I cannot help but be moved by the feelings behind this review, written by a Chinese professor, of a book in Chinese on Tibetan environment by a Chinese environmental writer. It touches on the very basis of inter-ethnic relationship and understanding.
The book is Heavenly Beads by Liu Jianqiang and published in 2009 by Tibet People’s Publishing House in which some Tibetan environmentalists were profiled, including Karma Samdrup (who is unfortunately undergoing imprisonment under a politically motivated sentencing.).
The reviewer is Xiong Lei, a journalist and former executive director of China Features, and a guest professor at Tsinghua University’s school of journalism and communication.
Prof. Xiong raises a critical point when he write, “Why could so many different Tibetans open their hearts to Liu Jianqiang, an “outsider” who doesn’t even speak their language? The key word is respect, which is also the key to understanding a people.”
He then expands, “Along with not speaking Tibetan, Liu Jianqiang also does not believe in his Tibetan friends’ religion. He may even differ with those whom he wrote about on something they did or said. But these differences never held him back from being respectful of their faith, culture, style of living and way of thinking.”
Prof. Xiong’s conclusion is clear. “Such communication is missing in many media accounts of contemporary Tibetan people, domestic or international. In many of those accounts, Tibetans tend to be politicised or manipulated. But in Heavenly Beads, we see Tibetan people in their pure and natural selves, pursuing their dreams, leading their lives, coping with challenges and riding out various crises.”
I am moved because a Chinese has taken the time to reflect on how attitudes determine inter-personal relationship. While the political problem of Tibet may be complicated, at the social level, more Chinese joining the public discourse in China on Tibet is a positive development.
Therefore, even though this review is not new, I thought it needed highlighting here.