“Old Tibet no Shangri-La”


An article appeared in The Atlanta Journal Constitution written by a Taiwanese student, Chi-Wen Yao, at University of Georgia. It is called “Old Tibet no Shangri-La” and points out, rightly, that old Tibet was a theocratic feudal system that abused human rights. The monasteries were the owners of huge tracts of land and owned the peasants more or less as slaves.

He’s right. There were terrible abuses and no one wants to return to a system like that. But he is misguided if he believes that returning to rule under the Dalai Lama means a return to that old system. As a young man the Dalai Lama already saw how terrible the system had become. He wanted to reform it, and, given the chance, I’m sure he would have moved Tibet toward democracy. He even considered some communist ideals as an option for a positive impact on Tibetan society and hoped that Mao would help him make those reforms. But that’s when he was a teenager! When the People’s Liberation Army came to Kham and Amdo to liberate the people from that oppressive system, they came with a complete disregard for ALL cultural and religious values, brushing aside the good with the bad. The only saw one way, the Han Chinese communist way.

Chi-Wen is right about supporting a new, democratic Tibet but he’s wrong in his assumptions that a return to lamaism will return Tibet to the dark ages. What the Dalai Lama has proven to the world, through his years of activism for his people and his repeated call for non-violence and discussion between Tibetans and Chinese, is that an autonomous Tibet will be different. The Tibetan community in exile have also seen the world and are used to free, democratic societies. If they are allowed to return to their homes in Tibet they would not want to live in the dark ages again for sure! In fact, the Tibetans living under Chinese rule now are much more aware of democratic freedoms and would not want to return to the dark ages either! Where does Chi-Wen get this notion anyway?

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2 Comments

  1. chi-wen

     /  May 21, 2010

    if i am wrong in assuming the return to lamaism will return tibet to the dark ages, then making a presumption that the supposed new theocratic tibet ruled by dalai lama and his elite monks will be peaceful, fair, and just is just as wrong.

    1) all theories and models sound good on paper, but in practice, humans are innately borne selfish. you do know the dalai lama stays at the four-season when he travels right?

    2) i am not quite sure what the craze about dalai is. he is just an exiled leader trying to gain his power back. why would you support a theocracy again?

    3) this is the main problem with dalai supporters, they are more supportive of dalai than the people of tibet.

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    • Rishi

       /  September 28, 2010

      I agree that a return to lamaism in Tibet is no answer. Nor is theocracy. Why can’t Tibet be a true autonomous, self-determining region of China like Hong Kong. Let the people decide – without coercion.
      1) Perhaps you should agree that communism looks good on paper too, while in practice it is not so sweet and is ruled by selfish hardliners who stay at the four-seasons too when they travel.
      2) Not so sure what the craze is about Communism either. Its an imported Western idea that is decidedly modern while much of the rest of the world is already post-modern. In fact nationalism itself is a Western construct that needs to be terminated if the world is to survive. Chinese and Indian nationalism/patriotism will ruin the chances of the world progressing toward our collective full potential. Is it that important a belief? I’d call it over-belief.
      3) Perhaps the people of China, including Tibet, should rise up and tell the party-goers their Party is over.

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