The following is an exchange of e-mails between me and my aunt, a Chinese-American living in Brooklyn, NY, following the reading of an article on Tibet called Tibet: Myth and Reality (author Foster Stockwell, article attached at the end of this post).
Date: Tue, 29 Apr 2008 18:29:41 -0400
Subject: some other history that I was told
The following is what Nie Fan told me.
In Tang Dynasty, Wencheng Gong Zhhu was sent to Tibet to get married, and that is a fact. But it doesn’t proof anything.
The last Czar of Russia, his wife was a German Princess. So, does it mean that Germany should belong to Russia, or Russia should belong to Germany? In the 19th century, the royal family of Denmark had four daughters, and they were all married to other royal families such as Russia, England and France. Elizabeth II, her husband Phillips was the Prince of Grace. You got the point?
This article (see the attached) admits that Beijing set up an administration control in Tibet no earlier than the Yuan Dynasty. Yuan Dynasty was merely part of the Mongol Empire which controlled not just China and Tibet, it also controlled part of India, part of Russia, and most of the Central Asian countries, like Kazakhstan. Like all empires, it prospered and died. When the Empire collapsed, every part of the Empire went back to their own way. At the same time, there was an Ottoman Empire and the capital was Istanbul. It was consisted of Iran, Iraq, part of Italy, Grace, Saudi Arabia. At that time, everybody bowed to Turkish. So, can anyone from Turkey today claim that Iran or Grace is theirs?
That is why when the Yuan Dynasty died and the Ming Dynasty came in power, the Han controlled Ming Dynasty completely cut off its relationship with Tibet. When Qing Dynasty came along, Tibet became an autonomic region of the Qing. The Qing Dynasty was an empire too. They divided their people into different classes according to their nationalities, just like what the Roman Empire did. So, Manchus were # 1, Mongols # 2, Tibetans # 3, the Hans …. Again, when the Empired died, people went back to their own ways.
Why did Tibetans bow to the Qing Dynasty so willingly? Because Manchus, Mongols and the Tibetans all believed in the same branch of the Buddhism, which was called 黄教or 喇嘛教. The Hans believed in another branch of the Buddhism such as 禅宗。
And here’s my reply:
How are you?
Very interesting article! I need to sit down and read it.
I’m currently in Beijing. I think that the Chinese government is not known for being the most subtle or diplomatic; however, I believe that the main mistake that Westerners make is to support a religious leader (with all due respect to the Dalai Lama) because 1) the entire foundation of Western democracy since the French Revolution has been about the separation of the Church and the State, and Tibet under Dalai Lama’s rule was a feudal theocracy with a caste system closer to slavery/serfdom than to any notions of human rights, and 2) unfortunately, the Dalai Lama cannot speak for the recent riots and violence in Tibet, nor can he represent the radical sector of the separatist movements in Tibet, the ones who are causing problems currently.
How can we speak for human rights and support the Dalai Lama as a political leader when we know that kids are chosen and forced to go to monasteries at the age of 5 to 8 and sometimes raped by older monks? These kids will be forever left behind by modern civillization (religious freedom can only be practiced by people who have the judgment to choose for themselves, meaning when they become adults). This would be classified as a dangerous sect anywhere else in the West, and because the West has a romantic, almost nostalgic view of Tibet, this is somehow permitted and tolerated in Tibet, but at whose cost?
The violence and the way the Chinese government reacted to it will make Tibet a problem area for many decades to come I believe, just like the Basques in Spain, the Corsicans in France, the Palestinian conflict, The list is endless… It’s not about who’s right or wrong or who belongs to whom. I’m constantly amazed at the incredible incapacity of the human race to resolve problems and finding peaceful solutions to cohabit this planet instead of pointing fingers at each other. Perhaps violence and conflict are crucial components of life on this earth?
Hope you are well and say ‘hi’ to Fan Fan and Nie Nie!
Foster Stockwell is a publishing consultant for Chinese publishers and authors. He is also the author of Religion in China Today (1993), A Sourcebook for Genealogical Research: Resources Alphabetically by Type and Location (2004), and A History of Information Storage and Retrieval (2001). He lives in Des Moines, Washington.
Tibet – Myth and Reality
by Foster Stockwell
Western concepts of Tibet embrace more myth than reality. The idea that Tibet is an oppressed nation composed of peaceful Buddhists who never did anyone any harm distorts history. In fact the belief that the Dalai Lama is the leader of world Buddhism rather than being just the leader of one sect among more than 1,700 ‘Living Buddhas’ of this unique Tibetan form of the faith displays a parochial view of world religions.