“They Have Guns, and I, a Pen”: Highly Valuable New Source on the Tibetan Rebellion

This 297-page first-person account of the Tibetan uprising of spring 2008 is being published, like, today, in Germany:

via Lungta Verlag
via Lungta Verlag

Tsering Woeser is a Tibetan writer and blogger.  Her book is being published by Lungta Verlag, which is the publishing house for the German Tibet Initiative.  The direct translation of the title into Chinese is “你有枪,我有笔,” but in fact the original title was 《鼠年雪狮吼》 which had been published in Taiwan this past March.

or, as JustRecently renders it, and follows with analysis:

“You have the Guns, I have a Pen”. It’s a keyboard, in fact. She started documenting the Tibetan riots of March 2008 as a blog. In Taiwan, this book was published by Fair Morning Publishing in March this year, under the Chinese title “Year of the Rat, Snow Lion’s Roar” (鼠年雪狮吼), or “The Snow-Lion Roaring in the Year of the Mouse”.

I like the new title for a couple of reasons: 1) Germans don’t know much about the Year of the Mouse and 2) it reflects that Germanic penchant (or hunger) for individual moral courage, the praise for the pacifist which the United States lauds in the Germans but rarely itself hears, and 3) guns and pens should more frequently be juxtaposed in book and article titles.

Aha!  I recall a conference paper I once gave!  For all you citation-hungry academics, here it is: Adam Cathcart, “I Will Be the First to Lay Down My Pen for a Gun: Chinese Schoolchildren and the War with Japan,” presented at Conference on Children and War, Rutgers Center for Historical Analysis, Rutgers University, April 9, 2005.  The phrase derives from a Xinhua dispatch, allegedly a quote from a female student who is burning with anger over the American invasion of North Korea.

While East Germans were in full solidarity with the DPRK and the PRC (especially wide-eyed at Mao, as my archival research in Berlilin suggests), I don’t think that the Lungta Verlag had a Xinhua reprise in mind.  No!  There is something pure about this title, and it is good.

Here without further ado is the press release followed by my translation:

Als am 10. März 2008 in Lhasa Unruhen ausbrechen, beginnt die tibetische Schriftstellerin Tsering Woeser – zunächst als Blog – die täglichen Proteste, ihre Ausdehnung über ganz Tibet und die Reaktionen der chinesischen Sicherheitskräfte zu dokumentieren.

Zu einer Zeit, als ausländische Beobachter des Landes verwiesen werden und China nur die eigene Propaganda über die Zustände in Tibet an die Öffentlichkeit lässt, wird Woesers Blog für ihre Landsleute in Tibet, China und im Exil zu einer Nachrichtenquelle von unermesslichem Wert. Heute sind ihre Berichte ein aufrüttelndes Zeugnis der anhaltenden Unterdrückung in Tibet.

When the Lhasa Unrest broke out on 10 March 2008, the Tibetan writer [actually writeress, since she has a gender!] next began a blog to document the daily protests, their circumference over all Tibet and the reaction of the Chinese security forces.

At the time, when foreign reporters were forbidden from the land and only [regime] propaganda about the uprising was allowed to be spread, Woeser’s blog was a news source of vast worth for her compatriots in Tibet, China, and in exile.  Today her reports are a jarring certification of the ongoing oppression in Tibet.

I happen to believe that German perceptions of Tibet are rather important as far as topics go, and anticipate providing little updates from time to time in this space on, for instance, Der Spiegel features on His Holiness.

For more information about Tsering Woeser, see the following:

•JustRecently’s essay today on Woeser and the Frankfurt Book Fair, and his prodigious fund of essays re: Woeser prior to today;

•the New York Times’ wonderfully poetic feature in April 2009 which I willfully ignored;

•an interview with Woeser in Tibetan translated into English by a Tibetan (via India/Europe/U.S.);

•an activist website profile of Woeser (favorite line: “Please note that there are no fax numbers for the Chinese authorities”);

•an English translation of the introduction of the Taiwan/Chinese version of Tsering’s account of 2008 disturbance;

•Woeser’s blog from March 10-25, 2008, in both English and Chinese via The Epoch Times;

•a short profile of Woeser by PEN American writers;

•her Wikipedia entry is woefully incomplete, but it has one redeeming quality: this magnificent citation: 2008 “Mémoire interdite. Témoignages sur la Révolution culturelle au Tibet” ([or, in my translation of title,] Forbidden Memory: Testimonies of the Cultural Revolution in Tibet), éd. Bleu de Chine, trad. Li Zhang & Bernard Bourrit. (à paraître);

and Woeser’s blog, Invisible Tibet (看不见的西藏)

Hat tip to JustRecently; 没有JustRecently就没有这文章。


  1. No doubt rebellion will be the last option for incorrect government choice but silent protestes must also be taken into look at.

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