Friday, May 7, 2010

"The Reality That Came to the Surface After the Earthquake" By Woeser

High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Woeser that was originally written for Radio Free Asia on April 21, 2010 in Beijing and posted on her blog on April 26, 2010.  
This is the first blogpost by Woeser to reflect on the earthquake in Kham. Since this article she has written more on the earthquake which will be translated in the future. Woeser has also been following reactions to the earthquake almost every day on her Twitter page and compiling these Twitter discussions for her blog.

"The Reality That Came to the Surface After the Earthquake"
By Woeser

The extermination that happens at the moment of an earthquake can by no means engulf everything. Many things that have long been concealed in the dark, many things that are currently being concealed in the dark are gradually coming to the surface. No, one should rather say they are wrestling themselves out of the ruins because in Kyegudo, on the originally beautiful soil of the vast snow land we now find nothing but ruins. From the ruins that buried thousands upon thousands of lives, dust rises up and blot out the sky and the sun, and upon dispersion it lets the world witness the most brutal reality. 

The first seven-day death anniversary is just over and what follows are the “second seventh day” and the “seventh seventh day” death anniversaries. Yet, for the victims who have lost their loved ones, from the very first day, every day is a death anniversary full of memories and pain. Just like Tripa Rinpoche from Sershul Monastery who brought monks from the neighbouring province to carry out relief work, said to the woman, Lhamot Tso, who was overwhelmed with grief: “if you think that the rites to redeem the lost soul of your husband carried out by those over one thousand Buddhist monks and over forty Rinpoches is not sufficient, it is best if you go home. It doesn’t matter whether you live in ruins or in a tent, just recite the six-syllable mantra for your husband. This is better than being immersed in grief and pain and do nothing and blame everyone for everything.” Our faith has once more provided incomparable comfort in the moment of bitterness; there is no need to say anything else about this.  

I would rather like to talk about something else. For example, why did so many houses of ordinary people collapse? Reports say that more single-storey than multi-storey buildings collapsed and as the single-storey buildings were mainly brick built, Dorje, an earthquake victim, described: “after the buildings collapsed it was nothing but loose sand, so if one wasn’t crushed to death one would have been choked to death.” People who don’t know the situation think that those were traditional Tibetan buildings built by Tibetan people themselves. Of course some of them were, such as the Trangu Monastery, which was severely damaged. However, in the nearby Trangu village lived about 1000 people, only fewer than 100 survived. This is because in recent years, the local authorities launched the “nomads settlement construction project”. It requested nomads to leave the pastures, give up the nomadic lifestyle and move from their tents into newly built nomad settlements, yet those buildings were all hastily constructed, popularly known as “jerry-built project” (a phrase used to refer to poorly constructed buildings).

A girl writes in Tibetan: “when we gave up our nomadic lives and started living in houses built out of bricks and timber, we never thought that it would end like this; when our so-called homes turned into our graves in the blink of an eye, how can we not think of those black tents, which we lived in for generations?” Actually, no matter whether it is for the “nomads settlement construction project”, “human migration” or “Socialism’s new countryside”, the new houses for nomadic people, which are spread across Tibetan lands, all have great hidden dangers. If additionally an earthquake happens, it can only cause the most dreadful disaster. Therefore, there is a netizen friend who criticises: “this time they bombarded people with massive media coverage so as to make people feel moved and sorrowful and thus forget to blame someone for the “jerry-built projects”. This of course includes school buildings, otherwise the real number of children being buried alive wouldn’t have been concealed, it is just a repetition of the melodrama of the Wenchuan earthquake during which the death of many young people has been denied. With regards to this, we need Tibetan volunteers who carry out an unbiased investigation into this.  

There is another significant and profound topic: why did the authorities instruct the media not to report about Buddhist relief workers? Although Buddhist monks basically do not appear in the Chinese media, there are still those Chinese and foreign journalists, those Tibetan and Han Chinese volunteers as well as those netizens who use real photos taken on the ground and words of primary evidence to tell the world that our Buddhist monks are the quickest, most important and most diligent relief workers of all, and who cry out against the injustice towards the Buddhist monks who acted so bravely and selflessly to rescue many many lives. A Chinese journalist revealed in a report that among those who quickly came over from Tibet to carry out relief work “were over one hundred Rinpoches and almost ten thousand monks.” Of course this report was never published by the media he works for. In fact, the Buddhist monks who are not from Kyegudo, have already been ordered by the local authorities to evacuate and warned that if they do not leave they will face problems.

The Chinese leader, Jia Qinglin, said on the 19th that there are “those hostile factions coming from outside also attempted to disrupt and sabotage the earthquake relief work”. Apart from subtly hinting at the monk relief workers, he even more refers to His Holiness the Dalai lama, who is eager to visit the disaster area to provide religious support and care for suffering victims. It is just really lamentable and infuriating to see that the tolerance of the government of a superpower is so limited! When I heard that the ordinary victims of the disaster thought that on the plane flying above their heads every day might be Gyalwa Rinpoche (referring to the Dalai lama), coming to redeem the lost souls of the dead and bring blessings from heaven to the living, and waited persistently, I couldn’t help but be dissolved in tears.  

Beijing, April 24, 2010

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