High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Woeser, originally written for the Mandarin service of Radio Free Asia on July 6, 2018, and published on her blog on July 17, 2018.
The blogpost was written by Woeser on the birthday of the Dalai Lama this year and the theme of the post is also this birthday, traditionally celebrated in Lhasa with a festival known as “Trunglha Yarsol”.
“Do You Know the “Trunglha Yarsol” Festival to Celebrate the Birthday of His Holiness?”
“Trunglha” (འཁྲུངས་ལྷ་) is Tibetan and means the deity of birth. According to research, during the time of the seventh Dalai Lama, in a lush wood on the south-eastern side of Lhasa, a shrine called “Trunglha Lhakhang” was built to worship the deity for the birth of the Dalai Lama. This is why the place of the shrine became known as “Trunglha”. Traditionally, on the birthday of the Dalai Lama, the government and the people would hold grand celebrations at this site: they would perform incense rituals, burn incense, chant, pray and throw tsampa to display and send out good wishes. People from all corners of Lhasa would come out, jubilate, throw tsampa on each other and sincerely pray that the “Dalai Lama would always be on this earth” as well as for the “Victory of the Gods”… This joyful celebration was commonly referred to as “Trunglha Yarsol” and has a history of over 300 years.
In 1999, this traditional festival was once again cancelled, after it had already been cancelled once in 1959. Also, the Trunglha Village was renamed into Tamar Village, which means Red Flag Village. Its full name has since been Tamar Village, Najin Township, Chengguan District, Lhasa. At the time, the “Tibet Daily” reported on it like this: “…From the beginning of the 1980s, the ashes of the illegal event called ‘Trunglha Yarsol’ burnt once again, after it had completely vanished during the democratic reforms….many officials, workers and laymen showed their deepest resentment against this illegal event and strongly called for the People’s Government to ban it. In 1999, after the government prohibited this illegal event, the villagers devoted all their energy to economic development, began to open hotels, farmhouses, flower and plant markets, sand and stone markets and other businesses. The people unanimously requested the former dishonourable name of ‘Trunglha Village’ to be changed into ‘Tamar Village’. ‘Tamar Village’ is Tibetan and means ‘Red Flag Village’, the villagers’ wish was: ‘to wholeheartedly follow the CCP and live our lives prosperously’.
On July 6, 2001, on the day of the traditional “‘Trunglha Yarsol”, Wang Lixiong (in his important essay from 2000 entitled “The Dalai Lama is the Key to the Tibet Question”, he wrote: “One should not simply regard the Dalai Lama as a problem and obstacle to solving the Tibet question, he is actually the key to solving it. But of course, if not used properly, this key can also lock the door once and for all.”) and I, when I was still working as an editor for the magazine “Tibetan Literature”, rode our bikes to Trunglha Village. We saw a police car parked right at the village entrance; we also saw a banned order attached to a tree, reading “social stability notice on the legal banning of the illegal ‘‘Trunglha Yarsol’ event issued by the Lhasa People’s Government”. It began with the following sentence: “According to the order of the Central Government and the district Committee, the Lhasa People’s Government has already legally banned the illegal ‘‘Trunglha Yarsol’ event.” Regulation: “…it is strictly prohibited for any persons or groups to use any methods, overt or concealed, to gather and illegally celebrate Dalai’s birthday, pray or worship, burn incense or throw tsampa,” “anyone who violates the ‘Notice on the banning of the illegal ‘‘Trunglha Yarsol’ event’ from June 26, 2000 will be punished by the issuing unit of this ‘notice’, the legal and public security departments in accordance with the ‘Public Security Administration Punishment Law of the People’s Republic of China’ and the ‘Regulations of the People’s Republic of China on Road Traffic Administration’ etc. Violators of the “Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China” will be investigated and held accountable.”
I remember it was during sunset and we were standing there for a moment, looking at the thick forest inside the stone wall. That was were the shrine to celebrate the birthday of His Holiness used to be located; it had long been knocked down, has disappeared, encircled by a dense stone wall; it was impossible to get inside. Posing as tourists, all the two of us could do was to take a few photos with the described scenery as a background…
What is important to add is that the original location of Trunglha Village has already disappeared, because that is where they built the new campus of Tibet University. As for the original villagers, they have all been evicted and moved to a new place called “Tamar Moderate Prosperity Model Community”. Official media celebrated villagers for having moved from “poor to a rich” lifestyle in happiness. The Village Branch Party Secretary deployed official jargon to state that the “formerly poor and backwards ‘‘Trunglha Village’ has today turned into a civilised and rich ‘Red Flag Village’”.
Lhasa, July 6, 2018
This post is also available in: English