WOESER (1966— )
WOESER (1966— ). Poet and prose writer. Woeser was born in Lhasa. Her father, a military officer with mixed Chinese and Tibetan parentage, joined the People’s Liberation Army at the age of 13 and rose to be an army officer stationed in various places in Tibet, a position that afforded his daughter the opportunity to be educated in Sichuan Province from a young age. Woeser graduated from Southwestern College for Minorities, where she majored in Chinese language and literature. In 1990, she returned to Lhasa to edit Xizang Wenxue (Tibetan Literature) and began writing poetry. She was reconnected to her Tibetan heritage and became interested in Buddhism. In Lhasa, she had access to books smuggled into Tibet, including In Exile from the Land of Snows: The Dalai Lama and Tibet since the Chinese Conquest by John F. Avedon, which opened her eyes to a historical narrative about Tibet contrary to what she had received in her formal education. Such books transformed her into an activist, a public speaker for the suppressed Tibetan collective memory. Shajie (Revolution), an oral history of Tibet during the Cultural Revolution, publishes more than 300 photos taken by her father and the eyewitness accounts from her interviews, providing testimony about the widespread destruction of Tibetan culture. Her outspoken criticism of the Chinese government and her open admiration for the Dalai Lama jeopardized her position at Xizang Wenxue and her ability to publish in China. She has, however, been able to find publishers in Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Woeser’s literary works, both poetry and prose, center on one theme: the eternal as represented in Tibetan Buddhism. In Xizang: Jianghong se de ditu (A Crimson Map), the author talks about the monasteries, the lamas, and the pilgrims and expresses her nostalgia for the disappearing Tibetan civilization. In Xizang biji (Notes of Tibet), a collection of essays and her best-known work, she explores the Tibetan consciousness. Her works document suppressed history, memorialize forgotten sufferings, and retrieve erased footprints. While recording her travels in Tibet to visit various sites and interview various personalities, she indulges in a personal and internal wandering, immersed in a world of dreams and memories. Her poetry is romantic and surreal, enhanced by the pathos of the Tibetan nation and by her own sense of loss and sentimentality. Her other works include a poetry collection, Xizang zai shang (Tibet: The High Plateau), Ming wei Xizang de shi (Poems Written for Tibet), and Xizang jiyi (Memories of Tibet). See also WOMEN.