Mémoire interdite: New Source on the Cultural Revolution in Tibet

This past few months in Chengdu and in my October foray into Tibet, I often found myself wondering where I could get more solid documentation on the impact of the Cultural Revolution in Tibet.  While the topic is not completely suppressed (appearing in truncated form in Party histories published in Tibet), it is, with out a doubt, submerged.

Enter Woeser, the top-flight Tibetan blogger, author, and human rights activist writing in Chinese from Beijing (and, about twice a year, Lhasa).  Le Monde carries a very solid review of her new book of Cultural Revolution testimonies from 13 Tibetans who experienced it, a book totaling more than 500 pages.    A Tibetan-independence organization in Paris carries another review of the text.

The book was previously published in Taiwan, is discussed by Woeser on her blog, and appears to have a promo on YouTube for the “reading only after Gesamtkunstwerk” crowd.

Woeser is friends with Nobel Prize winner (and current resident of a prison in Liaoning province Liu Xiaobo); check out the cover image of the Parisian journal Liberation on the day Liu was awarded in absentia.  Somehow this is more tolerable and even affecting than the kind of bromides American newspapers like the New York Times were writing about Liu at the time.

In any case, students of the Cultural Revolution in Tibet now have another accessible source with which to contend!

The magnificent Pierre Haski of Rue89’s photo of an ephemeral updating of the Cultural Revolution, between 14 and 18 on rue de l’Ermitage, Paris, it has since been painted over; click image for link


  1. Thanks for your post! It’s confusing that the French edition is a translation of 《西藏記憶》 Tibet Remembered but has been titled “Mémoire interdite” which was actually the title of the other book about the Cultural Revolution in Tibet 《殺劫》by Woeser that carried all the photos taken by her father…

    1. Thanks Dechen; hope to have more about this book in the coming months. I think I will pick it up in a few weeks in Paris. I’ve been admiring your writing for a few months now, glad to be of some use to your work.

      1. Great, look forward to hearing more of your views on it. If you don’t have a copy of 《殺劫》I highly recommend it, you can get it in Taiwan or HK, it has also been published in Japanese and Tibetan! Please stay in touch, via blogs or email 🙂

  2. Please pay more attention to detail. The Tibetan Community in France currently supports the Official middle way path (Genuine autonomy).

    1. Thanks, I will bop around on the linked website a bit and try to get more literature on this when I am in Paris later this month. In the meantime, I appreciate the criticism and will make an effort to fix up the language in this entry ASAP.

      1. If you had a link on this, or to anything else on Tibetans in France (who apparently form a cohesive community in terms of supported policies?) it would be further appreciated!

  3. I find it very intriguing how much value, as well as controversy, is set on the history of the Tibetan culture as well as this new literary movement to expose it. Woeser seems to be one of much controversy in her boldness of writing.

    1. Woeser is tough, so is her husband Wang Lixiong. Somehow both of them soldier on in their writing and in their dissent. Hopefully they have garnered enough of a following where any state action against them would trigger a serious and damaging outcry. (Not arguing for “social instability” here, but if she had friends in the White House or in the Champs d’Elysee, it might help. Just saying.)

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