Shangri-la Deconstructed

Representations of Tibet in the PRC and Pema Tseden’s Films

  • Kamila Hladíková
Keywords: Chinese cinema, minority film, Tibet-related film, Tibetan film, Tibet, China, Tibetan cinema, Pema Tseden, Pad ma Tshe brtan, Wanma Caidan, identity, representation of Tibet


The aim of this article is to compare the cinematic representations of Tibet in Chinese Tibet-related cinematography with the first three films made by the Tibetan filmmaker Pema Tseden (Tib. Pad ma Tshe brtan, Ch. Wanma Caidan 万玛才旦) in an attempt to define “Tibetan films” in contrast to “Tibet-related films,” which are a broader category including films made with no direct or only partial Tibetan participation. I argue that Pema Tseden’s first three feature films should be understood as the first cinematic contributions to be made to modern Tibetan identity-discourse. They present the first genuine Tibetan voices to be heard in the PRC cinema, contesting the images of Tibet, its history, its culture and its people, that have appeared in the officially supported media and mainstream popular culture. Pema Tseden has thus successfully de-constructed the “myth of Shangri-la” that has been misused so many times during recent decades in the name of colonialism and propaganda – both Western and Chinese.


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Author Biography

Kamila Hladíková

KAMILA HLADÍKOVÁ studied Sinology at Charles University in Prague, and completed her PhD in 2011 with the thesis The Exotic Other and Negotiation of Tibetan Self: Representation of Tibet in Chinese and Tibetan Fiction of the 1980s, which was published by Palace University Press in Olomouc in 2013. Since 2007 she has been teaching Chinese literature in the Department of Asian Studies at Palacký University in Olomouc, where she is currently employed as an Assistant Professor. She has published several scholarly articles on Chinese and Tibetan modern literature in academic journals, both in the Czech Republic and abroad. Recently, she has published her translation of Tsering Woeser’s Notes on Tibet (Xizang biji) into the Czech language (Praha: Verzone, 2015).

How to Cite
Hladíková, K. (2016). Shangri-la Deconstructed: Representations of Tibet in the PRC and Pema Tseden’s Films. Archiv orientální, 84(2), 349-380.
Research Article