High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Woeser that was originally written for broadcast on Radio Free Asia on January 5, 2011 and posted on her blog on January 10, 2011.
As reported on the Dalai Lama’s official website, the Dalai Lama participated in a video conference with Chinese human rights lawyers Jiang Tianyong and Teng Biao on January 4, 2011. Organised by Woeser’s husband Wang Lixiong, this video conference followed on from a series of Twitter conversations between the Dalai Lama and Chinese netizens that Wang Lixiong organised in 2010.
High Peaks Pure Earth has used the translation by Ragged Banner of Woeser’s poem “On the Road” that appeared in the volume “Tibet’s True Heart” and that she quotes in her article below, it is a poem that she wrote in Lhasa in May 1995. Follow this link to read the whole poem: http://raggedbanner.com/pOTR.html
This post has also been translated into French, read it here: http://woeser.wordpress.com/2011/10/29/passeport/
“How I Met His Holiness the Dalai Lama Without a Passport”
Seven years ago, in my essay collection “Notes on Tibet”, I wrote this about a group photo showing a father with his son quietly making their way from Lhasa to Dharamsala: “he who conveys an air of humility and modesty on both sides but embraces the centre, is the most illustrious of all devout Tibetan people, the most affectionate, eager person – the Dalai Lama.” Because of this sentence and because of a few articles that touch on the truth, the local authorities labelled my work as “containing severe political errors”, “praising the 14th Dalai Lama and 17th Karmapa, and promoting serious political and religious opinions are wrong. Some essays already to some extent contain political errors.” After this, I was removed from my public position, this is when I left Lhasa.
Even earlier than that, already 16 years ago, I composed a poem implicitly conveying: “On the road, I clutch a flower not of this world, Hurrying before it dies, searching in all directions, That I may present it to an old man in a deep red robe. A wish-fulfilling jewel, A wisp of a smile: These bind the generations tight.” Later on, I turned this poem into lyrics, openly saying that “old man in a deep red robe”, is our Yeshe Norbu, our Kundun, our Gongsachog, our Gyalwa Rinpoche – all of which are Tibetan terms of respect for the Dalai Lama.
Just like so many Tibetans, hoping to be able to see His Holiness, to respectfully listen to his teachings, to be granted an audience, this has also been my innermost wish; from a very young age, I have always longed for this moment to come true. But, I cannot get a passport, just like many other Tibetans, it is almost unthinkable that this regime that controls us will ever grant us a passport, which should, in actual fact, be a fundamental right that every citizen enjoys. Last year, Lhasa gave out passports to anyone above 60 years of age, albeit only for the period of one week. As a result the office in charge of passports was full of the grey-haired, limping elderly; and it was clear that they were all heading for the foothills of the Himalayas to visit relatives, pay homage to the holy land of Buddhism, as well as to fulfil that dream that no one speaks of but everyone knows. I am sorrowfully thinking that I may have to wait until I am 60 years old until I get hold of a passport.
However, the internet gave my passport-less self a pass to travel; in the New Year, it helped me to make my dream come true – through the internet I met, as if in a dream but still very vivid and real, His Holiness the Dalai Lama!
It all started with a video conversation in cyberspace. On January 4, 2011, His Holiness was in Dharamsala engaging in a video conversation with the two human rights lawyers, Teng Biao and Jiang Tianyong as well as the writer Wang Lixiong. And I, I was standing behind Wang Lixiong, attentively listening to every word that was spoken. When the Dalai Lama appeared on screen, I could hardly believe it, tears started streaming down my face. This miracle facilitated by the technological revolution, making it possible to overcome geographical distances and man-made barriers and building a bridge that enables the Dalai Lama to speak with Chinese intellectuals, is unquestionably of tremendous magnitude. I heard His Holiness saying to the three Han Chinese intellectuals: “it’s just as if we were together, we only can’t smell each other’s breath”. At the end of the 70-minute long conversation, His Holiness asked in a concerned voice: “Can you see me clearly?” When all three of them said that they could, he light-heartedly pointed at his eyebrows and laughed: “so, did you also see my grey eyebrows?”
I cried and I cried. When I, as Tibetans do, prostrated three times, silently reciting some prayers, holding a khata in my hands and kneeling in front of the computer with tear-dimmed eyes, I saw His Holiness reaching out both of his hands as if he was going to take the Khata, as if he was going to give me his blessings. I am unable to describe with words how I felt: I am really such a fortunate person; in Tibet, many people get into trouble simply for owning a photo of the Dalai Lama.
In fact, today, many people from all over China have met with His Holiness and they have not at all lost their freedom, since we are all citizens of this country, Tibetans should also not be punished for having an audience with His Holiness.
Facing the image of me on the screen, the Dalai Lama instructed me in an earnest and tireless way: “Do not give up, keep going, it is of the utmost importance that Han Chinese intellectuals and we Tibetans always tell each other about the real situation, that we communicate with and understand each other; you have to internalise this. Over the past 60 years, the courage and faith of those of us Tibetans living in Tibet has been as strong as a rock. The international community is paying close attention to the real situation in Tibet, people from all over the world see that there is a truth in Tibet, Chinese intellectuals are increasingly aware of this, looking at it from a broad perspective, big and powerful China is in the process of transforming. Hence, you must remain confident and work even harder, do you understand?”
By then, I had already calmed down and kept the words spoken by His Holiness in my heart.
Beijing, January 5, 2011
This post is also available in: English