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Special> China's Tibet: Facts & Figures> Beijing Review Archives> 1983
UPDATED: May 7, 2008 NO. 37, 1983
Tibet: Literature and Art Flourish

Tibet's literature and art are experiencing unprecedented prosperity, recording many "firsts" in the last three years. These "firsts" in the autonomous region's history include the publication of literary and art journals in the Tibetan language, the first Tibetan novel on a contemporary theme, the performance of a number of dramas by Tibetan playwrights, the first TV play by the Tibet regional television network, the first regional painting, fresco and photo exhibitions, and the display of Tibetan calligraphy works at a national exhibition.

Now, out of a population of only 1.9 million, there are more than 1,000 professional literary and art workers in the region, compared with just a few in the past. Among the region's 87 members of various national writers', dramatists', musicians' and photographers' associations,60 are native Tibetans.

The first generation of Tibet's writers has now taken shape. Of the 250 local writers, more than half are Tibetans. They have published the first group of journals including Xizang Wenyi (Tibetan Literature) and Xizang Qunzhong Wenyi (Tibetan Popular Literature). The Tibetan edition of Xizang Wenyi comes out every other month, and has a circulation of 10,000.Last year saw 500 new Tibetan novels, poems, stories and folk tales.

In the last three years, 30 literary works won prizes at national contests. Before that time, no Tibetan work had ever won a prize. Survivors, by Yexi Dainzin, is the first novel to describe the solemn and stirring struggle waged by the Tibetan serfs for their survival. It won a national award for its interesting plot, its vivid description of the mysterious customs of Tibetans and its strong local flavour. The short story, A Journey Home Serenade, by Zhaxi Dawa, is one of the best in the country. Zhaxi Dawa,24, with a junior middle school education, has completed a considerable body of work in a relatively short time.

Suolang Cering is a young writer of satiric comedies. His works, which combine folk legends with real life, are acclaimed by the Tibetan people.His other two works for duet ballad singing and comic dialogue in Tibetan have won national awards.

Pilgrimage, a TV play shown by China Central Television last Spring Festival, was created, edited, directed, filmed and cast by the Tibetans. It is about an old Tibetan Buddhist who, inspired by the new policy on religious freedom, walks together with his daughter from his hometown to Lhasa to pay homage. It has a wide audience both in Tibet and in the hinterlands.

In recent years, such traditional art forms as Tibetan opera, ballad singing, national singing and dancing have been restored and developed. The eight major traditional operas, including Princess Wen Cheng, Prince Nuosang, have been restaged and new ones on contemporary themes have been written. Lhasa has established its first ballad singing troupe. King Gesar, a 10-million-word ancient folk epic handed down orally, is now being written down and preserved. The first nine volumes of it have already come off the press. More than 100 frescos in Tibet's major monasteries have been reproduced and exhibited in Beijing.

"This is the result of the new policies adopted in recent years in the region," said Cedan Zhoima, Chairman of the Tibet Regional Literary and Art Federation. Cedan Zhoima, a singer who rose to fame in the late 1950s, noted that Tibet's recent economic development has provided a better material base for the prosperity of its literature and art. By 1985, she estimated, there will be more than 500 Tibetan writers and the number of literary and art journals will double.

(This article appears on page 20, No. 37, 1983)

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