Kaleidoscope: Ethnic Chinese writers (2) Little Novice

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Half a century ago, a young Tibetan shepherd is revealed to be a living Buddha and is plunged into a world of sky burials and scripture learning, boyish pranks and sublime miracles. 600 years ago, a revolutionary teacher performs miracles and creates whole new school of Buddhism. During the Cultural Revolution, as temples and relics are smashed to pieces about them, a few brave faithful risk their lives to protect the Buddhist legacy. A mix of Buddhist legends, folk stories and modern reportage, Little Novice provides new insight into the turbulent and intriguing history of Buddhism in Tibet.

About Author

Tenzin , born in Tibet, studied journalism at Fudan University, Shanghai. He previously held posts as Deputy Party Secretary of the Tibet Autonomous Region and deputy Secretary of Yunnan Province. He is currently President of the Chinese PEN centre. In 2005 and 2006, he was recognized by a series of awards for his work in the cultural industries, and in 2007 he won the Award for Outstanding Contribution in China’s Creative Industry.

Table of Contents
Jiang Gong
My Childhood Dreams
My Birthdays and Hadas
The Waters of Shuiding Temple
The Dogs of Tibet
Secrets in Catastrophe
The Second Lord Buddha
My Older Cousin,The Monk
Sample Pages Preview
It was early autumn and the lands in the north of Tibet were already covered with a thin layer of snow. In the rolling hills that rose and fell below the snow - capped mountains, the colour of the landscape gradually faded towards the distance as the snow became denser. The effect was like a great, loose brushstroke. The distant, continuous line of mountain peaks looked like gods attired in pure white clothes gazing down upon the world of humans with majesty and coldness. People believed that the mountains of Tibet, like its rivers, were spiritual places: that the lofty, pure, holy mountains are the world in which the spirits reside and that the deep azure lakes are places treasured by the spirits. The birds in the sky, the animals in the mountains are all messengers of the gods; the livestock on the grasslands, the crops in the farmland are all gifts from Buddha and the bodhisattvas.

However, the greater part of this gift was bestowed upon the tribal headmen and the ordinary people always received very, very little. But people rarely complained because the lamas kept telling them: if a person has a large number of livestock, then this is due to the merit they had accumulated in a past life, and if you suffer in poverty, it is due to your sins in your past life. As long as you guard against evil and do good deeds, then you will receive reward in the next life. The next life was a beautiful hope, distant and dimly discernable, but it followed Tibetans like a shadow.

At that time, the Tibetans who lived here used the stars in the heavens to measure their amount of livestock, used the abundance of the plants to determine the livestock migration, used the cycle of the seasons to determine when to harvest the crops, used the jewellery they wore to show the prosperity of their household, used the offerings to the temple to store up karma for their next reincarnation, used the sun, the moon, the stars, and the names of protective deities to name their children and used the spells of the
Buddhist masters and lamas to ward against the interference of evil spirits. They judged a man’s honour by his sword and horse and a woman’s demeanour by her singing and dancing. Of course, they also used the shadow of the sun cast by a pole on the sand table to measure the passing of the seasons, the agricultural roster and the astronomical calendar; they also lit a stick of incense to calculate the time, determine when it was midday and decide what hours should be used to worship the Buddha and the bodhisattvas and the spirits of the mountains, what hours should be used to work for the headman, weave pulu* wool and sew clothes for the nobility and what hours should be used to escape the sinister spells of evil spirits and the oppressive whip of the headman. Ordinary Tibetans were a grindstone, the turning of which was beyond their control.

(Jiang Gong)
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Kaleidoscope: Ethnic Chinese writers (2) Little Novice