recent history of Tibet is well known (and hotly disputed): China
invaded Tibet in 1950 and annexed the country in 1959.
Thousands of Tibetans were murdered during the period and during the 'Cultural
Revolution' that followed. The Tibetan language, culture,
religion and history have been systematically targeted for
extinction. The 14th Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso) and the
Tibetan Government in Exile, along with some 100,000 Tibetan
refugees, remain in Dharamsala, India. So far, no country has
officially recognized it as a legitimate government of Tibet.
About half of the historical Tibet has been renamed to
'Tibet Autonomous Region'. The other half (Tibetan provinces
of Eastern Kham and Amdo) has been absorbed by the Chinese
provinces of Qinghai, Gansu, Yunnan and Sichuan. The
northwestern Yunnan and western Sichuan highlands, save for an odd Chinese policeman, a merchant
or a garrison, are clearly and staunchly Tibetan.
The Tagong's serene rolling grasslands are at the elevation of over 4,000 meters. They make it easy to forget the altitude and the sickness
that comes with it. It is one of the very few places in which a visible foreigner is immediately accepted without
questions. The environment is harsh, the people are resilient and the life is breathtaking.
Lack of access to education is one reason that keeps Tibetans
disenfranchised. The bookstores in modern Chinese cities of
Chengdu and Kunming are plenty and well stocked with dictionaries
and phrase-books of all kinds. In 2004, I tried to buy a
Tibetan-English dictionary as a gift to a Tibetan family, but there
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