"The hole in the soul will cry for the real Tibet."

The Complete Review


The Souls of Tibet,

China, & America--

Two Faces of

Beijing's Culture Wars


By Michael Chacko Daniels

It is ironic that the Asian Art Museum's current exhibit in San Francisco, "Tibet: Treasures from the Roof of the World," has nearly 200 sacred treasures.

In the context of the bone-chilling restrictions that the Chinese State reportedly imposes on all religions, from Catholicism to Buddhism, I see the exhibition and the publicity surrounding it to be a clever attempt to present to the world, especially the western world, a softer side of Beijing.

Or, in the words of Rinchen Tsering of Communist China's Administrative Bureau of Cultural Relics: ". . . I believe that this exhibition will contribute to a new understanding between the people of China and the United States." ['Treasure' trove, Tibetan works makes debut at Asian Art Museum, by Bill Picture, San Francisco Examiner, page 22, June 13, 2005]

Will that understanding cloud how we view what has happened to Tibet and its culture in the last 55 years?

When we forget history we are condemned to repeat it.

When I went to see the exhibit on Saturday, June  11, 2005, a group outside the Asian Art Museum, who did not want anyone to forget that history, gave me the following statement:

"Tibet's Stolen Heritage

"The dazzling Tibetan artefacts that make up the proud exhibit are here courtesy of the Chinese government. Ancient thangkas; seals of the great Fifth Dalai Lama; rarely-seen religious objects; beautiful statues and other such stunning pieces: they speak of Tibet and its culture--both targets of China's vehement Sinocization drives since it first occupied Tibet in 1949.

"We have censored all references to the historical context of these objects, the methods that were used to acquire them, the lives that were taken in the process, and the countless other equally precious artefacts that were destroyed in Tibet under the Chinese occupation.

"The goal of the Chinese Communist regime is to construct a narrative for the world about all the things it is supposedly doing to protect Tibetan culture, while simultaneously wiping that culture off the face of the earth.

"During more than fifty years of occupation, over 6,000 monastries--the repositories of Tibetan religious, cultural and historical knowledge--have been destroyed. Today, Tibetans inside Tibet cannot celebrate their culture or practise their religion freely. Simply possessing a photo of the Dalai Lama can result in arrest, torture and imprisonment.

"See the exhibit, let it move you, but remember the culture that produced these wonderful works is being systematically eradicated. Your activism, support, and pressure on the U. S. government for action against China's policies can make a difference. We cannot allow the Chinese government to reduce Tibetan culture to a bunch of museum pieces. . . ."

The exhibition saddened me

until I thought, "Tibet,

the Wisdom of  Tibet,

the Idea of Tibet, the Soul

of Tibet, could ultimately

be the cause of

China's own liberation."

Perhaps, the current rulers in

Beijing, fearful of Tibet's

potent appeal to the human spirit,

and its potential in deciding their

own fate, have participated in

this exhibition as part of their

continuing culture wars

to prevent China's own

transformation from within.

The propaganda machine of

the ultimate corporate state

is geared up to prevent Tibet

entering the Soul of China,

as Tibet has so often in the past.

And in case the path to Beijing

from Lhasa is through

the Soul of America, found

in places such as San Francisco,

where Buddhists flourish,

the Beijing propagandists

present us a picture of a Tibet

re-formed into a progressive

Chinese province.

The attempt to reduce

religion and tradition to

a picturesque offering for

voyeuristic tourists will

ultimately fail.

The hole in the soul

will cry for the real Tibet.

The Soul of America

already does.

As, I believe,

the Soul of China does.


FROM THE MUSEUM'S CALENDAR: The exhibition was organized by: the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art, Santa Ana, California, in collaboration with the Bureau of Cultural Relics, Tibet Autonomous Region; the Potala Palace; and the Tibet Museum. Wells Fargo provided leading support.

______   *   ______


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Posted on Monday, June 27, 2005 at 08:00AM by Registered CommenterMichael Chacko Daniels | CommentsPost a Comment