Cultural Reflections on Tibet
Following recent MAJ’s comments, I came across this article ‘Reflections on Tibet‘ by Wang Lixiong published in 2002. Wang Lixiong is the writer of ‘Roadmap of Tibetan Independence’ published last year. In the article, Wang Lixiong “considers some of the bitter paradoxes of Tibetan history under Communist rule, and their roots in the confrontation of an alien bureaucracy and fear-stricken religion”. It’s worth pointing out that the original article 西藏问题的文化反思 was published in Chinese in 2001 and therefore we need to be careful how relevant it is to today’s Tibet issue.
According to Wang’s article, during Mao era, the Tibet region was materially destroyed but socially stable since Mao became Tibetans’ new God.
“The Tibetans’ submission to a religion that apparently runs contrary to their material interests becomes prefectly comprehensible in the context of their worship of fear. Faced with a choice between a short spell of suffering in this world followed by a blissful hereafter, or an eternity of torture, the peasants inevitably remained in thrall to the monks who held the keys to heaven. But if it is impossible for Tibetans to live without a god, nevertheless their religion allowed for a reincarnation of the deity. What if a new god appeared who was not only more powerful and awe-inspiring than the old, but who also told Tibetans that this life was everything, that their suffering was injustice, and that they should seek happiness in the here and now? Would they still be willing to deny their own human needs? As to who had more actual power between the Dalai Lama and Mao Zedong, there could scarcely be any doubt.” It’s Mao. Following the new God, ordinary Tibetans rebelled, destroyed old traditions together temples, entered Culture Revolution.
Since 1980’s, the living standard of Tibetans have been significantly improved, but, at the same time, Tibet has since become an issue.
Deng started “the process of ‘redressing the wrongs’ in Tibet began right from the start of the new Reform Era. On December 28, 1978, less than a week after taking power, Deng gave an interview to the Associated Press in which he indicated his willingness to start a dialogue with the Dalai Lama; he received the Dalai’s representative in Beijing the following March. The 376 participants in the 1959 Rebellion still serving prison sentences were freed. Over 6,000 others who had been released after completing their sentences but were still branded as ‘rebels’ and kept under ‘supervised reform’ had these labels removed. Party management of Tibet made an about-turn.”
Hu Yaobang made six major proposals in 1980 March:
1. Tibet should enjoy autonomous rule, and Tibetan cadres should have the courage to protect their own national interests;
2. Tibetan farmers and herdsmen should be exempt from taxation and purchase quotas;
3. Ideologically oriented economic policies should be changed to practical ones, geared to local circumstances;
4. Central government’s financial allocations to Tibet should be greatly increased;
5. Tibetan culture should be strengthened;
6. Han cadres should step aside in favour of Tibetan ones.
“within the terms of Tibetan Buddhism, ‘redressing the wrongs’ destroyed the divine status Mao had been accorded. God did not make mistakes….God did not need to curry favour; he could order people to do whatever he desired. More importantly, he would never admit to any errors. That would reduce him to the status of human. Once that happened, people could settle accounts over all the past cruelties, and demand even more admissions and compensation. The Tibetans did not necessarily feel grateful, therefore, when they got government money for restoring the temples. On the contrary, they saw it as an admission that the holy buildings had been destroyed by the Han authorities”
“Now, all of a sudden, after they had smashed the monasteries and temples to pieces, they were told that the new god did not exist. It was all an unfortunate mistake and the previous religion needed to be restored. It is not hard to imagine how they felt; and such a feeling could hardly be commuted into gratitude by government grants.”
If opinions in Wang Lixiong’s article are relevant to today’s Tibet issue, will material improvements and better education lead Tibetans to a less religious life? and therefore solve the Tibet issue eventually?
All these being said, I am still asking how serious the Tibet issue REALLY is? Since Tibet has been a popular travel destination in China in recent years, especially among the young and fashionable new middle-class in cities. as Tsering Shakya said in an interview ‘a much more romantic view of Tibet has emerged among the Chinese population than in the West’. There is an article ‘我说，我在西藏’ (I say, I am in lhasa) on the homepage of Tianya – one of the most popular Chinese sites. I would like to share with you this poem (maybe words for a pop song?) in the article. You would understand immediately how romantic Tibet is in some people’s eyes.
Thanks for MAJ’s recent comments, which lead me to some fresh new information.
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