June 14, 2015

"...how the book managed to evade suppression in its early years following publication is anyone’s guess."

Taipei Times Maybe its use of an obscure local dialect helped, or its presentation of itself as the innocent depiction by a child of a timeless pastoral world. By Bradley Wintertown

'There are descriptions of Tibetans helping to dismantle their local monasteries, and fighting — sometimes to death — any villagers who tried to oppose them. This may have been seen as reinforcing the official Beijing line that the Tibetans welcomed the Chinese with open arms. But even so, there are enough stories here of brutality by the invaders to dismay even the most pro-Chinese reader.

'The book is divided into five sections. The first two deal with the author’s earliest recollections and are largely unmemorable (though the “sky burial” — the chopping up of a corpse so it can be devoured by vultures — of the author’s mother is unforgettable). Then comes a pilgrimage covering 2,414km to and from Lhasa.

'The fourth section describes a second, uncompleted Lhasa-ward trek which ends with the death of the boy’s father following an encounter with PLA troops.

'Finally comes imprisonment in truly horrific conditions — in deep dungeons. To describe them as “unsanitary” would be an absurd understatement. Many prisoners die, but the author and his brother are eventually released into a famine-struck landscape where they become expert scavengers, saving their own lives and those of many others. They are finally admitted to a school, and the closing pages contain a photo of the two of them in Chinese-style school uniforms.'

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