“We Have our own Religious Symbols, our own Culture and History!”
At the beginning of the New Year, the Chinese education department issued a new notice asking the entire country’s various kinds of schools during Spring Festival to organise their students to participate in an event “wishing the beloved motherland a happy and prosperous new year”. The essence of this “congratulating the motherland” event is absolutely trivial: first, praise the magnificent native soil; second, praise the legendary early ancestors, Yan and Huang Emperors; third, praise the past dynasties’ outstanding figures; fourth, praise the revolutionary martyrs; fifth, praise all exemplary heroes; sixth, praise the millions of common people. A Chinese university professor sarcastically wrote on his blog: “our magnificent native soil has been continuously exposed to destructive exploitation and severe pollution affecting the lives of our descendents.” Furthermore, it has bit by bit been broken up into personally owned territories by the high officials and wealthy people, “which the poor will never get to see”.
Meanwhile, the following criticism will certainly stir up many people’s emotions: “praising the legendary early ancestors, Yan and Huang Emperors, means forcing people to all entertain the exact identical belief. The two emperors, Yan and Huang, are pre-historical legendary characters who are mainly worshipped by Han Chinese as their earliest ancestors… In the 21st century, the education department has come out asking all schools to organise the worshipping of the Yan and the Huang Emperors as the earliest ancestors, hence, forcefully interfering with people’s own beliefs and not respecting other minority nationalities’� own ancestral worship”. This reminded me of when the Uighur professor Ilham Tohti during his talk at the Central University for Nationalities two months ago where he particularly emphasised that “we are not the Yan and Huang Emperors’ descendants, neither are we the descendants of the dragon, we have our own religious symbols, our own culture and history”!
Gangchenpa, who has lived on the snowy highlands for generations, is of course also like this. There has never been any legend passed down since ancient times, nor has there been any page in ancient records and accounts that expresses or acknowledges how we are connected to the utterly irrelevant Yan and Huang Emperors. Opening up our Blue Annals, Red Annals, White Annals and so on, all of them written beautifully and sentimentally, describing the beauty of the snowy highlands, where “the three circles of Ngari on the upper parts are like a pool, the four wings of U-Tsang on the middle parts are like a canal, and the six hills of Khamo on the lower parts are like a field”. There the ape, the embodiment of the Bodhisattva Avolokiteshvara, and the rock demoness, who is the embodiment of the most venerated Tara, gave birth to the black-headed Tibetan people. The earlier Bon religion has in fact a creation myth of more ancient times. Many of the old legends are actually more related to India, especially the origins of our religion.
Recently I have been reading “Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny” by Economic Nobel Prize winner Amartya Sen. He expresses that “only if we recognise diversity and variety in our lives, only if we regard ourselves as world citizens, think rationally and do not place people firmly inside a set of rigid boxes, can we perhaps realise peace in the contemporary world”. It is a shame that the more and more fascist China is brandishing the principles of nationalism and patriotism like two sharp swords, and is even abandoning the pretentious opposition to “Han Chauvinism” during the Mao era. It is simply going to assimilate the various “minority nationalities” under its control, and speed up the pace of the assimilation. One year ago, the Chinese Premier promulgated the decree that the traditional Chinese festivals, including the Qingming Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival and the Mid-Autumn Festival, were to be turned into official national holidays by law, requesting the country’s 56 nationalities to celebrate those three Han festivals on exactly those three days, thus, turning them into “faces of China” just like the Han. Furthermore, today, they simply start with the “babies in the cradle”, who have their own minority cultural background and inheritance. Since childhood, when they are just like a blank piece of paper, they are forcefully tainted by such ritualised events as “wishing the beloved motherland a happy and prosperous new year” thus applying a type of “Chinese quality” that is specific to totalitarianism.
Totalitarianism is the most violent form of terrorism. Totalitarianism does not only seize land, it also seizes the people living on the land, and it even more seizes the people’s memory and spirit. For this reason, following the everything but soft hearted military colonisation, now there exists the highest degree of cultural colonisation. However, identification with a country can by no means be achieved by using a gun against people’s minds. Otherwise, how is it possible that on the vast highlands of the three provinces in the past half-century, almost every 10 or 20 years desperate protests erupted everywhere? How can Tibetans not know that bullets kill, that prisons exhaust life? Also, the identification with a country can neither be obtained through the superior feeling majority nationality’s charity. Just like one Uighur intellectual said: “If there is a certain degree of the Chinese people’s identification with the Uighurs, then there will be the same degree of Uighurs’ identification with the country.” These lines articulate the deepest agony as a result of discrimination, prejudice and severe impairment.
Beijing, January 20, 2010
This post is also available in: English