August 8, 2008.
Zhu Rui's Letter to the Venerable Dalai Lama
Revered Dalai Lama:
I have to tell you that my impression of you in my childhood and youth was that you were a flayer of human skin, a demon who picked flesh from human bones. From this point alone, you have probably guessed that I am Han Chinese. Indeed, I grew up within the Communist education system. But in 1997, I chanced upon an opportunity to travel to Tibet. That was the first time I (secretly) saw your photograph, your kind and compassionate visage, and it made me doubt the Communists' propaganda.
At the Festival of the Bodhisattva of Good Fortune that year, I went early to the Zulakang temple where the Bodhisattva's covering had already been removed, and in the light as soon as I saw her face, the sound of a voice rose behind me. It was the mournful yet excited sound of an elderly voice. There before the Songsten Gampo hall, she sang while she poured wine into a goblet in front of the statue. Men, women and even the children all around immediately joined in the singing, and when the police turned up, their voices rang ever more brightly... "They're praising the Dalai Lama," a monk quietly told me.
That day, I moved out of my hotel and into the former home of a merchant on the Barkhor. Prior to 1959, the mistress of this family used to wear clothes most days worth 30,000 to 40,000 renminbi, but now all she had left was two sets of clothes. The home left to her by her ancestors had been demolished. The new home seemed to be worth more, but it was less than half the size of the old one and there was no running water and the communal toilets were constantly blocked, sending their unbearable stench right out into the Barkhor street. This woman had no complaint about being plundered by the Communists, but there was something she was constantly saying, very quietly - I could only ever see her lips moving. I thought she was reciting the mantra, "Wish for a better life to come." But one day, when there were only the two of us and she saw there was no one there outside, she said she was reciting a long-life prayer for you.
In April 1999 I went to Tibet for the second time where I lived in the home of farmers in Rizhika village in Jiru township, Zalang county in Rikaze prefecture. There was no running water there and no electricity. At dawn each day, the family traipsed to the river to carry water and in the evenings even the small children sat around the weak oil lamp twisting wool. Selling felt was pretty much the only means of livelihood the villagers had. Our food was very simple, with potatoes for two meals a day (aside from gruel for breakfast) being a luxury. But there in the home, in the place where the most light came in, was a picture of you in an exquisite frame draped all over with long white khada.
Later, I chose to work in Tibet. As an editor and journalist I had the opportunity to meet with some Tibetans who worked in Chinese Communist Party offices, and with my own eyes saw how in the most secret places in their homes they have photographs of you and yak butter lamps that had never been lit.
You are not the enemy of the Tibetan people, you are the father of the Tibetan people; you are the source of the Tibetan people's compassion and happiness. You are Yeshe Norbu, the Tibetan people's wish-fulfilling jewel; you are Kundun, who forever will appear before all Tibetans whenever they call you; and you are Gyalwa Rinpoche, higher than all kings and the most precious of treasures. And evidently, the Communist authorities did not liberate Tibet, they robbed Tibet; they did not sow happiness, they created suffering.
Listening to your lecture at Madison in Wisconsin, I was filled with emotion. An ocean of Buddhist wisdom of the greatest depth and by degree ever more complex was systematically expounded by you until it miraculously became like rain, nourishing and vitalizing your listeners; you did your utmost to answer every everyone's questions, embracing the smallest shred of individual pain and suffering; and even when someone asked a question about China-Tibet relations, with limitless patience and concern you emphasized the excellence of the Chinese nation, and encouraged friendly exchange between the Chinese and Tibetan peoples. And the Communists' evil, their scheming, their corruption and dictatorship, when compared to your compassion, your transparency, your honesty and democracy - all shall undergo the test of time.
In March of this year, the Communists' cruel 50-year colonial rule of Tibet gave rise to peaceful, non-violent protests at more than 100 locations throughout all Tibetan areas. The tragedy is that not only have the Communist leaders failed to reflect upon or adjust their policies in Tibet as a result, but condescendingly they actually dictated to you that there were the "four do not supports" as preconditions to dialog, making the white-hot Tibet question a problem for you personally. Their intention is to smother and even kill off the Tibet question, and Tibet has now become an enormous prison. It's said that in Lhasa, one in three people is a plain-clothed police officer. The military has gone into even the most remote village and all telephone calls from the outside (especially foreign calls) are closely monitored...
Tibet's culture is profound and extensive, ancient and progressive, and I long ago saw the beauty of its traditions in the Tibetan people: devotion, kindness, gratitude, benevolence; and what has China's 5000-year culture left the Han people? Naturally, not all of it has been exquisite, and the Chinese authorities have used those dregs in gruesome details to enslave and shackle the Tibetan people with "traditions of unique benefit to all mankind!" In the twenty-first century when people leap over their countries' fences in a common pursuit of freedom, democracy and human rights, and respect for the singularity of their ethnic culture, it is precisely such colonial behavior as this that the world rejects as a thing of filth. There are more and more deep-thinking and incisive intellectuals in China who are starting to see through the Communists, publicly expressing their own independent views on the Tibet question, demanding an end to totalitarian rule, the implementation of freedom of expression and freedom of the media, withdrawing the accusations against you of being a "splittist of the Motherland", and demanding "a resolution of the Tibet problem by means of respect, tolerance, consultation and dialog."
In the almost 30 years of reform and opening up, the trend has led China towards becoming a "great nation". In actual fact, it's no more than "As China enters the international mainstream, it is hitching a ride towards globalization." The loss of morality has permeated into even China's most remote villages, and evil and dissipation have become the fashion. Hosting the Olympics under circumstances such as these inevitably runs counter to the Olympic spirit. The superficial prosperity cannot conceal the void within. The need to reform bad governance is a fact that has been placed before every Chinese person. If the Communist leaders continue to be arrogant and imperious on the question of Tibet and coerce and trample upon the Tibetan people, and deceive and mislead the Chinese masses, and if they continue to deny your irreplaceable value towards peace in the world and your unrivaled spiritual contributions, and adhere to the inhuman logic of "power grows from the barrel of a gun," their days will come to a sudden end one not too distant dawn. There is no doubt you will return to your land! When you are reunited with the suffering Tibetan people, please extend the warm light of your benevolence to care upon the heavy sins of China's vast land.
May the ship of your compassion for ever be among us!
From a Han who sympathizes with the suffering of the Tibetan people, and who has limitless respect
for you: Zhu Rui.