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At different times in its history Tibet has been renowned for pacifism and martial prowess, enlightenment and cruelty. The Dalai Lama may be the only religious leader who can inspire the devotion of agnostics. Patrick French has been fascinated by Tibet since he was a teenager. He has read its history, agitated for its freedom, and risked arrest to travel through its remot At different times in its history Tibet has been renowned for pacifism and martial prowess, enlightenment and cruelty. The Dalai Lama may be the only religious leader who can inspire the devotion of agnostics. Patrick French has been fascinated by Tibet since he was a teenager. He has read its history, agitated for its freedom, and risked arrest to travel through its remote interior. His love and knowledge inform every page of this learned, literate, and impassioned book. Talking with nomads and Buddhist nuns, exiles and collaborators, French portrays a nation demoralized by a half-century of Chinese occupation and forced to depend on the patronage of Western dilettantes. He demolishes many of the myths accruing to Tibet–including those centering around the radiant figure of the Dalai Lama. Combining the best of history, travel writing, and memoir, Tibet, Tibet is a work of extraordinary power and insight.


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At different times in its history Tibet has been renowned for pacifism and martial prowess, enlightenment and cruelty. The Dalai Lama may be the only religious leader who can inspire the devotion of agnostics. Patrick French has been fascinated by Tibet since he was a teenager. He has read its history, agitated for its freedom, and risked arrest to travel through its remot At different times in its history Tibet has been renowned for pacifism and martial prowess, enlightenment and cruelty. The Dalai Lama may be the only religious leader who can inspire the devotion of agnostics. Patrick French has been fascinated by Tibet since he was a teenager. He has read its history, agitated for its freedom, and risked arrest to travel through its remote interior. His love and knowledge inform every page of this learned, literate, and impassioned book. Talking with nomads and Buddhist nuns, exiles and collaborators, French portrays a nation demoralized by a half-century of Chinese occupation and forced to depend on the patronage of Western dilettantes. He demolishes many of the myths accruing to Tibet–including those centering around the radiant figure of the Dalai Lama. Combining the best of history, travel writing, and memoir, Tibet, Tibet is a work of extraordinary power and insight.

30 review for Tibet, Tibet: A Personal History of a Lost Land

  1. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    This has been by far the most informational book I have read about Tibet. I’ve spent months preparing for my field study here in Mcleod Ganj, home of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile, but this source has given me the most accurate portrayal of what actual happened and what the situation is currently in Tibet. French is an entertaining writer, with a nice blend of travel writing and history, and has clearly done his homework in putting this together. I’d recommend it to anyone w This has been by far the most informational book I have read about Tibet. I’ve spent months preparing for my field study here in Mcleod Ganj, home of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile, but this source has given me the most accurate portrayal of what actual happened and what the situation is currently in Tibet. French is an entertaining writer, with a nice blend of travel writing and history, and has clearly done his homework in putting this together. I’d recommend it to anyone who is genuinely interested in Tibet looking for some answers. Reading this right after the autobiography of the Dalai Lama was an interesting experience. The two are strikingly different. In His Holiness’ autobiography he ends on a very optimistic note that he and his people will one day return. My Tibetan host sister is also very hopeful that this will happen one day. French, however, spends the entire book building up his ethos and gets to the end and concludes that “the Dalai Lama has lost the battle, and had probably missed the slender chances offered to him by China” (299). In other words, Tibet is toast. That really hurt. Since he has spent so much time gaining the readers confidence, this frank remark left me really depressed. I walk around McLeod seeing all kinds of faded “Free Tibet” sticks and sweaters for tourists (which French brings up several times as actually harmful to those not living in exile), but the only reform French seems to think is possible is to get Tibetans educated and in high positions so they can be part of reformation. French is certainly not out to demolish the hope of Tibet or anything like that. He has an undeniable attachment for the place, but he is not afraid to just state the facts—like the “old Tibet… will never be recovered” (299). Rather than setting Tibet up as an ideal, he argues that we need to start embracing the reality so that we can know how to best go forward, since what we have done so far has clearly not been very effective. The specific example he gives is with the widely accepted statistic of 1.2 million Tibetans killed under the rule of China (189). He does not doubt that many people suffered or want to challenge that, but after doing a lot of research he found that not only were the sources for these numbers incredibly unrealistic, but even if you include all of those the number only adds to 1.1 million. His point is that if we want to make real change, we need to start seeing the facts. That is the only way to help Tibet. Even after lots of preparation and being on this field study for two months, interacting with hundreds of Tibetans living in exile, the lessons I learned in this book were still hidden from me. I feel like this is something I should have read long before I entered the field. So far it has been the best source I have yet found to help clarify the complex Tibetan situation. Even if you are not all that familiar with Tibet, it is a great read. I highly recommend it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    I was asked the same question over and over, as I always was by rural Tibetans who were far from information: Did I know anything of Kundun, the Presence? Had I seen him? Was he safe? ... Would he ever come back to Tibet? In the late 90s, Patrick French, a British activist and writer, traveled around Tibet - to learn and to see. His approach was to meet people where they are - markets, farms, businesses, public transportation. The Chinese authorities were aware of his presence, and many times I was asked the same question over and over, as I always was by rural Tibetans who were far from information: Did I know anything of Kundun, the Presence? Had I seen him? Was he safe? ... Would he ever come back to Tibet? In the late 90s, Patrick French, a British activist and writer, traveled around Tibet - to learn and to see. His approach was to meet people where they are - markets, farms, businesses, public transportation. The Chinese authorities were aware of his presence, and many times tried to make things difficult. People were generous with their information, and in turn, French protects them all by keeping their identities private and confedential. This intention of telling the stories of Tibet through its people, is lightly supplemented by French's own travel recounting - but he is conscious to keep the lens on Tibetans, not making the story about him and his travel. I really appreciated that approach, and this is something I wish other writers would do more of when including travelogue material. While many in the West are aware of the Dalai Lama's story, there are approximately 5.5 million Tibetans who still live in the country proper, and identify as Tibetan ethnicity. Through them, we learn more about what happened after the People's Liberation Army (PLA) occupied the country, after the Dalai Lama fled/exiled to India. Stories of the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, post-Mao, and the current state of affairs. We hear this side: the stories of the farmers, the city dwellers imprisoned for trumped up charges, the young who have known no other life, and the old who remembered Kundun and independent Tibet. Tibet, Tibet is richly detailed, educational in both politics and sociology, as well as prescient. The conflict, while decades old and not as high profile as it once was, is still happening, affecting the lives of millions of people. -- Read for Book Riot Read Harder Challenge task "Read a book that is set 5000 miles from your location". Google tells me I am about 7500 miles from Lhasa...

  3. 5 out of 5

    Tian Chen

    The author was the former director of the Free Tibet movement of Britain. On every page his love of Tibet shines through, even when portraying its not-so-great aspects. His depiction of Han people in this is relatively neutral but colored by his affections for Tibetans. For example, his cynical portrayal of a HongKong Han 's affection for a german woman, true or not, is petty. The same goes for his observations on spitting and the like. This is, while better, still a standard work running the usu The author was the former director of the Free Tibet movement of Britain. On every page his love of Tibet shines through, even when portraying its not-so-great aspects. His depiction of Han people in this is relatively neutral but colored by his affections for Tibetans. For example, his cynical portrayal of a HongKong Han 's affection for a german woman, true or not, is petty. The same goes for his observations on spitting and the like. This is, while better, still a standard work running the usual western narrative of Tibetan innocence vs. Han cynicism. However, it is largely redeemed by the author for getting the bigger picture right. His actual trips to Tibet, as opposed to the virtual ones to Changri-La taken by the typical fanatical Free Tibet crowd -- to what he calls "the Mind's Tibet" -- trained him with a more critical, and realistic look of what is, and is not possible given the existing geo-political realities. On the big picture, he is more balanced than more in his treatment on the subject. Given the increasingly shrill voices (on both sides) out there fueled by recent events, this is a better work than most.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Navin

    'He was an individual caught by a moment in history...’ Awesome quote this. Patrick French signs off in style. The book part memoir, part travelogue takes us into a Tibet that is far from how the western world would like to see it, conceive it. He brings forth an interesting term to the dream place we want to go and be – ‘the mind’s Tibet.’ According to Mr. French half of what we know about Tibet is already with us, without us needing to go there. The mind’s Tibet is something we want it to be. N 'He was an individual caught by a moment in history...’ Awesome quote this. Patrick French signs off in style. The book part memoir, part travelogue takes us into a Tibet that is far from how the western world would like to see it, conceive it. He brings forth an interesting term to the dream place we want to go and be – ‘the mind’s Tibet.’ According to Mr. French half of what we know about Tibet is already with us, without us needing to go there. The mind’s Tibet is something we want it to be. Now that is a terrible thing. It is what we call the delusion of romance. If we want Tibet to be free from China (I sure want), then we need to help free the real Tibet and not our idea of Tibet. For the Tibet Patrick French has visited is full of mysteries that are more human than godly. It is place where pockets are picked; nepotism runs deep and has a history of groupism and political maneuvering for power. The land is also underlined by a kind of self contained arrogance with respect to acceptance of change. None of this takes away from what china has done to Tibet. About millions have perished since his Holiness, the Dalai Lama escaped to India. Tibet since has become more than just a geographical issue for China. It has become a touchstone of China’s fragility against the forces of democracy. Every sneeze in Tibet sends a shiver in Beijing. So for obvious reasons the more the west or India tries to hand hold China on Tibet, the more its iron grip will tighten on the elusive land. This is sad. Because as Mr. French points out for the last 14 years the west has done just that. It has tried to blow the old man free of its woolen shawl and the old man had done nothing but tighten its grip around. His Holiness is not getting any young either. So China can also play the waiting game. There happen to be many large scale protests in China every year. All of which are brutally trampled upon. There are more plain clothes officers and internal security members patrolling Shanghai, than Tibet or Beijing. This in itself answers the insecurity of the Communist Party. Democratic front of Hong Kong, Uighur minority of Xinjiang and many others are the only groups we hear about. What about the rest? Before we speak about freedom for Tibet, can we argue that China too needs freedom from a regime that has killed more people than Hitler or Stalin alone, and is still in power being serenaded by the west. I know there are many who would prefer the communist rule to democracy. Each to his own. A friend of mine from Arunachal Pradesh who travelled to China told me that most businessmen there want to move out and are pressing for reforms albeit very subtly. A little louder and they are in fear of being branded as ‘imperialist dogs’. He also saw how China played the fear card to maintain their One child policy. On a wall in an urban area read a message from the government “Kill all your family members if you don’t follow the rule” Wow! That’s awesome, here is another one - “We would rather scrape your womb than allow you to have a second child” These messages were pretty common in places - where the communist party wanted them to be. This was also noted by traveller/ author Nick Holdstock. The country is perpetually on the edge. This was recently acknowledged by Chinese Premier Wen Jiaba, he said, “If new reforms are not brought forward, we might open doors for a second cultural revolution” But this is book about Tibet. So why is Mr. French discussing China? Let’s look at it this way. The more ‘progressive’ China will get, the better for Tibet. I wish a long life for His Holiness. A honest travelogue.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Shomeret

    The historical aspect of this book is very noteworthy. I learned that the first ruling lama of Tibet to carry the title of "Dalai" was a Mongol Khan and that Dalai is a Mongol word that means "ocean". From a Mongol cultural standpoint this is very interesting because Mongols had a longstanding historical aversion to the ocean. This also lends credence to the idea, mentioned in this book, that the Dalai Lama as a single reincarnated being (tulku) is not an actuality, but a political strategy. It The historical aspect of this book is very noteworthy. I learned that the first ruling lama of Tibet to carry the title of "Dalai" was a Mongol Khan and that Dalai is a Mongol word that means "ocean". From a Mongol cultural standpoint this is very interesting because Mongols had a longstanding historical aversion to the ocean. This also lends credence to the idea, mentioned in this book, that the Dalai Lama as a single reincarnated being (tulku) is not an actuality, but a political strategy. It can't be a coincidence that this tulku reincarnated as a Mongol twice while the Mongols were politically ascendant in Tibet. The other possibility that I find equally believable is that this is a very political tulku who reincarnates to preserve the interests of Tibet. On the other hand, French cites the current Dalai Lama's political ineptness in his dealings with the Chinese. I'm not sure that French is correct that the Dalai Lama doesn't understand politics. Perhaps he has realized that the best chances for the survival of Tibetan Buddhism lie with an alliance with sympathetic Westerners. French later says that a free Tibet isn't possible without a free China, and I think that's very evident. Yet a radical change in China's political system isn't likely within the forseeable future. French contextualizes the Chinese invasion of Tibet within Chinese history. His evaluation of Mao was very illuminating for me. He characterizes Mao as an individual who enjoyed causing turmoil. If this was his goal, he was very successful at it. But he was no benign Trickster figure from some sanitized fairy tale for children. His mischief caused death and destruction on a gargantuan scale. Right after I read this book, I read an article in Smithsonian magazine that seemed like a supplement to this book. French had observed that the Chinese have been incredibly bad at projecting a positive image of their occupation of Tibet. I agree that PR wasn't a priority for China in the past, but I believe that this is changing and that they have grown much more sophisticated about it. This Smithsonian article called "Lucky Bird" is about a Tibetan monk named Tashi Zangpo devoted to bird conservation in Tibet. He works very closely with a Chinese graduate student and tells Tibetan children "As Buddhists, this is something we have to do--we have to protect the birds and animals that don't have any other protection." So we are supposed to think that Tibetan monks have complete religious freedom, and that Tibetans and Chinese are one big happy family. Why do I suspect that this is very similar to Chevron's greenwashing TV ad campaign in which they congratulated themselves for their token environmental activities? But this article does represent a very good piece of PR. I am quite sure that the author couldn't have conducted interviews with anyone in Tibet without the total cooperation of the Chinese authorities.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jan

    A personal account of Tibet, a treasury of landscapes, historical details and opinions on the state and fate of Tibet as a nation. An inspiring read for all pro-Tibet activists that can enable us to rethink what the Western role can be in truly helping this land.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kaelan Ratcliffe ▪ كايِلان راتكِليف

    "Po Gyalo! Po Rangzen!" " I knew, though, that the Dalai Lama had lost the battle, and had probably missed the slender chances offered to him for a settlement with China. Caught by circumstance and history, the Old Tibet had been undone, and would never be recovered. " In all honesty, I received far more from Patrick French in this book than I ever expected. I have a few Tibetan books on my 'to-read' shelf, and I just so happened to purchase this one to be my first at random. Frankly, I was f "Po Gyalo! Po Rangzen!" " I knew, though, that the Dalai Lama had lost the battle, and had probably missed the slender chances offered to him for a settlement with China. Caught by circumstance and history, the Old Tibet had been undone, and would never be recovered. " In all honesty, I received far more from Patrick French in this book than I ever expected. I have a few Tibetan books on my 'to-read' shelf, and I just so happened to purchase this one to be my first at random. Frankly, I was fully expecting a travel memoir and some (not entirely unfounded) polemic on China on the side. What French does instead in Tibet, Tibet is produce a book that is part history lesson, part travel diary, part cultural comparison (with the author himself as the experimental conduit making interesting observations thought his time spent travelling the country), part analysis of the Dalai Lama and - most importantly - part de-mystification of the country. It's appreciated, from my stand point, as a westerner trying to understand the Tibetan story, that French takes a balanced approach in analysing not only China's role in shaping (and causing great pain toward) the Tibetan people, but also taking aim at Tibetophiles from the west, who have no idea the role the UK / USA played in making Tibet what it is today, and not for the better (surprise, surprise). I certainly didn't know these facts beforehand, and certainly feel better for having been illuminated now. There's more than a few moments in this book that seriously held my attention, and a few revelations I couldn't have really anticipated. A particular one that springs to mind is a suggestion that the Lama may be a victim of the materialistic society he seeks to enlighten. Whether through books that have no attachments to the man except through name, or profits from various outlets using his name / image / words not going toward the Tibetan cause, it's an uncomfortable thought. Just one example of the difficult questions French raises throughout the book. Overall French paints a pretty sensible picture about where Tibet can move forward, with on the chinese system, until the government in Bejing democratises itself or reforms. Whether it will play out the way he suggests remains to be seen. However, it certainly has ignited an interest in me toward the peninsula, and I look forward to seeing what else I can discover about it in the future. Here's hoping the world can visit this beautiful country one day, without fear of reproach, knowing it's autonomy has been fully realised.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Juha

    This book should be mandatory reading to all the Tibetophiles in the West. It punctures so many myths about Tibet, its history and politics. It is critical of the Dalai Lama, while being sympathetic to him. It is by no means apologetic of China's brutal rule in the land, but it helps to understand how things are not black and white. This book should be mandatory reading to all the Tibetophiles in the West. It punctures so many myths about Tibet, its history and politics. It is critical of the Dalai Lama, while being sympathetic to him. It is by no means apologetic of China's brutal rule in the land, but it helps to understand how things are not black and white.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Prashanth Nuggehalli Srinivas

    Meanwhile, at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Los [caption id="" align="alignright" width="240"] Tibet, Tibet by Patrick French[/caption] Angeles, the Dalai Lama blessed a new Shi-Tro mandala (a three-dimensional religious sculpture) in front of a large, paying audience. The mandala had been created by a Tibetan monk who ran a local Buddhist centre, assisted by his American wife, who worked in creative marketing for Warner Brothers Records Inc. She had generated volumes of publicity, using the sl Meanwhile, at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Los [caption id="" align="alignright" width="240"] Tibet, Tibet by Patrick French[/caption] Angeles, the Dalai Lama blessed a new Shi-Tro mandala (a three-dimensional religious sculpture) in front of a large, paying audience. The mandala had been created by a Tibetan monk who ran a local Buddhist centre, assisted by his American wife, who worked in creative marketing for Warner Brothers Records Inc. She had generated volumes of publicity, using the slogan “Shi-Tro Happens.” The Los Angeles Times described this as “marketing the mandala in a hip and humorous way.” So, there was the Dalai Lama, up on stage, Shi-Tro happening, the ceremony compered by the requisite Hollywood star, in this case the actress Sharon Stone, famous for lacking underwear in the movie Basic Instinct, but this time wearing a feather boa and bare feet. After musing aloud for a while about how she might introduce the Dalai Lama, she finally settled for, “The hardest-working man in spirituality … Mr. Please, Please, Please let me back into China!” The fact that the Dalai Lama came from Tibet was momentarily lost…. - p.122,  Tibet Tibet by Patrick  French Patrick French's 2003 book on Tibet was my first book on this fascinating region. Having just returned after 6 weeks behind the great firewall, my eagerness to read more about Tibet had only increased. For, in a premier University campus, no less, was I prevented from reading the Wikipedia article on Tibet, leave alone any Dalai rant that sought to destabilise the "national unity of the motherland". Apart from several experiments with proxy servers and overconfidently trying to set up Tor, I finally came to terms with the stupendity of the Great Firewall of China, despite Winter & Lindskog's spirited efforts (PDF from arxiv) at "understanding of China's censorship capabilities and ... more effective evasion techniques". So, what I wanted was not some Hollywood Tibetophile version of great oriental discovery of eastern stoicism and spirituality. I was already quite familiar with the "other side", having read and heard Hitchens on numerous occasions launch scathing attacks on the Dalai Lama for his "holier-than-all image", seeking donations from apparently dubious entities  and other things summarised in "His  Material Highness", an article Hitchens wrote in 1998. I sought a more information than opinions and discourses. And I was quite pleased with Patrick French's Tibet, Tibet.  The book starts and ends at McLeod Gunj, that place in Himachal where all Tibetan roads lead to. In a 1987 visit that he recalls, back in the days when pro-Tibet demonstrations were at their peak, Patrick recalls Ngodup, who cooked for guests at the monastery guest rooms. He later describes how he watched with horror on TV, this introvert Tibetan set himself ablaze in protests in Delhi. So begins his journey of wanting to go back into Tibet. With time, the initial magic and awe of all things Tibetan, also understandably wore away for the author and he too sought to see the "real Tibet", the one offered to him beyond the popular books of the Dalai Lama and the speeches of Gere and Segal. So, he undertakes a journey backpacking through Tibet and the provinces around the present-day Tibet, that at least at some point in history were united under Tibetan kings. In all the places he visits, he brings in a bit of travel writing, narratives of people [caption id="" align="alignright" width="550"] The Potala palace in Lhasa. Major Francis Younghusband marched the British troops after the 1804 invasion of Tibet.[/caption] who went through Mao's purges and revolutions and lived to swallow their tales with humorous titbits of daily life. Some of the accounts are chilling (such as how many Tibetans suffered during several phases of Mao's rule) and others informative (Francis Younghusband's campaign to Tibet from India, Tibet's former military might, the corruption and decadence in Tibetan royalty and the extreme poverty of a large portion of its people). Of course, while doing a remarkable job keeping his (previous?) biases of Tibet (what he calls the mind's Tibet - he was after all once the head of UK's Free Tibet movement), his disdain for the Han people does come through. While getting a rich picture of the oppressed Tibetans from very different regions first-hand, the one-kind stereotype of the Han is quite evident and one wishes there could have been a richer detail of them too. Yet, a self-critical account of the Free-tibet movement and its Dalai-centredness is also given. Indeed, at various points he revisits his own ideal notion of "mind's Tibet" versus the real one, grey and lifeless towns in reality recollected quite differently in narratives. GOing further, he analyses historical misjudgments of the Dalai Lama in resolving the issue and even brings it up in a final meeting with the Dalai Lama in the last pages. Isabel Hilton's review sums it up rather well in a review in The Guardian: French's reporting is excellent and this is an enjoyable and informative tour of Tibet. His conclusions, though, invite some questions. The Dalai Lama himself regards it as self-evident that his decades of efforts to come to an agreement with China have borne no fruit. But it seems a little harsh to assume that this is solely through his own naiveté or mismanagement. China in the decades since 1949 has hardly been a stable or rational interlocutor for anyone attempting to negotiate - especially from a position of weakness. A more generous observer might congratulate the Dalai Lama that Tibet still exists at all, rather than rebuke him for failing to tame the dragon. The Dalai Lama does not claim infallibility, whatever his followers or his western supporters might claim for him, nor have the majority of Tibetans ever auditioned to be characters in a western fantasy. That does not diminish the injustice they have suffered or render them any less deserving of support. Endnotes Patrick French's was the chosen one for VS Naipaul's The World is what it is biography. He refused the OBE to "guard his independence as a writer".  A funny interview by Larry King (CNN) with the Dalai Lama that belies the depth of understanding of the Dalai, in contrast to the noise made in the US about him. In the interview, Larry asks him what he thinks on the new year of 2000 "as a leading Muslim". A later interview where Larry seems to know of the Dalai's Buddhist faith is as funny with strange questions on DNA and such. As Patrick French notes: "This time, the host knew that his guest was a Buddhist, but it was a sorry spectacle, the Dalai Lama, the bodhisattva of compassion, being forced by the exigencies of global politics and celebrity culture to compete for airtime with the passing flotsam of high-speed television …"  Madhuri Dixit's posters were apparently the most popular draw among the several foreign celebrity posters adorning sections of Lingkhor (the outer pilgrim road at Lhasa) especially in the red-light district, where Chinese gangs run flesh trade with girls from Sichuan and Qinghai (p. 224). French describes a meeting and interview with Ugeyen (p. 183), one of the Tibetan Ragyabas who in Tibet were outcastes who have faced historical injustice and discrimination (much akin to Dalits in India). I immediately wondered if "we" exported more than Buddhism. Indian teachers Santarakshita and Padmasambhava went to Tibet on invitation somewhere in 8th century CE. Wonder which route they took.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Raghu

    Tibet has long been the Shangri-La in the consciousness of the West. The image is one of a very peace-loving, spiritual people, embracing the best tenets of Buddhism but brutally suppressed and violated by Chinese communism. Patrick French, the author, was a young Tibetophile and also a former head of a 'Free Tibet' organization in Britain. He visits Tibet later in life and undertakes substantial research and questions many of the pre-conceptions about Tibet. This book is the result of more than Tibet has long been the Shangri-La in the consciousness of the West. The image is one of a very peace-loving, spiritual people, embracing the best tenets of Buddhism but brutally suppressed and violated by Chinese communism. Patrick French, the author, was a young Tibetophile and also a former head of a 'Free Tibet' organization in Britain. He visits Tibet later in life and undertakes substantial research and questions many of the pre-conceptions about Tibet. This book is the result of more than a decade of effort on this question. The conclusions he comes to are sobering and all Tibetophiles must weigh them carefully before they take up cudgels on behalf of Tibetan independence. French shows that Tibetans have not been always a non-violent people and that Buddhism does not necessarily confer semi-divinity on its followers. The book shows that neither the Chinese nor the Tibetan exiles have been telling the truth about the real situation in Tibet. While the Chinese lie about the conditions of life and death in Tibet, the Tibetan exiles in India have a vested interest in inflating the number of people who died under Chinese rule in Tibet. It reminds one of the inflated figures the anti-nuke activists and pro-global warming scientists give to push their case. In all these instances, the reason for such inflation is their reluctance to trust the common man with the truth. The author approvingly quotes from V.S. Naipaul's Nobel lecture , "...the powerless lie about themselves, and lie to themselves, since it is their only resource..." French writes about the Dalai Lama as follows: " ...he is hard to read, opaque, intuitive, wise, flippant, childlike, canny, disarming'. The author hints that the Dalai Lama might have changed under pressures of his western backers to get to today's posture where it is difficult to see what his real strategy for Tibet now is. In contrast, French quotes the Dalai's more idealistic remarks to Dom Moraes, an Indian journalist, in 1959 as:"..there are two great forces in the world today. One is the force of the people with power, with armies to enforce that power, and with land to hire their armies from. The other is the force of the poor and dispossessed. The two are in perpetual conflict and it is certain who will lose.....unless this is changed, the world will perish..." French also has powerful remarks on Tibetan independence in the words of Namdrup, a Tibetan living in Tibet today, as follows: "... the Chinese are not going to leave Tibet. The Tibetan exiles in india and Nepal who talk about freedom are wasting their time. I say to them, if you want independence for Tibet, why don't you come here and make a protest and see how far it gets you? It may make them feel good, but it makes life worse for us, it makes the Chinese create more controls for us..." Patrick French writes realistically on the West regarding Tibet. He says that experience has shown that the West does not favor Tibetan independence over trade with China; in the same way, after the Dalai Lama's death, the Tibetan exile group in India would come under more pressure from India which wants to improve relations with an emerging and aggressive China. In the end, the author gives his conclusions as below: "I knew that the Dalai Lama had lost the battle, and had probably missed the slender chances offered to him for a settlement with China. Caught by circumstance and history, the old Tibet had been undone and would never be recovered. My sense was that the only realistic hope for the future was for Tibetans to work within the Chinese system, to try to get as many of their countrymen as possible into good positions and wait for the day when there was reform in Beijing, in the hope that Tibet would then be permitted genuine autonomy and a reassertion of its own unique identity." This is a well-researched book and written in the best interests of the people of Tibet even though the exiles and other friends of Tibet may not like the conclusions. The book certainly made me think with open eyes on the subject.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kerfe

    Part history and part travel book, this story belongs as much to China as Tibet. The two countries have been trading power and borders for centuries. While Tibet, both in history and its present Chinese/exile state, and the Tibetan people come across as more complex and much less the simple peaceful Buddhists than their popular media image allows, the Chinese, particularly under and since Mao, lose almost total credibility. As the author points out, it seems impossible that anyone could admire a Part history and part travel book, this story belongs as much to China as Tibet. The two countries have been trading power and borders for centuries. While Tibet, both in history and its present Chinese/exile state, and the Tibetan people come across as more complex and much less the simple peaceful Buddhists than their popular media image allows, the Chinese, particularly under and since Mao, lose almost total credibility. As the author points out, it seems impossible that anyone could admire a leader who so destroyed not only his own people and their culture, but all others he could get his hands on as well. This legacy will not disappear quickly or easily, even with Mao gone, and a more pragmatic and progressive leadership in place. And Tibet and its future are caught up in that uncertainty. After losing his idealistic view of the possibility or even ability of its people to hold on to an independent Tibet, French retains his admiration of them. And while depicting the Dalai Lama as more human and contradictory than he is portrayed in the popular press, he still sees the spiritual struggle and foundation the Dalai Lama comes out of as valid and real. The despair of those who have lost their homes and their cultural continuity resonates across and through both China and Tibet. While some individuals can hold on to integrity in their lives, politics and those who drive for power over others seem to be totally lacking in any sense of human respect or needs. The ordinary man or woman becomes lost.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Marysia

    A different approach to the well-known Tibet issue. More ubiased and deeper than the 'free Tibet' slogans. French traveled around Tibet, met Tibetians, interviewed then and tried to collect the few historic facts know about Tibet - a land with a long history and long tradition never really understood by the Western world praising Dalai Lama for his soothing smile and trying to help the cause in our very way - with not much understanding to the cultural differences and global politics. This book A different approach to the well-known Tibet issue. More ubiased and deeper than the 'free Tibet' slogans. French traveled around Tibet, met Tibetians, interviewed then and tried to collect the few historic facts know about Tibet - a land with a long history and long tradition never really understood by the Western world praising Dalai Lama for his soothing smile and trying to help the cause in our very way - with not much understanding to the cultural differences and global politics. This book made me sad as it shows the end of Tibet as we would like to see it. But it gives a hint as to how we could help the country. Not only by loud protest, but also through a long term investment in education, health care and improving the standard of live of the Tibetans. So if an opportunity comes for them to gain some autonomy, they will be able to take it and make the most of it. Worth reading, although not an easy one.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Yueyue

    I think the author did a great job in collecting various vivid stories from people of very different background: Tibeten locals, the use-to-be Red-Guards, the migrant Han people, people from communist party, etc. Some of the stories are very touching and allowed readers to see what really happened in Tibet during the "Great Leap" and the Culture Revolution. But I think the author had already set a tone even before he went out to collect those stories. In reading his journey of interviewing people I think the author did a great job in collecting various vivid stories from people of very different background: Tibeten locals, the use-to-be Red-Guards, the migrant Han people, people from communist party, etc. Some of the stories are very touching and allowed readers to see what really happened in Tibet during the "Great Leap" and the Culture Revolution. But I think the author had already set a tone even before he went out to collect those stories. In reading his journey of interviewing people, I can feel his like or dislike towards certain people or culture. The funny think I found is that while the author thought the Han man who tried to talk to him on the train was annoying, the theft in Tibet was kind of lovely. Anyway, I think it is a good book to find some detailed stories in those period, and I think the authour conclusion toward Tibet's future is very revelent.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Maggie

    at first i was half excited about reading this book and half wary. i was apprehensive because it is a travel book of sorts and i have always had this notion that travel books are boring, because who wants to hear (or read) about other (real not fictional) peoples travels? not me! but i found that i was quite wrong and other peoples travels can not only be exciting but very informative as well. especially when there is a lot of history and a little politics thrown in. by reading this book my knowl at first i was half excited about reading this book and half wary. i was apprehensive because it is a travel book of sorts and i have always had this notion that travel books are boring, because who wants to hear (or read) about other (real not fictional) peoples travels? not me! but i found that i was quite wrong and other peoples travels can not only be exciting but very informative as well. especially when there is a lot of history and a little politics thrown in. by reading this book my knowledge of tibet and also china has grown tremendously, for two reasons: 1. i knew almost nothing about either country before reading this book and 2. this book is very informative and deals greatly with the history of tibet and therefore it must also deal with the history of china as well.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Joly Zou

    I found this book is sincere, honest, profound, not just written from a pro-Tibet perspective, but more about examining the history from multiple resources for a objective view of Tibet and the exile government. The reader can feel the passion and devote of Mr French to Buddism and the Dalai Lama, but he is honest when it comes to facts, policies, and mistakes. As a Chinese grew up in China, this is a very good book to get some initial knowledge of Tibet and the lost history. I hope one day my c I found this book is sincere, honest, profound, not just written from a pro-Tibet perspective, but more about examining the history from multiple resources for a objective view of Tibet and the exile government. The reader can feel the passion and devote of Mr French to Buddism and the Dalai Lama, but he is honest when it comes to facts, policies, and mistakes. As a Chinese grew up in China, this is a very good book to get some initial knowledge of Tibet and the lost history. I hope one day my country will look into history, and truly stand up in the world as a honest nation. Without knowing history, one cannot truly understand the current era, and one cannot avoid making the same mistakes. Escaping from the truth is never a solution, for a person, or a country.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    French skillfully and compellingly examines a very complex topic: Tibetan identity, politics, nationalism, and the relationship of all this to China. Where most who approach Tibet are clouded by their own passion, French is able to sympathetically engage all sides, writing movingly of the idealism of both Western Tibetophiles and Chinese bureaucrats. His portrait of the Dalai Lama is ultimately admiring but recognizes that the leader is at least partially complicit in his people's suffering. For French skillfully and compellingly examines a very complex topic: Tibetan identity, politics, nationalism, and the relationship of all this to China. Where most who approach Tibet are clouded by their own passion, French is able to sympathetically engage all sides, writing movingly of the idealism of both Western Tibetophiles and Chinese bureaucrats. His portrait of the Dalai Lama is ultimately admiring but recognizes that the leader is at least partially complicit in his people's suffering. For the general reader who wishes to learn about actual Tibetan life and the messy necessity of constructing a "national" identity, I highly recommend Tibet, Tibet

  17. 4 out of 5

    Carol Wakefield

    The subtitle of the book,"a personal history of a lost land" describes it all. Once a passionate supporter of a free and separate tibet, mr French travels for months through the tibet autonomous region and comes to some unwelcome conclusions. It is time for Tibetans to work within the current political system to establish local leaders who might have the ability to work for the region should the Chinese government loosen its hold on the territories. The book includes his journey, a good deal of The subtitle of the book,"a personal history of a lost land" describes it all. Once a passionate supporter of a free and separate tibet, mr French travels for months through the tibet autonomous region and comes to some unwelcome conclusions. It is time for Tibetans to work within the current political system to establish local leaders who might have the ability to work for the region should the Chinese government loosen its hold on the territories. The book includes his journey, a good deal of history, especially the interplay with Chinese governments over the centuries, and visits with many Tibetans and eventually the Dalai Lama.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Michal Thoma

    Excellent book about Tibet and it's struggle under the rule of China. Author is great lover of Tibet and Tibetans, but also scholar trained in critical thinking. The fact that Partrick French didn't succumb to lame "shangrilaism" while keeping his affect for the country and people makes this book on Tibet outstanding. Only drawback is somewhat messy structure of the chapters where some issues, which were previously discussed are reappearing without much continuity. Anyway this still very great p Excellent book about Tibet and it's struggle under the rule of China. Author is great lover of Tibet and Tibetans, but also scholar trained in critical thinking. The fact that Partrick French didn't succumb to lame "shangrilaism" while keeping his affect for the country and people makes this book on Tibet outstanding. Only drawback is somewhat messy structure of the chapters where some issues, which were previously discussed are reappearing without much continuity. Anyway this still very great piece of travel journalism. Highly recommended for anyone who want to learn something about contemporary Tibet in very readable and entertaining way.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Katrin

    A nice, personal book about Tibet. Also the first book I've read about the subject that speaks about the Western "Free Tibet industry". Unfortunately, it is rather depressing, because after reading the book, you really know that there isn't much hope for Tibet - apart from ongoing atrocities committed by the Chinese, no matter what happens in the future, it will be very hard to keep up tradition and Buddhist practices. A nice, personal book about Tibet. Also the first book I've read about the subject that speaks about the Western "Free Tibet industry". Unfortunately, it is rather depressing, because after reading the book, you really know that there isn't much hope for Tibet - apart from ongoing atrocities committed by the Chinese, no matter what happens in the future, it will be very hard to keep up tradition and Buddhist practices.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Good overview of Tibetan history; French was a Tibet activist for a number of years before becoming a little jaded about it all to the extent that late in the book he talks of Tibetan independence without Chinese freedom as being a bot of a waste of time. The book aggravates Tibetans. Overall a good introduction that highlights the depth and breadth of Tibetan history but avoids simplifying a complex and difficult situation.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Terry

    Engaging book explaining the history of Tibet and how Mao completely destroyed a culture. What makes this book most interesting is that French relates the history via his travels through Tibet and his meetings with people, both Chinese and Tibetan. He says that he stepped down as director of a Western Tibet campaign because China completely ignores protest and petition. Until China changes Tibet will not re-exist politically.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Patti K

    This account of Tibet and its vexed relationship with China was published in 2003. So it is somewhat dated in its survey, but it addresses many episodes of history, both ancient and modern, in Tibet. His writing is very forthright and is not one-sided. He loves the Tibetan people, but is not shy to evoke mistakes that they have made, as well as the Dalai Lama. Even-handed portrait of disastrous times for both the Chinese and Tibetan people. I very much enjoyed it.

  23. 5 out of 5

    PMP

    The Tibetan situation is not cut and dried. Though the author never makes the assertion, this book was what first intimated to me that Tibet's situation today is part of its karma. Echoes of this can be found in some of HH the Dalai Lama's writings. I will substantiate here when I find the lines. The Tibetan situation is not cut and dried. Though the author never makes the assertion, this book was what first intimated to me that Tibet's situation today is part of its karma. Echoes of this can be found in some of HH the Dalai Lama's writings. I will substantiate here when I find the lines.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    Picked this book up on a whim from the library. It started out with potential, but it started reading too much like a textbook. I'm not a big enough history fan to want to read a textbook in my spare time, so I didn't end up finishing it. Too bad, because I know hardly anything about Tibet (still don't) and was very curious about it. Picked this book up on a whim from the library. It started out with potential, but it started reading too much like a textbook. I'm not a big enough history fan to want to read a textbook in my spare time, so I didn't end up finishing it. Too bad, because I know hardly anything about Tibet (still don't) and was very curious about it.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Anand

    a thoughtful, incisive - and for once - an account of Tibet that is as cerebral as it is emotional. Shorn of the usual hagiography and the romanticisation of a culture and a state aspiring for independence, this proivides a mix of a travelogue, history and the voice of the peoples - both within and exiled. A work of brilliance - leaves an impression that outlives the last page of the book

  26. 5 out of 5

    Divya Agrawal

    Detailed. Descriptive. Nostalgic. It took me back to a time that once even wasn't mine. Given my love and fascination for all things Tibet, I loved this book. Sometime soon, I'd go back and read it again. Its almost everything you'd want in a travel essay. I wonder how I had chanced on this. Also made a little title scrap in pencil that sits on my 401B wonder wall. Detailed. Descriptive. Nostalgic. It took me back to a time that once even wasn't mine. Given my love and fascination for all things Tibet, I loved this book. Sometime soon, I'd go back and read it again. Its almost everything you'd want in a travel essay. I wonder how I had chanced on this. Also made a little title scrap in pencil that sits on my 401B wonder wall.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    This is the book that convinced me not to go to Tibet because it's already been destroyed by the Chinese. Excellently researched, it gave me an unromantic insight into Tibet that no one else could have. This is the book that convinced me not to go to Tibet because it's already been destroyed by the Chinese. Excellently researched, it gave me an unromantic insight into Tibet that no one else could have.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    Buddhism and Tibet are not without problematic issues. patrick French's personal exploration of what Tibet has come to mean to global politics and culture is worth the read especially if you are prone to enjoying difficult questions with no present answers. Buddhism and Tibet are not without problematic issues. patrick French's personal exploration of what Tibet has come to mean to global politics and culture is worth the read especially if you are prone to enjoying difficult questions with no present answers.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lesandre

    Used much of this, paired with my own experience, to write my senior comps in college. Interesting observations and analyses of an traditional and isolated culture in the face of Sanskritization and globalization/westernization.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Potamus Hyper

    What a refreshing perspective! Reverence for the Dalai Lama needed a little realism. Not that Tibetan monks don't have supernatural powers... but surely this book will balance your awe with a deep breath of history. What a refreshing perspective! Reverence for the Dalai Lama needed a little realism. Not that Tibetan monks don't have supernatural powers... but surely this book will balance your awe with a deep breath of history.

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