Windhorse Warrior: Why a Chinese Protagonist?

My novel, Windhorse Warrior, is about the Chinese Communist invasion and occupation of Tibet during the 1950s.

Lithang Monastery in 2005

QWhy did you write this story about the Chinese occupation of Tibet from the point of view of a Chinese communist?

A. I’m not Tibetan; I’m an outsider to their culture and society. It would be too presumptuous to write this story as if I were one of them. Actually, I began writing it in the third person focusing on one of the Tibetan characters but it was a Tibetan who suggested I write it from the point of view of the Chinese communist in the story. I was able to represent his point of view because of my experience as a teacher in Hong Kong for many years and my experience visiting Tibet several times as a tourist, an outsider. I taught high school age students at one of Hong Kong’s best private school with similar privileges and entitlements as Chuang Wei Ming, my protagonist in the Shanghai of the 1940s. The school had a week-long Interim travel program every March. Between 2004 and 2008 I took groups of students to the part of Sichuan, China on the Eastern Tibetan Plateau, the region Tibetans call Kham.

Chuang grows up as a privileged son of a capitalist banker in Shanghai. At the end of World War II, after the Japanese leave, he goes to university to study medicine. He meets a vivacious, intelligent young woman who turns his head in several directions. She’s anti-capitalist and leads a student cadre of young communist sympathizers. He resists becoming involved himself until she is martyred in a protest march against the Nationalist Government. Because he has been associated with her, her friends who regard her as a hero, befriend him and help him through his loss. Gradually Chuang understands what the communist movement is all about and joins. By the time Shanghai is taken over, he has split from his family and sadly sees them off as they sail away to Hong Kong.

At a communist rally on campus Chuang volunteers to take the Revolution to the people of Tibet who, he believes, live in an oppressive feudalistic system. He idealistically believes he can take the message for revolution to them and the people will rise up against their corrupt overlords and join the brotherhood of communist nations.

Chuang’s experience, once he gets there, is quite different. He is blown away by the beauty and spiritual power of the landscape, as I have been every time I go there. And like myself, Chaung had prior introductions to the people and their spiritual heritage. Chuang’s martyred girlfriend is half Tibetan, he discovers just before he goes to Tibet. Another prominent person in his life, his Juijitsu and horse riding teacher is Tibetan and instilled a spiritual awareness in him he begins to recognize only after he got to Tibet.

The author with Khampa elders

Originally posted on November 19, 2019.

A New Story: How to Build a Better World

It’s been a while since I watched a TED Talk, but this one caught my attention today because of the headline: ‘A new political story that could change everything.’

So I listened to what George Monbiot, British author and journalist, had to say. (Watch his TED Talk here.) In brief, we have organized our world around particular stories that explain our situation and give us hope for the future. Monbiot’s message is similar to Charles Eisenstein‘s. I have appreciated Charles Eisenstein’s books and talks for many years. While Charles talks more about values, Monbiot talks about our recurring political stories, the ones that change periodically and give us a new direction. 

The recurring theme of these political stories, Monbiot says, goes like this, and I quote from the TED Talk: “Disorder afflicts the land caused by the powerful and nefarious forces of the very mighty State (for example) whose collective tendencies crush freedom, individualism and opportunity. But the hero of the story, the entrepreneur (as in the story of neo liberalism) will fight those powerful forces, roll back the State and, through creating wealth and opportunity, restore the harmony in the world.”

The Buddha infecting the world with a New Story.

The story we are stuck in recycles endlessly — out with the current evil and in with the promise of something good. It has been going on as long as humanity has existed. Once a prevailing system begins to collapse, a hero pops up with a new theme but the same plot repeats itself: the ‘forces of evil’ must be thrown out so a ‘new’ system can restore harmony. This is how kingdoms and empires have functioned and how political parties operate today. 

The endless cycle conditions us as a society for competitive wealth generation. The current, neo-liberal story started in the 1970s and held sway until 2008. Unfortunately, it continues to limp along propped up by people rich enough to control governments and the media.

As a result of our conditioning we no longer trust each other and we feel alone. Greed and self-centeredness is what’s tearing our world apart at every level — from the community level to our planetary environmental crisis. Unfortunately, as long as the old story lives on we will continue to spiral into crisis and chaos. 

There is a New Story but it is being suppressed. In the media we never hear about the imaginative, positive New Story that can take us into the future. The voices of people like Eisenstein and Monbiot are drowned out – are trumped! – by the loud voices of those who cling to the old story. Both Eisenstein and Monbiot, as well as many others, point to the fact that human beings are innately altruistic and crave community. The Story of Separation, as Eisenstein points out, strives to deny us these human values. And Monbiot says, ‘We are a society of altruists but we are governed by psychopaths!’

I’ve given this a lot of thought and struggle to find the way forward. I agree with Monbiot that we need ‘engaged, inclusive and generous communities’ and a return to the idea of the commons. Like Native Americans, Tibetan nomads, and other indigenous peoples who regard the land as a common resource never to be owned or divided, we need to honor the earth’s resources in this way. We need to organize communities to manage common resources by establishing rules of use and care. This can apply to everything from forests and fields to factories. We need to organize our communities so that decisions directly effecting us are made locally. We need to recover democracy from the ‘psychopaths’ who have captured it…and create new rules and methods of elections to make sure financial power never ‘trumps’ democracy again.    

Will a New Story ‘…light the path to a better world?’ I believe so. Enlightened ones like Buddha and Jesus have, long ago, described a New Story that can put an end to the endless round of the ‘new political stories’ we keep coming up. So far we have refused to hear it.

Now we have reached a point of no return. If we don’t change we are going to destroy life on this planet. We have to start telling a story of spiritually enlightened human beings living together in enlightened societies in which we can all thrive. We are, after all and by design, loving and cooperative creatures who yearn to live in a better world! 

If the change is to happen, we need people willing to live this New Story so that it ‘will infect minds across the political spectrum.’

(All direct quotes are from Geogre Monbiot’s TED Talk.)

Originally posted July 31, 2019

A Third Way

In my novel Windhorse Warrior, I described what happened when the People’s Republic of China claimed and occupied the Tibetan plateau in the 1950s. The ancient and isolated Tibetan civilization was, at that point, stagnant and in need of socio-economic reforms. As the modern world encroached on Tibet, it was the Chinese communists who forced their own brand of reforms. Sixty years later, the Tibetan people are second class citizens in their own land similar to Native Americans in the United States and Canada.

Prayer Flags honoring King Gesar, featured in Windhorse Warrior

In Windhorse Warrior, I provide an alternative option. A local community accepts the limitations of their own system while recognizing the oppressive nature of the Chinese communist reforms demanded of them. They are given a choice by the occupying People’s Liberation Army: follow the Red Road of compliance with communist reforms, or walk the Black Road of resistance which means armed conquest. Rejecting both of these options, the people propose a third way; the Golden Way. This is not a compromise but a way of life that more than meets the demands of communist reform while living up to their ancient buddhist roots.

Read the book and find out what the nomads and villagers of Gyawa and Mola propose; then I’d like to hear your suggestions for a third way that might get us out of the situation facing our whole world now.

In my opinion we live in a broken, stagnant civilization not unlike Tibet prior to 1950. Our economic and social systems need reform. Capitalism in the West only creates wealth for the few who control our governments. Communism, especially in China, is broken because it no longer represents the people; like capitalism it benefits only those in power.

What is, or should be, driving reforms? I suggest it is climate change and its many man-made causes! It is not out of the question that, if we continue ignoring our predicament, civilization as we know it may be over by 2050! We need drastic changes but the way we have been trying to reduce our impact on the environment is not going to be enough.

We need something completely new, something everyone can accept, something that will benefit everyone equally; a new socio-economic system based on love. We all want a better world; we know in our hearts that a more beautiful world is possible – but how do we make it happen? Let me know your ideas and, who knows, I might consider including it in my next novel.

Read Windhorse Warrior by R C Friedericks

Available now in bookstores including Barnes & Noble. Order the hardcover or buy a Kindle version from Amazon.

White Crane

White Crane, a song by Tshangyang Gyatso, the Sixth Dalai Lama.

Oh marvelous white crane

Lend me your wings

I shall not fly far

From Lithang I shall return!

This is a popular song in Tibet and is beautifully sung in the video below by Dolma who runs the Golden Sun Hotel in a small town in Kham. Before building and running this hotel, Dolma was a professional singer. She sang Tibetan songs in Chengdu and other big cities across China. She is a devout Buddhist and her uncle is a well known lama.

As you can imagine, Dolma’s beautiful voice and face stayed with me as I created Dechen, one of the female characters in my novel Windhorse Warrior.


History repeats itself.

Three hundred years ago, the people tried to protect the Sixth Dalai Lama to keep him from being taken away to China.

Sixty years ago, the Tibetan people rebelled against Communist Chinese attempt to remove the Fourteenth Dalai Lama from spiritual and temporal power. They came out to surround the Norbu Lingka, where the Dalai Lama was residing, to protect him and to keep him from accepting an invitation to attend a Chinese function. Within a few days, the Dalai Lama agreed to go into exile in India.

Three hundred years ago ‘The Great Fifth’ Dalai Lama, Ngawang Losang Gyatso, was the first of the Dalai Lama lineage to assume full spiritual and secular control over the whole of Tibet. When the Great Fifth died suddenly in 1682, at age 68, Desi (regent) Sangay Gyatso kept secret the Dalai Lama’s death for 15 years. He told the Tibetan people, the Mongol princes and the Manchu emperor that the Dalai Lama was doing an indefinite meditation retreat. Meanwhile the Regent started the search for the Fifth’s reincarnation by telling the search party that the search was for someone else. In 1685, an extraordinary boy was discovered. He was born two years earlier on March 1, 1683, in the land of Mon (Tawang — east of present day Bhutan). 

The Regent accepted this child as the true reincarnation but to keep the boy’s existence secret, he and his mother were under virtual house arrest until he was fifteen years old. In 1697, a message was sent to the Manchu court in Peking officially announcing the Fifth Dalai Lama’s death and the discovery of his reincarnation. In October of that year, Losang Rigdzin Tshangyang Gyatso (Precious Ocean of Pure Melody) was enthroned as the Sixth Dalai Lama. The fact that the reincarnation was already 15 years old was explained as the Great Fifth’s request that his death be kept secret for the stability of Tibet. The Tibetan and Mongolians believed this and accepted the boy as the Sixth Dalai Lama.

Up until that time the young man had not received any of the rigorous training ordinarily given to a Dalai Lama before his enthronement. When his training began, the tall, handsome, talented and intelligent lad was not very diligent. He preferred archery, horseback riding and an outdoor life. His nature was humble and he preferred a simple life to the pomp and ceremony of life at the Potala. He lived in the Potala without servants and made his own tea which he readily served visitors. 

Though Tshangyang Gyatso was not dedicated to his monastic training, he was highly intellectual and wrote learned treatises on a variety of subjects. He was an architect and remodeled the Norbu Lingka summer palace. He was an enthusiastic dancer and modified many aspects of Tibetan monastic opera. As a result the Regent, who was responsible for the young man’s political and spiritual education grew frustrated and pleaded with the young Dalai Lama to take his office seriously. 

By the time he was twenty, Tshangyang Gyatso refused to take the gelong vow, the final initiation of consecration as a monk, he went further and even renounced his novice vow he took in 1697 when he was enthroned. He returned to the status of layman and, though not able to fulfill his responsibility as spiritual leader, he remained the temporal head of Tibetan society. 

From the day he renounced his vows, he dressed as a layman, kept his hair long and wore elaborate clothing and rings on his fingers. Though he continued to live at the Potala, he wandered the streets of Lhasa and other nearby towns. He spent time with friends practicing archery, riding horses and, in the evenings, visiting taverns, drinking, composing and singing love songs, and dallying with his lovers.

This was during a time of a great power play between the Mongols and the Manchus over Tibet. The Mongols had helped the Fifth Dalai Lama establish control over all of Tibet, but were now divided among themselves and susceptible to influence by the Manchus who suggested that keeping the existence of the Sixth Dalai Lama secret was a ploy used by the Regent to remain in power. This was not the case, but the idea turned the Mongols against the Regent, and later the Sixth Dalai Lama. Because of this distrust, the Regent was overthrown and beheaded in 1705 by the Mongols.  

Not long after, a faction of the Mongols attempted to depose the Sixth Dalai Lama from power but they misjudged the Tibetan people. Even though Tshangyang Gyatso was a layman, the people loved him. 

With help from the Manchu emperor, the Mongols eventually deposed the Sixth Dalai Lama on June 27, 1706 and tried to send him to China under armed guards. The Tibetan people rose up to rescue him near Drepung monastery where he took refuge. The next day the Mongols surrounded the monastery and threatened to destroy it with artillery. To prevent bloodshed, Tshangyang Gyatso, walked out of the monastery and surrendered. But the monastery was looted and destroyed anyway for harboring the Sixth Dalai Lama. 

Tshangyang Gyatso was once again taken away toward China. When he reached Gung-nor, south of Kokonor, he ‘disappeared’ — that is, he was most likely murdered. He must have known this would happen because this is when he composed the ‘White Crane’ song foretelling his reincarnation in Lithang. It was written and sent to a lady-friend in Shol, an area of Lhasa he frequented.

And again, the Mongols misjudged the Tibetans. After the Sixth Dalai Lama’s ‘disappearance’, the Mongols appointed a young monk as the ‘real’ Sixth Dalai Lama! Believing the Mongols had gone too far, the Manchu emperor delayed recognizing the new Sixth Dalai Lama. And when the Seventh Dalai Lama was found in Lithang, he was secretly moved to Derge, in northern Kham, to protect him from the Mongols. 

The Manchu’s found their opportunity to intervene in Tibetan politics by protecting the young Seventh Dalai Lama, sending an army to defeat the Mongols in Lhasa and enthroning Kalzang Gyatso, the boy from Lithang, but recognized him as the Sixth Dalai Lama rather than the Seventh. This, of course, enraged the Tibetans. 

The Mongols were driven out of Tibet for good, with the help of the Manchus but modern Chinese propaganda uses this turn of events as the beginning of Chinese control in Tibet. 


Tshangyang Gyatso, the Sixth Dalai Lama had made another prophesy. He said that he would return to Tawang, his birth place, when three identical sandalwood trees grew beside each other. In 1959, the people of Tawang noticed these trees and soon after, the Dalai Lama came to Tawang again, this time as the Great Fourtheenth on his way to exile in India.

The succession of the next Dalai Lama, the Fifteenth, is sure to be complicated by the Chinese if they assert their so-called right to enthrone a Dalai Lama of their own choice. This is exactly what the Mongols and Manchus attempted three hundred years ago. The present Dalai Lama jokes that he will return as a Western woman to indicate that any choice by Chinese officials is bound to be false. 

Some of Tshangyang Gyatso’s songs:

Drops of rain wash away

The love songs written in

Black and White

But love, though unwritten

Remains long after, in the heart.


She sparkled her smile

To the crowd in the tavern

But from the corner of her eyes

She spoke to me of her love.


Accepting the desires of my beloved

Will ruin my chance to profess dharma

Yet my retreat into a solitary hermitage

Will break my beloved’s tender heart.


I incline myself

To the teachings of my lama

But my heart secretly escapes

To thoughts of my beloved


If I could meditate on dharma

As intensely as on my beloved

I would attain enlightenment

In this one life-time.

The Sixth Dalai Lama was a poet of the people. His songs found ‘a permanent place in the heart of the Tibetan people, especially in the young whose joy of love, despair in loneliness and frustration with social injustice so often were reflected in his songs.’ (K. Dhondup, Songs of the Sixth Dalai Lama) His songs were filled with protest against the feudal order which oppressed the common people. Shorn of literary devices, the poetry excels in ‘rare descriptions of basic human emotion and experiences of love, loyalty, loneliness and betrayal etc., with the use of a wide range of images.’ (ibid) Other songs mock monks who are not true to their vows. 

One of his songs expresses his situation clearly:

In my Palace, the place of Heaven on Earth

They call me Rigdzin Tshangyang Gyatso

Chenresig Reincarnate.

But below my Palace,

In the little town of Shol,

They call me Chebo Tangsang Wangpo,

The Profligate,

For my lovers are many.

It is thought that the courtesans of Lhasa had their own version of this song:

In the Potala he is Rigdzin Tshangyang Gyatso

But in Lhasa and Shol, he is a delightful young blade!


With thanks to K. Dhondup of Dharmsala who translated these verses and wrote an informative introduction in Songs of the Sixth Dalai Lama in 1981.

High Road to India

In 1996 Clint Collins, a student at Woodstock School, made an award winning documentary about the young refugee children attending the Tibetan Homes Foundation in Happy Valley, another school in Mussoorie, India. It is a moving story of bright, courageous children who escaped from Chinese authoritarian rule in Tibet because they wanted to pursue dreams they would not be able to have if they stayed in modern-day Tibet.

See this 30 minute video below:

Tibet – History of Tragedy

A documentary titled Tibet – History of Tragedy outlines the history of Tibet during the 20th Century. This film will give you an overview of the social and political conflict behind the story told in Windhorse Warrior.

The documentary comes in four parts on YouTube:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Where to buy Windhorse Warrior

Screenshot 2018-10-25 14.18.15Copies of Windhorse Warrior are available via and Amazon.

Please note that these may be shipped from India. Few outlets will have copies in the US and Europe until next spring. Niyogi Books India, the publisher, ships to US outlets each April. The next shipping is April 2019.

Right now the best deal is through AbeBooks and a direct connection with the publisher. They offer copies for US$14.45 plus $6.04 shipping for a total of $20.49. But delivery time at this price will be very slow – but for $18.12 shipping it can be delivered in 5-8 business days!

Locally, in Port Townsend and the greater Seattle area, you can order directly from me. I am selling signed copies for $25.00. Mailing it to you, book post, will be about $4.40. You may email me at

In the near future I will be having public readings with signed copies available for purchase. I will make the venues and dates known as they develop. I anticipate an interview for Booklover’s Cafe, on the Port Townsend community radio station soon.

Bookmarks, like the one shown on the left, will be included with each copy purchased from me. There are five designs.

Shambhala Warriors

A Shambhala warrior, like a windhorse warrior, is a metaphor for the Buddhist ideal of the bodhisattva. A bodhisattva is any person who has aroused the compassionate wish to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. She or he strives to fearlessly alleviate the suffering of others by acting out of compassion while filled with insight into the radical inter-existence of all phenomenon. This kind of warrior engages in a battle that is not between the good guys and the bad guys – because ‘the line between good and evil runs through the landscape of every heart’ – but is dedicated to dismantling the weapons of separation and destruction that are mind-made.

Below is a short talk by Joanna Macy describing what her teacher, Dugu Choegyal Rinpoche, told her about the Kingdom of Shambhala and Shambhala warriors.

Janna Macy (born May 2, 1929), is an environmental activist, author, scholar of Buddhism, general systems theory, and deep ecology. She is the author of eight books. (Wikipedia)

Windhorse Warrior

My novel has been published by Niyogi Books India!


Screenshot 2018-10-25 17.20.45

Windhorse Warrior offers an inside look at the struggles and aspirations of the Tibetan people during the 1950s. It is a tale that weaves together the politics of occupation and resistance, an other-worldly romance between a Chinese communist and an educated Tibetan woman, and the soaring vision of the Tibetan spiritual heart.

Chuang Wei Ming, a young zealot from Shanghai, arrives in Lithang—on the eastern Tibetan plateau—with a mission to prepare the people for Maoism but soon outgrows its limiting worldview. Chuang falls in love with the beautiful and intelligent Dechen, who introduces him to the richness of Tibetan Buddhism. Palden Rinpoche, Dechen’s spiritual teacher, includes Chuang in their plan for a general spiritual awakening based on the Legend of King Gesar of Ling. Together, they pursue a pure communism infused with Buddhist teachings to create an ‘enlightened society’.

This is a story that extends beyond the decade in which it is set. Its message is true today in the global context of oppression and disparity, fake news, and injustice. Those who believe in a just and beautiful world will find themselves longing for an ‘enlightened society’ filled with spiritually awakened women and men, free to pursue their true potential and eager to enrich the lives of others.


I have 100 books for sale locally now. Books will not be readily available in the US until next spring. By then you should be able to buy one from Amazon or order through your local bookstore at $25.00 for hardcover. It will eventually be available in paperback and as an ebook (Kindle). A photo of the cover is below. Go to the Book page for details on purchasing a copy.

Read it and write a review on

Or ask questions and make comments below.


Tibetan Nomads in the City

Here is song from a young Tibetan lamenting what is happening to the once freely roaming nomads of the high Tibetan Plateau. More and more Tibetans are forced to live in crowded cities where they feel cut off from their way of life and their spiritual roots. Lobsang Nyima sings in the traditional Tibetan style.

The lyrics were written by Menlha Kyab and an English translation is below:

The sky was bluer than turquoise
From the mountain peaks I came
The buildings are taller than steep mountains
In this city where I am left
The buildings are taller than steep mountains
In this city where I am left

The true path is covered in dust
People’s minds are driven by the rush
Although the city is bustle and noise
There is no one to be trusted
Although the city is bustle and noise
There is no one to be trusted

Accompanying the white-tailed vulture
This mind has slipped out of its den
The vast expanse of my love
Is lost in this city

Accompanying the white-tailed vulture
This mind has slipped out of its den
The vast expanse of my love
Is lost in this city

The true path is covered in dust
People’s minds are driven by the rush
Although the city is bustle and noise
There is no one to be trusted

The city of electricity
The path is a painting of a rainbow

Yet there is no bridge for the mind
In this great ocean of samsara
Yet there is no bridge for the mind
In this great ocean of samsara

Accompanying the white-tailed vulture
This mind has slipped out of its den
The cloud that is whiter than yogurt
Is lost in this city

Accompanying the white-tailed vulture
This mind has slipped out of its den
The cloud that is whiter than yogurt
Is lost in this city

Accompanying the white-tailed vulture
This mind has slipped out of its den
The cloud that is whiter than yogurt
Is lost in this city
The cloud that is whiter than yogurt
Is lost in this city

Translation by High Peaks Pure Earth