The Struggle for Modern Tibet: The Autobiography of Tashi Tsering

This captivating autobiography by a Tibetan educator and former political prisoner is full of twists and turns. Born in 1929 in a Tibetan village, Tsering developed a strong dislike of his country’s theocratic ruling elite. As a 13-year-old member of the Dalai Lama’s personal dance troupe, he was frequently whipped or beaten by teachers for minor infractions. A heterosexual, he escaped by becoming a drombo, or homosexual passive partner and sex-toy, for a well-connected monk. After studying at the University of Washington, he returned to Chinese-occupied Tibet in 1964, convinced that Tibet could become a modernized society based on socialist, egalitarian principles only through cooperation with the Chinese. Denounced as a ’counterrevolutionary’ during Mao’s Cultural Revolution, he was arrested in 1967 and spent six years in prison or doing forced labor in China. Officially exonerated in 1978, Tsering became a professor of English at Tibet University in Lhasa. He now raises funds to build schools in Tibet’s villages, emphasizing Tibetan language and culture.
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Average: 4 (1 vote)


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Book Review

Field of Interest/Specialty: English as a Second Language
Posted On: 04/25/2018

The Struggle for Modern Tibet The Autobiography of Tashi Tsering chronicles the journey of one Tibetan man from his early youth through adulthood. Unlike many of his family members and peers, who were illiterate, Tsering yearns to learn to read and write. When he is chosen from his village to join the gadrugba, the Dali Lama’s ceremonial dance troupe, and move away from his family to Lhasa he thinks his dream for an education has come true. Unfortunately, it is not the opportunity Tsering hoped for and in fact, opens him up to extreme loneliness and physical abuse.
Eventually Tsering leaves Lhasa and through a series of more fortunate events and contacts, he finds himself in India and befriended by the Dali Lama’s older brother and others who sympathize with his plight. While in India, doors open for him to come to America to study. The United States proves not only a great blessing, but incredibly challenging as well. The burning desire for a more complete education continues to burn inside him and Tsering does finally gets the opportunity for an education for which he yearned.
Despite the misgivings of his closest friends in America, Tsering chooses to return to Tibet to be part of the struggle for a liberating Tibet from China. During this time Tsering endures imprisonment in both China and Tibet. Eventually Tsering is freed and finds his desire for an education has now led him to spearhead the reopening and opening of schools in Tibet so the children of modern Tibet have the opportunity to receive an education.
I would recommend this book for instructors seeking a source providing personal insight into the life of a Tibetan prior to, during, and since the Chinese army entering Tibet in the 1950s, and the Cultural Revolution’s impact on Tibetans. Due to mature themes and frank descriptions, the entire book may not be suitable for students, but excerpts may be beneficial for secondary students. The time I used to read the book flew by quickly. The style of writing is honest and direct as Tsering does not “candy coat” his experiences. Despite the injustices Tsering faced I found his story positive and encouraging.