Just my two cents worth


June 2009

Obituary: Gyatsho Tshering, Eminent Scholar of Tibetan Studies

Photo from
Photo from

By Bhuchung K. Tsering

Ku-ngo Gyatsho Tshering, former director of the Library of Tibetan Works & Archives and a respected scholar, passed away on June 25, 2009 at a hospital in Minneapolis, MN, after a brief illness. He was 73.

Born in 1936 in Sikkim to Lobsang Lama and Nyima Dolma, he finished his college education from the University of Calcutta. Following his studies, Ku-ngo Gyatsho la worked in the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Home Affairs of the Government of India, and had served at the Indian Mission in Lhasa. He also served in the Government of Sikkim.

He joined the service of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile in 1963 and worked in various departments until his retirement in the late 1990s. Continue reading “Obituary: Gyatsho Tshering, Eminent Scholar of Tibetan Studies”

Tibetan Film maker Pema Tseden’s Film wins Award in Shanghai Festival

Yet, another good news on the Tibetan creativity front. Film maker Pema Tseden from Amdo has won the Grand Prize at the Shanghai International Film Festival, which just concluded, for his “The Search.”

Film maker Pema Tseden la
Film maker Pema Tseden la

This film is said to be based on a Tibetan opera and reportedly portrays the developments in the search of characters to play the prince and princess in the opera. The Shanghai Festival jury (led by Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle) had an interesting comment regarding Pema Tseden la’s film: “The most challenging film we saw, almost a meditation in patience as well as an exercise in it for the viewer, uncompromising but funny and humane too. We look forward to many more films from Tibet.”

I have seen his another film, “The Silent Mani Stones,” which is a good study of the internal turmoil of a young monk in the face of modern cultural onslaughts in his society (This is my take although the film may have a totally different meaning to others.).

Here is a brief bio of Pema Tseden (Wanma Caidan), which I found on the internet: “writer, director, male, born in 1969 in Hainan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Qinghai province; a postgraduate from the Department of Tibetan Language and Literature, Northwest University, and Beijing Film Academy. He has been publishing literature works one after another since 1991 in newspapers and magazine , such as Tibetan literature, Tibetan literature and Art, literature of nationalities, etc.”

Here is a partial list of films he has directed since 2002. (I have got this from the internet and this may not be a complete list, too):

The Silent Holy Stone (plot short film,30 minutes), 2003.
A Day of the Little living Buddha, 2003.
The Grassland (plot short film, 22minutes), 2004.
Love Story (documentary), 2005.
The Silent Holy Stone (plot long film), 2005.

Tsering Choden & What is Democracy

Tsering Choden
Tsering Choden

A Nepal based film maker Tsering Choden’s three minute documentary is one of the winners of the Democracy Video Challenge, a worldwide online competition, organized by the State Department.  Young video makers around the world were asked to complete the phrase, “Democracy is…” through three-minute videos to be posted on the competition’s YouTube site.

According to the organizers, more than 900 people from 95 countries entered the challenge. An independent jury  selected the 18 finalists, and the online voting public chose the six winners, one from each region of the world.

Tsering Choden’s documentary is a mixture of different images from Nepal with a voice over of people giving different perspectives on democracy.

The winners are getting all expense paid trips to the United States in September this year.

This Tibetan Girl’s Hope

Among many things Tibetan that is on youtube is this song sung by two Tibetan women from Switzerland. They are from Zurich and seem to have won an award for this song.  The lyric is touching and introspective while being simple. It dwells into the dilemma of the Tibetans today living in different societies.

I wish I could know the names of the singers and the composer of the lyrics so that I could give them their proper credit here but nothing is on youtube to indicate their background.

Following is my unofficial translation of the lyrics.  Enjoy and introspect, y’all!

This Girl’s Hope

When living in foreign Switzerland
You are not a Swiss, I am told
When visiting Tibet on a pilgrimage
You are not a Tibetan child, I am told

On account of past life’s Karma
I am separated from my Tibetan brethren
When I was visiting Tibet
My mind was greatly pleased

Even though I had arrived in my homeland Tibet
The young Tibetans
Called me a foreign girl
On responding that I am a Tibetan
Their eyes merely blinked
My mind was greatly saddened

This girl’s Hope
To all of today’s youth
Please bear in your mind
Your religion and culture

Tibetans of the same flesh and bone
Please do not act like this
Please believe in me
Although we Tibetans are dispersed
The Tibetan religion and culture
Are something that we can be proud of

On responding that I am a Tibetan
Their eyes merely blinked
My mind was greatly saddened

This girl’s Hope
To all of today’s youth
Please bear in your mind
Your religion and culture

Tibet and Tiananmen

This morning I woke up to the radio news report on NPR from China. Of course, it was a report on what was happening there today, the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen movement that led to the death of many students and others and the closing of China’s doors, in a way.

From that report and subsequent reading of Chinese media (as well as the Washington Post, which carried comments from several Chinese on the day) I could get the spin that the Chinese Government is using. It would go something like this. ” Today is like any other day. The issue is something that an average Chinee does not care about. Today’s young Chinese, who are mostly post-Tiananmen generation, do not know, and are not interested in, what the Tiananmen issue is all about.”

Tiananmen to me is the awakening of China. It conveyed the message that the Chinese people can and have started becoming responsible citizens of the world who care about the direction of their society.  Some times people tend to use broad brush strokes.

What can we do today? To begin with we could try reading the different messages that are coming out. You can see how Chinese in the free world feel about the day by looking at a sampling of postings on China Digital Times.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama also issued a statement today in which he called for a rethinking by the Chinese leadership about the day saying that what the demonstrators asked for was nothing against the Chinese Constitution. He in a way said if China is aspiring for international leadership, it should be ready  for reconciliation on issues like the Tiananmen movement.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in her statement, called for “a public accounting of those killed, detained or missing, both to learn and to heal”  during what is called the Tiananmen Massacre (“The June 4 Tiananmen Incident” as it is called by the Chinese media.

One can see the contrast in the messages. What the free Chinese people are saying? What the Chinese Government is trying to project? And, what His Holiness the Dalai Lama and others are saying?

A colleague who monitors developments in China said that it is interesting to see the Chinese people’s attitude towards the Tiananmen movement and the Tibetan movement. He said although it is 20 years since June 4, 1989, there does not seem to be an effort from the Chinese groups inside China to do a study of it (there have been many from outside of China). On the other hand, what happened in March in Tibet last year has been studied by a group of Chinese lawyers and they have already come out with their report that is critical of the Chinese Government policies toward the Tibetan people.

As Buddhists do, we could listen, contemplate and meditate on the implications.

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