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The Story of Tibet: Conversations with the Dalai Lama Hardcover – September 28, 2006

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; First Edition edition (September 28, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802118275
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802118271
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #222,342 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In a tenderly crafted study that is equal parts love letter, traditional history and oral history, Laird chronicles the development of Tibet from its mythic origins to its takeover by Communist China in 1950. Weaving historical research with interviews with the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled leader, veteran journalist Laird (Into Tibet: The CIA's First Atomic Spy and His Secret Expedition to Lhasa) offers insight into the triumphs and failures of the country. In one particularly fascinating section, the Dalai Lama expresses reservations about the truth of the Tibetan creation myths involving a demon and a monkey and accepts Darwin's theory of evolution as the most logical explanation of the origins of humankind. Laird traces Tibet's sometimes tortured relationships with China and India, recounting the country's conflicts with the Mongols and the Manchu Empire, as well as its struggles for independence in the face of Chinese occupation. The Dalai Lama also recounts his early life; vividly recalls his first meeting, at age 19, with Mao Zedong; and reflects on his years in exile and his hopes for Tibet to be freed from occupation. Throughout, Laird's colorful and lively writing brings to life thousands of years of Tibetan history, inviting the reader on his journey to a strange and wonderful land. 16 pages of color photos. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Thomas Laird's lively conversations with His Holiness the Dalal Lama and the history and mythology of Tibet couldn't come at a better moment, as China stubbornly persists in negating the distinctive Tibetan identity. The honesty, subtlety, and complexlty of His Holiness's thoughts of these crucial matters comes through in these fascinating dialogues. Everyone who cares about Tibet, or about a stable peace in Asia, should read this amazing account." --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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See all 23 customer reviews
Laird gives an illuminating personal account of the current Dalai Lama.
This book tells both and reveals a fascinating story that is continuously unfolding.
It was an easy book to read, more conversational than like a text or history book.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By doomsdayer520 HALL OF FAME on November 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is a very unique, though sometimes problematic, historical study of Tibet. Thomas Laird had the opportunity to interview the Dalai Lama dozens of times while constructing this book, while His Holiness heartily endorsed and encouraged the project. Thus, we get a very eye-opening combination of corroborated historical data and religious conviction. Granted, this pattern isn't always successful, and the book gets off to a rocky start with the ancient history (and pre-history) of Tibet, for which information is scarce. In the early part of the book, Laird depends more on the Dalai Lama's mythological and faith-based creation tales and his interpretations of sketchy historical and archeological evidence (or, in his view, interpretation of history at different spiritual and mental levels). While it is always fulfilling to hear directly from His Holiness, the result here is a rather confusing and dubious history. Laird doesn't help much with googly-eyed reactions to the Dalai Lama's wisdom like "this is vast and complex," or "this is very difficult for non-Tibetans to understand." Meanwhile, Laird exhibits the standard Western devotee's simplistic amazement at having his mind blown by Tibetan philosophy, and while his feelings are surely sincere, he doesn't articulate them very well.

Fortunately, the book gets much better as it moves into the modern era, in which Laird can analyze concrete historical data and the Dalai Lama can give his own unique perspective on his country's developments. Laird also gained confidence by this point, actively debating His Holiness on contradictions in Tibetan philosophy or mistakes he may have made as a political leader.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Richard Weston on November 13, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this book a week after going to Tibet for the first time in October, 2007. It confirmed everything that I experienced in Tibet with a former monk as the guide for our group of 20 (China Focus Tours), and enriched our experience enormously. I'm glad I read it soon after the trip so the place names, experiences, history and relationship with China were so fresh. We had been warned in China not to ask about or comment on politics or religion while we were in Tibet. I did ask one mild question and got a reply from our guide that clearly told me that he could not respond.

The book will probably tell general readers more than they want to know about the intricacies of the changes of rule over the last fourteen hundred years but it helped me understand the richness of Tibetan Buddhism. I found it well written and fascinating throughout. The author clearly has a pro-Dalai Lama bias (how else could he have arranged the many interviews with the Dalai Lama?). We found China to be virulently anti-Dalai Lama and this book helped me understand that. The personal details of the Dalai Lama's life and the lives of his predecessors gave me a full sense of what it has meant to be Tibetan both recently and in the long history.

We knew that China had changed Tibet enormously in recent years but we were astounded on our visit to see how they have been moving Han Chinese into Lhasa and changing the face of Tibet. "The Story of Tibet" helped us understand how the incursion of China since the 50's has changed the culture that visitors will see--as long as the Tibetans aren't completely submerged by the Chinese. It seems about 50/50 now.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Frank on December 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Thomas Laird's latest book is a pleasure to read. It successfully juggles history, legend and the thoughts of the present day Dalai Lama for an entertaining and enlightening view of Tibet. The Story of Tibet is more than a survey of a civilization, a tale of a lost country, an interview with a living moral compass, a cautionary tale and a primer on Tibetan Buddhism. It is also a story of the personal relationship between the author and the greatest spiritual figure of our time. The Dalai Lama has an openess to the interpretation of history and the discoveries of modern research and science that is non-dogmatic and hopeful. It is really inspiring to see how willing His Holiness is to letting go of past belief systems when there is experiential, tangible evidence to the contrary. If only the other world leaders could except change so graciously.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By John L Murphy TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 26, 2008
Format: Paperback
Subtitled if boldly "Conversations with the Dalai Lama," this combines interviews and commentary about Tenzin Gyatso's homeland with Laird, who offers a popular history of the embattled nation. I stress "nation": this collaborative work stresses the claims that Tibet's entitled to its own independence, as it was taken over somewhat as a client state by the Mongols and then the Manchu rulers in tandem with China, not as a vassal of China itself, but around the same time, if in different contexts, from the larger subservient entity around present-day (if greater) Mongolia. This may smack of nitpicking, but in fact it distinguishes Tibetan rights to be recognized as its own sovereign state, rather than the dubious PRC (following the Kuomintang Nationalist government) argument that China should incorporate Tibet "back" into its empire.

If you have little interest in such a treatment, you'd best go elsewhere for more romantic or more propagandistic fare. This book, written for a wide audience, nonetheless devotes considerable space to debunking not only the illusion (held by some New Age admirers today) that a strife-free, non-martial Shambhala materialized in medieval times, but the common leftist riposte that it was a corrupt realm of cruel monks, feudal savagery, or serf-perpetuated ignorance. It's not always a grippingly narrated tale, especially in long stretches of tedious medieval and early modern sections, but the novelty of hearing Tibetan history echoed and elaborated by the Dalai Lama via Laird's own knowledge, interpretations, and comparisons to Western models makes this an inherently valuable document.

Laird's careful to assert his own Western understanding of how politics can infiltrate into the purportedly religious condition into which the Dalai Lamas have been born.
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