Diversity, The Future of Tibet

I was born in Amdo Rebkong, Tibet. I choose the phrase “I was born…” on purpose in contrast to “I’m from Tibet’ or “I’m from Qinghai province” because the former provides a specific location and meaning of my historical background for the readers. Saying “I’m from Qinghai province” emphasizes the Chinese political demarcation that can dominate discourse on Tibetans’ birthplace and origin, especially amongst young Tibetans inside Tibet. If a young Tibetan from Tibet is being asked about their birthplace and origin in Tibet, they will likely say that they are from Qinghai (青海), Sichuan (四川), Gansu (甘肃) or Yunnan (云南). I would say that this is still quite pervasive amongst young Tibetans from Amdo and Kham. However, it doesn’t mean that they’re not aware of Tibetan history and their cultural background when referring to their birthplace and origin. Colonial education and integration have been shaping their mentality implicitly. I think we sometimes need to pay close attention to these seemingly trivial details about Tibet. Continue reading “Diversity, The Future of Tibet”

Identity, A Relative Language

Identity is an historically entangled thread, difficult to unravel when thinking through its complexity. Most people assume that they have their own identities, be they religious, cultural, or political. Simply put, the identity of a person is constructed from the characteristics that distinguish them from others.  But is it, truly? Is identity something separate, distinctive and independent? Can I have a separate and distinct identity from others, including Tibetans? If I share a sense of mutual identity with Tibetans, then is that my identity? I think these are some of the basic questions that often challenge the aspect of singularity and plurality when talking about identity. Continue reading “Identity, A Relative Language”

Catching Up!

It has been almost a year since my last blog post. Some of my readers have asked about my silence. I have been busy with school. Truth be told, pursuing a Ph.D. requires tremendous determination, courage, and even resilience. Coping with the privileged academic life is challenging. People outside of academia might ask why. I do not have a good answer for this and I am still searching for a good answer. I sometimes feel spoiled intellectually by the academic environment. Continue reading “Catching Up!”

Translation is a Cultural Conversation

བུ་མོ་ཆུང་འདྲིས་བྱམས་པ། །
bu mo chung ‘dris byams pa
སྤྱང་ཀིའི་རིགས་རྒྱུད་མིན་ནམ། །
spyang ki’i rigs rgyud min nam
ཤ་འདྲེས་པགས་འདྲེས་བྱུང་ཡང༌། །
sha ‘dres lpags ‘dres byung yang
རི་ལ་ཤོར་གྲབས་མཛད་གིས། །
ri la shor grabs mdzad gis

A short while ago, I traveled from Queens, the great hub of immigrants, taking the ancient, smelly, and artistic subway to Union Square and then walked through the bustling streets squeezed between those sky-touching buildings to Latse library, calmly located near the Hudson River, to see my friend Pema Bhum. While waiting for him to finish his work, I asked Kristina to retrieve for me some translation books of the 6th Dalai Lama’s “Love Songs”. Within an hour and a half, I had scanned through them and noticed quite a few translation errors in all the books. This spurred my desire to write a blog post about Tibetan translation. This post is neither to publicize their mistakes nor to embarrass the translators, but more about creating a conversational awareness amongst intellectuals and scholars who are drawn into doing translations from Tibetan into English or the other way around. Continue reading “Translation is a Cultural Conversation”


On this journey full of obstacles
There is a warmth of happiness
She is called benevolent Ama

The one who worships deities and nagas
Exhausted by the snow and wind
She is Ama of the world

In her tears, there is an old wound
Deep in her heart, the agony is buried

Ama, Ama
In the fabric of your life
You laughed when happy
You cried when sad
If put to a song, the lyrics would be soaked with tears
If written down, the realm of paper would fall into grief
Ama, the only one in this world Continue reading “Ama”

Respect: A Playful Word

Allow me to be a Tibetan wordsmith for a while. If I have a good command of Tibetan language, the credit must go to my father. He was my first Tibetan teacher who helped hone my linguistic skills from a tender age. My Tibetan language skills thus surpassed my peers and even students in higher grades when I was in Tibet. Through my extensive studies of Tibetan, I have been able to lay down a robust foundation of the language. Indeed, language is much more than simply grammar, syntax, and a means of verbal communication – it is often influenced by relative powers, unconscious emotions, and instinctual behaviors in various times and places. Thus, to be playful with language provides us a space in finding the subtle meaning and nuanced usage of the language. This ultimately gives us freedom. Continue reading “Respect: A Playful Word”

Politics is Everything

For Tibetans in exile, the way we approach Tibet is complex and varied. Tibet where some of us lived and still carry its memories. Tibet that is intertwined with both delightful and agonizing feelings for us to imagine persistently from a distance. Tibet that we celebrate as a nation through political symbols and social rituals at different times and places. Tibet, thus, is a multi-layered identity for us to retain with recollection, imagination, and symbols under everchanging circumstances. However, this all has its own origin in what happened to Tibet politically almost six decades ago, and we are the product of that history. When we lost our political freedom, our language, culture, and religion also began to lose its own autonomy and independence. As such, politics is the foundation of everything. Our ancestors foresaw that millennia ago. Continue reading “Politics is Everything”

Memory Doesn’t Lie

My aunt Tsemo Khar is the second eldest of eight siblings on my father’s side. We call her Acha Tsemo Khar. Although the smallest of the siblings, she is always full of life. She had to be the breadwinner of her family, looking after her six children, while her yogi husband was away on retreat in the mountains most of the time. Her round face is perfectly symmetrical with her dark eyes and rosy cheeks. Her expressive face and warm inviting smile can put anyone at ease, making people feel welcome and appreciated. However, she also has an outright nature and does not hesitate to say anything that she feels. Continue reading “Memory Doesn’t Lie”

Does sex kill language?

I grew up in a culture where it is taboo to discuss sex or an array of sex-related subjects in front of one’s parents, siblings, and relatives. People blush if someone accidentally utters anything about sex and intimate relationships. However, I have observed that the exile Tibetan community is quite advanced and open-minded about these topics. One apparent example would be blugs” (བླུགས།) which is even overused in their conversations. As you may know, blugs is slang for sex.  Continue reading “Does sex kill language?”