cover image The Dragon in the Land of Snows: A History of Modern Tibet Since 1947

The Dragon in the Land of Snows: A History of Modern Tibet Since 1947

Tsering, Tsering Shakya. Columbia University Press, $45 (606pp) ISBN 978-0-231-11814-9

A valuable scholarly history of modern Tibet that passes an unflattering judgment on the role of the West, this study earned critical praise in England, where it was first published. Shakya, a research fellow at London University, fled his native Tibet with his family amid the horrors of China's Cultural Revolution in 1967. Remarkably, his tone is objective as he seeks to understand and present the Chinese viewpoint--that Tibet has always been part of the Chinese empire and that Maoism has ushered a backward feudalistic society into the 20th century--even as he forcefully refutes it. Using Tibetan-language and Chinese sources, oral records of Tibetan leaders and British, U.S. and Indian government documents, Shakya compellingly explains what has happened to Tibet since the Chinese military invasion of 1950. Almost the entire Tibetan army, plus many activists, monks and students, were arrested and dispatched to labor camps in Tibet and in China. Tibet's monasteries and temples were destroyed or pillaged by China's Red Guards. All expressions of dissent and of loyalty to the exiled Dalai Lama have been punished. As part of its policy of total assimilation aimed at the annihilation of Tibetan culture, Beijing has encouraged tens of thousands of Chinese to settle in Tibet. Shakya's quietly devastating chronicle faults the U.S. and Britain for making the question of human rights subservient to the West's desire for better relations with China. Thorough and fair, Shakya sheds light on a country whose complex reality is often ignored even by the most well-intentioned advocates of the Tibetan cause in the West. Photos. (Oct.)