Arts & Life
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/1/2010 (3843 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
YOU can't fault the Dalai Lama for optimism. I suppose that might come from being the Buddha born-again, the most recent in a long list of reincarnations that makes him the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, an inspiration of piety and pacifism to people around the world, as well as a huge hit among Hollywood actors -- only Scientology, it seems, appeals to more of these keen intellects than Tibetan Buddhism.
Wherever his hopefulness comes from, it certainly does not come from being the temporal ruler of Tibet, which, in the minds of most Tibetans, he legitimately is. China's Communist rulers emphatically disagree, however. They claim Tibet as an integral part of China and made their point by invading it in 1950. Since then they have undertaken a thorough campaign of physical slaughter and cultural genocide, including driving the Dalai Lama into exile.
Relations have been a little tense ever since. Nevertheless, the Tibetan religious leader has never given up hope of a rapprochement that would see him return to an autonomous Tibet under China's sovereignty.
Every time, however, the Dalai Lama raises the issue, and he does it frequently, Beijing hammers it -- kind of like diplomatic whack-a-mole. Nevertheless, this week two Tibetan monks arrived in Beijing, sent by their leader to see if the Chinese might agree to open talks. China received them, but also set the Dalai Lama up for the inevitable disappointment.
But prospects are poor for any real dialogue: "We hope the Dalai Lama will cherish the opportunity and make a positive response to (our) requests," the Beijing government said imperially.
The language --"cherish?" -- recalls an incident from the 19th century when the emperor of China, wandering the Forbidden Palace one day, had the inspiration to set straight the queen of England. He was, after all, the celestial emperor and all other monarchs under heaven were his vassals.
So he sent an envoy to England with a note to Queen Victoria: "Tremble! Furiously tremble!" it began and went on to invite Britain to submit to him.
Victoria was not amused. The envoy was sent packing and the luckless emperor continued his unhappy education in the realpolitik of the world beyond the celestial empire.
Unfortunately, despite the Dalai Lama's optimism, China seems certain to win this battle of the purple prose. China is no longer luckless.
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