Memories of Life in Lhasa Under Chinese Rule

Tubten Khétsun. Translated and with an introduction by Matthew Akester

Columbia University Press

Memories of Life in Lhasa Under Chinese Rule

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Pub Date: April 2014

ISBN: 9780231142878

344 Pages

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Pub Date: December 2007

ISBN: 9780231142861

344 Pages

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Pub Date: December 2007

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Memories of Life in Lhasa Under Chinese Rule

Tubten Khétsun. Translated and with an introduction by Matthew Akester

Columbia University Press

Born in 1941, Tubten Khétsun is a nephew of the Gyatso Tashi Khendrung, one of the senior government officials taken prisoner after the Tibetan peoples' uprising of March 10, 1959. Khétsun himself was arrested while defending the Dalai Lama's summer palace, and after four years in prisons and labor camps, he spent close to two decades in Lhasa as a requisitioned laborer and "class enemy."

In this eloquent autobiography, Khétsun describes what life was like during those troubled years. His account is one of the most dispassionate, detailed, and readable firsthand descriptions yet published of Tibet under the Communist occupation. Khétsun talks of his prison experiences as well as the state of civil society following his release, and he offers keenly observed accounts of well-known events, such as the launch of the Cultural Revolution, as well as lesser-known aspects of everyday life in occupied Lhasa.

Since Communist China continues to occupy Tibet, the facts of this era remain obscure, and few of those who lived through it have recorded their experiences at length. Khétsun's story will captivate any reader seeking a refreshingly human account of what occurred during the Maoists' shockingly brutal regime.

A tremendously moving and important document. Tubten Khétsun modestly claims that his is not a tale of greatness, heroism, nor historical significance but the story of an ordinary Tibetan who lived a life of 'animal servitude' under Communist Chinese rule. Yet the straightforward, rancor-free recounting of the banal details of 'normal' life in occupied Tibet gives this work the kind of compelling verisimilitude of Solzhynitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.

Jamyang Norbu, author of Warriors of Tibet: The Story of Aten and the Khampas' Fight for the Freedom of Their Country

Memories of Life in Lhasa Under Chinese Rule provides the most detailed account to date of life in Tibet during the period between 1959 and 1979. Devastating in both his detachment and in his detail, 'class enemy' Tubten Khétsun chronicles the quotidian horrors suffered by the citizens of Lhasa during two of the darkest decades in Tibet's long history.

Donald S. Lopez, Arthur E. Link Distinguished University Professor of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies, University of Michigan

This is the first unmediated, single-authored autobiography to appear in English by a Tibetan who lived through Lhasa's gulag era of the 1960s and 1970s. Tubten Khétsun, an officer in the former Tibetan government, is an assiduous and unflinching chronicler of events and their details. He has produced a book that has little trace of the rhetoric or emotion of nationalist loss. Instead, he offers a painstaking, unvarnished account of the everyday mechanics of socialist transformation as he experienced it in Tibet. The result, in this meticulous translation, is a new and important source for understanding modern Tibeto-Chinese history as seen by inhabitants of the Tibetan capital.

Robert Barnett, director, Modern Tibetan Studies Program, Columbia University

Demonstrates in full detail the human tragedy of Maoist rule in a land whose tradition it despised and tried to destroy.

Kirkus Reviews

A welcome and informative addition on this little-understood and highly polemicized subject.

George Fitzherbert, Times Literary Supplement

This book provides an important piece of the puzzle for those seeking to understand the experience of ordinary Tibetans since 1959.

Rick Carew, Far Eastern Economic Review

evocatively written and beautifully translated

China Review International

A powerful indictment of the physical and psychological exploitation of the Tibetan people and natural environment in the service of building a "new" China.

Benno Ryan Weiner, The Journal of Asian Studies
Translator's Introduction
1. The Story of My Family
2. My Childhood
3. The March 10th Uprising
4. The Chinese Fan the Flames of War
5. Imprisoned at the Tibet Military District Headquarters
6. Imprisoned at the Norbu Lingka Barracks
7. At the Nga-chen Power Station Construction Site
8. In Téring Prison
9. In Drapchi Prison
10. The Trong-nying Prison Farm
11. Back Home from Prison
12. The Agitation by the Muslims of Woba-ling
13. The Fall of the Panchen Lama
14. The Misuse of Education
15. The Establishment of the Tibet Autonomous Region
16. The Onset of the Cultural Revolution
17. The June 7th Massacre
18. A Disastrous New Year
19. Old Tsampa in Old Méru
20. The Sino-Soviet War Brings Increased Oppression
21. The "One Smash and Three Antis" Campaign
22. The "Great Massacre"
23. PLA Soldiers Destroy the Fruits of the People's Labor in the Marshes
24. The Systematic Destruction of Ganden Monastery
25. Sent to Kongpo for the Second Time
26. The Xichao Dachang Timber Yard
27. The Tölung Power Station Construction Camp
28. The Lin Biao Affair
29. The Defamation Campaign
30. "Socialist Transformation"
31. The Banak-shöl Production Cooperative
32. The Farmer's Life
33. The Death of Mao Zedong and Subsequent Developments
34. The Rewards of My Hard Work
35. Working in the Potala Palace
36. At the Tibet Academy of Social Science
Epilogue: Leaving Tibet
Web Features

About the Author

Matthew Akester is an independent researcher and translator working in the field of Tibetan history.