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Tibet does not exist, Tibet does exist: Woeser

January 30, 2008

Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Blog by Woeser, November 19, 2007

(Translated from the Chinese)
Submitted by Dreaming Lhasa,

A few hours ago, along with three friends, I went to see the film,
Dreaming Lhasa. Directed by Tenzing Sonam and Ritu Sarin, it was
released in 2005. Tenzing Sonam is the descendant of a member of the
Tibetan Resistance Group known as “Four Rivers Six Ranges” (Chushi
Gangdruk), who heroically went into exile in 1959. He was born in
Darjeeling, and has been to Tibet. Ritu Sarin is his wife, and she is an
Indian. The film vividly conveys the heart-felt suffering and pain
experienced by exile Tibetans for the past 48 years, and it enables its
audience to feel this suffering intimately. It’s because of what
happened yesterday, that things are happening today and will happen
tomorrow… I myself don’t know what will happen tomorrow. But Dhondup
(one of the characters in the film), who spent four years in prison in
Lhasa, gazed at the floating clouds over the sky of Dharamsala, and
said: “No matter what Lhasa is like and no matter whether there are
Chinese there or not, I am determined to go back to Lhasa.” When I heard
this, tears streamed down my face.

Among the three friends who watched the movie with me, D is Tibetan.
Like Tenzing Sonam, she was also born in a foreign land. During the
film, she translated the few lines of English dialogue for me in a low
voice. L and G are a loving Chinese couple, both of whom received their
Ph.D. from Beijing University. I know them well, and I like to watch
films with them. Maybe what L said at the end of the film was right;
that we all had very complex responses. I fully understood his words,
and it was only because I had the same feelings, that all sorts of
emotions welled up in my heart. After all, given that from 1950 up to
the present, the nation and the country, and individuals like you and
me, have been involved in so many entanglements, undergone so many
losses, and experienced so much pain, how would it be possible for us
not to have complex emotions or find it difficult to express our feelings?

Later, after D and I returned to our apartments, we continued to chat
about the movie via the net. Just like the Tibetans who had gathered in
Dharamsala in the film, D comes from Britain, and I am from Lhasa. But
our watching the film together had a more unique significance, because
from a small corner of Beijing, we were trying to get to know American
Tibetans in Dharamsala, Indian Tibetans and Lhasa Tibetans, all of whom
are Tibetans in a state of exile. Though D hardly speaks much Chinese,
she can already write many Chinese characters. I really admire her for
learning Chinese in just a year. She told me that the translation of the
title of the movie was not very accurate. She said, “In English, it
means that Lhasa is a dream. It’s very important to understand this
distinction.” When I asked her the reason for this, she typed the
following Chinese characters and sent them to me: “Everybody has their
version of Lhasa. In particular, although most Tibetans in exile have
not been to Lhasa, they have always talked about Lhasa from when they
were little. But how can they know what kind of a place Lhasa is? So, it
is just like a dream…though this movie is about Tibet, Tibet does not
appear in it even once. There is no Tibet!”

Tibet does not exist! But everybody knows that Tibet does exist. It is
precisely because we feel that Tibet does not exist or that it does
exist that we have become kindred spirits. We still have our dream.

I wanted to say a few words about the movie on my blog, so I googled it.
First, I searched for “Dreaming Lhasa” on google, and I was able to find
the poster. Karma, who grew up in America, looks beautiful and
fashionable, but in her eyes there is also the pain and suffering
associated with exile life. Dhondup, who has fled from Lhasa to
Dharamsala to fulfil a promise, wears a poor quality suit throughout the
movie, and in the poster, he is hidden in the snow mountains and peaks.
And in the silver talisman (Gawu), to which many people will prostrate
upon seeing it, His Holiness’s thin and lean face is carved in the
hearts of those Tibetans who were not able to escape and had to live in

Then, when I googled “Dreaming Lhasa” in Chinese, there were a few
entries, most of which were advertisements for a trip called, “Dreaming
Lhasa”, sponsored by travel agencies all over China.

*Woeser is a Tibetan author writing in Chinese. She is currently
self-exiled in Beijing after she was deprived of her job, residence and
freedom of movement inside Tibet by Chinese Communist authorities in
2003 for her politically sensitive writings on the ground realities of
Tibet. She was recently awarded the freedom of speech medal by the
Association of Tibetan Journalists based in Dharamsala and was named the
winner of Norwegian Authors Union’s freedom of expression prize for
2007, the award ceremony of which will take place during the Authors
Union’s Annual Meeting in Oslo on 8 March, 2008.
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