Perspectives on Tibet

Tubten Khetsun; Memories of Life in Lhasa Under Chinese Rule

With events of the past week, China’s rule over Tibet is once again in the news. Sites such as Radio Free Asia, Students for a Free Tibet, the BBC, and NPR, which interviewed Robert Barnett yesterday, offer news on events as they unfold. For an historical perspective on the uprisings, two CUP titles offer much-needed insight into Tibet and its complex past:

Tubten Khétsun’s Memories of Life in Lhasa Under Chinese Rule provides a rare first-hand account of living in Tibet during the period of Mao’s regime. Khétsun was arrested while defending the Dalai Lama’s summer palace, and after four years in prisons and labor camps, he spent close to two decades in Lhasa as a requisitioned laborer and “class enemy.” Khétsun describes his prison experiences, the state of civil society following his release, and he presents keenly observed of well-known events, such as the launch of the Cultural Revolution, as well as lesser-known aspects of everyday life in occupied Lhasa.

For more on Lhasa, Robert Barnett’s Lhasa: Streets With Memories offers a lyrical exploration of a city long idealized, disregarded, or misunderstood by outsiders. Looking to its streets and stone, Robert Barnett presents a searching and unforgettable portrait of Lhasa. Barnett juxtaposes contemporary accounts of Tibet, architectural observations, and descriptions by foreign observers to describe Lhasa and its current status as both an ancient city and a modern Chinese provincial capital. Besides the ancient Buddhist temples and former picnic gardens of the Tibetan capital, Lhasa describes the urban sprawl, the harsh rectangular structures, and the geometric blue-glass tower blocks that speak of the anxieties of successive regimes intent upon improving on the past. Read the preface to Lhasa: Streets With Memories. (pdf)

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