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The Struggle for Modern Tibet: The Autobiography of Tashi Tsering Paperback – October 14, 1999
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From Publishers Weekly
This captivating autobiography by a Tibetan educator and former political prisoner is full of twists and turns. Born in 1929 in a Tibetan village, Tsering developed a strong dislike of his country's theocratic ruling elite. As a 13-year-old member of the Dalai Lama's personal dance troupe, he was frequently whipped or beaten by teachers for minor infractions. A heterosexual, he escaped by becoming a drombo, or homosexual passive partner and sex-toy, for a well-connected monk. After studying at the University of Washington, he returned to Chinese-occupied Tibet in 1964, convinced that Tibet could become a modernized society based on socialist, egalitarian principles only through cooperation with the Chinese. Denounced as a "counterrevolutionary" during Mao's Cultural Revolution, he was arrested in 1967 and spent six years in prison or doing forced labor in China. Officially exonerated in 1978, Tsering became a professor of English at Tibet University in Lhasa. He now raises funds to build schools in Tibet's villages, emphasizing Tibetan language and culture. Written with Goldstein, head of Case Western Reserve's anthropology department, and Siebenschuh, a Case English professor, this unusual autobiography valiantly suggests a middle way between authoritarian Chinese rule and a return to Tibet's old order. Photos.
Copyright 1997 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Library Journal
The considerable value of Tashi's briskly told life story is that it complicates our view of modern Tibet. Born in a Tibetan village in 1929, Tashi wrested the opportunity to study in India and the United States before returning to China in 1964 against the advice of his friends. A freethinking liberal and patriot, he mistrusted the Tibetan government-in-exile and naively viewed the Chinese occupation as an opportunity to modernize his tradition-bound homeland. But he was imprisoned during the Cultural Revolution and prevented from returning to Tibet until 1981, when he finally got a university job teaching English. His is a harrowing but remarkably unbitter story with a happy ending for him, if not for Tibet. Recommended for academic and larger public libraries.?Steven I. Levine, Boulder Run Research, Hillsborough, N.C.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top customer reviews
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1) It is unfailingly frank and honest about life in Old Tibet, and includes similarly candid observations of Tibetan officials in exile.
2) It is the astonishing and unlikely account of an illiterate peasant boy who, through sheer determination, manages to not only gain an education (by prostituting himself to a powerful patron, as was the custom in those days), but miraculously, after emigrating to India, to make connections that land him at the University of Washington, where the head of the Tibetan Studies Department helps him get a Bachelor's degree. His subsequent struggle to return to his homeland against all odds and the opposition of both his exiled compatriots and the Chinese regime is an inspiring story in overcoming obstacles and in maintaining faith in oneself and one's dreams.
3) It is a rousing epic tale of triumph over all manner of adversity through every stage of life, and of the strength and unflinching determination of a man with a vision for the betterment of his people under Chinese domination.
Readers interested in a view of Tibet that is neither Western fairy-tale nor Chinese propaganda, but the raw experience of a simple, yet extraordinary Tibetan, will find this book a gold mine of information, and a gripping read to boot. Tashi Tsering may be a controversial figure among Tibetans in exile, but in truth, he is the ultimate Tibetan patriot. He sacrificed his option for a comfortable life in India or the West, and risked his life to return to the land he loved so he could advocate for his people and bring about positive change for them. More books of this nature would enrich the field of Tibetan Studies immeasurably.
But Tashi Tsering's story is an important one. He brings voice to a perspective that has been silenced for far too long in the West. I would recommend this book strongly to anyone who feels they already "know" all there is to know about Tibet; odds are, you're wrong.
Instead of using my own words... let me quote a few paragraphs from the book:
"He responded unequivocally that his decision [to return to Tibet from the University of Washington in 1963] had nothing to do with money. Instead he saw himself as a representative of the common people who wanted to help create a new, modern Tibet. The atmosphere became somewhat tense, since the other Tibetans, who were aristocrats, hated the communists and China and were committed to freeing Tibet forom Chinese control."
[Many years later, after 1985, on one of Melvyn Goldstein's trips to China]
"On one of my trips, Tashi surprised me by asking if I could help him publish a book about his life. He thought foreigners needed to know about common Tibetans - that is, Tibetans who were not aristocrats or monastic prelates or incarnate lamas. He felt his story could play a useful role in assisting both Westerners and young Tibetans born in exile to understand the real - non-Shangrila - Tibet."
This book, unlike any other book about Tibet, has no political agenda.