Tibetan Heads Are Made of Stone: An Extract From Shokdung’s “A Division of Heaven and Earth”

12 July 2017

When The Division of Heaven and Earth: On Tibet’s Peaceful Revolution was first published in Tibet in 2010, the Chinese authorities arrested its author, Shokdung, and banned the book immediately. The writer was imprisoned for six months. Gradually, copies of the book began to circulate underground in Tibet.

Shokdung’s book is an account of the revolution of 2008, a wave of peaceful protests that took place in Tibet, in particular at the region’s Chinese frontier. The book is divided into two parts: in the first, the author recounts the protests through the feelings of joy, sorrow and fear—a nod to an ancient Tibetan folktale; in the second, he describes methods of non-violent protests that Tibetans could undertake in the future. In the following extract from the book, Shokdung recalls the torture that Tibetans have faced in the past—and which they continued to face in 2008—for speaking out against the Chinese regime.

As this hidden realm of the human world, embodiment of ten million wonders, this Tibet, known as the last pristine land on earth, became a twenty-first-century slaughterhouse, none of the peoples of the world came to our aid; even the Dharmapalas and protectors, the territorial spirits and local deities on whom the Tibetan people rely, the Dakas and Dakinis, none intervened to avert disaster and terror. Did humans like myself raise doubts or objections? What I have descriptively called the lord of death’s slaughterhouse, has there ever been such a massacre, covering the entire Tibetan plateau? Not to die but to have to keep living through the direct experience of this slaughterhouse, how to survive this other than with the fatalistic expression used by Tibetans, “Karmic destiny.” ‘By light of day there is no outlet for grief, nor for cries of woe in the dark of night, the helpless bereaved seeking solace is all there is.’

How about the cycle of slaughter unleashed in Tibet fifty years ago? From even a glance at the following accounts, we can see how Tibet was turned into the lord of death’s slaughterhouse in the past. In his autobiography, A Tibetan Revolutionary, Bapa Puntsok Wanggyé wrote:

Not only was I imprisoned, but those involved in my case, including my younger brother Tubten Wangchuk, who spent 14 years in prison, my wife Dzélek-la who died as a result of mistreatment, and our children were also imprisoned and forced to do Reform through Labour for many years (the eldest son Punkham was imprisoned for six years). Due to this, my kind father Goranangpa Yeshé eventually died tragically of grief and bitterness, and dozens of our relatives were also imprisoned in connection with my case. My fellow fighter comrade Topden and others also died from abuse, and comrade Ngawang Kelsang was imprisoned and forced to do Reform through Labour for 16 years.

Shokdung is the pen-name of Tibetan author Tra-gya, who has written several controversial books and essays on the relation between Tibetan culture and modernity.

Keywords: Tibet torture Tibetan revolution Shokdung