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Land of Snows
Jason Steorts' second fine column
on his travels in China and Chinese-occupied Tibet is up today. It includes an account of a "sky burial," which you might want to hold off reading till after lunch.
I said most of what I have to say about Tibet — including my meeting with the Dalai Lama — in this 2003 column
One of the most depressing things about the Tibet story is that is shows the power of propaganda. If a totalitarian state tells its people X for half a century, permitting no other point of view, people will end up believing X, however patently false X may be. Ordinary Chinese people are baffled if you suggest that the Chinese authorities give Tibet independence, or at least genuine autonomy. "But Tibet has always been a part of China," they say, genuinely surprised that you don't know this "fact." Obvious ripostes ( e.g. "If Tibet has always been a part of China, how come they don't speak Chinese?") bounce right off.
Though I should add that there have been some slight signs in recent years, among certain small subsets of the younger Chinese intelligentsia, of a sort of collective guilt about Tibet, mingled with wistful romanticism about Tibetan spirituality—something like the way thoughftul young Americans from the 1960s on came to feel about American Indians. It's rare enough that you have to go looking for it—the Chinese equivalent of Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee
has not yet, to my knowledge, been written—but it's there, part of the turning away, among a minority of young intellectuals, from the coarse, brutish materialism of modern Chinese life.