The emergence of modern Tibetan literature : gsar rtsom
This thesis explores the development of modem Tibetan literature known as gsar rtsom
(new composition), which emerged with great vigour in the 1980s. The first two chapters
look at the cultural milieu of Tibet before the Chinese annexation in the 1950s. In doing
so, they illustrate that while there were changes occurring in the periphery of the Tibetan
cultural world, such as the influence of missionary activities and the impact of British
rule in India, these changes never penetrated to the centre of society. The main body of
the thesis describes how as a result of the Chinese occupation of Tibet, which brought
unprecedented changes and upheaval in Tibetan society, there were profound effects on
Tibet's intellectual world. Specifically, the emergence of modem Tibetan literature is
directly related to the Chinese Communist Party's attempts to introduce a materialistic
and Marxist notion of humanism, and the Party's policy of promoting a secular literary
Modern Tibetan literature emerged first as the officially promoted narrative of an
oppressed people. Modern literature was viewed as an instrument for mobilising the
masses and disseminating the Communist Party's message. The colonising power
determined the style and the subject matter of modern literature. Nevertheless, the thesis
also demonstrates that the emergence of modern literature led to a repositioning of the
intellectual tradition and the construction of an autonomous cultural space, which seeks to
define a modernist discourse on the nature of Tibetan identity.
The thesis examines the subject matter tackled by the leading figures such as Gedun
Chonphel, Dorji Gyalpo, Lungdun Paljor, Jamphel Gyatso, Tashi Palden and Dondrup
Gyal and explores how they addressed issues faced by Tibetans as colonised subjects.
The study demonstrates that, within the limits imposed by the Chinese government.
modern Tibetan literature has become the forum where, on the one hand, the colonising
power is challenged and, on the other hand, the indigenous tradition is contested.