Unlocking the Secrets of the Land of the Snows
This authoritative view of the history and culture of Tibet comes at a time when this ancient land is in danger of losing its identity under Chinese rule. In a compact narrative account, Lee Feigon examines the country behind the myths to locate the origins of modern Tibet and to sort out its controversial relationship with China. In penetrating the veil of mystery that the West has often constructed over Tibet, he reveals how long and distinguished is its history and how recent is the idea that Tibet is part of China.
Culturally, linguistically, and religiously, the author explains, Tibetans are distinct from Chinese. Although the two peoples obviously share characteristics as a result of their long association with each other, their differences far outweigh their similarities. Tibetans have far more in common with their nomadic central Asian neighbors than with the sedentary, rice-eating Chinese.
As early as the seventh century, Tibetans began borrowing cultural and political forms from their neighbors, including China and India, but developing them in their own distinctive manner. In diet and dress, so too in religion: as Tibetans assimilated Buddhist ideals, they gradually cultivated the powerful and magical religious aura that has given birth to legends of Shangri-la.
Tracing this history through Mongol and Manchu rule in China, the advent of nineteenth-century Western imperialism, and the radical and somewhat racist policies of Communist China which have aimed to transform Tibet, Mr. Feigon draws a compelling portrait of one of the world's most remote and exotic locales. In the 1990s, he shows, the Chinese have flooded Tibet with their own people and threaten to reduce the Tibetans to a colorful but submissive minority in their own land. Their success may determine Tibet's freedom and character for the next hundred years.
Demystifying Tibet , Lee Feigon, Published by Ivan R. Dee, paperback, 242 pages, $17.90