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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Tibet takes center stage at festival

August 9, 2010

Tom Sharpe
The New Mexican
August 8, 2010

A Santa Fe crowd munched momos, unfurled prayer
flags and enjoyed music from the "roof of the
world" at Saturday's Tibetan Festival.

Inside the Tibetan Center at 915 Hickox St.,
three women tried their hand at writing words in
the Tibetan language with a bamboo stick on a black board covered with ashes.

Their teacher, Tashi Juchung, said that jang
shing -- literally meaning practice on a wooden
board -- became popular in Tibet when paper was rare in the Asian country.

He said the Tibetan language uses five genders --
"masculine gender, neutral gender, feminine
gender, the extremely feminine gender and the barren feminine gender."

Juchung said these different genders are
pronounced by increasing the aspiration and
lowering the pitch as one moves toward the feminine genders.

Like many of Santa Fe's 125 Tibetan expatriates,
Juchung, 56, was born in Tibet but grew up in
India, then came to the United States in a wave
of Tibetan immigration during the last year of
President George H.W. Bush's administration.

The Tibetan Center, just off St. Francis Drive,
was remodeled from a former residence seven years
ago. The annual festival is held there in early
August, not because it commemorates a date in
Tibetan history, but "because it's summer, days
are longer and the students are all out of school," Juchung said.

Outside, young women dressed in colorful clothes
danced and sang while men played drums and strummed stringed instruments.

A large red-and-yellow Tibetan national flag hung
over one side of a building, near smaller prayer
flags of various sizes and images of the Dalai Lama.

The kitchen turned out a steady stream of momos
-- meat-stuffed dumplings served with spicy red chile sauces.

A half-dozen booths sold "Free Tibet" stickers,
garments, textiles, jewelry and other trinkets.

Dorjee Gyaltsen, 54, demonstrated his "Wheel of
Life" paintings that depict Tibetan visions of
the afterlife, divided like a pie chart into
different sections of heaven and hell.

The "hungry ghost" section showed people with
tiny necks and fire coming out of their mouths.
"In this life, they have a lot of money but they
don't want to spend it," Gyaltsen explained. "So
they go to here. They see some fruits they want
to eat, but they can't because their neck is too
tight. ... In the past life, they didn't use the opportunity."

A large tree straddled the sections for gods and
demigods. "This has a story, too," he said. "The
tree's root is in the demigod's kingdom, but
fruit is in heaven. ... The woman went to get
water and she found the nice fruit and she ran
back to the king and said, 'Oh, hey, we found a
delicious fruit,' and so now they are fighting."

Like Juchung, Gyaltsen was born in Tibet, grew up
in India and came to America in 1992. He said he
managed to get his papers to emigrate to the
United States by winning a lottery held by the
Tibetan government in exile in India. "I was so
surprised they picked my name," he said. "Everybody wants to come to America."

Gyaltsen introduced his student, Julie Kandyba of
Ilfeld in San Miguel County, who said she is a
graphic designer by profession but has been doing her own art for years.

"I was working on my own, just doing landscapes,
and then I painted a Shiva (a Hindu deity) one
day," she said. "Then I painted a Green Tara (a
Tibetan Buddhist deity) and then somebody said, 'You should meet Dorjee.' "

Contact Tom Sharpe at 986-3080 or tsharpe@sfnewmexican.com
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
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