1997年，我踏上了西藏之旅。那时，我一点也没有想到，这是不归之路。不归，并不是说后来我没有再回到我的家乡，而是从此，我的心，留在了西藏。首先，西藏吸引我的是自然风景，高高的大山，矮矮的绿草，排山倒海似的白云，湍急的河流，数不完的温泉、热泉、冷泉…..我终于理解，为什么英國小說家詹姆斯·希爾頓（James Hilton ）在《消失的地平線》里，把西藏看做一种理想。
How I Came to Know Tibet
Today we have gathered to discuss the leadership transition in China and its implications for Chinese, Tibetans and others. But my topic is about my conceptulization of Tibet. First of all, let me make a brief introduction about my ideas regarding this issue.
In a nutshell, I think the situation in Tibet will become worse after Xi Jinping comes to power.
First, from his personal history, Xi Jinping has always been a bureaucrat to defend the interests of the authoritarians. Mr. Shao Jiang, a Chinese intellectual from the United Kingdom who came to visit not long ago, rightly pointed out that Xi participated in and executed all crimes against humanity committed during the era of Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao. He directly persecuted members of the Democratic Party and dissidents in Zhejiang, destroyed the civil and private economy therein and, in Fujian, also was involved in corruption scandals.
Second, within the Communist Party they have developed a framework for the Tibetan issue, from which innumerous interest groups are continuously gaining enormous benefits. As a result, generally speaking, anyone from this group coming to power will not change this framework.
Third, the princelings in power, including Xi Jinping, have entirely accepted the Chinese Communist style of bigwig education, so they advocate personal interests and violence, and they are obsessed with power and social hierarchy. They are very greedy as well, so they do not take the initiative to change. The only change comes from the efforts of Tibetans, as well as the introspection of grassroots Chinese.
Now, I’ll talk about another issue, which is my main topic today – how I have approached the issue of Tibet? In other words, how I came to know Tibet?
As a child, I was told by my teacher that Tibet is a very dark and backward place, where people lived in a savage serfdom society. At that time, our textbooks said undeniably that in accordance with the Marxist-Leninist social morphology human society can be divided, from low to high, into five singlet development stages that comprise, 1) primitive society, 2) slavery society, 3) feudal society, 4) capitalism society, and 5) a socialist society (communist society). According to this logic, Tibet is currently in the stage between the slave and feudal society stages, still much more backward than the stage China is. Mao Zedong said: those who are backward should be "bullied", so when the teacher said we had made the liberation of Tibet where those who were former serfs now live a happy new life, smiles appeared on the faces of all the students and all of us felt that we too had done our own bit to facilitate the liberation.
One day, the teacher led us to participate in a meeting to recall the past sufferings and think about the present happiness, a kind of public activity very common in the seventies in China when older people were invited to talk about the "suffering" of the old society and the "happiness" of the new. The Communist rule is a dividing line, before which is the old society and after which is the new. A lecturer who came to speak to us on that day emphasized that even more clearly. She was a serf from Tibet by the name Basang, a woman. The banners at the meeting hall read: "Basang talks about her family history," and so on. Basang recalled the vicious and barbaric serf owners (lords) who had stripped human skin from their serfs and took their bones. The story brought waves of crying across the meeting hall.
However, in the 1980's, a number of books on Tibet appeared in China’s bookstores, all of which, of course, were written by Han Chinese writers. They wrote down the unique natural scenery and cultural landscape and invariably lamented that Tibet is mysterious, because Tibet is beyond the limits of their thinking, and stands beyond their experience, and it cannot be explained with the ethics and philosophy of the Han. These authors, however, have one thing in common, that is to explain the things and people with which and for whom they do not really understand. Their explanation, as casual, comes with the arrogance of the Han Chinese. Writers of this period include Ma Lihua, Liao Dongfan etc.
So, I started looking for books on Tibet written by foreigners, such as Travels in Tartary, Thibet and China by Régis-Evariste Huc, A Paris lady’s Adventure to Lhasa by Alexandra David-Néel, Scientific results of a journey in Central-Asia by Sven Hedin and Seven Years in Tibet by Heinrich Harrier. From those books, I saw the real characteristics of the Tibetans – kind and respectful for life. They would not bear to kill even a small insect. In Buddhism there is a doctrine that man should behave “like a passionate mother" to all other beings; and this doctrine has become the norm of the Tibetans’ day-to-day behavior.
Therefore, through reading, Tibet gradually became my life's magnetic field -- no matter what I am doing I’d think about Tibet. For example, even if I went to the street to buy a pair of shoes or a piece of clothing, I’d wonder “Will this be useful in Tibet?”
In 1997, I embarked on a trip to Tibet. At that time, I never thought this would be a road of no return. This does not mean that I never returned to my hometown ever since; it simply means that I left my heart to the land of Tibet. First, Tibet attracts me with its natural scenery -- high mountains, level stretches of green grass, avalanche-like grey clouds, turbulent rivers, countless hot springs and cold springs... I finally understood why James Hilton (James Hilton), novelist of the United Kingdom, considered Tibet as an ideal for his novel "Lost Horizon".
Although at that time I had been to most parts of China, plus several neighboring countries -- specifically, from the border town of Heihe in Heilongjiang to Vladivostok in Russia, from Dalian, Beijing, Shanghai, Putuo Mountain, Xi'an, Kunming, Dali, Xishuangbanna, Ruili to Myanmar, but none can be compared with Tibet. Tibet's natural scenery is extremely unique.
The cultural landscape is more unique: architecture, language, religion, clothing, music, even necklaces, rings and bracelets on the Barkhor street are different from those of China. It is a secular and independent beauty. I bought one after another. Meanwhile, I began to write about Tibet. In fact, I had published some fiction and prose, and also published collections of poetry before I went to Tibet, but I always felt that I had been too excessively stuck to writing skills, so the writings themselves were in lack of fullness and profound connotation. I knew that clearly, but I could not find a way for improvement.
When I write about Tibet, my heart is completely open, no longer pursuing the form. My pen went in the wake of my thought. Very soon, some of China's major magazines, such as "People's Literature", "October", "Chinese Writers" began to publish my work. Later, Tianjin Baihua Literature and Art Publishing House also published a collection of my essays, entitled "Put aside the Veil of Mystery". My work could be published in China at that time, just because then my writing was confined between the surface of natural scenery and cultural landscape of Tibet.
As a Han Chinese, it is not easy to see Tibet's former prosperity and today’s disintegration. One must go through the process of inertia, and there are two steps you need to complete – first, overcoming CCP's brainwashing, and second, doing away with of the thousands of years of Chinese imperial cultural binds.
Of course, I was not at all ignorant to the suffering of the Tibetans. For example, I intuitively found that Chinese-style architectural that sprung up day by day were frivolous and glaring, a sheer destruction of Tibet's cultural landscape, while the Tibetan style old houses were crumbling. At that time there was even a policy to encourage the demolition of the old houses. I began to investigate, and found only in the Barkhor Street area there had been more than 500 old buildings which had immeasurable value for studying Tibetan culture, but at the late 1990’s when I worked in Lhasa, there were only 93 buildings left. Of course, now none of them may have the luck to not be demolished. Some Tibetans secretly told me that the Chinese authorities want to completely destroy the foundation on which Tibetan culture is built.
When "Hong Kong returned to China”, I saw with my own eyes a Tibetan was shouting slogans before the Jokhang Temple when two plainclothes police dragged him away without any explanation to the Barkhor police station. Later, I asked a monk friend what that person was shouting about. "Independence for Tibet!" he said.
I have also seen, during the Sagadawa Festival, crowds of policemen standing along the Lin Kuo Road. I could not help asking “why Chinese authorities so closely watch over the Tibetans? Didn’t they give the Tibetans a happy new life? Didn’t they save Tibet and bring it from backwardness into an advanced society?”
I wrote all these questions into my novel. An important difference between other Chinese writers of the past and myself is that I give due respect to those that I cannot explain. Mr. Xiao Fuxing, a relatively well-known Chinese writer, once talked about me and my work in particular. He said: "Zhu Rui, who previously lived in the Northeast, now working for Tibet Literature, is quite different from many modern writers. He does not have the impetuousness as the others do. While even the Tibetan writers are running to the Mainland, he has chosen to go to Tibet. All of his works are the reflection of the cultural conflicts between Tibetans and Han Chinese.” When he said this, he did not know that I am a woman.
When I worked for the “Tibetan Literary”, I found some of my colleagues were the decedents of the Tibetan nobilities who, according to the communist propaganda were brutal and vicious serf owners (lords). However, when I approached them, I found the altruistic spirit of Buddhism which had been a part of their life. I saw with my own eyes how those "serfs", after being “emancipated" for decades, went to visit those “serf owners”, how they sang and danced together as if they were of one family. I was told that Tibetan aristocratic families usually put in front of the doors jars of water for the passers-by, some even put cans of tsampa. Of course, I'm not saying all the aristocrats were kind, but kindness is a universal existence.
At that time, on my daily commute between home and office, I would pass by the Lalu manor, the residence of the 8th and 12th Dalai Lama's families. There was once a cluster of marshes, with abundant water and lush plants. This is called the lungs of Lhasa, playing the role of regulating air and temperature, so Lhasa is cool in the summer and warm in the winter. However, in the late nineties of the last century, every time I passed by, my face would be covered with a layer of dust or sand. Since Communist China's occupation of Tibet, the army let go the underground water, so plants could no longer grow, and desertification worsens day by day.
I also saw the famous hermitage of Dezong Hot Springs, which was rented by the son of Raidi on a very cheap contract for forty years. Although the hotel accommodation has little changed, the price of lodging has doubled, and the customers are free to shoot protected animals. The famous Tibetan writer Woeser depicts her trip in a short essay “A Travel to Kill”, in which she tells how those people shot and killed the wild ducks.
I also saw the prostitutes from Sichuan, who just grabbed the passing-by monks and would not let them go, the barbaric demolition of the thousand-year old ashram Drakyerpa Monastery, the ruins of Ganden Monastery, and the Tibetans who secretly enshrine at home the photographs of the Dalai Lama and the unquenchable butter lamps ...
Gradually, I saw the essence of China's liberation of Tibet – it is to throw a nation into an inextricable political and economic oppression. I also saw the horrifying reality that a peaceful and picturesque Buddhist country occupied by China is disappearing into history. So, I started writing a historic novel “The Good Old Days of Lhasa”, in hope that people could see the real Tibet before China’s occupation, which is rarely depicted by other writers, because it had long been buried deep in China’s lies and gunfire. At the same time, I also started in-depth interviews, on the basis of which, I wrote the first piece of a series of articles on Tibet issues and sent it to Woeser, and published in the online magazine “Progressive Democracy" edited by Mr. Wang Lixiong. However, while I was working on the second piece of the series, my family completed the application for immigration to Canada, so I had to follow them to go abroad.
The year 2008 saw the outbreak of the popular uprising in Tibet, Woeser reposted my article on the Tibet issue on her blog and changed the title into “Why Tibetans Protest – my point of view of the problems in Tibet". The article was reposted by a number of magazines. Following this, I started writing the historical novel “The Good Old Days of Lhasa” which I did not finish when I was in Tibet. At the same time, I visited the settlements of Tibetans in-exile in India, and published a number of political essays on Tibet.