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North Castle Books

The Struggle for Modern Tibet: The Autobiography of Tashi Tsering
Authored by: Melvyn Goldstein; William Siebenschuh; Tashi Tsering

Cloth ISBN: 978-1-56324-950-1 Paper ISBN: 978-0-7656-0509-2
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USD: $49.95 USD: $26.95
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Available to all countries
Information: 220pp. Photographs, map, index.
Publication Date: February 1997.  


Description: This autobiography of a Tibetan nationalist with a burning desire to reform and modernize the "old society" presents for the first time a personal portrait of Tibet that is realistic -- neither a feudal hell, as Beijing would have it, nor Shangrila, as many sympathetic outsiders would have it. Tashi's moving story, beginning with his humble early circumstances, covers his search for education in Tibet and the United States, his return to China/Tibet in early 1964, and his life in China, especially during the Cultural Revolution when he was charged as an American spy and imprisoned. Finally exonerated, Tashi became a professor of English at Tibet University and went on to found in 1985 the first English night school in Lhasa. Now retired, he devotes all his efforts to raising funds to build rural schools in his home province, where his still illiterate relatives live.

Review(s): "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," -- continued

"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. Written with Goldstein, head of Case Western Reserve's anthropology department, and Siebenschuh, a Case English professor, this unusual autobiography valiantly suggests a middle way between authoritarian Chinese rule and a return to Tibet's old order." -- Publishers Weekly

"The considerable value of Tashi's briskly told life story is that it complicates our view of modern Tibet. ... His is a harrowing but remarkably unbitter story with a happy ending for him, if not for Tibet. Recommended for academic and larger public libraries." -- Library Journal

"The Dalai Lama instructed Mr. Tsering, "Be a good Tibetan. Study hard. And use your education to serve your people and your country." It's what he has tried to do, against sometimes spirit-crushing odds. He has now documented his exceptional life in a readable, at times startling autobiography. ... A fascinating account not only of his life's journey, but of 20th-century Tibet's troubled evolution." -- The Wall Street Journal

"A compelling account of survival and rebirth. ... [A] fascinating life story." -- The Seattle Times

"What sets this carefully-crafted account apart from other publications documenting the experiences of Tibetans ... through the successive upheavals that have affected their homeland in the last fifty years is Tashi Tsering's apparent readiness to work within the Chinese system imposed on Tibet. ... This fine piece of historical scholarship deals lucidly with a complex subject matter. ... It is the book's earnest efforts to portray education as a touchstone of Sino-Tibetan relations, while scrutinizing a wealth of complex historical issues, that makes The Struggle for Modern Tibet worthy of attention and respect." -- The China Journal

"An inspiring and enthralling story. ... The Struggle for Modern Tibet is the sruggle ... for one man to find his destiny: it is a heroic saga of passion, anger, folly, betrayal, injustice, bloody-mindedness and determination. It is the story of man's unconquerable mind. Melvyn Goldstein and William Siebenschuh, who are responsible for the translation, have done a good job in capturing Tashi's style and vitality of expression from his oral tapes." -- Tibetan Review

"Tashi Tsering's captivating life story is [an] example of how good the literature on Tibet can be. This is far from the first autobiographical account by a Tibetan, but, ... it represents one of the finest examples of the genre. ... Tashi's narrative is riveting, but told without bitterness or anger. Its matter-of-fact tone is compelling and moving as is its tale of perseverance and committment. I suspect the polemicists on both sides will be considerably unhappy with Tashi's story--which is why it is so important that it be widely read." -- China Review International

"The book is of interest on two levels, the personal and the political. On the former level, any non-Tibetan reader is bound to be surprised at the mores of traditional Tibet. ... On the political level the western reader is also likely to be surprised, for the book does not adopt the anti-Chinese stance we have come to expect from western writings on modern Tibet. ... It makes us privy to Tashi's internal struggles as he weighs up the old and new societies, the former represented by the monk-aristocrats in exile in India, the latter by the ordinary people who have remained in Tibet." -- Asian Studies Review

"A very worthwhile read for anyone concerned with Tibetan studies." -- Pacific Affairs

"Tashi Tsering speaks honestly of life in Lhasa under the Lamaist theocracy and examines some of the cultural assumptions on which life there was based." -- Far Eastern Economic Review

"Engaging and enlightening. ... Brings the real-life experience of a Tibetan more alive than any other book that I know of." -- Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars

"The autobiography of Tashi Tsering is a welcome addition to the accounts by individuals who have lived through the tumultous changes in modern China, and will be of particular interest to those concerned with the Tibetan issue...The great merit of this work is to present a fresh perspective, convincing in its sincerity, of a man working within the existing system. This provides a welcome insight into life in modern Tibet." -- China Quarterly

"It cannot be denied that Tashi Tsering's experiences allow a glimpse into a part of the Tibetan world never before presented in writing." -- The Journal of Asian Studies

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