The Norbulingka Institute's
Literary and Cultural Research Centre
Since the great upheaval that overwhelmed Tibet in the middle of this century, a literary tradition that had evolved and been influential throughout Central Asia for centuries was suddenly brought to a halt. Inflexible ideology replaced classical studies and monks, who had been at the forefront of literary culture, were forced to disrobe and leave their monasteries. During the Cultural Revolution, which in Tibet lasted from the mid-sixties through most of the seventies, books were systematically destroyed and many great scholars perished in detention, during public trials or under the prevailing conditions of hardship. The few who had escaped into exile with His Holiness the Dalai Lama had to painstakingly reconstruct libraries with volumes either to be found in Indian libraries or carried by individuals into exile. With these they sought to continue the education of monks in the monasteries re-established in India.
The eighties brought changes both inside and outside Tibet. At present, among the three regions of Tibet, Tibetan literary skills flourish most significantly in Amdo. With the final demise of the Cultural Revolution in Tibet in about 1978, Tibetan culture entered a period of reconstruction. Two Amdo scholars, Muge Samten and Tseten Shabdrung worked tirelessly, and often without regard for the dangers implicit in their activities, to try and revive what had been destroyed over the previous twenty years. They toured the country, holding classes and teaching Tibetan, urging their pupils to contribute to the preservation of their national language and literature. They argued persuasively that TibetĖs culture and literary traditions were essential in terms of the identity and survival of the Tibetan people. Thanks to their inspiration, poetry and new writing began to appear everywhere. And among the young writers grew a new awareness of the importance of study and composition in Tibetan literature.
There is now a large pool of highly qualified Tibetan writers and scholars. Many of them have published their writings in the literary newspapers and journals which have appeared throughout Tibet. However, the Chinese government have given none of the urgently needed financial support to encourage these trends, and a large pool of talent is left unemployed. A number of these writers have sought their fortunes in the exiled community in India. The timing was just right. As plans for the Academy of Tibetan Culture were finally taking shape, we were able to assemble a team of researchers and writers to form our Cultural and Literary Research Centre. We have been fortunate to be able to place the project under the capable direction of the poet and author Hortsang Jigme.
Of our team of eight young writers, seven are from Amdo. All have come to India in the last five or six years, some more recently, and were otherwise unemployed. Their first project was to produce a monthly eight page newspaper deals exclusively with cultural and literary topics. The first issue of the newspaper, entitled Nor-de, was released on 6th July to mark His Holiness the Dalai LamaĖs birthday. The writers have also begun to work simultaneously on a biannual journal focusing more extensively on cultural and literary topics. Work has also begun on a three-year project to produce a Tibetan encyclopaedia.
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