Book Review by Tenzin Norzin*
Warriors of the Snowland – A History of Chushi Gangdrug (Volume I)
By The Welfare Society of Central Dokham Chushi Gangdrug
Ebook published 2022 by Blue Rose Publishers, New Delhi, London
Pp 377, Price: INR 200.
This very readable book is a well-documented account of the formation of the organization of the Chushi Gangdrug resistance heroes and the resilient battles they put up against the vicious Chinese Communist forces in eastern and northern Tibet before advancing into central Tibet and continuing the battle. It includes many primary sources, first-hand accounts and historical documents from those years. I highly recommend this book to readers because it manages to perfectly narrate the agonizing events that took place in Tibet around the time of the Chinese invasion.
The book narrates the volatile beginnings of the Tibetan resistance movement and how it was ignited to the horrifying events that occurred, eventually leading on to the historic 10th of March national and 12th of March women’s uprising that took place in Lhasa in 1959. Finally, it outlines how His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama was forced to flee to India from his own country, followed by thousands of his people, and escorted by a group of Chushi Gangdrug fighters and Tibetan officials.
It is undoubtedly one of the most indelible events that happened in the long history of Tibet. Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, was under the dominance of the People’s Republic of China since the Tibetan government was forced to sign the ‘Seventeen Point Agreement’ in 1951, which recognized China’s rule in return for its promises to protect Tibet’s political system and Tibetan Buddhism. Many Tibetans were dissatisfied at heart and a few ‘protests’ had happened due to the general Tibetan public’s disapproval of the agreement that was forced on the Tibetan side under duress. And it made them fear that their country would eventually fall into the hands of the vicious Chinese.
Tibet by then had lost a great deal of military power as the influence of Buddhism had grown even deeper amongst its people. Under it, Tibetans had chosen to live the ‘peaceful’ way of life. And so, the country’s military power eventually weakened, including due to not acquiring enough weapons, lack of training and modern supplies, and on account of remaining aloof from world conflicts. They even knew that if China was to occupy Tibet all of a sudden, there would have been little to no chance of victory.
However, the heroic and courageous fighters in the Chushi Gangdrug resistance army (‘Volunteer Defence of the Faith’ army) took it upon themselves to protect the religious faith, nationhood, and ethnicity of the Snowland of Tibet by risking and sacrificing their very lives in fighting the barbaric enemy.
It was rising tension between the two sides after the signing of the so-called agreement which eventually led to an armed conflict between Tibetan guerrillas and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA). It began in 1956 in the Kham and Amdo regions, when China subjected their residents to ‘socialist reforms’. Their guerrilla war later spread to other areas of Tibet. The ferocity of the resistance put up by the Tibetan resistance fighters earned them everyone’s applause and respect. However, in the end, they ended up being routed by the enemy due to lack of modern supplies which the Chinese PLA possessed. The CIA (America’s Central Intelligence Agency) provided training and arms, and this enabled the Tibetan resistance to last through 1962.
This absorbing account goes on to show how Tibetans were enslaved, deprived of their basic rights, forcibly brainwashed by the Chinese, and were all too often martyred for their faith. It truly shows how a deceiving China cunningly and carefully planned everything, and tricked the Tibetan people by sugar-coating their every word and action, distributing silver coins here and there, and even giving the elderly and the sick free medical treatment. By such means, the Chinese tricked the Tibetan people into coming to its side, making them think highly of them. Indeed, many Tibetans took to trusting the Chinese more than their own side, and their own people.
The book covers all sorts of struggles made by the brave people of Tibet for their freedom and independence. It is a great source of information for scholars and researchers on Tibet, as it is based on first-hand accounts of former fighters. It was personally a very moving, disturbing and stimulating read for me as a young Tibetan who wishes to learn more about our history, and aspires to be a Tibetan who truly understands what it means to say “Free Tibet”.
This book brings to light our honourable yet tragic history, which has otherwise been buried under the lies and destruction and rewritten histories of the Chinese Communist Party, to be spewed out extensively to the rest of the world for the past six decades. Unlike the flood of biased Chinese media reports and falsely evidenced and fictional version of history, the information in this book were gathered from original sources.
One of the most important reasons why I enjoyed reading this book was how neatly it summarizes all the first-hand information given by former fighters, and how nicely they managed to make the readers imagine and feel for themselves what was experienced by those resistance fighters. This book is much more than just words on paper; it shows the actual sorrow, suffering, and pain the Tibetan people had to endure under the Chinese Communist Party’s invasion of our land. It shows how China eventually revealed itself to be a hungry tiger in a sheep’s skin. But it also shows how the small army of Tibetans with a deeply patriotic spirit later played a huge part in the fight for Tibet’s freedom. This is a must-read book for today’s generation of Tibetans, as many of us still don’t know of the sacrifices and lives that were lost in vain, and for the reason that we stay true to our nation, religion and faith.
* Tenzin Norzin is a year 8 Tibetan school student who’s aspiring to know more about the Tibetan history by reading and exploring various Tibetan history books and historical documentaries on Tibet.