Archive for June, 2014

Summer Reading



Whether sitting on the beach or spending your summer days in balconville, the next two months are a perfect time to catch up on reading and to feed your Tibet obsession at the same time.


Below, you will find a list of Tibet-related books, both fiction and non-fiction, compiled from suggestions of the CTC staff. We hope you will provide your comments/reviews and also that you will add your own suggestions of Tibet-related reads that you have recently enjoyed!



Inspector Shan Series:  Book one – Mandarin Gate

By Eliot Pattison, Minotaur Books, 2012


In an earlier time, Shan Tao Yun was an Inspector stationed in Beijing. But he lost his position, his family and his freedom when he ran afoul of a powerful figure high in the Chinese government. Released unofficially from the work camp to which he'd been sentenced, Shan has been living in remote mountains of Tibet with a group of outlawed Buddhist monks. Shan has just begun to settle into his menial job as an inspector of irrigation and sewer ditches in a remote Tibetan township when he encounters a wrenching crime scene. When he discovers that a nearby village has been converted into a new internment camp for Tibetan dissidents arrested in Beijing's latest pacification campaign, Shan recognizes the dangerous landscape he has entered.


The Mandarin Gate is the first of six books in the Inspector Shan Series.


The Unbearable Dreamworld of Champa the Driver
By Chan Koonchung; translation by Nicky Harman, Doubleday, 2014

Champa, a young Tibetan, is a simple chap. He has a stable job in Lhasa as chauffeur to a successful Chinese art dealer, Plum. Champa doesn't have a gripe against the Chinese. He's not the sort of guy to get caught up in politics either: he just wants to get on in life. For Champa, a sure sign that he's made it would be to move to the Chinese capital and live there like a young Beijinger. But then he begins a romantic affair with Plum and life gets complicated. Shifting balances of power, deliberate manipulations, the force of sexual desire, and the ache of longing are par for the course. And relationships are even more complex when there are vast differences in wealth, culture and power between the man and the woman, between Tibet and China.


NON-FICTION (updated)


The Friendship Highway:  Two journeys in Tibet

Charlie Carroll, Summersdale 2014

Hoping to reach Tibet after a 20 year obsession, Charlie Carroll plans a trip to China.  Contending with chinese bureaucracy, unforgiving terrain and sickness-inducing altitude, Charlie experiences twenty-first-century Tibet in all its heart-stopping beauty. Tibetan-born Lobsang fled the volatile region over the Himalayas, on foot, as a child in 1989. An exile in Nepal, then a student in India, he was called back to Tibet by love. At the end of the road known as the Friendship Highway, he met Charlie and recounted his extraordinary life story, exemplifying the hardship, resilience and hope of modern Tibetan life."

Escape from Tibet (revised edition)

Nick Gray with Laura Scandiffio, Annick Press, 2014

A true story first told in an acclaimed documentary, Escape from Tibet, this is a riveting tale of courage, adventure, and triumph.  It tells the story of two young brothers who escape an oppressive existence by fleeing to India alone and on foot over the Himalayas. On the forbidden journey they face challenges, including unimaginable cruelty of border police, and the unforgiving severity of Mother Nature. In this updated edition, the Dalai Lama provides a forward and the authors tell how the brothers fared in exile and what they are doing now.

The Disempowered Development of Tibet in China: A Study in the Economics of Marginalization

By Andrew Martin Fischer, Lexington Books, 2013


In March 2008, a wave of large scale demonstrations quickly fanned out from Lhasa to the Tibetan areas of Qinghai, Sichuan and Gansu over the course of about three weeks.  Despite mounting tensions and brewing discontent that had been evident for years, the usual developmental alibis were nonetheless presented through various state organs in China even as the demonstrations were still on-going. The government argued that the “riots” were due to political meddling and manipulation from abroad, particularly from the Tibetan exile community and their western supporters and that Tibetans had no valid cause for grievance given the growing prosperity in Tibetan areas.  Andrew Fischer takes a deeper look at the characteristics of subordination, discrimination and disadvantage that led to the 2008 demonstrations and that have inspired more than 130 self-immolations since 2009.  He concludes that without efforts to resolve the asymmetrical power relations in Tibet, economic development will not produce lasting benefits for the Tibetan people.

A Hundred Thousand White Stones

By Kunsang Dolma, Wisdom Publications, 2013


A Hundred Thousand White Stones is one young Tibetan woman's fearlessly told story of longing and change. Kunsang Dolma writes with unvarnished candor of the hardships she experienced as a girl in Tibet, violations as a refugee nun in India, and struggles as an immigrant and new mother in America. Yet even in tribulation, she finds levity and never descends to self-pity. We watch in wonder as her unlikely choices and remarkable persistence bring her into ever-widening circles, finding love and a family in the process, and finally bringing her back to her childhood home. A Hundred Thousand White Stones offers an honest assessment of what is gained in pursuing life in the developed world and what is lost.


Tibet Wild: A Naturalist's Journeys on the Roof of the World Hardcover

by George Schaller, Island Press, 2012


Tibet Wild is Schaller’s account of three decades of exploration in the most remote stretches of Tibet: the wide, sweeping rangelands of the Chang Tang and the hidden canyons and plunging ravines of the southeastern forests. As engaging as he is enlightening, Schaller illustrates the daily struggles of a field biologist trying to traverse the impenetrable Chang Tang, discover the calving grounds of the chiru or Tibetan antelope, and understand the movements of the enigmatic snow leopard. What begins as a purely scientific endeavor becomes a mission: to work with local communities and regional leaders to protect the unique ecological richness and culture of the Tibetan Plateau. Critics have said that Schaller lacks respect for the Tibetan people – what do you think?

Spoiling Tibet: China and Resource Nationalism on the Roof of the World By Gabriel Lafitte, Zed Books, 2013

The mineral-rich mountains of Tibet so far have been largely untouched by China’s growing economy. Nor has Beijing been able to settle Tibet with politically reliable peasant Chinese. That is all about to change as China’s 12th Five-Year Plan, from 2011 to 2015, calls for massive investment in copper, gold, silver, chromium and lithium mining in the region, with devastating environmental and social outcomes. Despite great interest in Tibet worldwide, Spoiling Tibet is the first book that investigates mining at the roof of the world. A unique, authoritative guide through the torrent of online posts, official propaganda and exile speculation.

TIBET: An Unfinished Story
Lezlee Brown Halper & Stefan Halper
, C Hurst & Co. Publishers, 2013


An Unfinished Story is a tale of Tibet seen through the Cold War blinkers. It traces the origins and manifestations of the Tibetan myth and discusses how, in the post war world when so many nations emerged out of colonial yoke, Tibet failed to gain freedom.  The authors Lezlee Brown Halper and Stefan Halper argue that Tibet became an unintended casualty of Cold War and how a small elite, unfamiliar with real politik, misread the intentions of the giant neighbours India and China. They hoped against hope that Washington might intervene. Based on personal interviews with key players across continents and archival materials, the Halpers have ferreted out new secrets and fascinating accounts like the difficulties that CIA faced in training Tibetan operatives.  


With the Tibetans in Tent and Temple

By Susie Carson Rijnhart, Foreign Christian Missionary Society, 1904


Often cited as the first Canadian in Tibet, Susie Carson Rijnhart (1868 - 1908) offers her personal account of the years she spent in Tibet as a missionary with her husband, Petrus Rijnhart, in the late 1800s.  In the book, Susie Rijnhart documents their experiences with Tibetan officials, lamas and lay people as they attempted to travel overland from China to the Tibetan capital, Lhasa.  Often providing medical services to the locals, the Rijnhart’s experiences ended in tragedy when Petrus was killed by bandits and the Rijnhart’s small baby died of illness.  Still, the account provides an interesting insight to the Tibetan culture and polity in the years before China’s occupation.


Dharamsala Dispatch #5: Ladakh Summer

Posted by Eva Cirnu

If you are going to this year’s long awaited Kalachakra teachings by H.H. the Dalai Lama you may also be planning to arrive early and spend a few days enjoying Ladakh’s breathtaking beauty - or frantically looking for accommodation - or acclimatizing and getting used to the height.

And speaking of heights, if you are in Ladakh a few days before the teachings then you are in for a treat: the most renowned artists of the Himalayan region musical traditions will be there to perform during a 4 day mega concert.

The event is organized by HITA Music Agency (Himalayan International Tradition Arts) which is based in Japan.  The concert will take place under the name ‘Tashi Delek Concert’.

A promising line-up of more than 25 artists will represent various music genres from folk to fusion and pop. Among the artists invited are Prashant Tamang (Indian Idol 3 Winner), Techung (Tibetan folk and freedom singer/songwriter), Nima Rumba (popular Nepali singer & actor), Dechen Zang (Bhutanese lead pop singer and actress). The concert dates are June 29 to July 2.

The Tashi Delek Concert will be a unique opportunity to discover and enjoy the musical traditions of the Himalayan region, in a most unique setting.

The Kalachakra teachings and initiation will follow 2 days after the concert on July 4th. They are expected to draw a crowd close to 30,000 people. On July 6, Kalachakra participants will have the special opportunity to spend H.H. the Dalai Lama’s birthday in his presence.

For more info please visit:

Tashi Delek Concert:

HITA Music Agency:

Kalachakra Initiation:

Eva Cirnu is Coordinator of the Canada Tibet Committee’s francophone section.  She is currently living in Dharamsala, India.

The Legacy of Tiananmen

This week, on June 4, the world will mark the 25th anniversary of the crackdown in Tiananmen Square in which more than 2000 civilians were killed by their own government simply because they called for democratic reform.  The 1989 events took place before the era of cell phones and email, but stories about the military crackdown and the weeks of peaceful demonstrations that preceded it spread quickly thanks to international media who were on the ground in Beijing.

I was among those watching the stories from Canada. It was an unbelievably exhilarating moment for all of us who were part of the movement for human rights in both China and Tibet.  It was a time when we really could believe – incredibly and against all odds - that the power of the people would overwhelm China’s rigid authoritarian state.  Sadly, after early indications that the government would negotiate with representatives of the protesters, the brutal crackdown came in the dark of night on June 4 followed by weeks of arrests.

It was something that Tibetans had experienced before.  In fact, 1989 was also a watershed year for the Tibetan struggle. On January 28, 1989 the 10th Panchen Lama died in Shigatse under mysterious circumstances just a week after he had criticized Chinese authorities and called for greater self-government in Tibet. On March 5, a small group of Tibetans walked through the streets of Lhasa carrying a Tibetan flag in memory of those who had been killed by police during a protest the previous year.  Police opened fire killing most of the demonstrators but other Tibetans quickly took their places.  Soon the crowd had swelled to an estimated 800 according to foreign tourists who witnessed the events.  By March 7, hundreds of People’s Liberation Army troops had entered Lhasa, imposed a curfew and announced the expulsion of all foreigners from the city.  According to the Associated Press, “387 Lhasa citizens have been killed . . . the majority by bullets . . . 721 were injured, 2,100 have been arrested or detained…”[i]

On March 8, martial law was imposed across Tibet.  The Canada Tibet Committee quickly organized a “walk for freedom” which saw twenty Tibetans and their Canadian supporters walk in frigid March temperatures for four days from Montreal to Ottawa to press the Government of Canada to take action.  The response from the Secretary of State for External Affairs was a statement issued on March 10, 1989 calling on Chinese authorities to “respect basic human rights and freedoms”.  The same day, the Dalai Lama sent an appeal to Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping asking him to personally intervene to lift martial law in Tibet and to seek a peaceful solution through negotiation.

Deng did nothing and martial law was still in effect in Tibet when the Tiananmen events took place.  It was no surprise then that Tibetans in Canada rallied in support of their Chinese brothers and sisters.  “We know exactly what the Chinese are going through” said Thubten Samdup, then president of the Canada Tibet Committee and now Representative of the Dalai Lama in Northern and Eastern Europe.  “We’ve seen it happen at home”.[ii]

Tibetans believed and hoped that a successful outcome in Tiananmen Square would be the harbinger of increased freedoms in Tibet.  Unfortunately, it was not to be.  

In October 1989, the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Prize for his adherence to the strategy of non-violence and his efforts to promote peace around the world.  At the time it was generally understood that the Nobel Committee wanted to send a message to China in the wake of events that had taken place in both Lhasa and Beijing that year.  In his acceptance speech, His Holiness paid homage to the Tiananmen Square protesters.  “The Chinese students have given me great hope for the future of China and Tibet” he said.[iii]

Today, as we commemorate these events twenty-five years later, we also confront the reality that despite his hopes, the Dalai Lama’s dream of a freer and kinder China has not come to pass.  The Tiananmen legacy has not been one of political opening or increased enjoyment of human rights in China.  Today Nobel Laureate Liu Xiabao remains behind bars because of his outspoken advocacy of democratic reform.  The Government of China maintains a de-facto martial law in Tibet with a series of new controls imposed on freedom of expression, religious activities, language rights, land rights and even on international tourism.  Incredibly, the Government of China continues to detain Tiananmen activists in the lead up to this week’s 25th anniversary, and it has ramped up its anti-Dalai Lama campaign as seen last month when the Prime Minister of Norway, home of the Nobel Prize, refused to meet the Dalai Lama in deference to Chinese pressure.

Western governments that have waged numerous wars in the name of democracy, have sold out those same values to economic interests and continue to give China a pass notwithstanding pro-forma statements of concern issued at strategic moments for the purposes of domestic consumption. No doubt there will be several more such statements this week.

As we remember Tiananmen Square, we honour the memory of those brave young people who challenged authority and stood up to power in Beijing 25 years ago.  There is no doubt in my mind, that the events in Tiananmen Square could have marked the beginning of a triumphant road to democracy in China.  The fact that they did not, and the role that the international community played in that failure is something that only history will judge.  Meanwhile, the well-known Tibetan activist and writer, Lhasang Tsering, perhaps said it best, “We are selling a commodity for which there is no market.  Truth is a commodity with no market”.  How sad. 

 Carole Samdup is the Executive Director of the Canada Tibet Committee


[ii] Protesters express sorrow over Beijing massacre, Montreal Gazette, July 23, 1989

[iii] Official statement of the Dalai Lama in response to being awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace (CTC Newsletter, Fall 1989, on file)