High Peaks Pure Earth presents the translation of a poem called ‘Waterfall of Beer’ which was first posted on TB Sheep blog (Lug tsang dPal yon) on March 7, 2015.
Composed by blogger and poet Rinpung Tenchoe (Rin spung bsTan chos), the poem is a modern adaptation of Dhondup Gyal’s seminal 1984 poem ‘Waterfall of Youth’ and presents a satirical critique of contemporary Lhasa society.
Dhondup Gyal, born in Chentsa, Amdo in 1953 is considered to be the father of modern Tibetan poetry. A prolific essayist, historian, Sanskrit translator and poet, he was widely acknowledged as the first Tibetan writer to break away from traditional rules of versification and meter and develop what he termed free form composition (rang mod rnyan tsom). Most of his work focused on national character and deal with encroaching changes on the Tibetan plateau in the post-Cultural Revolution era. His best known poem ‘Waterfall of Youth’ (rlung tsho’i rbab chu), was a literary call to arms for Tibetans to march in tandem with the modernising processes of the 1980’s. The poem inspired an entire generation of writers and typified a period where literature was seen to have a definite social purpose. The relevance of Dhondup Gyal’s ‘Waterfall of Youth’ among young Tibetans today has been reflected by hip-hop group Yudrug’s own tribute to Dhondup Gyal and to the poem in 2011.
Tibetan language platforms for writers and poets in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) are limited, with authors required to self-fund initial runs and appease state censors. A new generations of writers have taken to the internet to share their works and engage with audiences. Tibetans in the TAR now experience greater than ever access to the internet. Despite stringent web censorship and from within the context of increasing securitisation, Tibetans have begun to articulate the contradictions and developments inherent in the urban Lhasa landscape in creative ways. Prominent Vlogger “Sexy Kundon” has taken to the Chinese video app Meipai to address issues such as plastic surgery among young Tibetan women, defend her use of a colourful patois of Chinese and Tibetan and to bemoan the injustices of work-unit assignments. Microblogging in particular has become a democratising space for personal and community expression. Tibetan language rights activists have created online polls to campaign for accurate Tibetan language signage and thousands of netizens participate in sharing viral videos on a variety of social issues such as attachment to material wealth. These varied creative processes challenge existing stereotypes about Tibetans and the wider hegemony of Chinese state media.
In ‘Waterfall of Beer’ (sBirag gi rBab chu) Tenchoe depicts a morally corrupt aholy city plagued by alcoholism, adultery and avarice. Contemporary Lhasa is frequently characterised as a Dickensian den of vice by Tibetan writers and social commentators. In the poem a righteous narrator stands before the eponymous waterfall and denounces the ‘mountain-like heap of beer’ as the personification of Lhasa’s degeneration. Netizens echoed Tenchoe’s sentiments by decrying urban life in Lhasa. The original post and accompanying audio reading have been viewed over ten thousand times and circulated widely by Tibetan netizens on Weibo and WeChat. The poem has drawn compliments for both the language and visual imagery employed by the author, with one netizen going as far as lauding Tenchoe as a modern day Rangdrol (rang grol, literally ‘Self-liberated’, the pen name of Dhondup Gyal). ‘Waterfall of Beer’ is a condemnation of a morally ambiguous urban generation, and the poet representative of a new and youthful voice that seeks to express the social realities of a city that may have superseded its sanctity.
Thank you to Riga Shakya for this post and for the below translation.
“Waterfall of Beer”
By Rinpung Tenchoe
The lush green field,
The fair and tender young woman,
The melodious and gentle song,
The bright covetous young man…
But even more beautiful than these,
This expansive grove before us,
A mountain-like pile of beer.
The waves of foam jump to the sky,
The bar girl, a deceitful vixen,
A peacock’s plumage, a bitch’s tail,
The belly of a Dzo,
The song of the bar girl’s song is sweet and smooth,
That drinking song is the song of Tibet,
Chinese melody, Western narrative,
This is no ordinary beer…
To deceive the high officials, to be fearful of the Lamas!
The squandered wealth of the youth, the danger of the decline of old age.
The pain of losing a lover,
This is the youthful beer of all the youthful people of the Land of Snows,
This is the joy of all the 21st century millennial Tibetans.
Mortgaging positions, provoking altercations, testimony to our youth.
Beer of the waterfall, Waterfall of beer,
You own fearless marketplaces and unwavering clientele,
Endless consequences, undisturbed notifications,
Where did this guest who cannot get drunk come from?
A pilgrim from outside of the three spring months,
A traveller who burst out from the earth of the three summer months,
The ingratiation shown by different work-units during the three autumn months,
The expenses of the celebrations of the three winter months,
Lhasa, Budweiser, wheat beer, barley wine, in short the liquor of backdoor connections!
The liquor of accomplishment, the liquor of misfortune, the liquor of divorce,
Beer makes a man into a hundred and eight, liquor a man into a hundred thousand,
You are the courage-inducing tonic,
And so you open the door to violence,
You are an awareness-deluding tonic,
And so you dare to sleep with your best friend’s wife,
You possess the proud spirit of appraising new customers,
Your vision is long reaching and your messages spread far and wide,
You separate those with low tolerance and those with sour taste,
While the expenditure amasses,
You cast off inhibitions, and endow all with the ability to converse and enrich civilisation with the imprints of all aspects of yourself.
You are witness to bribery and,
You are the step ladder to position,
You, in each undefiled drop of alcohol,
Record the waxing and waning of all farmers and nomads,
You, in each particle blown to smithereens –
Compile the rise and fall of all in civil service,
How could I produce the love I show to my beautiful beloved!
How could I satisfy the high and mighty officials?
I wouldn’t be able to shake a steady relationship?
How could I destroy the future of the children and the morals of society?
You are a vase made of a water crystal,
The filth in the rubbish, the vomit of a drunk,
The urine of a layabout, naturally occurring powdered ash,
You possess the nature of attachment, and all those who love liquor the three times become your followers,
Forever bereft of awareness,
Reality is disturbing and you outline a hundred answers – how could it be worse than this?
The reason being,
Your benefits have fused with reality,
And your abilities having mixed with variegated actions,
Your many tangible benefits, have given many people profits and advantages,
Your real misfortunes, have plunged many people’s lives and livelihoods into terror,
Did you hear? Oh Beer!
Did you hear the questions of a youth who has never tasted beer?
If the national economy falls into recession; what will you do?
If the harmonious familial relationship falls to pieces; what will you do?
If your children’s futures turn to ashes; what will you do?
If your parent’s eyes are seized by death; what will you do?
If your wife sleeps alone every night; what will you do?
If your gambling hands empty; what will you do?
Oh yes, dear beer.
The chaos sewn by your hands, these reality-reflecting questions are etched into our hearts like rock carvings.
Really, you ability-inducing beer cannot be replaced by a cup of hot water.
How can the smell of trouble and a friend’s profits replace a healthy and longevity?
On the shoulders of this rarely attained human birth,
If, you don’t possess an awareness accordant to the times
How can you ascend to pulsing vitality,
You will not be able stride forward!
A life of happiness even more unreachable!
Ko yi! Oh beer!
Your languidly overflowing froth,
These indiscriminately strewn bottles
Symbolise the drinking appetites of the new generation of the land of the snows,
These indiscriminately established bars and chaotic nangma bars,
You will meet the authentic thoughts of the new generation of the land of the snows,
Trouble, fighting, jealousy, hatred.
In this century we have no objects of engagement,
Lazy, backward and ill-behaved.
In this century we have no sacred places.
Beer, oh beer,
Our minds wax and wane with you, Our bodies deteriorate with you,
Even though the path ahead requires an exertion greater than before,
The youth of Tibet are without the necessary power of mind,
They hold beer to be the new path for our people,
Look, These ready drunks are the new generation of the Land of the Snows,
Listen, the sound of these backward footsteps are tread by the new generation of the Land of the Snows,
The dark nangma, shameless grandmothers,
Outwardly magnificent bars, jobless women,
The marketplace of beer is insuppressible,
The buyers of beer are relentless,
This pile of beer is from the pockets of the new generation of the Land of the Snows,
This waterfall of beer is the product of the vigour of the new generation of the Land of the Snows.
This post is also available in: Tibetan