Saturday, October 28, 2006

Amdo Tibetans, Khampas and America

An aside before I go on:

One of the things that surprised me about going into Tibetan areas for the first time in 2004 was the way they recieved Americans compared to Chinese. That time, I was in the Tibetan region of Amdo, currently Qinghai and southwest Gansu, and was on the edge of the Tibetan and Chinese worlds. Almost everyone spoke good Mandarin; many a good deal better than some Chinese people. I was certainly one of the first foreigners that many of them ever had a chance to speak to. And they were eager to speak. Almost every Tibetan I had a substantial conversation with told me, literally and without my prompting, that Chinese were bad people, that China was bad, that the government told lies and was undemocratic and that Qinghai (and southwest Gansu) was not China- it was Tibet. Teenage kids on the street would even yell out "welcome to Tibet!" and people would show me pictures of the Dalai Lama and ask, "do you know who this is?" What was even more refreshing was their pro-Americanism, with some people even telling me that Bush was good. I can't say I'd agree with that, but after dealing with arrogant, insecure Chinese people who do everything they can to make you feel ashamed that you're American the Tibetan friendliness felt very very good. (I will go into a rant about this particular kind of arrogant and insecure Chinese person in a later entry. It is not a simple matter of them criticizing Bush or American foreign policy or even American culture, which some Europeans or other East Asians may do in the presence of an American without any malice toward that American. It is an attempt to induce as much shame as possible in the American they are talking to, and is a sort of psycholigical sadism that I have encountered only in Han Chinese from mainland China.)
Coming to Tibetan areas again I was expecting something similar, though I was not sure how people would react since I was travelling with Chinese people. In any event, it was certainly not the warm reception I recieved in Qinghai, though it was nonetheless friendly. Finding out that that dog was named after Osama Bin Laden was rather unexpected, especially considering that Tibetans in Qinghai not only proclaimed that they liked America but also felt that Iraq and Iran were evil. With these Tibetans there certainly seemed to be a disconnect between the fact that they named their dog for someone out to kill as many Americans as possible and their friendly interest in America and myself.
Farther west Khampas seemed to take views of China and America closer to those of their Amdo brethren to the north, though their opinions were never as clear-cut and enthusiastically angry as those of the Amdo Tibetans. I will get to the Khampas farther west- who are purely Tibetan, while the Tibetans of Danba are mixed- in my later entries.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

very nice and interesting blog. I am visiting china and tibet this summer. It is true that it has to be tough being from USA and travelling around the world but you don't have to feel ashamed of being Usaian (you know the ethernal discussion about "american" being somebody from the american continent). I am from europe and I can tell you that I don't like to talk about politics with USaians cause our points of view are too far one from another. Anyway, I believe that most americans are very nice, easygoing and friendly whatever their political views are.