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Buddhadharma : Summer 2009
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly summer 20 0 9 76 and the victims of the violent uprising were both Chinese and Tibetan. Tibetan independence from the Chinese state was not a significant goal, according to their interviews. The book also challenges the assumption that this con- flict was primarily driven by the desire to practice religion. According to the authors, the Nyemo villagers who joined Gyenlo were driven by anger about onerous grain taxes and fear of agricultural collectivization. Later, as the nun’s fame as a medium grew, Gyenlo devised a plan to exploit her for their own ends. They hoped that she could exhort the villag- ers to act against Nyamdre under the goddess’ protection, calling them Gyenlo’s Army of the Gods. This strategy suc- ceeded until the PLA retaliated with violence and captured the nun. Throughout their study, the authors bring gripping evi- dence and astute analysis to bear on this little-documented period of Tibetan history. However, some caveats emerge upon reading this carefully crafted account. First, as the authors acknowledge, the reliability of oral history interviews is flawed given faulty or selective memories, as well as the deliberately slanted narration of events. This is even more the case in the Tibet Autonomous Region today, where the Nyemo incident remains controversial and interviewees may feel inhibited from expressing themselves freely. Given these conditions, there is much room for interpretation. Second, although movements may begin under very local- ized conditions, they can take on agendas that have little to do with the original impetus or plans of the elite leadership. In addition to economic hardship, villagers were unhappy about new prohibitions on religious practice with the onset of the Cultural Revolution. Once Trinley Chödrön began practicing as a medium, she tapped into the community’s latent desire for religious practice, as her ascendant popularity and loyal fol- lowing made clear. Recognizing this, Gyenlo leaders promised villagers that once they were in control, they would allow the open practice of Buddhism. Even if religious dimensions did not develop until some months after Gyenlo’s initial plans against Nyamdre officials in Nyemo County, their subsequent vital role warrants deeper analysis. Readers looking for thoughtful and well-informed perspec- tives on “the Tibet question” will not be disappointed. These volumes resist easy answers and black-and-white explanations, preferring to set forth new research and complex viewpoints. The authors take care to draw extensively on both Tibetan and Chinese language sources and informants. Perhaps more important, many of the contributors have seriously engaged with ethnic Tibetan and Chinese scholars of Tibetan stud- ies in the People’s Republic of China and beyond—scholars who have long been overlooked in Western explorations of Tibet. We can only hope that continuing social and intellectual exchange among these groups will further a spirit of coopera- tion and mutual understanding. Reviews CatherineSCheutze w ww. g omd eusa.org 2009