This is an interesting historical essay about Tibet, also known as “the roof of the world”. You know, I think that reading about civilizations which are different and far from us – both in space and time – can make our minds open wide, thus to wipe away misconceptions.
For instance, many believe the commingling between political and religious power, which damaged entire societies and led to several religious wars and persecutions, is only linked to the three main monotheistic religions (Christianity and Islam, in particular). But that’s untrue. While reading this book, it becomes very clear how tibetans and buddhists had their share in making world’s story a bloody tale.
So we can really say that we humans are all the same, during any historical period and at any latitude. There have been more political byzantinisms, poisonings, conspiracies and homicides throughout the last centuries of the tibetan plateau than in Game of Thrones or in Borgia’s Rome. And all of this happened before England, France and Russia became interested with that part of the asian continent. Buddhist monks – who were theorically immune to the temptations of wealth and power – were always fighting; and those struggles were unbelievably frequent. Tibet’s rulers were ruthless: violent, cruel and bloody. They didn’t always respect treaties and they also killed diplomats.
Paradoxically, tibetan elites only stopped fighting each other, after the the plateau was invaded by the Communist China. And it was a period of wars that led both sides to do bloody, violent, inhuman and unspeakable things.
Of course, there are also beautiful things to say about the Tibet’s history and culture. It’s the land where Buddhism thrived. It shaped not only the souls, but also the landscape. The beautiful temples became soon an important characteristic of that land, with their incredible architectonic and historical value.
Human vicissitudes are bitter-sweet, we know it. For instance, Christianity has the peaceful example of Saint Francis, but it also has the Crusades. It’s a dualism that can be found in every religion and culture: there’s no perfection nor complete sainthood in the human world. Let us always remember it!
I enjoyed Laurent Deshayes’ style, he’s not difficult to read at all. Thanks to him, we can give a peek into a context which is so far from our usual perspective. And when we look at Tibet, when we look at its history, with its pro and contra, we just undestand that all men experience similar things; no matter where they are or where they come from.
In the end, there’s only one thing I found tough: the names. Tibetan language is very different from european languages and reading and remembering those strange names can be challenging. Apart from this, I really enjoyed this book. I advise you to read it, if an english translation exists. In any case, getting informed about this marvellous land’s history is something everyone should do.
– Giuseppe Circiello –