The story of the book Resistance and Unity: The Chinese Invasion, Makchi Shangri Lhagyal, and a History of Tibet (1947-1959)
By Tashi Gelek, Dorjee Damdul, and Tashi Dhondup
BY EMAIL, 6 September 2019
When families are separated, we come to know each other through stories. This is the experience of many Tibetans following the Chinese takeover of Tibet. We dream of meeting our relatives, and sometimes our dreams come true. This was the case for me as a young boy in Tibet in the 1980s. During a relaxed period of Chinese policy, my uncle Makchi Shangri Lhagyal returned to Tibet to visit his family. It was the most uplifting and joyful experience of my childhood. He came from India to visit, and brought with him photos of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. We reverently placed these on our family shrine and they remain there to this day.
These sacred photos symbolized that although Tibet was lost, its soul, the Dalai Lama, was safe and living. For young me, the arrival of Makchi Shangri Lhagyal at our ancestral home in Tsawa Bomei in eastern Tibet was an important moment of reckoning and pride.
Tales of Shangri Lhagyal’s bravery and exploits were shared by relatives and friends with much awe. Before meeting him, I had conjured up an image of him as larger than life. As a young boy, both before and after I met him, I thought of him as a living example of Tibet’s unflinching resistance against the Chinese Communist army. But, as a little boy, I did not know the full story of his dealings with the Chinese. Nor did I have any idea that one day I would play a role in telling his story to the world.
As a teenager I escaped into exile and into a new world In India and later in the USA, where much later I had the chance to listen to two audio cassette recordings in which Shangri Lhagyal narrated his life story and the battles he fought with the Chinese. Listening to these tapes was like a ride on an emotional roller coaster. His voice was weak and fading, yet also determined and firm in deliberating his message.
Here was the testimony of the man I admired, who had instilled confidence and a sense of worthiness in me as a young person at a tumultuous time in Tibet. Now in exile, how could I not be involved in passing his message of unity, patriotism, and exemplary service to future Tibetan generations?
A Multi-Generational Project
This book about Makchi Shangri Lhagyal and a people’s history of Tibet is a multi-generational project spanning three continents over five years of dedicated research and hard work involving the entire Shangritsang family. We are happy that the last words of Shangri Lhagyal are finally brought to fruition for a worldwide audience and for the Tibetan people.
As stated in the book’s forward by Professor Carole McGranahan, “Starting with Shangri Lhagyal’s own narration of his life story, recorded on tape by his children before he passed away in 1984, this project grew from a biography of one man to a history of a country and its people. In this detailed book, the Shangritsang family offers the history of Shangri Lhagyal to the people of Tibet as a shared history. In both the pages of the book and the efforts of the family, there is much to learn and admire.”
Together with the other fighters, Shangri Lhagyal was selfless and unflinching in making sacrifices for the Tibetan nation and people. The lessons that we can learn from their stories send a clear, unequivocal message of resistance and unity as we arrive at a crossroads of uncertainty facing our future.
Shangri Lhagyal lived a hard life of struggle. His love for the Tibet nation is continued through his descendants, and this book entitled Resistance and Unity: The Chinese Invasion, Makchi Shangri Lhagyal, and a History of Tibet (1947-1959) is his legacy for generations to come.
In The Art of War, Chinese military strategist and philosopher Sun Tzu said: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
This book is by no means a battle cry for Tibetans. But in order to know the enemy and know ourselves, we need to tell the true, uncensored story of Tibetans’ resistance to China without reservation. We need to give the resistance fighters their right place in history. From a narrower perspective, telling Shangri Lhagyal’s story is a fulfillment of filial duty of his children. On a deeper and somber level, remembering Shangri Lhagyal and others who died for Tibet’s freedom is a way of cherishing and honoring their courage, sacrifice, and memories. It is reliving the gallant history of Tibet’s past generations and passing the torch to the future generations to continue the struggle for Tibet’s freedom.
History repeats itself
What lies ahead for the future of the Tibetan people and their cause is unpredictable. There will be hard choices to make, and the voices of our elder generation will guide us in the right direction. A reviewer of Resistance and Unity stated that “this book is an important addition to the history of Tibetan opposition to the Chinese takeover of their country. Shangri Lhagyal was one of many Tibetans who refused to cooperate with the Chinese as they tried to substantiate and legitimate their claim to sovereignty over Tibet. He, like many others, was forced into open opposition as the only honorable option.”
History repeats itself, and to understand Tibet’s present hardships, we need to know and delve deeper into our past history. Likewise, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has continuously encouraged elderly Tibetans to write truthful and candid narrations of their past lives for the reference of future generations.
Through the story of Chamdowa Shangri Lhagyal, younger Tibetan generations can draw inspiration for the cause of Tibet.
Connecting the dots
In his autobiography, His Holiness the Dalai Lama highly commended the resistance fighters’ valor and patriotism: “in spite of my beliefs, I very much admired their courage and their determination to carry on the grim battle they had started for our freedom, culture, and religion. I thanked them for their strength and bravery, and also, more personally for their protection they had given me.”
Like so many of his compatriots, Makchi Shangri Lhagyal considered his role as a commander in Chushi Gangdrug Tensung Danglang Mar [Four Rivers Six Ranges Army] as service to defend the Dalai Lama and Buddhism.
Perhaps this is the first kind of a book that has the collaboration of extended Tibetan family members in India, Switzerland, and the USA working together to find original sources, record their own memories, and do broader historical research so as to put Shangri Lhagyal and his fellow soldiers’ histories into the necessary historical and political context. This book is a labor of love and determination. Our dedication to telling the true story of Makchi Shangri Lhagyal led us to multiple authentic sources such as personal memories, interviews, books, and academic articles to connect the dots in reconstructing his life and Tibetan history during this perilous period. Resistance and Unity: The Chinese Invasion, Makchi Shangri Lhagyal, and a History of Tibet (1947-1959) offers an intimate understanding of the life of an unsung hero and of Tibet’s trials and tribulations with the People’s Republic of China.
Through the publication of Makchi Shangri Lhagyal’s story and this broader Tibetan history, we honor and salute these forgotten heroes. We offer it to the Tibetan community in this 60th year of exile. Knowing our history will help us come together for the joint cause of Tibet.
The book will be available at Amazon and in book stores after its first launch in Switzerland in September 2019. Or contact any of the authors at [email protected], [email protected], and [email protected]
An earlier video promotion of the book is available at YouTube
China knows, that the Hong Kong is different, and they have to have a long term strategy. Retreat, advance, Waite and ponce.
Tibetan people still have the stone age mentality, of mixing politics and faith. Tibetan society have never go through any political revolution. So even though there is grant of top down democracy, still Tibetan’s inclination to hold on to one HH the Dalai Lama’s single persona for six million Tibetan people has not got over.
I believe that the last defense of Tibet issue will be the success of exile’s democracy and an effective change to selection of reincarnation of HH the Dalai Lama, that China will be left stunned.
HH Dalai Lama should outsmart the Communist party in issues relating to his reincarnations. And when it comes to politics, as he has said, “Sikyong is his boss”, that need to be repeatedly told to the Tibetan diaspora.
I think China will just police the Hong Kong streets moderately while allowing the protestors to vent out.
After a month, the movement will naturally wear out. Protestors will run out of money, get hungry, miss the comforts of home, and generally get tired.
I agree with another commentator who wrote Beijing is likely to resort to divide and rule politics, and set one group against another. Protestors against protestors, business owners against protestors, apolitical everyday people against protestors who affect their commute to job.
Late Karma Choephel is right that Beijing leadership is evil and chronically fears uprising of another minority if they give way to one. His prediction is playing out now. Beijing will not bow down, but will do anything – even going as far as a Hong Kong Square massacre. China knows, as HH Dalai Lama was told by Pandit Jawahalal Nehru, ‘ US will not go to war with China for other people’s benefit.’
It is a sad state of affairs. UN is silent on what is happening in Hong Kong.
If we get Middle Way from China, they will act in similar fashion. They will say, ‘yes, we give you genuine autonomy under mIddle way.’ We will all be happy, and think we succeeded. But few years later, they will take back autonomy, and start dictatorial practices again. By then, it is too late.
Sikyong has PhD in law from Harvard University, the world’s number 1. It is not a easy thing.
He is not maybe as well read as JN, but he is great with communication, and his fluency in English language is breathtaking.
I disagree he is a paper tiger. He is charismatic, as well as intelligent with a bright mind. On the recent Reincarnation speech he gave in Washington DC available on YouTube, he even corrects the moderator on some facts, such as the name of Chinese leader who turned to Buddhism. This shows he is very well informed. Besides, reading news papers, and magazine, might be as equally important as reading books. Information on news papers, and magazines are more current.
Tibet Sun carries interesting article, besides this I like the guy who wrote about Hongkong in the feature. The bearded Tibetan from Kathmandu. Some analysts say that the withdrawal of extradition bill has divided the Hong Kong movement. Now the moderate are saying that it is enough and get into dialogue with Hong kong government, where as the more militant activists are still unrelenting for greater demand calling the withdrawal of extradition bill “too little, too late”. My bet is that the HK have throughly assesses the situation and resort to divide and rule policy. The withdrawal of extradition bill has calmed down and appeased some part of the movement. So without a leader Beijing thinks they will wear them out. A long drawn fight with no end in sights is to the benefit of HK government.
Beijing tactic is same for Tibetan. They have divided the Tibetan movement into two – Middle Way and Rangzen. Thus the Tibetans are left to fight among themselves rather then fighting against the enemy. Without the common and united force for Tibetan, they have lost the momentum!
Following on my previous comment, I wanted to add that I am looking forward to reading “Resistance and Unity: The Chinese Invasion, Makchi Shangri Lhagyal, and a History of Tibet (1947-1959)” and would like to congratulate the writers. We need more books of this nature to give the Tibetan people the much needed optimism and hope for a positive and better future.
I agree. Lobsang Sangay is not only superficial but also misusing his position in the Tibetan administration. His appointment of Chonpel Thupten as head of Tibetan Office in Bangalore is a cause of great concern because we know that many years ago he was kicked out from the Private Office of His Holiness in Dharamsala for some money matters! This clearly shows Lobsang Sangay is not respecting His Holiness and fulfilling His wishes. There are other such controversial appointment cases in Dharamsala, Tibetan settlements in India and Offices of Tibet outside that Tibetan communities are not happy and much talked about. A real leader must be honest and truthful. He should not show favouritism and appreciate people with skills and integrity. Otherwise in the end only the Tibetan nation and cause will suffer and the so-called leader himself will get a bad name and no one will care when he is out of power! Hope the next Sikyong will prove to be a decent and honest leader.
Sikyong Lobsang Sangay said in a VOA interview recently, that he is a news Junky and have no time to read books. So that tells why Sikyong is pretty superficial in his understanding of the world affairs and real issues. This is in contrast to what President Obama said that he resorts to read book as a way of escape from day’s turmoil and restlessness and to enrich his knowledge. That makes him a well read person. While it is understandable, that Sikyong’s time are stretched thin, but merely reading daily news and no reading of substantial works will not make him a good leader. A leader with depth knowledge and scholarship. Sikyong’s confession that he doesn’t read book is a testament of how the Tibetan leader are made of. It contrasts, the depth of former Kalon Samdhong Rinpoche’s erudite and Sikyong’s news Junkey. Isn’t he a really paper tiger?
The authors of the book are not that familiar, I doubt that they are well established writers, but still it is remarkable that a book is coming out.
But I won’t judge until I read it. Time will test the worthiness of the book. I also look forward to Lodi Gyari’s book, which I heard is with publishers for final touch. He was a legendary Tibetan diplomat and the book will be of great importance. Particularly he might have new things to share about his failed negotiations with China, for which he was the lead figure.
The late former Kalon Juchen Thupten said in the video that Shangri Lhagyal is his Makchi. It is pretty interesting, so how come Shangri Lhagyal is unheard of until now. Or did he pass away long ago? Any way, it is good idea to bring out book in English on Tibet issue, so there will be international readers.
Tibetans in exile must have lots of stories to share, but so far exile literature or Tibetan writings has been far and few between. Book remains as a historical record, and such that any information to be shared must be accurate and true.
This seems to be a great book and what is more interesting is a Tibetan family telling the story of their beloved. I look forward to get the book from Amazon, as I am always excited reading books on Tibetan history.
The article shed light on the book, and the brief background to the writing of the book is well stated.
I congratulate the authors and editor for the phenomenal work in bringing out such a significant Tibetan contemporary history.