On the Cultural Revolution in Tibet: The Nyemo Incident of 1969

On the Cultural Revolution in Tibet: The Nyemo Incident of 1969

On the Cultural Revolution in Tibet: The Nyemo Incident of 1969

On the Cultural Revolution in Tibet: The Nyemo Incident of 1969

Synopsis

Among the conflicts to break out during the Cultural Revolution in Tibet, the most famous took place in the summer of 1969 in Nyemo, a county to the south and west of Lhasa. In this incident, hundreds of villagers formed a mob led by a young nun who was said to be possessed by a deity associated with the famous warrior-king Gesar. In their rampage the mob attacked, mutilated, and killed county officials and local villagers as well as People's Liberation Army troops. This groundbreaking book, the first on the Cultural Revolution in Tibet, revisits the Nyemo Incident, which has long been romanticized as the epitome of Tibetan nationalist resistance against China. Melvyn C. Goldstein, Ben Jiao, and Tanzen Lhundrup demonstrate that far from being a spontaneous battle for independence, this violent event was actually part of a struggle between rival revolutionary groups and was not ethnically based. On the Cultural Revolution in Tibet proffers a sober assessment of human malleability and challenges the tendency to view every sign of unrest in Tibet in ethno-nationalist terms.

Excerpt

By late 1968, the violent fighting between revolutionary factions that had devastated inland China during the Cultural Revolution was winding down as revolutionary committees and military control commissions were established and order was restored. In the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR, hereafter called Tibet), however, this conflict continued, and during the summer of 1969, bloody violence erupted in roughly a quarter of the rural counties (tib. dzong; ch. xian). The most famous of these incidents took place in Nyemo, a county in the southwestern portion of Lhasa Municipality (see maps 1–3), on 13–14 June 1969. Conventional wisdom holds that on those two fateful days, hundreds of Tibetan villagers led by Trinley Chödrön, a young nun who believed gods were possessing and speaking through her, launched a series of bloody attacks against local officials and the troops of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) stationed there. According to Chinese records, this force killed fifteen PLA soldiers, seven cadres, and thirty-two grassroots officials and activists. In addition, during a two-week period before and after the attacks, more than twenty local Tibetans had their arms and legs hacked off by the nun’s followers, as the following eyewitness account of one of the surviving victims illustrates.

I was five months pregnant and working as an official for the local xiang
[government], but I couldn’t stay there [because my father had been
attacked and killed, and I had heard the nun’s forces also wanted to seize
me]. So I took my daughter on my back and fled [with my husband] to a

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