The Myth of China's Modernization of Tibet and the Tibetan Language, Part Three
By Jamyang Norbu
Wars are said to be great accelerators of change, and World War II ( magchen nyipa or trukchen nyipa ) certainly speeded up Tibet's hitherto unhurried modernization. The economic impact alone was substantial. Because of Australia being cut off, American demand for Tibetan wool suddenly boomed. Then there was the China trade, which we will discuss shortly. Many new words entered the Tibetan vocabulary, and not only terms for weaponry and technology. Tibet 's own delicate political position, vis-à-vis at least two of the warring nations, required that it be able to make a formal expression of its neutrality, hence a new Tibetan term, chodrilpangba , (lit. alliance renunciation) appeared. Tibet was a chodrilpangbae-gyalkhap or neutral country, and as such provided asylum to two escaped POWS, and (despite tremendous pressure and a threat of invasion) allowed only the passage through its territory, of non-military supplies to China .
Tibet's first major purchase of modern weapons had taken place in 1914-15 with a consignment of 10,000 long-barrel Lee Metford rifles, which Tibetans affectionately called the Tashi Ta-ring (or Lucky Long Slim), as it contributed substantially to the Tibetan victory of 1918. The short-barrel Lee Enfield rifle, imported in the thirties, was called Inji Kha-dum , or the “truncated-mouth Englishman” and was not regarded as auspicious a weapon. Machine guns were just called mising kan , though the onomatopoeia, menda bak-bak , was sometimes used for machine-guns in general and sub-machine guns in particular. The term bak-bak by itself is the Tibetan for motorcycle. The howitzer, Lewis gun, Bren gun and Mauser rifle and pistol were called just that, with, of course, a Tibetan inflection in the pronunciation. Handguns in general were called thungda (honorifically chan-da ) while automatic pistols were called landru and magazines okshu . Bullets were called diu or da , and spent-cartridges karto, ammunition dzende and explosives barzay. Revolvers were called khorlo-chen in Central Tibet and khorlo-ma in Kham. Field mortars were namlu, hand-grenades lakbom , bazookas or recoilless rifles tre-kyok , tanks thang-gari , and of course, dhutren tsoncha for the atom bomb, though for some years Tibetan just used the English term, or at least their own rendition, eta bom, of it.
The Fuhrer was known to Tibetans as Har Hiti-la , (almost certainly from Herr Hitler). The courtesy letter sent by the Reting Regent to Hitler, via the Schaefer expedition, is addressed to Jar man rgyal po har hi ti lar mchog la ‘bul (“presented to the German king Har Hiti-la”). Goering, for some reason, was granted a minor-honorific and known as Goring-la . Tibetans usually spoke of the two together as “Har Hiti-la dhang Goring-la .”
It is surprising how informed some Tibetans were about the War. The Dalai Lama's tutor, the late Ling Rimpoche, was a World War II buff and he would sometimes send a servant over to my cottage at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts in Dhramashala to borrow books on the War, especially ones with lots of pictures. He could point out most of the Nazi bigwigs in the photographs and knew their names. Once during a visit of mine to his labrang he told me that in Lhasa he kept abreast of the war news from Muslim acquaintances, one of whom he had lent a radio receiver to monitor the war news. Heinrich Harrer tells us that the young Dalai Lama owned six books on WW II which had been translated into Tibetan. Harrer also mentions a Tibetan military officer who was greatly interested in Field Marshal Rommel's campaigns in North Africa .
The War provided a major financial impetus to the opening-up of Tibet to Western commercial products. Tibetan merchants bought consumer goods in India and sold them at considerable profits in South Western China where the Nationalist government was holding out against the Japanese. Everyone along the trade-route, aristocrats, peasants, muleteers, inn-keepers and the big merchants profited from this trade. According to Peter Goullart then living in Lijiang in northern Yunan, a main terminus on the trade route, this caravan traffic was a “unique and spectacular phenomenon.” He estimates that at least 5000 mules and 20,000 yaks were probably involved, and every kind of consumer product, even such luxury items as Gordon's gin, Scotch, French brandy, liqueurs, Swiss watches (three Tibetan favourites: Rolex, Omega and Roamer) and more, were efficiently moved from Calcutta via Lhasa to Kunming, thanks largely to the transport skills of Tibetan merchants, yak-drivers, muleteers and packers. Goullart was clearly impressed with this enterprise which he dubs “Operation Caravan” and which he claims “…will always live on in my mind as one of the great adventures of mankind.”
On a more benign level the War introduced Tibetans to the wonder drug, penicillin ( phen-ni-ciling ) and much later terramycin ( tera-men-sing ). The former was brought to Tibet by traders and became very popular (and invariably abused). The nice thing about the Tibetan rendition of these two terms is the way they managed to insert appropriately reassuring Tibetan syllables ( phen for cure, men for medicine and sing for essence) while retaining the approximate English pronunciation. During the war years, hypodermic injections ( khap) became popular as well as morphine shots (sugchak men). A few other basic Western medicines as asprin ( gomen ), laxatives ( shaymen ) and Eno's Liver Salts (the effervescent kind) were commonly available and popular. The contents of American field rations added other words to Tibetan vocabulary, gig-chiri (chewing gum) and phag-ting/ sha-ting (canned pork or corn beef) and chagting for tin can.
A war medal was pa-tag (literally “hero symbol”). The most notable instance of the use of this term was when Rifleman Ganju Lama of Sikkim (whose father was Tibetan and mother Nepalese) received the Victoria Cross for bravery in action in Burma . The headline of the Tibet Mirror newspaper of Kalimpong proudly proclaimed “ pao ganju lama patag bee-see thop ” (The hero Ganju lama wins the hero-symbol VC). A British war comic-book (Commando Series) even immortalized Ganju Lama's story.
Any discussion on the modernization of the Tibetan language would be inconceivable without mentioning the major contribution of the pioneering Tibetan language paper the Tibet Mirror and its founder/editor, the Reverend Gergan Tharchin. It is therefore astonishing that nowhere does Goldstein make any mention of either. The first issue of the Tibet Mirror appeared in October 1925 and carried on for thirty-eight years until 1963-64. The circulation was certainly small, but copies were passed on and reread on quite an extensive basis. The 13 th Dalai Lama, a personal friend of Tharchin's, who encouraged and supported him in his venture, received the paper regularly as did some other lamas and aristocrats. Other Tibetans in Lhasa also subscribed. Copies of the paper even reached Chamdo and Derge.
In a biographical sketch of Tharchin, Tashi Tsering, the consummate Tibetan scholar, writes: “Inspired by the British liberal press, the Mirror published articles on world events and especially reported what was taking place in India , Tibet and in the region of Kalimpong. It was a rich source of information on the world of high Asia at the time. It reported on the movements and diplomatic activities of government officials of Bhutan , China , Britain , Sikkim and so on as well as the goings-on within the aristocracy and the endeavours of Tibetan scholars. The paper also debated the question of the status of Tibet and the position of Tibet vis à vis China .
The Mirror carried profiles of contemporary political personalities such as Gandhi, Stalin and Hitler as well as prominent Tibetans. It also reported on the doings of the great military powers, developments in weapons and the latest scientific discoveries and inventions. Important international events such as the Olympic Games as well as the anniversaries of the India Empire were also reported” .
The Mirror ran classified ads, and reported on the Kalimpong wool market as well as international gold and silver prices. An occasional feature was a science and technology section where new inventions and natural phenomena were explained. The June1929 issue carried an article on how eclipses ( za-zin ) occur, accompanied by a diagram of the sun the moon and the earth. Another explained the workings of the camera with the kind of school text-book diagram of a cut away box-camera with the two symbolic lines representing light reflecting of the top and bottom of an upright person, intersecting at the lens, entering the camera and casting an upside-down image at the film on the back.
Some of the advertisements in the Mirror clearly demonstrate how the products of modern technological civilization had already made substantial inroads into Tibet . The May 1927 issue has an advertisement for a folding bellows camera, Primo No.12 , along with notice on par-shok (photographic paper) and par-men (photographic chemicals). In the June 1926 issue there is an ad for alarms clocks ( chutsoe-khorlo ), specifying that these could be ordered by mail. The April 1926 issue features an ad for a horn gramaphone ( kyepar dhungchin-chen ) on the front page. The ad goes on to mention that with the gramophone you could listen to melodious songs, opera aria's ( namthar ) and music ( baa-ja ) from many different countries. In fact the Mirror of June 1927 has an advertisement for a series of six gramophone records of Tibetan light classical music ( toeshay/nangma ) and Lhamo opera arias.
Since the first issues of the Mirror were mimeographed, it is possible that the Tibetan term for this, numpar (oil-print) , could have been coined at the time. The Mirror was later printed on a lithographic machine that Tibetans called dopar (stone-print) which is close to the Latin. The letterpress was called chakpar (metal-print) and metal fonts chakdru, certainly derived from the Tibetan term for individual letters, yingdru (letter-seed) . Incidentally, Tibetans also called the typewriter chakpar . It might also be mentioned that Tibetans-in-exile came up with the first Tibetan typewriter long before anything of the sort was made in China or in Tibet .
Much of the political vocabulary Tibetans use today, rangwang (freedom), rangzen (independence), miser-gyalkhap (republic), chogtripangpa (neutrality), chabsi (politics), chab-bang or miser (citizen) , wö (adopted from the English “vote”, but spelt as meaning “worthy or deserving” wöpa ) wöshok (ballot-paper), wödu (elections), silon (prime-minister), sidzin-chikyap later sidzin (president) chigyal laykhung Foreign Bureau, tawa (ideology, doctrine) and ghungtren (communist Ch.), seems to have appeared in the Mirror . Earlier in the twenties and thirties the Tibetan word for Communism (more in reference to the Soviet model) was ulang marpo from the Mongol “Ulan” for red and the tautology marpo which is red in Tibet . Even earlier, Sir Charles Bell tells us Tibetans used the term balshebuk for Bolshevik. We cannot of course, credit the creation all of such political terms to the Mirror , but some of them were probably coined there. Nonetheless the fact remains that the modern Tibetan scientific and political vocabulary that Goldstein and Han Suyin claim exclusively as Communist China's achievement was long before in currency at the Mirror and in the conversation of educated Tibetans.
The Mirror was also well qualified to undertake such a linguistic task, for at different times in its history it had such renowned intellectuals as Gedun Chophel, the Duke of Changlochen and others, working on its editorial staff. My delving into Mirror material has been cursory, and most of the information I have received has come from Professor Elliot Sperling, who, some years ago, generously presented his valuable collection of original Mirror back-issues to the Amnye Machen Institute. It would make a worthwhile research project for an aspiring Tibetologist to go through the back issues of the Mirror and work out the contributions of this pioneering journal to the development of modern Tibetan language.
Goldstein and Han Suyin also ignore Republican China's contribution to modern Tibetan vocabulary. In 1943 a Tibetan edition of Dr. Sun Yatsen's Three Principles of the People ( san min zhuyi ) was published in Beijing and distributed throughout Tibet , especially Eastern Tibet . According to Pema Bhum, former associate professor of Tibetan Literature at the North-West Institute for Minorities at Lanzhou , the Tibetan translation is a surprisingly fine one, superior to the translations of Communist Chinese propaganda material that he had encountered. The Three Principles and many other political documents that the Nationalist government (Guomindang) circulated around Tibet undeniably added to modern Tibetan political terminology.
Goldstein does not make even a passing reference to the contribution of Christian missionaries to the development of Tibetan language and literature, especially the role of the Moravian Mission. Heinrich August Jaeschke (1817-1883) was the first and perhaps the most brilliant of a series of Moravian missionary-scholars to work in the Himalayan region. He is best known for his Tibetan-English Dictionary , first published in 1881, but still reprinted and available in bookstores in India and Nepal . Prior to his project to translate the Bible into Tibetan, Jaeschke also undertook a fairly extensive study of the many regional variations in the Tibetan language, and between the spoken and literary Tibetan, in order to come up with a simple yet classically based language that could be understood by literate people throughout the Tibetan cultural world. Jaeschke's work was continued by August Hermann Francke (1870-1930), a profound scholar of Ladakhi history and culture, who further undertook a special study of the various dialects of Ladakh and even different sub-dialects in Lahaul, and finally translated the Gospel of St Mark into Tibetan. In 1904, Francke brought out a monthly Tibetan language newspaper, the Ladakh kyi Phonya . These pioneering linguistic, religious and scholarly works were carried on by such native converts as Joseph Gergan Sonam Tseten, author of the monumental history of Ladakh, Ladakh Gyalrab Chimeter. It was also Gergan who in 1948 finally managed to finish the publication of the complete Bible (both the Old and the New Testament) more than ninety years after Jaeschke had begun the task.
Mrs. (Flora Beal) Shelton , a missionary in Batang, brought out, in the 1920s, a geographical encyclopedia in the Tibetan language, printed at the Baptist Mission Press in Calcutta . According to older Tibetans who had come across this amazing book, it not only gave accounts and pictures of Eskimos and igloos, pygmies from “Darkest Africa” and so on, but even featured detailed descriptions of places in Tibet with photographs of the Potala and the great monasteries of Derge and Lithang. Mrs. Shelton also published a collection of fairy tales she had translated, titled, appropriately enough, Lhamoe Namthar (“goddess stories). This book also included the story of “Rikki Tikki Tavi” from Kipling's Jungle Book . Mrs. Shelton wrote to Kipling, then living in Brattleboro , Vermont , for permission to reprint the story. In the preface to the first edition (1922), Mrs. Shelton wrote: “To the boys and girls of Tibet this little book of stories lovingly given with the hope that they may enjoy them as much as my own two little girls, Doris and Dorothy have done.” This book was later re-printed by the Tibet Mirror Press and many hundreds of free copies distributed by Gergan Tharchin to children at the Tibetan Refugee School in Kalimpong, on the Christmas Eve of 1964, if I recall the year correctly.
Long before Communist China's language “reforms”, or for that matter Goldstein's own language books and dictionaries, Csomo de Körös, Jaschke, Hannah, Bell, Kazi Dawa Samdup, Sarat Chandra Das, and others had come out with Tibetan-English (and Sanskrit) dictionaries, where newly coined words were often noted. Tharchin even published some booklets on language, phrase-books and glossaries. K. Dhondup, in a biographical article of Gedun Chophel mentions that Tharchin collaborated with Chophel on a dictionary. George Roerich and the Tibetan official Lhalungpa came out with their Textbook of Colloquial Tibetan in 1952 where they noted new words in Tibetan. Two British officials, Basil Gould and Hugh Richardson, compiled a Tibetan English Medical dictionary in 1947. This dictionary proved so useful that it was later reprinted by Tharchin in 1949. Even as early as 1771, it might be noted, the Manchus commissioned the publication of the Wu-T'I Ch'ing-Wen Chien, The Five Language Glossary (Manchu, Chinese, Tibetan, Mongolian, Uigur) where examples were provided, for instance, of the adaptation of foreign words into Tibetan.
Of course, missionary and other contributions, though certainly important were but a drop in the ocean of Tibet's own indigenous literature, which I discovered (to my surprise) is the third largest body of traditional literature in Asia, second only to India and China ( The Philosopher and the Monk by Matthieu Ricard). No other Asian country, not Korea , Vietnam , Thailand or even Japan has such a body of traditional literature as Tibet 's. And it wasn't just religious as some like to insist. Admittedly, a great deal of it was, but there were also books on history, biography, poetry, epic poetry, grammar, language, painting, geography, astrology, magic, music (secular as well as religious), painting, medicine and architecture. Tibetan publications (printed and hand-copied) also included travelogues, travel guides, veterinary texts, manuals on hippology, and even erotic literature, including sex manuals. I have seen one.
Dictionaries might be mentioned. Most noteworthy is the Sanskrit-Tibetan Dictionary that was prepared in the 9th century A.D. at the command of the Tibetan Emperor, Tri Ralpachen called The Great Volume of Precise Understanding , ( chedrag tu tokpar che pa chenmo , Skt. Mahavyutpatti ). The first modern Tibetan dictionary was compiled by Geshe Chodrag, a friend of Gedun Chophel, and printed in Lhasa just before the Chinese invasion. It is remarkable achievement by a traditional scholar. Its publication appears to have been sponsored by the Horkhang family. The distinctive feature of this book is its Western style format, though the printing is traditional wood-block. A charming illustrated children's dictionary (English-Tibetan) by Rikha Lobsang Tenzin and Robert Poczik, was published in exile in the early sixties. A variety of dictionaries have since seen publication by exile Tibetan scholars, and well as by scholars in Tibet .
Novels, in the modern sense, did not exist in pre '59 Tibet, though works of fiction did: folk tales, animal fables, didactic tracts as The Dispute Between the Beer Goddess and the Tea Goddess (by Bondrongpa in 1726), the epic of Gesar, translations and adaptations of the Ramayana and such dramas as Harsha's Nagananda and Kalidasa's Shakuntala , were not entirely absent in the rich corpus of Tibetan literature. For something closer to an indigenous novel we have Shonue Damed gyi Tamgyud, (The Tale of the IncomparableYouth) by Dokar Tsering Wangyal (1687-1763). We also have The Story of the Religious King Norsang, chosgyal norsang gyi namthar , written by Dingchen Tsering Wangdue in the 18 th century. The inspiration for the story is the Sudhana Jataka, one of the stories of the former lives of the Buddha, but vastly expanded by the author and for all extents and purposes transformed into a romantic tale. We should bear in mind that the true novel in the modern sense only made its appearance in Europe in the early 17 th century with Miguel de Cervantes's Don Quixote de la Mancha .
Books in Tibet were printed primarily at the three great printing establishments of Narthang, Shol (which were completely destroyed by the Chinese) and Derge Parkhang, which survived and is still functioning. Many monasteries had their own printing establishments, and wealthier families would sometimes privately publish books, religious or otherwise, and store the carved wooden xylographs ( parshing ) in their family temple ( chokhang ). For instance one Lhasa aristocratic family published (in the forties) Gedun Chophel's translation of the Dhamapadda, Dudjom Rimpoche's Dhagyig Pecha (an elementary guide to better writing), and an unusual biography of the Sixth Dalai Lama, Tsanyang Gyatso. Such private printing was considered an act of merit and books were distributed to friends, scholars and religious establishments. There were also small commercial printers whose publications were sold by book vendors on the streets of Lhasa , Shigatse and Gyangtse. These, of course, sold a lot of general religious works but also almanacs, booklets of charms and spells, and such popular reading as Milarepa's biography and collections of the Sixth Dalai Lama's romantic poems.
But Han Suyin insists that nothing of the kind existed in old Tibet . “There was no printing of books in Tibet before 1959” she declares emphatically. She does concede that monks clumsily attempted something of the sort in the monasteries using wooden blocks ‘daubed with soot or ochre for black or red.” She goes on to declare that there was “no tradition of reading or writing literature”. She also states that “The designing of type-moulds for the Tibetan language was started in 1951-2, and typecasting machines were made in Peking . On May 4 th , 1955, the first newspaper page ever printed in Tibet came off the press.”
Actually, Tibetan metal fonts ( chak-dru ) were first cast in Calcutta in 1832, by the Asiatic Society of Bengal, for the printing of Csoma de Koros's Tibetan Grammer and Tibetan-English Dictionary . One of the earliest Tibetan language newspaper, Ladakh kyi Akber (later Ladakh kyi Phonya) , was printed in 1904. An even earlier Tibetan language newspaper, Kyelang kyi Akbar appeared in the late 19 th century, copies of which were sent to the Dalai Lama. Even the Manchu Amban in Lhasa published a small Tibetan language newsletter at the beginning of the 20 th century.
Before dropping Han Suyin entirely from this discussion — she does get tiresome — we have to tackle one more of her Munchausen fibs, not so much to refute it, as to point out the manner in which she dresses up the big lie to give it an academic facade. These days much anti-Tibetan propaganda is presented in this pseudo scientific/scholarly manner, even in so called Tibet study circles, and deceives a lot of people, even Tibetans, who should know better. Anyway, this is what Han Suyin claims:
“Although fabulously wealthy in names of gods and their various avatars, the Tibetan language is extremely poor in abstract or generic terms, or categorization of concrete objects. Thus there is a name for every kind of tree (willow, poplar, etc.) but no general world ‘tree'. There is no world for ‘cavalry' or ‘harness' although the bridle of a horse is separated into thirty different parts, each one with its own name. There are also dozens of terms to designate the different depths of meditation, or trance, but no general world for ‘sleep'.”
Notice how clever Han Suyin is being here. She uses the trick of highlighting an unusual, even bizarre feature of a race or a culture, to reveal what seems to be a fundamental even scientific truth about these people; and which, because of its oddity, has the additional advantage of sticking to the memory. It is a cunning variant of what the late Saul Bellow called the Petit Larousse short-hand which he felt enabled French sophisticates to think they knew all they needed to know about other cultures through the simplistic stereotypical representations listed in that famous reference-work.
For instance, most of us have heard or read somewhere that Eskimos have thirty-six (or whatever) different words for “snow”. Now, I don't know if this is true or not, but it has the merit of sounding true. One thing every one knows about Eskimos is that they live in an environment of snow. Most people in the West assume they know at least this much about Tibetans, in that they live in a world dominated by religion and metaphysical speculation. So when Han Suyin mentions that the Tibetans have dozens of terms to designate the different depths of meditation, or trance, but no general world for “sleep”, an immediate mental connection is made with the Eskimo parallel and the Western reader is hooked.
In point of fact, Han Suyin is wrong again. There is an old established and commonly used Tibetan word for sleep ( nyid ) as well as for tree ( shingdong ), harness ( tapchas ), and for cavalry ( tamak ). In the last case it must be emphasized that the term has been in use since antiquity. Some Tamangs of northern Nepal claim that the name of their tribe is derived from the Tibetan word tamak , as they are the descendents of Tibetan cavalry forces garrisoned in Nepal in Imperial times.
Before moving on to examine Communist China's policies and programs regarding the Tibetan language, we should perhaps wrap up the preceding discussion with some concluding observations.
First of all it should be remembered that Tibetans accomplished all of the early modernization projects largely by themselves. Even when there was the occasional British assistance, it invariably came at a price, often a stiff and unfair one. For instance the sale of a modest supply of British arms was promised to Tibet in exchange for Tibet accepting some of the (more unfavourable) terms of the Simla Convention, but later the arms were only sold to us after the Tibetan government agreed to eliminate monopolies in Tibet, as a secret British report on Tibet (No. 45) points out . Another report (No. 51) listing British military training of Tibetan officers, arms supplies, telegraph line, hydroelectric project, geological survey, modern police force, the English school at Gyangtse, etc., clearly states that “The cost of all these modern activities was paid for by the Tibetan government.”
The unstated British policy was to dispense presents to the Dalai Lama, the regent or individual officials (the Chinese were even more generous with cash donations to the great monasteries) but the official aid that the Tibetan government desperately sought from Britain and India was steadfastly denied. The great weakness of this British policy according to Alex McKay was that “individuals profited, but the Tibetan state remained starved of funds.” Often the British government would not only not sell us the arms and ammunition we needed but actively prevented us from buying them from other countries. Sir Charles Bell was frustrated by British government intransigence and parsimony and makes regular references to this in his writings. He further emphasizes that Tibetan requests were completely reasonable and what a friendly nation had every right to ask of a neighbouring state.
Even otherwise, the Tibetan government had severely limited financial resources. It could not tax most imports from India, because of trade regulations imposed on Tibet by the British. Other unfair trade agreements with Nepal and China also contributed to this limitation. Chinese nationalists may grind their teeth about “unequal treaties” imposed on China by Western nations in the past, but China did not hesitate to exploit Tibet in the same way then. Our modernisation efforts, no matter how modest they may seem now, were carried out entirely without the help that third world nations, even China, receives these days, as a matter of course, from innumerable aid agencies, the UN, WHO, the World Food program, World Bank, IMF, and even from individual nations as foreign aid.
Any discussion on Tibet and modernization should always include, if not highlight, the overwhelming problems of transporting anything across the Himalayas. When we factor this in, then even Meiji Japan's success at modernizing, though certainly remarkable, seems somewhat less marvellous by comparison. Western ships could sail right into Tokyo bay or Yokohama with everything in the way of products and ideas they had to offer, right from the earliest days of large sailing vessels. Imperial China not only had the same advantage of deep-water ports but also possessed navigable rivers to conveniently move products inland. In Ming times China even had a naval fleet that sailed all the way to Africa. But China's modernization came very late and is even now fundamentally deficient — if one considers democracy and civil society an essential component of human progress.
Finally, a disclaimer of sorts must be made. No one is defending or romanticizing the ancien regime . It cannot be emphasized enough that this essay does not set out to prove that Tibet was, even in a marginal sense , a technologically and scientifically developed country, equipped with a modern vocabulary capable of expressing all contemporary scientific and political thought. There is absolutely no disputing the fact that we had so much more to do to modernize and reform our society. There is also no denying that conservative monastic opposition was powerful and detrimental. The argument I am making is that, judging by the pioneering efforts of Tibetans in the past, no matter how seemingly modest, to bring electricity, modern communications and facilities to their country and people — and even think up apt and sometimes clever and amusing terms for these many new objects and ideas — it is clear that Tibetans could and would have done the job of modernizing their country and their language largely by themselves — with the occasional help, perhaps, of a foreign friend or expert.
It also goes without saying, that had Tibet been left alone this would have happened (as it has happened in neighbouring Bhutan and Ladakh) in a slow, sensible and sustainable way without the accompanying destruction of most of Tibet's religious and cultural institutions, the murder of more than a million people, and the ongoing fear, misery, dislocation and trauma that Tibetans still have endure daily for the trickle-down concession of a back-seat in China's joyless, exploitative, exclusively materialistic and dog-eat-dog modernization.