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Dalai Lama's "Virtual Tibet" Not True (06/27/01)
2003/12/24

Tom Grunfeld, a distinguished Tibetologist and professor at the State University of New York, said on July 27 that the Dalai Lama's creation of a "virtual Tibet" is totally different from the real one.

The Dalai Lama's description of Tibet under his serfdom rule as "Shangri-La" has led to an American infatuation with Tibet, which is a fad that will soon fade and become inconsequential in history, he said.

Grunfeld made the remarks at the 2001 Beijing Forum on Tibetology, and his view was supported by many Chinese and foreign Tibetologists.

The author of The Making of Modern Tibet, Grunfeld pointed out the Dalai Lama has succeeded "in nurturing and increasing interest and fascination with himself, his cause and Tibetan Buddhism in Europe, Australia, Canada and, especially, the United States."

This fascination has led to an infatuation with a Tibet that is a gentle and peaceful land where non-violence predominates and where monks are all-knowing; yet the fascination is not with the real Tibet but a fantasy version, he said.

Fascination with the virtual Tibet has "propelled Hollywood movies, rock concerts, and celebrities practicing Buddhism, which have all combined to make the Dalai Lama a household word," Grunfeld said. "A dose of the real Tibet would leave them deeply disillusioned."

America's most prominent China-bashers support the Dalai Lama "only because he is useful in the campaign against China," Grunfeld said. Grunfeld has been to China 16 times and traveled to Tibet for field research.

A unified, stable and developing China is in line with the ultimate interests of the American people, he added.

Professor Xirao Nima from the Central University for Nationalities said that a clear distinction should be drawn between popular culture and the academic study of Tibetology researchers.

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