High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Woeser written on November 24, 2013 for the Tibetan service of Radio Free Asia and published on her blog on December 16, 2013.
Woeser writes about the Tibetan national anthem and how it was inadvertently played on a China state media website. According to the report by Voice of America, “The national anthem video, which starts with a chorus of children singing the song, plays on the app download page of the state broadcaster’s website.”
As for the song “A Child’s Prayer” by Waterbone, it appears to be a track from a 1998 album titled “Tibet” which is described on Amazon as a “trip-hop collage of Nepali singing, street chat, and instrumental performances.”
As I documented in “The Snow Lion’s Roar in the Year of the Earth Mouse: A Chronicle of the 2008 Tibetan Incident”: “On March 14, 2008, in Labrang monastery, Xiahe County, Amdo (Gannan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu Province) after holding Buddhist services, at around 2 in the afternoon, over 400 monks and lay people held up many Tibetan flags and shouted “Free Tibet”, “Long Live the Dalai Lama”, “Give us back religious freedom” etc. They walked along Renmin Street to the county seat, government and public security bureau buildings, peacefully carrying out this protest. At night they were dispersed by massive military police presence.” “On March 15, 2008, in Xiahe County, Amdo Province (Gannan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu Province) thousands upon thousands of monks and laity (men, women, the young and the old) organised a large-scale protest; it came to conflicts with the local security bureau and military police and subsequently the local authorities sent out over 40 military vehicles equipped with massive guns from the Lanzhou military area as well as over 20 armoured cars that opened fire against these unarmed men and women, leaving unknown numbers of people killed and wounded and arresting almost 20 of them”.
Many Chinese people never knew that Tibet has a national flag. Only when Tibetans dressed in robes and other traditional dress and held up their self-drawn “Snow-Lion Banners” during the protests that erupted in 2008 and only when people from all over the world supported Tibet as the Olympic torch travelled around the globe did people slowly start to know about this flag, showing two imposing lions with their green manes representing the three auspicious jewels “Buddha, Dharma, Sangha”. In fact, many Chinese still don’t know that Tibet also has a national anthem, let alone know its melody or lyrics.
So the incident that recently happened on a Chinese website made the valiant CCP both angry and ashamed. As Voice of America reported on November 6, 2013: “China’s state-controlled television and radio in Tibet is surprising visitors to a newly launched website with a music video of the banned Tibetan national anthem. The song, called ‘Gyalu’ in Tibetan, is sung by exile Tibetans across the world but has been banned in Tibet for more than 50 years.”
When I had a look at this new website – “The Voice of Chinese Tibet” – the song had already been deleted. But someone had uploaded it onto YouTube, which the Chinese state cannot censor, and so I found a travel video that itself is not very good but at the beginning it plays precisely this song, the Tibetan national anthem sung by exiled Tibetan children (the background music and sound of the YouTube video are already damaged).
In fact, more or less two months before this, Tibet TV broadcast a special program about contemporary Tibetan art and the music used for the ending was also the Tibetan anthem performed by the Dharamsala children’s choir. The last sentence was: “…wishing Tibetan Buddhism and all living beings justice, and that all evil will be defeated”. I was in Lhasa at the time and was shocked when I heard this. But I knew that some of Tibet TV’s programmes were outsourced and produced by Beijing based companies and the staff of these companies had no idea what the anthem of Tibet sounds like. I heard that the melody of the anthem was based on traditional Tibetan sacred music; and so it is elegant and pleasant to listen to, which hence naturally attracts outsiders who have no idea what it actually is.
I never revealed the fact that Tibet TV played the Tibetan national anthem on my blog because I think that the people from the Security Bureau who watch me would then cause problems for the people who used the song for their programme. I still remember how many years ago, Tibet TV broadcast a travel programme about Nepal. One scene shows a street with restaurants and in one of these restaurants one could see the Tibetan flag and the camera even focused on the flag for a short moment. Because at the time it was Tibetan New Year and the respective person in charge of inspecting all TV programs had gone home to celebrate and thus failed to check this particular program, the officials regarded this as a severe political incident, which almost resulted in the sacking of this person.
Of course, the Tibetan national anthem performed by this children’s choir has appeared in Chinese official media more than once. On November 22, a netizen wrote on Twitter: “Because of a song by Waterbone, “A Child’s Prayer”, that is supposed to be anti-Communist, today the Chaoyang district Public Security Sub-Bureau came to find our leader for a “talk”; he was asked to stop work and start a rectification process, writing rectification reports and draw up company punishment plans. These hooligans come like the mafia, acting arrogantly like gangsters…” The netizen also posted a “written penalty on the spot” “warning message” directed at the “Duomi” music web portal by the internet law spokesperson of the Beijing Chaoyang District Security Bureau. The Tibetan anthem also appeared under the name of “A Child’s Prayer” on the music web portal “1-ting”, which shows that on a purely musical level, the Tibetan anthem has a high artistic value, down to the point that this incident once more represented a severe political incident in the eyes of the Party.
On Twitter, a netizen characterised the Tibetan national anthem as “elegant and full of respect”, without the angry and murderous spirit that some other countries’ anthems brim over with, “the beautiful soil of Tibetan people is complemented with a warm national anthem, Bod Gyalo (Victory to Tibet)”. Of course we all know which country’s national anthem we talk about that exudes this angry and murderous spirit.
According to the introduction of the Tibetan author, Jamyang Norbu, in the essay “Independent Tibet: The Facts”, the old Tibetan anthem, “Gangri Rawae” (the place protected by snow mountains) was written in 1745 by Tibet’s secular leader Pholanas. At the end of official celebrations in Lhasa or at the beginning of theatre dramas they would play this anthem. After the Tibetan government was forced into exile to India, it changed the anthem to a more modern song, “Sishe Pende”. The author of the lyrics was the Dalai Lama’s teacher Trijang Rinpoche. He is known as a great poet who carried on the tradition of ancient Tibetan poetry”.
November 24, 2013
1. Waterbone: “A Child’s Prayer” on YouTube.
2. The Tibetan national anthem sung by Kelsang Chuki.
Let the radiant light shine of Buddha’s wish-fulfilling gem teachings,
the treasure chest of all hopes for happiness and benefit
in both secular life and liberation.
O Protectors who hold the jewel of the teachings and all beings,
nourishing them greatly,
may the sum of your karmas grow full.
Firmly enduring in a diamond-hard state, guard all directions with
Compassion and love.
Above our heads may divinely appointed rule abide
endowed with a hundred benefits and let the power increase
of fourfold auspiciousness,
May a new golden age of happiness and bliss spread
throughout the three provinces of Tibet
and the glory expand of religious-secular rule.
By the spread of Buddha’s teachings in the ten directions,
may everyone throughout the world
enjoy the glories of happiness and peace.
In the battle against negative forces
may the auspicious sunshine of the teachings and beings of
Tibet and the brilliance of a myriad radiant prosperities
be ever triumphant.
This post is also available in: English