Review: Books by two men who have served Tibet

October 4, 2017 By Thubten Samphel, hindustantimes

Shokdung is the pen name for Tra-gya. It means the “morning conch.” The translator, Matthew Akster, thinks it is meant as a wake-up call for Tibet, a call for a peaceful revolution against Beijing’s iron-fisted rule on the Tibetan Plateau. Indeed, the message of Shokdung takes the readers back to the 19th century when a powerful West confronted and encroached upon a weakened Manchu China. This humiliating encounter between East and West resulted in agonized soul searching among Chinese scholars on how to forge an effective response. Some scholars blamed the dead weight of tradition and Confucianism for China’s inability to confront the Western challenge. They pointed to two gentlemen, Mr Science and Mr Democracy, who could save China from further humiliation.

The argument Shokdung advances in his brave book is that Tibet is similarly weighed down by tradition and Buddhism. These two forces prevent Tibetans from developing an effective response to Beijing’s rule. His is a brave book because Shokdung writes from Tibet. It is a brave book in another sense because Shokdung targets the most cherished tradition of Tibet, its spiritual heritage, to the consternation of the spiritual establishment in Tibet. The American Chinese scholar, Dan Smyer Yu, calls Shokdung’s views on Tibetan culture “an anti-traditonalist imagining of modern Tibet.”[Source]

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