LHASA, THE OPEN CITY: A Journey to Tibet by Han Suyin

LHASA, THE OPEN CITY: A Journey to Tibet

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Tibet may never have been Shangri-la, but the rarefied air still induces fairy tales such as this. Han Suyin blends a novelist's gift for multi-hued romance (Tibet is ""pink morning, white hot noon, amethyst evening"") with a propagandist's black-and-white rendition of political and social change. Before the coming of the Chinese Revolution to Tibet, it was a land disfigured by leprosy, rabid dogs, and women who gave birth in cow byres. She estimates some 600,000 serfs lived a life of illiteracy, hunger, and oppression. After the advent of the People's Army in 1950 (and especially after the Dalai Lama's 1959 flight), came schools, paved roads, modern medicine, and the expropriation of the parasitic lamas. Tibet's rich artistic and spiritual heritage? ""This past was a monster devouring their lives."" The thousands of refugees who poured out of Tibet? Rich, corrupt noblemen all. ""Where would I be, what would we the people of Tibet be like, if Chairman Mao and the Revolution had not come to us?"" says one member of the revolutionary committee--and not a single contrary sentiment is voiced. Touring Lhasa, Suyin finds ample opportunity to claim Tibet as a Chinese province from the days of Kublai Khan--and such it remained despite Indian and British and American machinations. Whatever her bias, Suyin's views of factories and schools, the twice-liberated women spearheading social change, and what's left of the old palaces and monasteries provide an animated, enthusiastic glimpse of the New Tibet.

Pub Date: Aug. 24th, 1977
Publisher: Putnam