The present volume contains a copious account of Tibet presenting a glimpse of its people, their religion; manner and customs; traditions and beliefs. The book stands out from the rest as it is one of the very few books reflecting the viewpoint of Tibetan on his motherland. Described in a way that makes the best possible substitute for actual travel, the study abounds in cultural, archaeological, social and anthropological data of this mystic land.
A Tibetan on Tibet should appeal not only to the theologian and the sociologist, but to "the man in the street," who will find a remarkable human document in the book. For the first time one gets an inside account of the manner and customs of the Tibetans and the nomad tribes, and in the concluding chapter one is initiated into the meaning and significance of the famous Devil Dance.
The book, thus reproduces, the Tibetan atmosphere with simple fidelity and charm.
It is with great pleasure that I accede to Mr. Combe’s request to write a short introduction to his book. There are many books an Tibet written by Europeans form the European point of view but only a few which reflect the Tibetan standpoint.
As befits their nomadic ancestry, Tibetans are adventurous and fond of travel. In the present work we are introduced to a Tibetan who runs away from home when still a young boy and travels day after day month after month across this difficult mountain land attaching himself first to one party and then to another. Like many of his race he ahs a quick receptive mind and his accounts of what he sees and feels and does show us Tibet from the Inside. It reproduces in fact the Tibetan atmosphere with simple fidelity and charm.
I would fain hope that A Tibetan on Tibet will give to others as much pleasure as it has given to me.
Tachienlu, or Dartsendo, to call it by the Tibetan name of which the Chinese form is a corruption, is small township nestling at the junction of two mountain torrents in the Sino-Tibetan Border country 8,500 feet above sea-level. Surrounded by snow-capped peaks, it is the last predominantly Chinese town on the road westward from Szechuan, and is regarded as the main Gateway to Tibet from the east. Here the traveler from the Chêngtu plain enters a new and strange country; for the domestic animals grazing by the stream are yak, the party of bold, dirty, gipsy-looking fellows squatting near them are Tibetans, and the white covering on the mountain overhead is there all the year round. Some few centuries ago this region was politically, as well as ethnographically, part of Tibet ; and in spite of the fact that peaceful penetration, following military conquest, has given Chinese the ascendancy in the town, its flat, prayer-flagged roofs and the crowds of Tibetans always wandering through its narrow streets markedly differentiate it from the ordinary town in China.
Unlike the Chinese, who in general suffer from anhedonia, the Tibetans are a gay, light-hearted people, full of the joy of living, in spite of their rooted belief in the ubiquity and activity of evil spirits. Tall, heavily built, with the free carriage of mountaineers, fond of ornaments and bright colors, the men are swarthy, the women fresh colored, and both, judging by the standards of a “higher” civilization, extremely dirty. Their outer dress is a sheepskin or pub robe, pulled up so high above the girdle that, while it leaves an ample pocket in the left breast, it falls only to the knee, like a Scottish kilt. With both men and women, the shortness of the robe and the use of knee-boots impart a swing and heaviness to their stride very different from the gait of their more lightly-built neighbors.
Shortly after my arrival at Tachienlu in May last year, I was approached by a local merchant anxious to know how far the road I had come by was open, for it was then the bone of contention between two rival Chinese military factions. My visitor was Mr. Paul Sherap, an English-speaking Tibetan, and in the ensuing conversation he unfolded such an interesting story of his earlier years in Tibet that I engaged him as “pundit,” as he would call it, to come to me every evening for an hour or two, and discourse about Tibet and the Tibetans. From my point of view the experiment was a great success, as it provided entertainment during the solitary evenings until, in the middle of August, I was obliged to return to Chêngtu. And Sherap also, seated in an armchair and equipped with a cigar and a cup of cocoa, which was “grateful” enough in that crisp air, appeared thoroughly to enjoy recalling the adventurous days of his early youth, and describing with meticulous exactitude the customs of his countrymen. V/hen I suggested that his story would interest a wider public than myself, he welcomed the idea with all the enthusiasm that his outwardly stolid disposition permits.
Gifted with excellent powers of observation and a retentive memory, Sherap showed himself keenly aware of the desirability of accuracy of statement, and more than once in the course of his artless tale paused to point out that his in- formation on such and such a point depended on hearsay. He will pardon me if I mention that his rather quaint speech, pleasantly flavored with a mingling of pidgin and biblical English, was sometimes open to misinterpretation. To avoid all possibility of misrepresentation I had at one time the idea of reproducing his exact phraseology, but eventually decided that the disadvantages of such a course outweighed the advantages. Echoes of the original unorthodoxy of phrase, however, I have retained in the personal narrative—to help in conveying the atmosphere—and in such descriptive passages as the one dealing with the tribulations of the soul after death, where it seems somewhat appropriate. I should not omit to mention that the major part of Sherap’s information was elicited by means of question and answer, a laborious and dangerous method—dangerous, because a hint or suggestion on the part of the questioner is liable to be picked up and adopted without full realization of all that it involves. In the circumstances this was unavoidable, and I can only trust that any error due to this cause, or to my revision of his English, did not escape his attention when he corrected the draft of the following pages. Before leaving the subject of validity, the only other comments I would make are that, in speaking of the various sects, a certain bias to the Nyimaba is discernible, due no doubt to the fact that Sherap’s hermit brother and his lama friend Pedma Rinchen were adherents and again that too much weight need not be attached to his measurement of distance by time; time is of no consequence to Tibetans and moreover what is a two days journey in one set of conditions may easily be five in another.
Your email address will not be published *
Send as free online greeting card
Email a Friend