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"For a happier, more stable and civilized future, each of us must develop a sincere, warm-hearted feeling of brotherhood and sisterhood."

The Distorted Image of Tibet (Part I)

September 12, 2008

Special interview with Chinese writer Ms. Zhu Rui
By Lin Caifeng
Epoch Times Staff, September 9, 2008

"Before I came to your hometown, I had thought it was a deserted place 
set in barren mountains; now that I've visited your hometown I know 
it's filled with the fragrance of flowers. Before I met you, I had 
thought you were a primitive people; now we've come to know each 
other, so I know you are really a noble nation."

These are the lyrics of a Tibetan folk song Ms. Zhu Rui, a writer of 
Han nationality, first heard at a Tibetan's home, and these words 
expressed exactly how she felt about Tibet.

Growing up in mainland China, Ms. Zhu went through a transformation 
from having a distorted image of Tibet, to loving its culture and 
people after she visited there. Now an immigrant in Canada, she can't 
seem to get Tibet out of her mind. Tibet has become a part of her 
life, like her pulse and breathing. That distant and mysterious land 
lies right at her life's turning point and has been leading her toward 
milestone after milestone in her literary creations.

As Tibet is now the focus of international attention, the Epoch Times 
interviewed Ms. Zhu Rui in Canada, and asked her how she viewed Tibet, 
Tibetans, and their culture. During the interview her sensitive mind 
and soul took us on a journey, exploring that beautiful yet 
unfortunate snowy plateau.

My First Visit to Tibet: Chinese Han - Tibetan Conflicts

Ms. Zhu Rui: When I was young I had numerous meetings at which we were 
asked to recall the bitter past and be thankful for the sweet present. 
At that time, my impression about Tibet was that it was not only 
undeveloped, but also barbarous and to be feared. But later my 
perception of it changed.

  It became a civilized, clean and picturesque place. I can't pinpoint 
the exact cause of that change, as it is too distant in my memory. 
Like most Chinese, I was brainwashed by communist propaganda. Whatever 
was said about Tibet was not good, and I accepted that it was not 
good. In the 1980s, the Chinese communist regime seemed quiet on many 
sensitive issues-including on Tibet-and many works on Tibet from 
different angles appeared in China. I even found books on Tibet by 
foreign writers, and I became interested in the region.

My first trip to Tibet took place in 1997. On our drive to Bird Island 
in Qinghai Province, I saw the first Tibetan tent, so I asked our 
driver to stop the van. As we started toward the tent, the people in 
it, a Tibetan woman and her husband and two children, came out 
greeting us. Happily, they ushered us in and treated us with their 
favorite food: butter tea, and they offered their only cushion for us 
to sit on.

I left the hostess 10 yuan (approx. US$1.4) before we left. But 
another Han woman in our van asked the Tibetan woman, "Other people 
all practice family planning. How come you have two children?"

Back in the van, one of us exclaimed, "Tibetans are really poor!" 
Another one said, "Poor? Isn't it good here?! These pastures are all 
free!" Hearing their conversation, thinking about how that Tibetan 
woman treated us with the best they had without seeking anything in 
return from us, my heart felt heavy.

As we reached a desolate stretch of land on our drive on the Qinghai-
Tibetan highway, we saw a Tibetan couple with the wife carrying a baby 
walking on the side of road. They waved to us, wanting a lift. So I 
said to the driver, "Shall we give them a ride?"  As if he didn't hear 
my words, the driver stepped on the gas and the van moved faster. "Why 
didn't you stop the van?" I asked. "It'll be beyond the capacity of 
the van," he replied. "It's not true. We can take six or seven more 
passengers. They are so helpless in this deserted area. If we don't 
give them a hand, who knows how long it will be, before they can 
expect to see another vehicle coming? Why can't we help them?" "You 
are so naïve. You don't know that Tibetans are dirty. If you allow 
them to step onto the van, you'll all hate the odor on them."

I knew I couldn't make him change his mind and gave up. I looked out 
the window and saw that the hands of the Tibetan couple still raised 
but now frozen.

When we arrived in Tibet, I found that everything was different: the 
language, the clothing, the buildings, the religious sites-and I liked 
them all. As I was strolling down Barkhor Street-the busiest shopping 
street in Lhasa-I was totally absorbed. The earthen jars, the stringed 
flags, thang-ga paintings, turquoise necklaces, and costumes all 
amazed me. When I entered the Buddhist temples, I was awed by the 
beauty of the architecture. People in them were all so quiet and I was 
surrounded by an atmosphere of serenity.

My Second Visit to Tibet: Simplicity and Honesty

The second time I visited Tibet, I stayed with a Tibetan household 
because I wanted to see how they lived. The hostess never stopped 
chanting scriptures.

I visited Lhamo Lhatso, also known as Goddess Lake. It's a holy lake 
in the heart of the Tibetan people. In identifying incarnations of the 
Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama, the lake is consulted for clues. It 
was a hard journey to Lhamo Lhatso. There is no paved road and it took 
us a long time before we arrived. When I returned, there were lice in 
my hair and mud all over my body.

The hostess quietly washed all of my dirty clothes. I felt 
embarrassed. "I am so young; I can wash my own clothes. How could I 
let you do it for me?" I asked. "You just came back from a pilgrimage. 
So when I do something for you, I am doing something good. I am 
accumulating good karma," she replied. "It was not a pilgrimage. I am 
of Han nationality. I don't have any faith in my heart. I went there 
because I wanted to know my previous and future lives," I continued. 
"It doesn't make any difference as long as you went there," she said.

I later moved to another farmer's house that did not have electricity 
or running water. They made a living by weaving wool blankets. When it 
was time to leave, I said to them, "I'm leaving." They didn't expect 
me to go so soon, and brought out everything they thought was good, 
such as potatoes, and asked me to take them home. I said I wouldn't, 
so they insisted that I take the blankets they made. I saw they were 
so sad at my leaving, so I said, "I'll come again when farming 
starts." Hearing that, their faces lit up, starting to count how many 
days were left before the farming started.

Their spiritual life is centered on giving, being grateful, and trust. 
These are typical Tibetan people.
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