"The Ten Greatest Tibetan Swindlers" By Penpa Tashi

High Peaks Pure Earth has been following a blogpost titled “The Ten Greatest Tibetan Swindlers” that was originally posted on Penpa Tashi’s TibetCul blog on October 1, 2010. For unclear reasons, the original post on http://penpatashi.tibetcul.com/107391.html is no longer accessible (the rest of the blog is unaffected), it was either removed by the author or removed by the TibetCul administrators.

The post created a big storm amongst Tibetan netizens when it was first published and was shared widely amongst Tibetans on social networking sites such as RenRen.com. Notably, some Tibetans criticised those who posted the article, calling them “extremists”, advising them to remove their posts. 

It is rare in the Tibetan blogosphere within PRC to come across such a critical and divisive blogpost, focusing on what the author sees as negative aspects of Tibetan society. According to his blog, Penpa Tashi is based in Kunming, Yunnan province, and his post does seem to focus on Tibetan areas of Yunnan, such as Dechen Prefecture. High Peaks Pure Earth readers may remember a poem from January 2009 titled “Silent Dechen” in which Dechen’s population were mocked as not being Tibetan for not protesting in 2008.

“The Ten Greatest Tibetan Swindlers” was translated into Tibetan quite quickly and posted just days later on several Tibetan language sites such as http://www.gdqpzhx.com/bo/html/special/20101004779.html and http://youshun12.com/?p=3838. More recently on March 29, the text of the blogpost was re-posted on Woeser and Wang Lixiong’s joint project, a Tibetan news and blogs aggregator website http://tibet.woeser.com/?p=26103 However as Woeser reported yesterday on her Twitter, their website suffered a malicious attack and all content has since been lost.

“The Ten Greatest Tibetan Swindlers”
By Penpa Tashi

  1. Tibetan Poets: Tibetan scholars are poets and the ideas which those poets represent have shaped the desires of today’s Tibetan intellectuals. They long for cultural rubbish that Chinese and foreign scholars already discarded long time ago, for example, third generation or some other Western schools of poetry. They lag behind modern progressive culture and unintentionally destroy the so-called glorious poetry, which their own ethnic group once possessed. Their poems are nothing but a random accumulation of great abstract nouns, messy language, which they themselves are unable to understand.
  2. Tibetan Professors: Most Tibetan university professors are cultural robots, they arrive on time and they take their monthly salary on time, apart from the courses they teach, what else do they understand? What else can they teach? They only continue to pass on their narrow-minded ideas and beliefs. The professors are Tibetan language professors but they send their own children to non-Tibetan speaking schools.
  3. Tibetan Postgraduate Students: Those postgraduate students with a postgraduate certificate really don’t have any proper level of education; their graduation theses consist of stolen ideas and if not stolen, at least plagiarised. They relied on guanxi (connections) to get into graduate school and their research revolves around the graduation certificate and has little to do with any cultural substance.
  4. Tibetan Editors: Tibetan (language) editors can be divided into two types: the first type works for government run publications and the second type for private ones. The first type is of course not very smart and also corrupt. The second type talks about ethnic spirits in theory but in practice he changes his mind, thus disturbing the stability of the Tibetan region and threatening ethnic unity.
  5. Tibetan Monks: Monks have a ‘home’ outside their ‘home’, which is the monastery. Today’s monks regard the monastery as their hotel. Only when they don’t have anywhere to go, they go to the monastery. For the monks in the Dechen region, becoming a monk is a question of survival because as a monk one would not have to care about complicated family matters and one even gets a small salary from the monastery. For outsiders, these people are students of Buddhism. Nowadays, these students have become increasingly rare.
  6. Tibetan Historians: I once came across a sentence in a Chinese article which said that history serves the government; this sentence holds a great deal of truth. Also, history books by contemporary historians rely on plagiarism, as the authors are only concerned with seeking fame. We only need to look at the history books written by followers of different religious schools and we know what is happening. In fact, the quarrel between Bon Religion and Buddhism is starting all over again. So aren’t today’s Tibetan historians great swindlers?
  7. Tibetan Fortune Tellers
  8. Tibetan Thinkers: Many people in the Tibetan region want to become thinkers, so everyone who has some knowledge of Tibetan considers him/herself a thinker or a poet. Those people like to grow long hair and their ethics are unusual. Those two criteria are considered the basis for becoming a thinker. If any wise and knowledgeable person closely examined them, he would come to realize that these people don’t know anything about traditional Tibetan culture and even less about Western progressive culture. They are the just a group of madmen deceiving the masses.
  9. Tibetan Tibetologists: The Diqing and Dechen counties are home to a few Tibetologists but what have they been researching? Tibetan Tibetologists do not understand Tibetan, how can they research Tibetan culture? Last time in Zhongdian Bookshop I saw some magazines and books published by local Tibet experts, they had all been written in Chinese, those Tibetologists probably don’t understand any Tibetan! People from other minorities would quite certainly not trust those works; these people are really not able to conduct research on Tibetan culture. They are just a group of Tibet specialists to fool Han Chinese.
  10. Tibetan tour guides: Among today’s Tibetan tour guides there aren’t any who have any tour guide culture, they are just a group of swindlers betraying the outstanding local culture. They are turning cultural value into cash value. But apart from being able to speak their own language, tour guides actually need to possess profound knowledge of local history and traditional culture.

To Be Continued


Comment by Guest:

Ok, so maybe you and I, we are all swindlers! But nothing should be covered up, ignored and even more, one shouldn’t disrespect those who are struggling for the preservation and development of Tibetan culture. Also, you should focus more on people’s strong points, those strong points we can learn something from.

Author’s reply: To reveal weak points is our responsibility and aren’t you guys constantly repeating and stressing the strong points?

Comment by Potala:

I totally understand the blogger. He is not covering anything up. He is even less disrespecting those who struggle for the preservation and development of Tibetan culture. Of course he knows about other people’s strong points. Everyone should be aware of this important situation, everybody should make an effort.

Comment by Tubozhizi:

Your insults towards Tibetan scholars are unworthy. Of course there exist some of the problems you mentioned but they only refer to a small group. Why don’t you also write about some good things and make a comparison?

Author’s response: Thanks for sharing your opinion.

Comment by Potala:

Over the past few years, there have been 4 so-called representative scholars who gave talks at a conference in Beijing. They claimed that the 20th century Tibetology is our Tibetology and we have great faith in the future. None of those 4 people could write or even speak a single word of Tibetan, what kind of future is that?


  1. Anonymous

    Very baseless article without having any further research. In addition, the writer himself is not mature enough to write such sort of articles. It is also a time wasting translation.

  2. Anonymous, this post is clearly a translation of another unique post from interwebs in tibet – as pointed out in the introduction and not some research from tibet. the posts here seem to be reflection of the blogosphere in tibet – so much to baseless article. A lot of people find it interesting what Tibetans netizens have to say!

  3. Anonymous

    I think it's worthwhile, this critical bit of bloggery. The first one at least, the one about modern Tibetan poets, simply sparkles with untold truths from beginning to end. See there you guys who think the future is all about being fancy with words. Better to be clever with important ideas, like this blogger is.

  4. bryanbeus

    The ability to recognize our weaknesses is a fantastic power. So long as we are blind to our weaknesses, we are bound to them. When we see our weaknesses we can then work through them. Sounds like this blogger is making good headway.

  5. Jambyang Dorje

    This blog post is great, thanks for translating. I've worked in China's Minzu (Minority Nationality) University and can say from my own side that his assessment of 'scholars', 'tibetologists' and university professors etc. is fairly accurate. They operate in the computer game that is modern China where nothing is what it appears to be and people rarely resemble what they say they are.

  6. Anonymous

    You have missed the biggest fraud perpetrated on the Tibetan people and society throughout our history and one that continues to this: that is the reincarnation system. I will accept the our Lamas (the tulkus not the monks) have made a definite contribution to our society by providing leadership, stability and preserving and propagating religion. However the core claim of the system, that an enlightened being is reborn to lead again, is a lie. No sane rational and scientific thinker can believe it. Any lama who says he remembers his past life is lying. Any system based on lie is subject to abuse, and that has been the case many often in our society, though once again I will admit that many also are done sincerely and have proved beneficial. We should have done away with the reincarnation system in the 20th century. Now it's the 21st and our biggest enemy is poised to perfectly exploit this great systemic weakness of ours. The Dalai Lama, late in his life is doing something about it. Anyway that I think should rank as swindle number one.

  7. Anonymous

    I hope that latest anonymous will reconsider her words and study some Mahayana Buddhism from a broader perspective. Out of compassion Buddhas create manifestations that can work with us, that may look like us, speak like us, and so forth. It's the sangsaric world with all those promises of happiness here and now that is the swindle, believe me! Frustration, sickness, old age and death are always right there around the corner. Buddha saw that, you hear? But hell, any sane person could see it.

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