Tibet does not exist, Tibet does exist

A few hours ago, along with three friends, I went to see the film Dreaming Lhasa. Directed by Tenzing Sonam and Ritu Sarin, it was released in 2005. Tenzing Sonam is the descendant of a member of the Tibetan Resistance Group known as “Four Rivers Six Ranges” (Chushi Gangdruk) who heroically went into exile in 1959. Tenzing was born in Darjeeling, and has been to Tibet. Ritu Sarin is his wife, and she is an Indian. The film vividly conveys the heart-felt suffering and pain experienced by exile Tibetans for the past 48 years, and it enables its audience to feel this suffering intimately. It’s because of what happened yesterday, that things are happening today and will happen tomorrow … I myself don’t know what will happen tomorrow. But Dhondup (one of the characters in the film), who spent four years in prison in Lhasa, gazed at the floating clouds over the sky of Dharamsala, and said: “No matter what Lhasa is like and no matter whether there are Chinese there or not, I am determined to go back to Lhasa.” When I heard this, tears streamed down my face.

Among the three friends who watched the movie with me, D is Tibetan. Like Tenzing Sonam, she was also born in a foreign land. During the film, she translated the few lines of English dialogue for me in a low voice. L and G are a loving Chinese couple, both of whom received their Ph.D. from Beijing University. I know them well, and I like to watch films with them. Maybe what L said at the end of the film was right; that we all had very complex responses. I fully understood his words, and it was only because I had the same feelings, that all sorts of emotions welled up in my heart. After all, given that from 1950 up to the present, the nation and the country, and individuals like you and me, have been involved in so many entanglements, undergone so many losses, and experienced so much pain, how would it be possible for us not to have complex emotions or find it difficult to express our feelings?

Later, after D and I returned to our apartments, we continued to chat about the movie via the net. Just like the Tibetans who had gathered in Dharamsala in the film, D comes from Britain, and I am from Lhasa. But our watching the film together had a more unique significance, because from a small corner of Beijing, we were trying to get to know American Tibetans in Dharamsala, Indian Tibetans and Lhasa Tibetans, all of whom are Tibetans in a state of exile. Though D hardly speaks much Chinese, she can already write many Chinese characters. I really admire her for learning Chinese in just a year. She told me that the translation of the title of the movie was not very accurate. She said, “In English, it means that Lhasa is a dream. It’s very important to understand this distinction.” When I asked her the reason for this, she typed the following Chinese characters and sent them to me: “Everybody has their version of Lhasa. In particular, although most Tibetans in exile have not been to Lhasa, they have always talked about Lhasa from when they were little. But how can they know what kind of a place Lhasa is? So, it is just like a dream … though this movie is about Tibet, Tibet does not appear in it even once. There is no Tibet!”

Tibet does not exist! But everybody knows that Tibet does exist. It is precisely because we feel that Tibet does not exist or that it does exist that we have become kindred spirits. We still have our dream.

I wanted to say a few words about the movie on my blog, so I googled it. First, I searched for “Dreaming Lhasa” on google, and I was able to find the poster. Karma, who grew up in America, looks beautiful and fashionable, but in her eyes there is also the pain and suffering associated with exile life. Dhondup, who has fled from Lhasa to Dharamsala to fulfil a promise, wears a poor quality suit throughout the movie, and in the poster, he is hidden in the snow mountains and peaks. And in the silver talisman (Gawu), to which many people will prostrate upon seeing it, His Holiness’s thin and lean face is carved in the hearts of those Tibetans who were not able to escape and had to live in Tibet.

Then, when I googled “Dreaming Lhasa” in Chinese, there were a few entries, most of which were advertisements for a trip called “Dreaming Lhasa” sponsored by travel agencies all over China.

(Translated from the Chinese) Submitted by Dreaming Lhasa


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