China the Unbeautiful


The photo on the right is of the roof of Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, Tibet, founded by King Songtsan Gampo in 642. Atisha, the famous Buddhist master, taught there in the 11th century. The temple is considered the most sacred site in Tibetan Buddhism, a key destination for Buddhist pilgrims who journey to the capitol. Jokhang’s architectural style is a beautiful mix of Indian vihara, Chinese Tang Dynasty, and Nepalese designs. In 1966, during the Cultural revolution, thousands of Chinese youth attacked and sacked Jokhang and adjoining Ramoche temple. Thousands of Buddhist scriptures were looted and burned. But Jokhang survived.

Now, Chinese authorities are demolishing it.

I was alerted to this article by a post a reader of The Endless Further made on Reddit. The article states that “Chinese authorities are planning to destroy the ancient Buddhist capital of Lhasa, and replace it with a tourist city similar to Lijiang,” which was renamed “Shangri-La” to attract tourists.

It’s sad. It’s outrageous. And there’s not a damn thing anyone can do about it.

In Feburary, Phagmo Dhondup, a Tibetan man in his 20s, met a friend at a restaurant in eastern Tibet. He reportedly told this friend, “If Tibet does not get its freedom and independence, China will annihilate Tibetan culture and tradition.”

Should independence ever come, it will surely be too late for Lhasa.

Later that day Phagmo Dhondup drank a bottle and a half of kerosene, went to the ancient Jhakhyung Monastery, doused himself with the remaining kerosene and set himself on fire.

There are plenty of reasons to have a beef with China: its abysmal record on human rights; it’s unfair economic policies, including the currency manipulation, a major reason for our growing trade deficit with that nation which in turn has caused the U.S. to hemorrhage millions of jobs; the conservative stance on multilateral environmental processes; piracy of Western products and theft of intellectual property – the list goes on and on . . .

Both in governmental policy and in business, China acts as though it does not have to play by the same rules others do. One particularly egregious practice is the way Chinese web service companies bombard servers with their hyper-aggressive spiders, hitting websites with thousands of requests per second, eating precious resources such as bandwidth. This has become such a problem on this blog, that I have had to ban the entire country of China.

The U.S., too, at times has acted as though we could play by different rules, and we have plenty of human rights abuses in our past, but we have learned better. In the 21st century, there is no excuse for ethnic cleansing or the destruction of an entire culture.

How a country with such a beautiful heritage became so ugly is something I know there are answers for, but nonetheless it baffles me.

Let China sleep, for when she awakes, she will shake the world.”

Napoleon Bonaparte

Six decades ago, as Mao’s Communists seized power, the question in Washington was, ‘Who lost China?’ Now, as his capitalist descendants stand astride the world stage and Washington worries about decline, it seems to be, ‘Who lost America?'”

Eric Liu

Tibet’s recent history is that of a holocaust in which ideological conquest took the lives of 1.2 million Tibetans, one-sixth of the population; destroyed 6,250 monasteries, the repositories of 1,300 of higher Tibetan civilization; and decimated the forests and wildlife of a previously protected ecology the size of Western Europe.”

John Avedon, In Exile from the Land of Snows

Photo credit: Antoine Taveneaux


4 thoughts on “China the Unbeautiful

  1. Yes you are right about China, but are completely wrong about the USA. We have not learned a thing. Our imperial nature is just as bad as China’s treatment of Tibet. The treatment of our own is also without merit. Our leaders care only about their own welfare and screw the little guy. I think you need to rethink this. Shadows and echoes of the mind.

    1. Thanks for your comment. Your point is sort of half-taken. I don’t think the U.S. had participated in the direct ethnic cleansing or the attempted destruction of an entire culture since the 1800’s when we tried to wipe out the native Indians. We sill have a lot to do to improve race relations, and tragedies still happen, but not on the same scale, and while the motives for second invasion of Iraq were ideological, and economic, again I don’t think it is close to the magnitude nor the despicable-ness of the Chinese invasion of Tibet

      1. To add David, I guess it is a outlook of being american versus chinese. Also too, setting yourself on fire does not quell the overtaking off tibet.To kill yourself for an ideal is just as wrong as the practice of genocide The chinese government does what all governments do, they hide behind the fear of difference. I stand with the people not with the governments.

        “Murder is our national sport. We murder tens of thousands with our industrial killing machines in Afghanistan and Iraq. We murder thousands more from the skies over Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen with our pilotless drones. We murder each other with reckless abandon. And, as if we were not drenched in enough human blood, we murder prisoners—most of them poor people of color who have been locked up for more than a decade. The United States believes in regeneration through violence. We have carried out blood baths on foreign soil and on our own land for generations in the vain quest of a better world. And the worse it gets, the deeper our empire sinks under the weight of its own decay and depravity, the more we kill.” Chris Hedges


        1. I have mixed feelings about self-immolation. However, I think I do understand that when people feel desperate, they feel the need to take desperate measures. I had mixed feelings about Afghanistan and did not support at all the military action in Iraq. Yet, despite that we invaded those countries, we did not and have not engaged in ethnic cleansing, we have not tried to destroy their culture or religion, and I believe that is what separates us to some degree from China.

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