MEMORIES OF LIFE IN LHASA UNDER CHINESE RULE by Tubten Khétsun

MEMORIES OF LIFE IN LHASA UNDER CHINESE RULE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Forthright, affecting eyewitness testimony on Communist China’s crushing oppression of occupied Tibet from 1959 until 1979.

Born to educated parents in Lhasa in 1941, the author was at first mollified and won over, like many other Tibetans, by the propaganda spread by Mao’s new government after the Chinese invaded in 1950. But the young student, swept up in revolutionary fervor, soon joined the growing Tibetan resistance. After the March 1959 uprising around the gates of the Norbu Lingka palace, Khétsun, then a document copyist, was enlisted as a guard to the Dalai Lama. The Chinese embarked on severe reprisals. Recognized by a Tibetan informer, the author was imprisoned by the People’s Liberation Army for four years at various detention centers and prisons, subjected to debilitating work assignments and cruelty. Supported by his devoted, religious elder sisters, Khétsun returned home from prison to horrific conditions of subjugation. He had to wear a “hat” (symbol of his apostasy), was deprived of political rights, lived under strict supervision and was subjected to a public “struggle.” Many Tibetan civilians underwent “reeducation” policies, were stripped of their wealth and paid exorbitant taxes; monasteries were ransacked, natural resources plundered. By June 1966, the Cultural Revolution’s vicious campaign against the “Four Olds” (old culture, old thinking, old habits, old customs) led to the author and his family’s further humiliation as “class enemies.” Khétsun keeps his tone modest and evenhanded, allowing his story to seize and haunt the reader without editorializing.

Demonstrates in full detail the human tragedy of Maoist rule in a land whose traditions it despised and tried to destroy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-231-14286-1
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Columbia Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2007