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Gonpo Tsering Who I have never met

posted Apr 20, 2013, 5:04 AM by The Tibetan Political Review   [ updated Apr 20, 2013, 5:09 AM ]
By Dhondup Tashi Rekjong

Originally written in Tibetan


I first encountered Gonpo Tsering's work on the Tibetan website Khabdha.† Khabdha was launched in the summer of 2008 and Gonpo Tsering started blogging on the site soon after. We got to know each other in depth over an argument about the famous Tibetan poet Jangbhu. The argument was over whether Jangbhu was an icon of contemporary Tibetan literature or not.  After that, I published several pieces about my childhood memories in Tibet on Khabdha and Gonpo Tsering asked about my father in a few comments. My father had been a Tibetan teacher at Dakmer Tibetan primary school in Malho Autonomous county in Amdo where Gonpo Tsering was born and where he  was a teacher also. Later, I asked my father about Gonpo Tsering and he said, "Gonpo Tsering wasn't there when I was a teacher at the school, but I saw him a couple of times in the town."

In the summer of 2009, I became the editor of Khabdha. During the two years that I was editor, I hoped to publish a journal that collected the best articles, essays, poems and short stories that we had published on Khabdha.  I tried hard to accomplish that task, but it didn't work out. In this collection, which never went to print, I had chosen two pieces from Gonpo Tsering's writings: "A Trip to the Seaside"  and "Father's Will."  A few lines from this poem "Father's Will" is below:

One day father will die

Nobody can predict when father will die

When father dies

Carry his corpse to a Tibetan border area such as either Ladakh, Sikkim, or Bhutan

Let Vultures eat his corpse 

Let them eat his corpse by separating his flesh and blood

Also, break down his bones and grind them and let Vultures enjoy

To stop the blood from splattering your faces

Grind them between stones by putting sand on them

I can't remember exactly when and where, but in a conversation with Gedun Rabsal, he said "If you want to write a good article, you should write articles like Gonpo's "A Trip to the Seaside". This advice remains vivid in my mind.

In the summer of 2012, I went to visit Pema Bhum in New Jersey.  He needed to go to the post office to send three boxes filled with Tibetan and Chinese books. We carried these three boxes all the way to the post office. I asked him who he was sending the books to and he replied, "I am sending these to Gonpo Tsering because he asked me to send all of them. He reads a lot, especially books in Chinese these days."

Overall, Gonpo Tsering published more than hundred pieces on Khabdha related to Tibetan politics, language and history. There are so many things to learn from not only his writings, but also from his comments.  When he debated on a particular topic, he always went deeper and deeper into its contents.  There are a lot of interesting comments from his discussions with Gedun Rabsal and Dorjee Kangsar about Tibetan language and grammar on Khabdha. When Geshe Thupten Jinpa asked Rabsal to take a look at his Tibetan grammar book before it went to print, Gedun Rasal said he mentioned to  Geshe Thupten Jinpa, "There is Gonpo Tsering in Canada and he is an expert on Tibetan language and grammar. It might be good idea to show him the book as well."

I read all the writings and comments of Gonpo Tsering on Khabdha. A few characteristics of his work are: 1) Easy to understand 2) Always direct and precise, to the point 3) With short rather than long phrases 4) His words are simple and sharp. 

  In contrast, he employs more colloquial language or responds more emotionally. For example, in his comments, he will use words such as "shit", "stupid", "mad" etc. to state his mind. He wasnít someone who paid complete respect or gave complete praise to othersí writings. Whatever he thought, he didnít think too much about other peopleís reactions and held to his own thoughts and ideas.

Tenzin Dickyi wrote an article in English called "Breathing Space: How Word Separation Can Save the Tibetan Language", which was later translated into Tibetan by her father. There was immense discussions over her idea on English and Tibetan websites in exile; writers and readers of the Tibetan language seemed to resist and criticize her ideas more than those working in English.  Gonpo Tsering was one of the few Tibetan writers who endorsed her idea. In one of his responses he wrote, "I said a long time back that Tibetan writing needs to be reformed. I am not saying this because I love reforming and hate the traditional system. Instead, there are real problems in practice and I am saying these things after thinking them over to find the solution for these problems rather than just talking  randomly and without doing research or showing off. Since many Tibetans are losing their interest in reading and writing Tibetan, we should find an alternative rather than keep saying that Tibetan kids' education  is on their buttocks and try to improve their Tibetan by beating them with sticks."

Gonpo Tsering fell ill when he returned to Canada from a trip to Tibet in the fall of 2011.  Pema Bhum visited him twice while Gonpo was ill and recalled, "Even when he was in such a state  where he couldn't digest food properly and was throwing up his food, he never  stopped reading. Particularly, he collected materials and researched a lot about Drusha (A neighboring kingdom of Tibet during the time of Tibetan empire) in both Chinese and English and said that he wanted to write more about it later." 

Unfortunately, we lost him before he could fulfill his wish. We have lost a very good Tibetan writer. His death is truly sad news for Tibetan writers inside and outside Tibet.

The original link:

Note: If you want to read about his personal life and works, please read Pema Bhum's piece about him on Khabdha:

(Dhondup Tashi Rekjong is editor of Karkhung, which publishes translations of English and Chinese articles into Tibetan. He is also the editor Tibet Web Digest and former editor of Khabdha as well.)

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