SKY BURIAL by Blake Kerr


An Eyewitness Account of China's Brutal Crackdown in Tibet
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 The sky burial is the ancient Tibetan ceremony in which a corpse, hacked to pieces, is left on a mountainside to be eaten by vultures. It's also Kerr's metaphor for Tibet's plundering by China, which--as detailed in this adventure story with teeth--he saw firsthand when his lark of a Himalayan mountain-climbing spree turned unexpectedly bloody. In 1987, the author, a young physician, traveled with his old Dartmouth pal John Ackerly, a lawyer, to Tibet by way of China in order to ``climb as high as we could on the Tibetan side of Everest.'' Despite a few ominous foreshadowings--the ``thunder'' they heard upon first glimpsing Lhasa's Potola Palace, ancestral home of the Dalai Lamas, turned out to be Chinese artillery--the pair's early days in Tibet (and the first third of this account) were devoted to adventure, as they tackled Everest in madcap style, wearing sneakers but making it all the way up to Camp Three (of Six) despite nasty brushes with altitude sickness. But back in the streets of Lhasa--streets dirtied by raw sewage and prowled by mongrel dogs (whom the Tibetans believe to be reincarnated monks- gone-astray)--the adventure turned dangerous when, on October 1, Chinese National Day, Tibetans amassed in protest against the Chinese occupation and were fired upon by Chinese police, who killed several. Swept up, Kerr threw stones at cops, then went into hiding, tending wounded Tibetans and collecting stories of Chinese torture and forced sterilization of Tibetans. With Ackerly, he then traveled south to India, where he met with the Dalai Lama, who told him that ``the Chinese are wonderful people. It is their government that makes trouble.'' Kerr's account ends with his 1991 return to Tibet, where he found conditions still ``bleak,'' the Chinese occupation ``having a genocide effect on the Tibetans.'' A potent blend of high adventure and moral polemic, and yet further testimony to the ongoing tragedy of Shangri-La.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 1-879360-26-8
Page count: 256pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1993