Forbidden Memory


Forbidden Memory

Tibet during the Cultural Revolution

Tsering Woeser
Photographs by Tsering Dorje
Edited by Robert Barnett
Translated by Susan T. Chen
Foreword by Wang Lixiong

576 pages
345 photographs, 2 glossaries, 1 appendix


April 2020


$39.95 Pre-order

About the Book

The Cultural Revolution hit Tibet like a typhoon in 1966. Red Guard cadres destroyed irreplaceable cultural artifacts, enforced political indoctrination, and destroyed temples and monasteries in an attempt to obliterate Tibetan Buddhism. Since then, Chinese authorities have wielded the politics of national unity and modern civilization to cover up the regime’s reign of terror, even as officials have admitted to “excesses” elsewhere.

Tibetan writer-activist Tsering Woeser uses rarely seen photographs taken by her father, Tsering Dorje, to tell the haunting story of those fateful months. Merging images with eyewitness accounts and expert analysis, Tsering Woeser reflects on Tibet’s ethnic character and traditions before detailing how the twin calamities of foreign invasion and cultural obliteration transformed a pastoral Buddhist state into a land of nightmares. At the same time, she adds her impassioned denunciation of the invasion to a chorus of other Tibetan voices against the decades-long silence surrounding Chinese atrocities.

Heartbreaking and revelatory, Forbidden Memory provides a long-overdue reckoning of China’s role in Tibet’s tragic past.

Author Bio

Tsering Woeser is a poet, essayist, and blogger and one of the most prominent voices of the Tibetan independence movement. Two of her books have been published in English, Tibet on Fire: Self-Immolations against Chinese Rule and Voices from Tibet: Selected Essays and Reportage. Woeser has received the Prince Claus Award and the U.S. Department of State’s International Women of Courage Award. She lives under close surveillance in Beijing. Tsering Dorje (Cheng Kuande) (1937–1991) was an officer of the People’s Liberation Army and enthusiastic photographer and chronicler of the Cultural Revolution in Tibet. Robert Barnett is an associate researcher at the Lau Institute of Chinese Studies at King’s College, London, and a visiting scholar at Pembroke College, Cambridge. Susan T. Chen is a translator. Her previous translations include Feng Jicai’s Chrysanthemums and Other Stories.


“[This] is one of the most fascinating documents of recent history I have ever encountered. . . . Remarkable.”—Roger Pulvers, Japan Times

“Through the direct perception and power of photographs, coupled with detailed interviews and in-depth analysis, Forbidden Memory reveals how the Chinese government transformed the secluded Buddhist state [of Tibet] into a hell on earth. . . . More people must join in the exceptional work that Woeser has undertaken.”—Yu Jie, China Perspectives

Table of Contents

Wang Lixiong

A Note on the Photographs    
Tsering Woeser

Defining Revolution: A Note on the Word Shajie    
Tsering Woeser

Robert Barnett

A Note on the English Edition    
Robert Barnett and Susan T. Chen

I. Smash the Old Tibet! The Cultural Revolution Arrives    
On the Eve of Revolution    
The Sacking of the Jokhang    
The Red Guards in Lhasa Take Action    
How Was the Jokhang Sacked?    
The Red Guards from Mainland China    
The Aftermath of the Sacking of the Jokhang    
Who Is to Be Blamed?    
After the Sacking    
Denouncing the Ox-Demon-Snake-Spirits    
Ox-Demon-Snake-Spirits in Tibet    
The Diversification of Activists    
Rule by Intimidation: Life Under the Neighborhood Committees    
Changing Names    
The Barkor Becomes “Establish-the-New Avenue”    
The Norbulingka Is Changed to the “People’s Park”    
Renaming Chagpori as “Victory Peak”    

II. Civil War among the Rebels: “Whom to Trust—The Faction Decides!”    
The Two Main Rebel Factions: Key Facts    
Factional Ideologies: Fighting over the Same Idea    
A Rivalry of Blood and Fire    
The Dust Settles    

III. The Dragon Takes Charge: The People’s Liberation Army in Tibet    
Military Rule    
The People’s Liberation Army in Tibet    
Conflicts within the Military    
The Passionate Dedication of the Military Propaganda Teams    
Everyone a Soldier: The Tibetan Militia    

IV. Mao’s New Tibet: Revolutionary Violence and Destruction    
The Revolutionary Committees    
The People’s Communes    
Installing a New God    

V. Coda: The Wheel Turns    
The Karmic Debt    

Postscript: Forty-Six Years Later     
Return to Lhasa    
Forty-Six Years Later

Appendix: Jampa Rinchen’s Testimony    
Glossary of Chinese and English Terms    
Glossary of Tibetan Terms        

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