Home > News > Tibet > Opinions >

Column: Tibet's traditional culture is flourishing, despite naysayers
update:August 21,2023

Tibetan Buddhist monks attend a Cham dance ritual at the Qoide Monastery in Gonggar County of Shannan Prefecture, southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, Feb. 19, 2019. (Xinhua/Purbu Zhaxi)

by Colin Mackerras

BEIJING, Aug. 17 -- In the Western media, issues related to Tibet are usually treated negatively. I regard this kind of view as extremely mistaken and dangerous.

I have visited China's Tibet Autonomous Region and other Tibetan areas in Qinghai, Gansu, and Sichuan provinces quite a few times over 35 years. I have studied past and present Tibet. Of course, that doesn't make me necessarily right on things on Tibet, but it does give me a good basis to comment.

Tibet is part of Chinese territory and will remain so. I realize that Tibetan history is complex and rich, but my study convinces me that China's claim to sovereignty over Tibet is legitimate. Certainly, the international community recognizes it as such.

Many Western reports have talked of the suppression of Tibetan religion, language, lifestyle, and arts, some went so far as to claim that China had enforced "cultural genocide" in Tibet. I find this claim absurd and malicious.

Chinese policy specifically supports the traditional culture of ethnic minorities. During my visits to Tibet, I have witnessed many aspects of surviving traditional culture. These include Tibetan language, clothing, architecture, and arts, while Tibetan Buddhism and other forms of traditional religion are well and truly alive and flourishing.

It hardly needs to be said that Tibetan culture is being preserved, as Chinese media repeat it so often. I want to refer to my own personal experiences.

In 2011, when I visited the Tibetan areas in Qinghai Province, I went to a village performance of the highly traditional Cham dance near Tongren City of Huangnan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. I noted a few features.

The performance lasted the whole day and was sponsored by the local Party committee. The dance was performed in a big square outside the village temple, with the dancers being mostly monks. The whole village came out to watch. The performance is free, but individuals have the option to make voluntary donations.

A performance of traditional Tibetan opera some time ago in Lhasa also impressed me. What was interesting was that this was not planned. From my guesthouse, I heard the music, which I like very much, and went to take a look.

There was a traditional tent, with the performance going on inside. The tent was packed, and the audience seemed almost entirely Tibetan. They were friendly to me and, on the whole, simply left me alone to enjoy the show, perhaps surprised at the presence of a lone foreigner.

According to the white paper "Tibet Since 1951: Liberation, Development and Prosperity" released in 2021, the central government has introduced many favorable policies for the region, covering cultural preservation, and other fields.

According to the document, the net enrollment rate in primary school is more than 99.9 percent. There are 153 part-time Tibetan opera troupes.

Tibet has undergone rapid modernization in technology. It has eliminated absolute poverty, and its economic development has been very rapid, with infrastructure and living standards both improved dramatically, and its levels in matters such as education and electrification have increased greatly.

Within the process of modernization, traditional culture is preserved through official policy and survives to a surprising and impressive extent.

(Editor's note: Colin Mackerras is a fellow at the Academy of the Humanities of Australia. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Xinhua News Agency.)

  • Bringing hearts and minds
  • Homebound migration of Tibetan antelopes enters peak period in NW China's Qinghai
  • Horse racing festival held in Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, NW China

E-mail:editor@tibetol.cn |About Us|Contact Us |Site Maps|
Copyright by China Intercontinental Communication Co., Ltd All Rights Reserved.