TASHI DAWA (1959— ) - The Dictionary

Chinese Literature - Li-hua Ying 2010

TASHI DAWA (1959— )
The Dictionary

TASHI DAWA (1959— ). Fiction writer. Born in Batang, a Tibetan region in Sichuan Province, to a Tibetan father and a Chinese mother, Tashi Dawa grew up in Chongqing and had a typical Chinese education. He published his first story in 1978 and has since made Tibet the central focus of his work. He currently lives in Lhasa and is the vice president of the Tibetan Writers’ Association. He is one of the most recognized names among Tibetan writers in China, noted for his magic realist stories.

As the root-seeking movement spread over Chinese art and literary circles during the 1980s, Tibet became a mecca for artists and writers seeking inspiration, and Tashi joined the pilgrimage. Unlike Ma Yuan, a Chinese writer famous for his Tibetan stories who used Tibet as a background for his innovative fiction, Tashi searched for the religious and mystic traditions of Tibetan culture and recreated them in his tales. In many of the stories collected in Xizang: Ji zai pishengkou shang de hun (Tibet: A Soul Knotted on a Leather) and Xizang, yinmi de suiyue (Tibet: The Hidden Years) realistic narrative and fantasy are seamlessly intertwined, a style he likened to Tibetan storytelling traditions influenced by Buddhism in which time and action are nothing but an illusion. In two of his stories, he borrows from Tibetan cultural practice by building the plots on the number 108, alluding to the number of Tibetan prayer beads: Xizang: Ji zai pisheng shang de hun tells stories that happen in 108 days and Xizang: yinmi de suiyue, a novella, chronicles events that take place in Tibet from 1877 to 1985, 108 years in total. Tashi’s later works are more concerned about contemporary Tibetan life. Yemao zouguo manman suiyue (A Wild Cats’ Long Journey) presents a Tibet that is on the march to modernity. No longer mysterious, it is a world full of incongruities and absurdities brought about by modernization and economic reforms. The urban Tibetan youths, descendants of former serfs and serf owners, have joined the force of capitalist globalization, leaving behind their traditional way of life. Saodong de Xiangbala (Turbulent Shambala), a more complex narrative and arguably his best work, deals with confrontations, negotiations, and compromises between two cultural paradigms in Tibetan society, represented by two types of characters: the ones who operate within the bounds of a realistic world and the ones with supernatural powers who transcend time and space. The second group acts as a mediator in the lives of the first group, leading them to a spiritual but illusive realm. In the act of embracing or rejecting the other, they reveal a Tibetan society caught in a tug-of-war between the old and the new, the local and the global. See also AVANT-GARDE.