished. At the same time, there are several human rights cases which haven’t been made public and there are many people who have not even obtained any sympathy from the outside world. When foreign journalists were interviewing me, I told them that there might still be a series of human rights disasters to come. Shortly after, a Xining court sentenced Dhondup Wangchen to 6 years because before the Olympics he filmed the documentary “Leaving Fear Behind” which expressed the thoughts of the Tibetan people.

To tell the truth, at the time we placed hope upon that American President. Of course, it is ridiculous to entirely place one’s hope on other people, but the American President, who always claimed to protect freedom and human rights, will invariably give hope to many men and women in the world. Furthermore, he recently even won the Nobel Peace Prize. However, who would have thought that when facing a brutal regime his legs would turn to jelly? He actually even set a bad example. It’s not that we want to take out all our anger on him but he really did set a bad example. After he stood in awe, full of admiration, in front of the Great Wall – the symbol of totalitarianism – leaders from other countries visiting China later on, also kept the two words “human rights” to themselves.

I am not saying that in this country, all the misfortune which dissidents, Tibetans, Uighurs, or other minorities have come across, was merely caused by being abandoned by those Chinese politicians who use high-sounding words. Yet, it is certainly not completely unrelated. All things rely on each other; all beings are dependent on each other, not to mention in today’s globalisation, the world’s climate has already changed, everybody in the world is already Twittering. Hence, the existence of a brutal regime is in fact a universal tragedy for humanity and not just limited to one nationality or country.

Everything is continuing to get worse. Before the advent of year 2010 Buramna Rinpoche was wronged and punished. This means there will be a region which will never be peaceful again. Just like another religious leader named Tenzin Delek Rinpoche who was framed seven years ago, even after seven years, there are still tens of thousands of people who signed their names or affixed their thumbprints [on a petition], and several thousand people protested in a sit-in for him. Consequently, several hundred people were arrested, and many people were beaten. The turmoil this incident caused has not quietened down yet.

Nonetheless, at the beginning of the New Year I came across a very moving piece of writing by a Tibetan in his early twenties. He used Tibetan and Chinese to write the following: "We often speak of nationalities, often speak of the future, sometimes we will persist in doing so; although there are people out there criticising and suppressing us, we should never bear a grudge, let alone take revenge. All the misfortune we have come across originated from causes we sowed in our past. We should try our best to find inner peace and be merciful. Nevertheless, we should not give up trying to strive for the rights all humans deserve. As long as we are merciful, not resentful and continue with a calm mind to make efforts gradually, there will be one day when our wishes come true and we can freely bathe in warm sunshine."

January 5, 2010, Beijing
Read Full Post>>>