Category Archives: 西藏

Interviewed by

[Last week, Dhondup Tashi Rekjong from asked me a few questions about my experience translating A Tibetan Revolutionary: The Political Life and Times of Bapa Phüntso Wangye. He will publish a Tibetan version of the interview on Khabdha. Below is the original.]

Dhondup: Can you tell our readers a little bit about your background?

Xiaoxiao: I was born in Chongqing and lived there until I graduated from high school in 2002. I studied at Trinity Western University in Canada for my B.A. in communications, and then at Simon Fraser University to train as an interpreter and translator. I just finished my master’s studies at Columbia University in modern Chinese history.

I first became interested in Tibet because of a book I read in junior high school by the Chinese explorer Yu Chunshun. It was a collection of his diaries documenting his several solo trips to Tibet, all on foot. In 2005, I backpacked to Tibet with friends.

Dhondup: What inspired you to translate this book from English?

Xiaoxiao: I grew up like many Chinese, having a “right” view of history and no access to other versions of it. The years spent in Canada naturally fuelled my desire to know and to share. Several years ago, I came across a letter online written by a former Tibetan official to Hu Jintao in 2004. He had a series of impressive titles and he participated in some of the crucial events happened in Tibet in the 1950s. I was surprised that I had never heard of him before, given my long-time interest in Tibetan history. What’s even more surprising was the frank manner in which he discussed the Tibet issue in the letter. The image of a Tibetan communist advancing views about Tibet that do not conform to the official stance of the Chinese government stuck in my head, it’s simply not something that I get to see a lot, or ever.

Then in my first semester at Columbia University, I registered for a course on 20th century Tibetan history taught by Gray Tuttle (who later became my advisor). Among the assigned readings, I found “A Tibetan Revolutionary,” and recognized the protagonist: Phuntsok Wangyal was the Tibetan whose letter I had read and admired. We were only asked to read one chapter for that week, but I couldn’t put the book down and finished the whole book. This book is certainly an important challenge to the one-sided understanding of Sino-Tibetan history that I and many of my Chinese friends grew up with. A lot of people have criticized China’s Tibet policy, but we rarely get that from a Tibetan who is still living in China. At the time I read the book, the memory of March 2008 was still fresh, and I thought it would be so helpful if this book was available in Chinese. Instead of waiting and praying for someone to take up this job, I realized that I could do it myself. So I contacted Professor Melvyn Goldstein, who liked the idea and began looking for a publisher right away.

Dhondup: Tell us about your experience translating this book. What were some of the difficulties you had while you were translating this book?

Xiaoxiao: One difficulty was that I did not know any Tibetan at that time, when I saw a Tibetan name or word in the text, I had to treat it like a research question and try to find answer for it. Since then I have studied one year of Tibetan with Gen Tenzin Norbu at Columbia.

But there was a more serious challenge. Phuntsok Wangyal is fluent in both Tibetan and Chinese. Goldstein interviewed him in Tibetan, and wrote this book (with the help of his colleague William Siebenschuh and scholar Dawei Sherap) in English. I then translated this book from English to Chinese. By the time Phuntsok Wangyal’s life story went from Tibetan to Chinese via English, it just can’t be in the exact same language that he would actually use, had the original interviews were done in Chinese. In the highly politicized Chinese language on such a sensitive topic, where choice of words may have political consequences, this presented a problem. Luckily for the translation (and me), Phuntsok Wangyal reviewed the manuscript before it was submitted. And with the consent of Goldstein, the key terms were adjusted to conform to his preferences.

Dhondup: How relevant is this book for Tibetan and Chinese readers?

Xiaoxiao: I recognize that the exile Tibetan community has known Phuntsok Wangyal for a long time and viewed his life story with mixed feelings. For Tibetan readers, this book provides an opportunity to see his life through his own perspective.

For Chinese readers who are interested in Tibet, this book challenges the one-sided understanding of Tibet that many of us are used to hear. To be sure, there are a number of Tibetan autobiographies available in English, and every single one of them is a unique testimony, but I think Chinese readers may find some of them easier to relate to than others. My observation is that criticisms from inside of China are more likely to get ears than outside ones. Oftentimes, criticisms from outside were dismissed for “they don’t know the real Tibet/China” or “they’re hostile to Communism/China.” But none of these remotely applies to Phuntsok Wangyal. He is a Tibetan as well as a member of the Chinese Communist Party, who participated in critical historical events and is now living in Beijing. To Chinese readers, his opinions may carry more weight than many others.

Dhondup: In what way did the story of Baba Phuntsok Wangyal transform your understanding of Tibet and China?

Xiaoxiao: Before I read the story of Phuntsok Wangyal, I had been mostly exposed to two polarizing views on the relations between Tibet and China in the 20th century. One says that all Tibetan people, except a few “reactionaries,” willingly embraced communism and “liberation.” The other says that none did, at least not the patriotic ones. For me, Phuntsok Wangyal’s story (and that of Tashi Tsering’s, for that matter) revealed an often neglected layer of history and reminded me that history is never black and white. I consider this good news, as it’s always in the middle that we find common ground.

Dhondup: Do you have anything to say to Tibetan readers?

Xiaoxiao: Reach out to Chinese around you, especially the students who may go back one day. Maybe negotiations at the top level did not work out, but at the grass-root level, there is plenty of room to communicate and to reach mutual understanding. Public opinion in China may one day affect policy change, if it’s not already happening.







介绍几位对于了解西藏问题之复杂性来说很重要的学者:戈尔斯坦(Melvyn Goldstein)、葛伦夫(Tom Grunfeld)、平措汪杰、王力雄、茨仁夏加(Tsering Shakya)和嘉央诺布(Jamyang Norbu)。这几位学者中,既有藏人、汉人,又有“西方人”和共产党人。他们的政治立场,涵盖了除咱们耳熟能详的官方视角以外的大部分政治光谱。以下一一介绍,所有评价建筑在我本人对他们观点的理解基础上。


平措汪杰于上世纪二十年代出生在康区巴塘,从小痛恨当时统治康区的国民党军阀刘文辉。在中国内地读书期间接触了一些共产主义读物以后——尤其是列宁的《论民族自决权》——平措汪杰认为共产主义可以将藏地从国民党的残暴统治下解救出来。四十年代他加入中国共产党,并为后来解放军入藏作出重要贡献。五十年代末的反右运动中,他被扣上“地方民族主义者”的帽子,投入监狱十八年。出狱平反后他毫不气馁,继续关注国家的民族政策,并为藏人的福祉发声。自2004年起,他先后四次上书国家领导人,提出对西藏问题的看法(见:第一封第四封)。平措汪杰认为西藏应有真正的自治,赞同达赖喇嘛的中间路线,但由于达赖喇嘛早已被妖魔化,平汪自然也就成为了党内“异见人士”。2004年,中国人民的好朋友——戈尔斯坦(等)为平措汪杰出版了一本传记,名为《A Tibetan Revolutionary: The Political Life and Times of Bapa Phuntso Wangye》,

汉人学者王力雄或许是用中文书写西藏历史的学者中最有名的一位。王力雄先生的研究兴趣从中国的民主进程和制度改革,到后来的西藏历史与汉藏关系,其所著《天葬》流传甚广。他对民族问题(尤其是西藏)的研究可以说是他早先对中国制度研究的自然延伸——最终目的是探索如何使各民族在这个大中国中和平相处。因此王力雄虽然同情藏人(以及维人)的遭遇,却并不主张独立。他亦赞同达赖喇嘛的中间路线——认为解决西藏问题的关键是让西藏拥有真正的自治。除了《天葬》以外,王所著讨论新疆问题的《我的西域,你的东土》也因去年的乌鲁木齐事件而得到广泛传播。王力雄曾写过一篇《西藏问题的文化反思》,由中国人民的好朋友——葛伦夫教授等译为英文,名曰《Reflections on Tibet》。

藏学家茨仁夏加出生于拉萨,在解放军入藏后随家人一起逃往印度。他在英国接受教育,目前执教于加拿大英属哥伦比亚大学(UBC)。他的主要著作是《龙在雪域:1947年以来的西藏史》,但此书并未在中国出版。从茨仁夏加发表在《时代》杂志亚洲版的一篇文章中可以看出,他也认为达赖喇嘛提出的高度自治是解决西藏问题的办法。茨仁夏加读过戈尔斯坦所著的平措汪杰传记后,对这位“红色藏人”持同情态度,认为后者只是被革命背叛的受害者。前述王力雄所写《西藏问题的文化反思》一经翻译以后,茨仁夏加曾撰专文《Blood in the Snow》提出批评。2009年,茨仁夏加与王力雄的讨论文章结集出版,名为《The Struggle for Tibet》。