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Kyegu Dhondup Lungpa

May 7, 2010

Posted in ICT Blog by Tencho Gyatso on Monday, May 3, 2010
 
It has been 19 days since the earthquake in Yushu? the media attention
to this region has died down to almost nothing, but my thoughts are
still with the people there. Today I read an article written by a
Chinese, Ai Mo, that really touched me. The writer was in Yushu during
the first few days of the earthquake crisis ? and during that critical
period, seems to have understood the state of mind of the Tibetans.

She writes, ?Many people like to ask, ?What was the difference between
the Sichuan earthquake and the Yushu earthquake?? Nobody yet knows how
to compare the scale of the earthquake. One hundred thousand people died
in Sichuan, perhaps not as many as 10,000 died in Yushu. Yet that
comparison isn?t meaningful and shouldn?t be made.?

For us Tibetans, the Yushu earthquake represents more than just numbers
and deaths. It represents the devastation of one of the last towns in
Tibet that the Chinese have yet to infiltrate and change. Much of the
world, including the Chinese themselves, reacted with surprise when they
heard that the population is mostly Tibetan (Yushu is 97% Tibetan).
Yushu is just too remote and isolated for most Chinese to want to go
there but now my fear is that Beijing?s promises of repair and
restoration will take this beautiful Tibetan land away from the Tibetans.

The town of Kyegudo is the heart of the Yushu Tibetan Autonomous
Prefecture, a historical town and a cultural hub for Tibetans in the
region. A Tibetan intellectual Jamyang Norbu has written an elegant and
well researched article, ?Kyegu, on my mind,? in which he says, ?Kyegudo
has traditionally been one of the most important centers and crossroads
for trade and commerce in Tibet. It is the hub of many important
routes.? He writes that huge caravans, sometimes consisting of as many
as 3000 yaks, would traverse through the region, and even while it
wasn?t such a large town, many merchants had permanent homes there and
that the town of Kyegudo was rich and prosperous in the decade before
the invasion. Surrounded by grasslands, nomads kept herds of yak that
lived off the pasture and even though summers were short-lived at that
high altitude, barley, beans and various crops grew plentiful.
Another Tibetan poet and writer, Tsering Wangmo Dhompa who traveled
extensively in Kham in 2009 researching for her new book, says that she
found in Kyegudo people that have really retained their unique Khampa
characteristics untouched in every sense ? the way people dressed,
spoke, and in their daily habits. Her new book for which she is looking
for a publisher, has 4 or 5 chapters about life in Kyegu.

And most of all, Kyegudo is known for its annual Horse festival, when
thousands of nomads from all across the region gather for a spectacular
week-long gathering. Barthang, the wide plain where people camped in
sumptuous tents and held races, is now sadly filled with make-shift
shelters and survivors of the earthquake. One particular comment made by
the Chinese writer in Yushu comes to mind as I think of the survivors on
the Barthang plains today. She wrote, ?As a journalist in the Yushu
disaster area, I and my colleagues? strongest impression is that in
Yushu you don?t see the wailing and pounding on the earth, and even
rarely see weeping.  If it were not for the sight of many collapsed
buildings and the many homeless on the streets, you wouldn?t guess that
many people had died here.  People who have lost their relatives wear
solemn and respectful faces. They read scriptures. They take the corpse
to the monastery. They ask the monks and Living Buddhas to help them
pass to the next world, and pray that they escape the cycle of suffering
and rebirth and enter blissful happiness.?

My friend, Rinchen, who grew up in Kyegu calls it Kyegu ?Dhondup Lungpa?
which means the place which has the finest of everything. For Rinchen,
this is the case ? he spent the happiest time of his life there, growing
up, going to school ? every street and every corner is full of memories.
But now, its become nothing but ruins. He says, Tibetan Buddhist
tradition is the center of life in Yushu. As we all know, His Holiness?s
pictures are banned in Tibet but from the ruins in Yushu emerged so many
pictures of His Holiness. And as the dead were being cremated, you could
hear so many people chanting, praying to His Holiness.  So this really
shows what people truly think and need in this difficult time.

The majority of Tibetans are simple folks; they ask for nothing much but
they would like to live their lives as Tibetans. They would like to see
the Dalai Lama once in their lifetime, most especially in moments of
crisis and tragedy like now. They would like to lead lives of their own
choice. They would like to have their monks and monasteries left intact
and be accessible to them. They just want to be Tibetans. But they are
now caught up in something beyond their control ? the politics of greed
and power are threatening to shift their ground again even as they mourn
their losses. And in the midst of this, I wonder what kind of a new
Kyegu will emerge from these ruins? Will there be some resemblance of
the charming Tibetan town that was Kyegu, or will it become another
faceless pre-fab Chinese town built on the ruins of a Tibetan gem?
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