Ngaba is a small Tibetan town with only 10,000 people and didn’t even have a traffic light until 2013. Yet it is known as the “self-immolation center of the world.” Why did Tibetans from this tiny town choose to die in such a gruesome and horrific way? You will find the answer in Barbara Demick’s well-researched and beautifully written book, Eat the Buddha: Life and Death in a Tibetan Town, a book about the history and people of Ngaba.
Despite all the curiosity about Tibet, most of us know very little about Tibetan history, its rich culture, the Tibetan people, and their complex relationship with Han Chinese. When I was in China, all I knew of Tibet were the things Chinese Communist Party (CCP) propaganda wanted me to believe: Tibet was always part of China since the beginning of time; the Dalai Lama is a traitor and separatist; and before the Chinese army “liberated” Tibet in 1950, the Tibetan ruling class treated ordinary Tibetan people like slaves and subjected them to horrifying punishment for even minor mistakes, such as turning offenders’ skulls into wine cups or using their skin to cover drums.
Since the CCP has prevented Tibetans from publishing literature and history from their perspective, most Han Chinese, including myself, thought the CCP’s propaganda on Tibet had to be true. This is why a book such as “Eat the Buddha,” based on interviews of Tibetans and how their lives intertwined with Tibet’s history spanning from 1930 to the present, is indispensable to set the record straight for Tibet and its people.
Ngaba is the capital of the Mei kingdom, one of the many smaller kingdoms in Tibet. The king and his people revered the Dalai Lama as their spiritual leader, but they kept their independence from the Dalai Lama and China. Life on the Tibetan plateau is challenging – Ngaba is at 11,000 feet elevation and the harsh weather makes agriculture difficult.
Tibetans, who were either farmers, herdsmen, or monks, were often poorly nourished but rarely went hungry. Unlike the CCP’s propaganda, the Mei kings and queens
Continue reading on thefederalist