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Return to Tibet: Tibet After the Chinese Occupation Paperback – May 4, 1998

3.7 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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From Kirkus Reviews

A fusty, indignant report--dated 1983--from Tibet by Harrer (Seven Years in Tibet, not reviewed), the now-celebrated adventurer who briefly returned to his ``second home'' 30 years after fleeing China's invasion. In 1945 the Austrian author escaped from a British prisoner-of-war camp, hoofed it over the Trans-Himalayan range, and eventually arrived in Lhasa, capitol of Tibet. There he found what he took to be an idyll: a sublime mix of Tibetan Buddhism, ancient customs, and dust-free air that made landscape colors incandescent. He became an important figure in the country--chief engineer, tutor of the Dalai Lama--but left as the Chinese commenced their occupation. In 1982 he was able to revisit Tibet during the ``Chinese-staged thaw,'' and he was by turns heartbroken and inspired by what he observed: Valuable cultural treasures had been destroyed by the invaders, and stories of concentration camps, forced labor, and political murders sent him reeling. Yet the country's religion was still strong, and there continued both armed resistance to the Chinese and an unquashable national will. His two sojourns in the country make for some intriguing before-and-after comparisons, and his comments on particulars of Tibetan Buddhism are revealing. But the tone of the book is dryly nostalgic, when not bitter, and Harrer's opinions sometimes seem jarringly contradictory. He rails against what the Chinese have done to the countryrazing monasteries, imprisoning and killing nationalsand then inexplicably suggests that China and Tibet might be well served by a partnership, with Tibet happily becoming ``part of that enormous yellow state.'' Moreover, every so often he lets the feudalist in him shine through unforgivably in making unfortunate remarks on his longing for a land ``where superstition would be the poetry of life.'' The insights are worth the cover price anyhow, despite the authors occasional reactionary comments and his priggishness. -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 207 pages
  • Publisher: Tarcher; 1st American trade pbk. ed edition (May 4, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0874779251
  • ISBN-13: 978-0874779257
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #671,950 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
After reading Seven Years in Tibet, this book (which I managed to pick up in Pilgrims bookshop in Kathmandu, after visiting Tibet myself in 1998) came across more as a thesis, compared to the story like format of the former book. Return to Tibet concerns Heinrich Harrer's return to Lhasa in 1982 as part of one of the first tour groups to enter Tibet after China began to open up after Mao and the Cultural Revolution. He compare the Lhasa and Tibet he knew over thirty years before with that he saw on his return. He also manages to break away from the group he was with and meet some of the people he used to know - again, the differences in these people show a sharp contrast.
Whereas Seven Years in Tibet is an easy read, this is a lot heavier going. To be honest, I felt that Heinrich Harrer spent too much time lamenting the old days which made for not one the most memorable reads. That said, if only to show how much had changed, it is still interesting from a historical point of view and what caught my attention most was the changes between the Heinrich Harrer's visit in 1982 and my own trip their in 1998 (for example, on the good side monasteries being rebuilt, easier to get around Tibet, but not so good was the development of Lhasa into a modern city with less character, with a very large influx of non-Tibetans into Tibet in general).
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Format: Paperback
It is amazing that Henrich Harrer has written separate accounts on Tibet, the roof of thw world, with incredible disparity in emotions. The successor of "Seven Years in Tibets", "Return to Tibet" records the author's revisit 30 years after his departure in 1950. "Return to Tibet" is often regarded as the continuation of "Seven Years in Tibet", except that readers shouldn't read it as a travelogue. Interwoven with the once-vivid and jocund recollection of the country, Harrer contrasted the dismal Tibet under the Chinese neocolonialism. One might find the later volume dry and even disappointing because "Return To Tibet" is not really a showcase of colorful Tibetan costumes, or the rancid butter tea, or the architecture of monasteries. Instead, it is more a political review of how China had annihilated the Tibetan cultures by forcing adoption of new beliefs and ideologies. The climax of the book falls into the author's report to the Dalai Lama, with whom Harrer had built a close friendship. It is through Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibet, that the author realized that Tibetans' beliefs are unshakable. "Tibetans are people of love and patience. They never value war. Yet they value religion and belief more than anything. They would value religion more than not going to war."
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Format: Paperback
I found Mr. Harrer's account of his return to Tibet after Chinese occupation an interesting account from a factual point of view, but it was rather dry from a reader point of view. If you are interested in Tibet, I would recommend it; if you are interested in a good story, I would not.
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Did you love SY in T? Reading "Return to Tibet" would seem a natural consequence. Half-way in between a book of memories and a collection of short essays this evidently much sponsored sequel has some merits even if it is definitely lacking the poetry and fascination of the first work.

In 1982, more than thirty years aver leaving Lhasa and a life devoted to many other initiatives (read "The White Spider"), Harrer returned to Tibet with one of the first Chinese regulated tourist tours. Having been well introduced in the Tibetan society he immediately and instinctively picks up the differences with the past and only these he describes in great detail. He tells us of the fate of his old friends and acquaintances, those who have succumbed to Chinese cultural revolution and those that have become collaborators, the destruction of religious sites and old habits but also their endurance under cover through delicate details and episodes. There is no timeline narration and the book is skippy going back and forth more than once. This book was written at the time of a fugacious "thaw" in Chinese oppression so it conveys some optimism that has successively been cancelled. I suggest if anyone is interested to watch "Windhorse" or "Tibet, the Cry of the Snow Lion" to have an update on the situation of Tibetan cultural genocide. The language as in SY in T is very simple with evident problems of translation, but the book flows along well. I think it is a good companion book to SY in T but it isn't worth an indipendent read.
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This book is mainly comprised of short vignettes about the Author's return to Tibet. He revisits people & places that he knew. If you haven't read Seven Years in Tibet. You won't like this book. If you have. You'll want to read it. To see how 30+yrs of Chinese occupation have brutalized the country. I never buy anything Chinese if I can help it. This book helps clarify why.
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Format: Paperback
Today a little dusty, yet worth reading, cause much has not changed in Tibet the last 30 years. The problems are the same and Harrer knows to tell us a lot about it. What he has to say, is still right.
Harrer offers in his book a ragbag of stories which he compiled on the occasion of his return trip to Tibet in 1982, whereby "Tibet" is for him India, Germany, Suisse, because it is everywhere where Tibetans are.
Harrer has balanced, reasonable views, because he does have an eye for what was already at sixes and seven in old Tibet. He does not elevate the Tibetan in a personal pantheon. For him rather it is not desirable just to live for the sake of religion and antiquated governance.
"Even for the Dalai Lama and the progressive nobility it was clear that unconditionally reforms had to be created for example to correct the unjust distribution of the cultivable land which belonged to a third to the monasteries, the nobility or government officers. From many talks I know, that the Dalai Lama realized totally the backwardness of his country..."
With the Chinese came profound changes, but more outside. The Chinese at first just exploited the country and suppressed the population. They were not able to harm the religion. Atheism achieved this nowhere so far.
But the Chinese learnt more. And therefore they do not come out all badly, neither by Harrer nor by the Dalai Lama, who often enough emphasized a certain relationship between Buddhism and Marxism. Today a Dalai Lama would approve the king of Zanskar, who said: "Even my subjects should have a hospital, a post-office, and this is made possible by tourists, and therefore I need the street."
The more Chinese come into the country the more streets and schools will be there.
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