"I am Like an Isolated Patient with an Infectious Disease" By Woeser

High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Woeser written in Lhasa on November 15, 2012, for the Tibetan service of Radio Free Asia and published on her blog on December 15, 2012.
In the process of leaving Beijing and being in Lhasa for a considerable period of time towards the end of 2012, Woeser published many blogposts about her experiences. The next posts by Woeser will also focus on this time as well as her thoughts on leaving Lhasa.
Apologies to those readers expecting a music video today. The Tibetan music video series will resume next Wednesday with a new translation of “Homeland” by Dolma Kyap, be sure to check back next week for it.

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One day just before noon according to Tibetan time, taken from my balcony.

“I am Like an Isolated Patient with an Infectious Disease”
By Woeser

Every single day in Lhasa is difficult to describe.
Every morning after I wake, I see the blue sky and bright sunshine outside my window and a deep feeling of happiness overcomes me. Yet, in an instant this happiness disappears. When I open the window, I can hear the monotonous sounds of the military bugles coming from the nearby military barracks; sometimes I can also hear murderous shouting, indicating that the strong young soldiers are practicing martial arts.

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The old town of Lhasa is full of slogans celebrating the 18th Party Congress.

During the time of the 18th Party Congress, one could also often hear sonorous male and female voices, speaking Tibetan and Chinese, coming from a high-pitched loudspeaker on a car that was driving back and forth; one could not really hear what was being said, but for a moment people felt that they were taken back to the Cultural Revolution. I immediately remembered an old gentleman who I once interviewed and who every time he started speaking of the Cultural Revolution, also started speaking of the rebel faction reading out aloud Chairman Mao’s “Supreme Instructions” or singing “Sailing the Seas Depends on the Helmsman”; the whole of Lhasa was shaken up, to the point that now this gentleman’s heart starts palpitating whenever he hears this kind of sharp and penetrating sound.
This time I spent three months in Lhasa. Prior to that, the Beijing police said that while the Party was holding the 18th Party Congress, people like me had to leave the capital. Actually, I was more than happy to leave this “cleared out” city, I was more than willing to return to my hometown, far above the sea level; even though in Lhasa I am like an isolated patient with an infectious disease. Among my relatives and friends, far more than ten of them have been called in by the police for a “conversation” and have even been threatened. This made me feel angry and regretful. My 70-year-old mother not only had to meet police officers from Lhasa, she was also asked by specially sent down policemen from Beijing to educate me and change my way of thinking.
Actually, many of my friends said that they did not dare to meet me or claimed that it was not convenient for them to meet me; but there were still a few new friends and even some old people who came especially to see me. So I really wasn’t a totally isolated patient with an infectious disease. I did actually get to hear many colourful stories, which were, however, all tainted with black humour and absurdness. At the same time, I also received many favours, I experienced care and solicitude like many many big and small presents, which made me feel extremely grateful.
Once I was passing through some small alley, I happened to meet an Acha la who recognised me. As we were having a conversation in low voices, she suddenly started crying. A few months ago, her husband had been arrested because in his mobile phone he had saved a portrait of His Holiness and a recording of His Holiness giving Buddhist teachings; because of this, her husband had been sentenced to imprisonment. Another time, I was passing through Shasarzur Alley, lost in thoughts, and was abruptly stopped by police at the entrance to the lane: “Security check! Take out your ID card!” I glimpsed at this Tibetan policeman, turned around and left. I thought to myself that I did not have to go to Barkhor through this security check, but my legs did get a little bit soft.
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At the police service station near this place that is full of red flags, the Ganden Monastery monk, Sonam Dorje, was shot dead.

Once I intended to go to a lane in Banakshol. Not far from the lane entrance was a civil police service station, several men and women were standing around it, all of them were of course young policemen. I looked at them and my mind was full of the happenings on one day in September when the monk, Sonam Dorje, came from Ganden Monastery into Lhasa to visit a doctor and was, as he was passing this station, shot dead. Well, which one of these military policemen fired the shot? Is the assassin still here, arrogantly humiliating and even killing Tibetan people?
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Sonam Dorje who was shot dead on September 6, 2012.

What I still want to add is that I live in a building very close to Sera Monastery. I only need to raise my head a little when sitting at my desk and I can see Potala Palace in the distance. That is the home of His Holiness the Dalai Lama; today it still enshrines memorial stupas of many generations as well as the throne belonging to His Holiness, which has, however, been empty for decades. But I still remember a New Year’s eve many years ago, I realised for the first time that a few steps away from His Holiness’ Palace, under the screen of darkness, it ever more distinctly reveals its never fading silhouettes, I wrote immediately: “I therefore believe that me and a secret (…) truly will meet under the exceptional light of Tibet.”
Over the past few years, the lonely atmosphere, full of sadness, that surrounds the Potala Palace never lightens, but I still think, no matter what, being able to see Potala Palace is karmic reward. Although at this very moment, Lhasa is a dragnet, there are more soldiers than citizens.
November 15, 2012, Lhasa


  1. Whoever did this translation, kudos. I love Ms. Woesers’ spirit and her work, but Bing does a terrible job of mashing up everything it translates to the point that it’s incoherent. I will friend you on FB in the hopes that further excellent translations might be forthcoming. Thank you and thugjeche.

  2. Last year I asked in a blog post ( http://www.himalayamasala.com/blog/news-lhasa ) for news from Lhasa. There was no response – I guess travellers don’t like to offend the Chinese government, even anonymously. I don’t suppose my blog’s on Woeser’s radar, but this is as good an answer to my question as anyone could want. Still, if anyone has more news…

  3. Beautiful – the spirit of this is being shared throughout the World..

  4. Pingback: High Peaks Pure Earth – “Humanisation” and “Hype”: Notes from Leaving Lhasa (Part 1) By Woeser

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