Books on Tibet

Books on Tibet

Bones of the Earth, Author: Eliot Pattison.
Minotaur,  ISBN 978-1-250-16968-6, Published in March 2019

Edgar winner Pattison incorporates the political realities of Tibetan life under Chinese occupation into a page-turning whodunit in his 10th Shan Tao Yun mystery (after 2017’s Skeleton God). Shan was once a respected inspector in Beijing, until he investigated “the wrong people” and was exiled to a Tibetan prison. After he provided unofficial help to the area’s governor, Colonel Tan, he was released and given constabulary duties. Needing Shan’s help again, Tan promotes him to special inspector to facilitate his inquiry into the Five Claws Dam, the biggest construction project the Chinese government has ever made in the region. Meanwhile, Shan is forced to witness the execution of Metok Rentzig, an engineer assigned to the project, who was charged with corruption. Shan finds evidence that Metok was framed and judicially murdered, perhaps to cover up others’ culpability in the deaths of two archeologists who were attempting to protect Tibetan antiquities from destruction at the dam site. Pattison has never been better in depicting a brave man’s dangerous pursuit of justice in a “land of broken places and broken people.” Agent: Natasha Kern, Natasha Kern Literary. (Mar.)

“Tibet’s Forgotten Heroes”

By Birgit van de Wijer The Story of Tibet’s Armed Resistance Against China

Published in September 2010 by Amperley Publishing, Birgit van de Wijer has transcribed original interviews with forty-eight members of Chushi Gangdruk who were engaged with armed struggle against the Chinese. The book is the result of two years’ work with dozens of Tibetans involved and is in two parts, the first part is the historical background and the second part is made up of background to the interviews followed by the interviews themselves.

Murder in the High Himalaya

Loyalty, Tragedy, and Escape from Tibet
By Jonathan Green

Murder in the High Himalaya is the unforgettable account of the brutal killing of Kelsang Namtso—a seventeen-year-old Tibetan nun fleeing to India—by Chinese border guards. Witnessed by dozens of Western climbers, Kelsang’s death sparked an international debate over China’s savage oppression of Tibet. Adventure reporter Jonathan Green has gained rare entrance into this shadow-land at the rooftop of the world. In his affecting portrait of modern Tibet, Green raises enduring questions about morality and the lengths we go to achieve freedom.

Hardback Published in 2010. RRP $26.95; from $17 from Amazon, Waterstones, Barnes & Noble and all good booksellers

Tibet’s War of Peace: A Nation’s Nonviolent Struggle for Freedom

By Dennis Cusack

In Tibet’s War of Peace, Dennis Cusack tells the story of the people and events behind the world’s best-known but least understood contemporary nonviolent campaign. Cusack describes its evolution, its philosophical foundation, and its political realities. He concludes with a provocative vision of its possible future.
Politics; Published in 2008

Falling Through the Roof

By Thupten Samphel

A group of Delhi University students decide to form the Tibetan Communist Party (TCP), with Tashi, the new chairman of the TCP, planning to liberate his beloved Tibet with the some weapons which caused its downfall. His plans, however, do not fall in line with those of Drubchen Rinpoche who believes him to be the reincarnation of Drubtop Rinpoche. His first incarnation, according to the Lama, invented the Word, the Tibetan alphabet on a hill in Kashmir, some fourteen hundred years ago. According to the Lama, the invention of the Tibetan Word enabled the Tibetan people to take in the whole of the wisdom of ancient India.
Fiction: Published in 2008

Freedom in Exile

Autobiography of His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet.

The exiled leader of Tibet recounts his life, from the time he was whisked away from his home in 1939 at the age of four, to his escape from Tibet in 1959, to the winning of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. The backdrop of the story is the 1949/50 Chinese invasion of Tibet, yet the Dalai Lama’s story is strangely one of hope. This man who prays for four hours a day harbours no ill will toward the Chinese and sees the potential for good everywhere he casts his gaze. Someday, he hopes, all of Tibet will be a zone of peace and the world’s largest nature preserve. Inspiring in every way, Freedom in Exile is both a historical document and a fable of deepest trust in humanity.
Autobiography: Published in 1998

Dragon in the Land of Snows: a History of Modern Tibet Since 1947

By Tsering Shakya

Drawing on unpublished primary sources, a history of modern Tibet from 1947 provides both Chinese and Tibetan perspectives on events, describes Chinese depredations of Tibet, critiques Tibet’s leadership strategy as well as that of China, and documents the country’s ongoing struggle to maintain it.
Political History: Published in 2000

Tibetan nation : a history of Tibetan nationalism and Sino-Tibetan relations.

Author: Warren W. Smith, Jr
Published in 1996, Category: Political Historical

This detailed history offers the most comprehensive account available of Tibetan nationalism, Sino-Tibetan relations, and the issue of Tibetan self-determination. Warren Smith explores Tibet’s ethnic and national origins, the birth of the Tibetan state, the Buddhist state and its relations with China, Tibet’s quest for independence, and the Chinese takeover of Tibet after 1950. Focusing especially on post-1950 Tibet under Chinese Communist rule, Smith analyzes Marxist-Leninist and Chinese Communist Party nationalities theory and policy, their application in Tibet, and the consequent rise of Tibetan nationalism. Concluding that the essence of the Tibetan issue is self-determination, Smith bolsters his argument with a comprehensive analysis of modern Tibetan and Chinese political histories.

The Search for the Panchen Lama, Author: Isabel Hilton

Published in 2000, Category: Political Historical, ISBN: 0140246703/9780140246704

Synopsis: In May 1995, a seven-year-old Tibetan boy was taken from his home with his parents and younger brother by Chinese security services. Neither the boy nor his family has been seen since. The Dalai Lama had recognised him to be the 11th incarnation of the Panchen Lama, the second most important spiritual leader in the Tibetan Buddhist hierarchy. In this text, Isabel Hilton tells the inside story of how this boy became the innocent prize in a battle between the Chinese regime and Tibet’s exiled religious leader, the Dalai Lama. Traveling to many inaccessible locations, she uncovers the high politics and intrigue that accompanied the race to find the child and enthrone him as Tibet’s future leader. She also explores the history of Tibet’s high lamas and illuminates the unique role religion has played in shaping Tibetan culture.

Tibet: The Road Ahead, Author: Dawa Norbu

Published in 1999, Category: Political Historical, ISBN: 0712670637/9780712670630

Synopsis: This first-hand description of life in rural Tibet, 1950-59, contains a clarity of view and a sharp analysis of situation as of 1999. Dawa Norbu (who died in 2006) analyses the role and behaviour of the Dalai Lama and Tibet’s future in post-Deng China.

Buying the Dragon’s Teeth, Author: Jamyang Norbu

Published in 2004, Category: Political, ISBN: 8188575569/9788188575565

Synopsis: Jamyang Norbu’s new book is a well-argued and well-documented indictment of China’s violation of human rights and labour standards, and a call for a boycott of Chinese goods. Unlike those who advocate appeasement of China for the greater goal of commerce and its “inevitable” democratizing effects or who imagine that China will negotiate about the Tibet issue, the author argues against appeasement. Jamyang Norbu argues that China’s economic development is leading toward fascism rather than democracy and that China shows no inclination to make any concessions about Tibet.

Tibet and China: In the 21st Century Non-violence Versus State Power, Author: John Heath

Published in 2005, Category: Political Historical, ISBN: 9780863565915

Synopsis: John Heath’s book examines the current situation in occupied Tibet, as well as reviewing how it has arrived at the present state of affairs. Heath enquires into the origin of Mao Zedong’s influences, rise to power and eventual decision to invade Tibet, and examines Chinese policy towards the country from Mao’s time right up to the recent change of administration headed by Hu Jintao. Simultaneously, Heath reports on the various changes Tibetans have faced under Chinese rule, from eroding cultural traditions and ecology to economic development. The second part of the book addresses the contentious human-rights aspect of China’s actions in Tibet, and explores the question of how best to negotiate with China to achieve a solution acceptable to both parties.

Demystifying Tibet, Author: Lee Feigon

Published in 2000, Category: Political Historical, ISBN: 1861971842

Synopsis: An accessible and concise one-volume complete history of Tibet from the seventh-century origins of the Tibetan state to the Chinese colony of today. Lee Feigon is chair of the east Asian Studies department and Professor of History at Colby College, Maine. He has written extensively on Chinese history and politics.

The High Road to China: George Bogle, the Panchen Lama, and the First British Expedition to Tibet. Author: Kate Teltscher

Published in 2006, Category: Historical, ISBN: 0374217009/978-0374217006

Synopsis: This book gives a close look at 18th century diplomacy and travel in India, China and Tibet. It focuses on the exceptional relationship between Bogle and the 3rd Panchen Lama , both of whom take the opportunity to learn about each other’s culture. The book contains wonderful descriptions of Bogle’s and the Panchen Lama’s travels.

Cultural History of Tibet, Authors: David L Snellgrove and Hugh Richardson

Published in 2000 [First published 1968], Category: Culture Historical, ISBN: 9745240338/9789745240339

Synopsis: This important work by Snellgrove and Richardson remains one of the very best surveys of the Tibetans, their religion, and their rich and complex culture. In Snellgrove’s, words, the book serves to “keep in public view the clear historical right of the Tibetan people to self-determination.” This edition contains a new preface, and Snellgrove’s obituary of Hugh Richardson (1905-2000).

The Heart of Tibet, Author: Eiichi Matsumoto

Published in 2006, Category: Cultural and Landscapes, ISBN: 9781932705713/1932705716

Synopsis: This magnificent collection features photographs of Tibet’s breathtaking landscapes and sacred monasteries alongside teachings of His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. Separated into two halves – one containing reflections on the happiness of the human mind and the spiritual uplift of mankind, the other examining the Tibetan way of life – this compilation offers a unique look at the land’s aesthetic and cultural appeal. From the lives of Tibetan farmers and the importance of religion to the concept of national egoism and the Potala Palace, the images and text combine to provide a true insider’s view of the region.

Touching Tibet, Author: Niema Ash

Published in 2003, Category: Travel Political Historical, ISBN: 190307018X/9781903070185

Synopsis: Niema Ash was one of the first Westerners to enter the country when its borders were briefly opened. In this highly absorbing and personal account, she relates with wit, compassion and sensitivity her encounters with people whose humour, spirituality and enthusiasm for life have carried them through years of oppression and suffering.

Contemporary Tibet Politics: Development and Society in a Disputed Region, Authors: June Teufel Dreyer, Barry Sautman

Published in 2005, Category: Political Historical, ISBN: 0765613573

Synopsis: Providing an analysis of the Tibet question, this work explores essential themes and issues concerning modern Tibet. It considers such topics as representations and sovereignty, economic development and political conditions, the exile movement and human rights, historical legacies and international politics, identity issues and the local society.

Tibetan book of living and Dying, Author: Sogyal Rinpoche

Published in 2002 [2nd edition], Category: Spiritual, ISBN: 712615695/9780712615693

Synopsis: A Spiritual Classic from one of the foremost interpreters of Tibetan Buddhism. Soygal Rinpoche clarifies the majestic vision of life and death that underlies the Tibetan tradition. It includes a complete introduction to the practice of meditation and advice on how to care for the dying with love and compassion.

A Tibetan Revolutionary The Political Life and Times of Bapa Phuntso Wangye, Authors: Melvyn C. Goldstein, Dawei Sherap, and William R. Siebenschuh

Published in 2006, Category Political Historical, ISBN: 0520249925/9780520249929

Synopsis: This is the as-told-to political autobiography of Phuntso Wangye (Phunwang), one of the most important Tibetan revolutionary figures of the twentieth century. Phunwang began his activism in school, where he founded a secret Tibetan Communist Party. He was expelled in 1940, and for the next nine years he worked to organize a guerrilla uprising against the Chinese who controlled his homeland. In 1949, he merged his Tibetan Communist Party with Mao’s Chinese Communist Party. He played an important role in the party’s administrative organization in Lhasa and was the translator for the young Dalai Lama during his famous 1954-55 meetings with Mao Zedong. In the 1950s, Phunwang was the highest-ranking Tibetan official within the Communist Party in Tibet. Though he was fluent in Chinese, comfortable with Chinese culture, and devoted to socialism and the Communist Party, Phunwang’s deep commitment to the welfare of Tibetans made him suspect to powerful Han colleagues. In 1958 he was secretly detained; three years later, he was imprisoned in solitary confinement in Beijing’s equivalent of the Bastille for the next eighteen years.

The Nature of All Things: The Life Story of a Tibetan in Exile, Author: Chope Paljor Tsering

Published in 2004, Category: Political Historical, ISBN: 0734407416/978-0734407412

Synopsis: This is the extraordinary life story of Chope Paljor Tsering. Born to a Tibetan nomad family in 1948, he experienced the invasion and occupation of his country by the Chinese Maoist army. In 1959 the Dalai Lama escaped into exile in India, and Chope’s family were among the many thousands who tried to follow him. Pursued by the Red Army, in fear of their lives, they began a year-long journey by foot to reach the Himalayan passes. They were among the first Tibetan refugees to arrive in Mustang, Nepal.

Engaged Buddhism; The Dalai Lama’s Worldview, Author: Bharati Puri

Published in 2006, Category: Philosophical, Spiritual, ISBN:0195673319

Synopsis: This volume examines the Dalai Lama’s thought on various current issues such as non-violence, human rights, and the political issue of the autonomy of Tibet. The book includes allusions to other thinkers and writers, in order to bring out the significance of the eclectic dimensions of the Dalai Lama’s thought. The author collates in this work perhaps the most comprehensive bibliography ever put together of the Dalai Lama’s works.

Last Seen in Lhasa: The Story of an Extraordinary Friendship in Modern Tibet, Author: Claire Scobie

Published in 2006, Category: Travel Philosophical, cultural, ISBN: 1846040051/9781846040054

Synopsis: In search of a rare red lily in the Tibetan Himalayas, Claire Scobie meets Ani, a Tibetan nun, in Pemako, where the myth of Shangri-la was born. Together, in a culture where freedom of expression is forbidden, risking arrest, they forge an abiding friendship based on intuition and deep respect. Through seven journeys to Tibet, Claire chronicles a rapidly changing world. Evoking the luminous landscape of snow peaks and wild alpine gardens, the text captures the paradoxes of contemporary Tibet: a land steeped in religion, struggling against oppression and galloping towards modernity. A unique story of insight and adventure, about an extraordinary friendship in modern Tibet.

Tibetan Buddhists in the Making of Modern China, Author: Gray Tuttle

Published in 2005, Category: Political Historical, ISBN: 0231134460

Synopsis: Drawing on previously unexamined archival and governmental materials, as well as personal memoirs of Chinese politicians and Buddhist monks, Tuttle demonstrates the crucial role Buddhism played in China’s transition from dynastic empire to nation-state. His study also offers new perspectives on the transition of diverse East Asian traditions into a single Buddhist religion.

Tibet Gamble: Unraveling the Separate Struggles for the Land of Snows, Author: W. Kesler Jackson

Published in 2007, Category: Travel Political Historical, ISBN 1430306033/9781430306030

Synopsis: Written as both an introduction to the Tibet crisis as well as a refreshingly new perspective for the more well-read, Asia analyst W. Kesler Jackson examines the Tibet crisis through a new lens as he seeks to unravel the various struggles for the Rooftop of the world. Traversing mountains and valleys from India, Nepal, and “Southwest China” to the United States, Jackson examines the risky bets being played for ultimate dominance in Tibet, and asks if “giving Tibet back” could actually benefit China.

Reviews of the above titles by Peter Marcham

Other Important Titles (reviews and publishing details will follow)
Unlocking Tibet, Authors: Woeser and Wang Lioxing
Tibet, Tibet A Personal History of a Lost Land, Author: Patrick French
Fire Under the Snow, Authors: Palden Gyatso with Tsering Shakya
The Story of Tibet: Conversations with the Dalai Lama, Author: Thomas Laird
Buddha’s Warriors: The Story of the CIA-Backed Tibetan Freedom Fighters, the Chinese Invasion, and the Ultimate Fall of Tibet, Author: Mikel Dunham. (French and Japanese editions available; Chinese and Tibetan coming soon)
Tibet: An Inner Journey, Author: Matthieu Ricard
Tears of Blood: A Cry for Tibet, Author: Mary Craig
The Dance of 17 Lives: The Incredible True Story of Tibet’s 17th Karmapa, Author: Mick Brown
The Snow Lion and the Dragon: China, Tibet and the Dalai Lama, Author: Melvyn C. Goldstein
Heartlands: Travels in the Tibetan World, Author: Michael Buckley