The Dragon in the Land of Snows

A History of Modern Tibet Since 1947

Tsering Shakya

Columbia University Press

The Dragon in the Land of Snows

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Pub Date: September 1999

ISBN: 9780231118149

606 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $55.00£46.00

The Dragon in the Land of Snows

A History of Modern Tibet Since 1947

Tsering Shakya

Columbia University Press

Since 1950, Tibet has been sandwiched between the heavyweights of Asian geopolitics: Britain, absolving itself of its colonial dominion; India, finding its legs as a newly independent nation; China, seeking to simultaneously consolidate its new communist regime and engender a "motherland"; and the United States, striving to contain the perceived threat of international communism. Tsering Shakya here gives a balanced, blow-by-blow account of Tibet's desperate attempts to maintain her independence and safeguard her cultural identity.

The Dragon in the Land of Snows provides

• the first detailed account of the behind-the-scenes political developments in Tibet and the Tibetan, Chinese, and British personalities involved;

• the first complete account of the CIA's involvement in Tibet and the establishment of a secret military base in the Nepalese Himalayas;

• the first description of Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru's involvement following the Chinese invasion, and his failure to recognize the truth of what was happening in Tibet;

• the first account of the power struggles during the Cultural Revolution and of the mass uprising against the Chinese that has remained secret until now;

• the first detailed account of the negotiations between the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government during the late 1970s and early 1980s; and

• the first full assessment of the agenda behind the current and future developments in Tibet.

With careful and thorough documentation, the author details the Chinese depredations of Tibet and the many concomitant shifts in policy and political fortune. However, he also reveals the failures of the Tibetan leadership's myopic and divided strategies to engage the Chinese by on the one hand pursuing a policy of coexistence with communist China and on the other trying to preserve her unique identity as a Buddhist state under the leadership of the Dalai Lama.

Charting a clear course through the intricacies of the historical record, Shakya lucidly depicts the tragedy that has befallen Tibet and outlines the conflicting geopolitical forces that continue to shape the aspirations of the Tibetan people to this day.

An ocean of new material is presented from previously unpublished sources, making this the most significant entrant into the field of recent Tibetan history since Melvyn Goldstein's Snow Lion and the Dragon.


An important book that will encourage further research and discussion about Tibet.


He has employed thorough research, a balanced view and a dispassionate tone in writing a tremendously informative, definitive history of his native land.

Steven Mufson, Washington Post

Dragon in the Land of Snows will undoubtedly take its place as the indispensable account of modern Tibetan history.... Shakya informs it with a cool and rigorous historical mind, with which he cuts through the thickets of polemic on both sides.

Literary Review

A sober, factual, excellently researched, and surprisingly impartial account of the end of old Tibet.

The Spectator

At last, the history of Tibet we have been waiting for. It will irritate both Chinese and Tibetan chauvinists as it explodes their myths, misunderstandings, and propaganda. Tsering Shakya, a Western-trained Tibetan, has sensitively used Western, Chinese, and Tibetan sources to get nearer than anyone to the truth of Tibet's last fifty tragic years.

Jonathan Mirsky

A prodigious work of scholarship.... The clearest picture yet of this period. This book will become a standard text.

Sunday Telegraph

Superbly well-research and written.

Orville Schell, Los Angeles Times Book Review

This account of the history of Tibet is distinguished not only by its Tibetan authorship but also by its meticulous research, careful objectivity, and lack of rancour.

Michael Hutt, School of Oriental and African Studies, London

This is an exceptional study on the political history of modern Tibet in that it draws on rare historical documents that had remained inaccessible to earlier authors.

Samten Karmay, president, International Association for Tibetan Studies

About the Author

Tsering Shakya was born in Tibet and attended the School of Oriental and African Studies at London University, where he is currently a research fellow in Tibetan Studies. Over the last ten years he has regularly briefed politicians on Tibet at the Foreign Office and the European Parliament. He is the author of Fire Under the Snow: The Testimony of a Tibetan Prisoner and numerous articles; he has taken part in television and radio discussions, and is frequently consulted on Tibetan matters by the BBC, The Times, the Observer, and the Guardian.