Interview poet Dongsai
Interview Poet Dongsai
Dongsai, a famous Tibetan poet, was born in Thangnak Village of Qinghai county( historically named Lhade clan), Amdo of Tibet. In recent years, he has been in exile in India --- an ancient Buddhist country. He used to be a specially consigned researcher, working on the historical demarcation of Sino-Tibet border. Presently, he works as researcher for the International Campaign for Tibet.
Date of interview: Feb12,2006
Jing short for JingWa, Dong short for Dongsai in the following conversation:
Jing: Thank you very much for appearing in front of me finally. I always mistook NamloYak and Dongsai for two different men. First one was supposed to be an old poet, and other one was a young poet. So, your appearance just is a surprise for me. I think I should thank for Buddha for this opportunity. I am wondering when you started to write poetry. What kind of symbolization you want to express through your poetry based on your life experience?
Dong: Oh, actually I’m not really young, it has been half of 70. Buddha has a saying that: Enlightened lay beings are Buddhas, while unenlightened Buddhas are lay beings". So you see that we all are truly Buddhas, therefore, there is no need to thank Buddha for this opportunity, doesn’t it? Instead, we should thank ourselves.
Indeed, I’m very happy that you have appeared in front of me as well. It gives me a feeling that I have met an old friend by chance after many years. My virgin poetry collection was published in 1989. It might be titled "Hope" if I'm not wrong. At that time, I was truly a captive of hope. I wrote for Hope. And I tried to unveil a feeling of struggle, which everyone wanted to speak up, but nobody dared to do so. In fact I am not sure myself whether I was able to express it in that situation. However, I believe that poetry should not be limited by nationality, century, social classes, genre, and it also should not be confined to a specific writing style. There are few creative ideas about poetry, which normally divide poems into several different groups, for instance Doctrine and Sect. All these ideas come from people's imagination about "Hope", and they just want to describe a kind of state of mind and moral world in that sociality.
Jing: Being poets, both of us have gone into an irreversible path, in which people have been losing their mother tongue. But I think you fled from a Buddhist country to another Buddhist country, isn't it? Surely, that Buddhist country is much more ancient. Ancientness means that you will be able to experience harder experience in your life, and also could understand the pains of being exiled, isn’t it?
Dong: That's true! We have gone into an irreversible path, in which we have lost our mother tongue and are living in exile. It has been formed under the current pressurized situation in our society. However coercion impels one to grow up. At this point, we can judge something is good or bad only by percentage. India is an ancient country indeed; she has her own advantages, but not flawless. Tibet is as same as this. As long as it is a place where human beings inhabit, there are advantages and shortcomings. But normally we charge or measure one thing, which need to be corrected and developed, only by its importance.
Jing: I'm always eager to go to Dharamsala. It's simply because of that: Firstly I want to end up the curiosity of a poet about this place; secondly I just want to find the ultimate answer for a poet to seek spiritual home. I’m a homeless person, a real refugee. It isn't entirely right to attribute my bad mood that supposed every ordinary person should have a political reason. I wonder how do you understand Dharamsala, and what does Dharamsala mean to you? Is it a hometown that you have recognized? Or is it still a second home for you, the same as Jingwa’s feeling toward California?
Dong: My first sensation is as same as Jingwa’s feeling toward California. But Dharamsala has many different aspects deserve to be observed. For instance, the experience of harmony between the Tibetan Government in Exile and the Indian Government, the mystery of endless visiting by different people from all over the world, the inside story of Western women looking for Tibetan or Eastern men, pursuing advanced studies on Buddhism, learning Tibetan, discussing the Tibetan cause and so on. The more special phenomenon in this place is that when famous person arrives in Dharamsala, he seems a commoner. So it shows that Dharamsala is already used to the circumstances that it has become a very transient place. Last year, a friend of mine made a joke with me that: Dharamsala is a place that can turn a famous person into a simple one, and turn a simple person into a famous one.
Jing: Oh, it is a place can turn a simple person into a famous person? That’s even more interesting.(Laughs)
Dong: Yes! It's simply because of its attraction. There are many kinds of people from all over the world who flow into Dharamsala every year in order to seek a possibility to build up their lives including Tibetans. It is really hard to find a person, who knows nothing, whether he is a real one or hypocritical one. Every one seems know both politics and literature perfectly. It presents a picture showing that "all of the dragons are climbing up the Himalayas, they are determined so much on their goals to reach the tops whatever height mountains are". Look at this phenomenon from the angle of poetry. Even though it is a kind of voiceless picture, still now nobody has drawn it out.
Jing: What’s your attitude to the future of Tibet? Do you think Tibet should either copy Western way or remain traditional religious way as it used to be? Or is there any better expectation?
Dong: I'm very optimistic about the future of Tibet, well, maybe it is just a delusion. I told friends inside Tibet that democracy has no national border, has no fixed mode. It is the optimal mode for people to protect their own rights. At least, it seems like that these days. Certainly, there is a concern about this mode, firstly we should find out who has formulated the definition of this mode. On the other hand, is this mode voted or decided by the public, or it is formulated by a ruling class under the name of the people. If it is the second mode, we must be careful, because it is not certain whether it is a mode to protect people’s rights. It has a kind of link that the minority submits to the majority, but it must be a link that does not ignore the welfare of the minority. On the other hand, even though a mode formulated by the voting of people can be revised or improved. Sometimes, as soon as democracy be mentioned immediately, associated with the mode of Western or America. Probably it is due to improper propagandas.
Jing: You had been in jail from 1993 to 1997. As a member of Writers in Prison Committee, I am concerned more about your situation in jail. Could you tell me in brief about the life of a poet in jail? Were the prison guards Tibetans? Was it the mode that prisoners controlled prisoners? It is said that criminals controlled political prisoners?
Dong: Two meals a day, two trips to the toilet with ten minutes for each time. This is the life I spent in jail. If I did not have hope in my mind, I had already become insane. At that time, hope helped me much; everything should be contributed to its power. Mostly prison guards in jail were Chinese, but there were still one or two Mongolians, as Haixi is the Mongolian and Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. The jail was the type that prison guards controlled prisoners. For further details on my imprisonment life, please read my collection of prison in Chinese translation. This poem collection of prison had written between May10, 1993 to November14, 1997. At that time, I was secretly imprisoned by the State Security Bureau of Qinghai province in many different jails; for instance Ledu Jail, PingAn Jail and Delingha Jail.