Tsering Woeser’s (Re)Construction of Tibetan Identity
Symbolic reconstruction of “purple ruins”—the abandoned ruins of traditional Tibetan buildings, monasteries, temples, and old manors of the aristocracy—has become one of the main topics of Tibetan Sinophone dissident writer Tsering Woeser. Her effort to preserve them not so much as testimonies of the glorious Tibetan past, but rather of the dark chapters of modern Tibetan history and as an indictment of Chinese rule in Tibet, has intensified during the last decade with the surge of commercialization and increase in mass tourism—trends that are rapidly changing the face of Tibet and the urban landscape of Lhasa. In her book Purple Ruins (Jianghong se de feixu), published in January 2017 in Taiwan, Tsering Woeser has combined a subjective perspective (poems, personal memories, interviews, etc.) with “folk tales” (minjian gushi) including legends, oral histories, and gossip, and with historical material. While reconstructing the image of both the “old” and the “new” Tibet in her book, she contests the official Chinese representations and narratives of Tibet, Tibetan history, and Tibetan culture, appropriating postcolonial theories to reinterpret Chinese imperial/colonial endeavors in Tibet from past to present. The aim of this paper is to examine how Tsering Woeser engages with the complexities of official Chinese representations of Tibet in an attempt to (re) construct the missing parts of modern Tibetan history that have been concealed or even intentionally erased by the Chinese official discourse and to (re)construct modern Tibetan identity against the background of the dominant Chinese culture and ideology.
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