The very mention of Tibet evokes in the mind of the reader the image of a nation perilously situated in a geo-political matrix caught in the crossfire of history. However, this book reaches beyond immediate history to narrate Tibet's fascinating story of multiple traditions overlaid with legend, folklore, religious ceremony and festivals, and a natural beauty which leaves the onlooker breathless. The history of the periods prior to and following the emergence of a theocratic polity, permeating every aspect of society in a world increasingly marked by the declining influence of religion, are some of the themes skillfully woven into this book.
Tibetan life, culture and society are revealed through outstanding photographs which dramatize a scenography of snows and deserts, of civilisational adventure and happenings of this, the "roof of the world", The illustrations provide that rich synthesis of history, tradition and popular memory with everyday fables and symbolisms which make the country come alive. This is the book's promise: Tibet will "appear" and the reader will be held captive of this appearance.
About the Author:
Yeshi Choedon, at present involved in a post-doctoral research project at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, is the author of a book on China and the United Nations. She taught Political Science and International Relations at the Sikkim Government College, Gangtok, for seven years. She has authored several scholarly articles, and presented papers in many international seminars on the status of human rights in Tibet.
Dawa Norbu, born in Tibet and educated at St. Stephen's College, Delhi, received his doctorate at the University of California (Berkeley) and also taught at the San Francisco State University. Presently he is Associate Professor of Central Asian Studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and Fellow of East Asian Studies, University of Durham, UK. Widely regarded as an expert in his field, Dawa Norbu has many published works to his credit, amongst which the renowned.
When our publishers suggested that we write a text for a picture book on Tibet, we were a bit hesitant. For there are already so many pictorial works and coffee table books on Tibet. On second thought, however, we felt that there is a need for a concise and comprehensive book which can convey the spirit of Tibetan culture and history through both photographs and words.
While envisaging such a book in our minds, we have tried our level best to do justice to the mysterious complexity of Tibetan history and culture within the limitations of space. We have tried to convey the spirit of Tibetan history through myths as well as historical facts, as these are found inextricably interwoven in Tibetan historical texts. We have also tried to give a fair and balanced coverage to all the periods of Tibetan history, even though we might have privileged, as we realised later, the Dalai Lama period more than others. We hope this is justified.
Tibetan religion is not a monolith, as it might appear to the general public. Tibetan Buddhism consists of four major sects, each characterised by a particular guru-lineage system originating in ancient India, distinct philosophical interpretations of Madhyamika philosophy, specific sectarian ritual practices, and different monastic organisations. Such specificities have, over the centuries, contributed to the rich diversity and the philosophical depth of Tibetan religious culture and civilisation. This also reflects Buddhist Tibet's fairly successful practice of cultural pluralism. We have made a sincere effort to give a balanced and fair coverage to each of the sects, describing their essential characteristics. We have also discussed Bon, the pre-Buddhist native religion of Tibet.
We hope we have given a glimpse of Tibetan literature, which is absolutely vast, in our sections on religion and history. The only omission might be art. Finally, we have abstained from political subjects in this text, which is essentially on religion, culture and social history.
While preparing this text, we have benefited from the resources of Jawaharlal Nehru University Library and Tibet House Library, New Delhi. We are grateful to the Tibet House director, Lama Doboom Tulku, and his staff and to Jawaharlal Nehru University Acting Librarian, Sri B. N. Rao and staff for all their help. Finally, we would like to thank our publishers, Mr Pramod Kapoor and Ms Bela Butalia, for their keen interest in this project.
Yeshi ChoedonDawa Norbu
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