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Buddhism in Contemporary Tibet: Religious Revival and Cultural Identity

by Melvyn C. Goldstein, Matthew Kapstein, Orville Schell

Buy the book: Melvyn C. Goldstein. Buddhism in Contemporary Tibet: Religious Revival and Cultural Identity

Release Date: July, 1998

Edition: Paperback

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Buy the book: Melvyn C. Goldstein. Buddhism in Contemporary Tibet: Religious Revival and Cultural Identity


A fair and balanced look

Having traveled extensively through Tibet and Sichuan and Qinghai provinces, and lived in Beijing, I was interested in reading a book recommended to me as "a true look". First of all, the comments of the first reviewer are absolutely dead wrong. Having read the Chinese propaganda, and really lived the Chinese propaganda, this is not it. Rather, it is one of the only pieces of scholarship about Tibet in recent history that doesn't fall victim to the Western agenda of portraying Tibet as sympathetically as possible. This is a complex issue, and both sides have done their best to skewer public opinion in their favor; however, to accuse these men of simply being mouthpieces of the Communist party is doing a great disservice to what is truly a breath of fresh air. For a good look at propaganda, go to a Beastie Boys concert. I applaud the editors for keeping politics out of their writing. I highly recommend this text to anyone curious about the real situation in Tibet.

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Informative and challenging academic analysis

Having read the preceding comments, I find myself in sympathy with all of them to a certain extent (some more than others). Goldstein and Kapstein's informative and challenging edited collection is precisely that - a collection, and includes viewpoints from a variety of academic researchers on Tibet. AS a result, it does not constitute the accepted 'word' on Tibet, nor in fact does it present ANY single viewpoint. Certainly, it does not deserve the accusations heaped on it by the first reviewer, but at the same time, the editors DO come to a particular view of Tibetan political consciousness that not everyone wouyld agree with. That view, if I might summerise, is roughly that the national identity generated around Tibetan Buddhism is not necessarily a prelude to full-blown Tibetan nationalism, and therefore that Tibetan Buddhism can be allowed to flourish by the Chinese authorities without it necessarily generating sympathy for the independence movement). Personally I do not agree with this perspective, and it is clear that the writers are attempting to produce an academic analysis which, as the Tibetan writer Tsering Shakya has recently argued for, cuts a path between the various absolute "black-or-white" political positions that surround the Tibet issue. At the same time, the authors take odds with the widespread view that ALL Buddhism in Tibet is forbidden, and argue that (thankfully) many Tibetans are capable of negotiating a meaningful Buddhist revival despite Chinese communist rule (the extent to which this holds true in the 2 years since this book was published is another issue). As a result, it IS possible to read this collection as proposing an analytical agenda which is not exactly "on-message" in terms of the position of certain pro-Tibet groups, but that is a LONG way from saying that it is Chinese political orthodoxy.

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