Filling a Void: Five Contemporary Tibetan Novelists Published in Tibetan 

藏语首部母语长篇小说丛书 青海民族出版社In Mother-tongue Literature, I posed these questions about one Han scholar’s call for celebrating writing in China’s indigenous languages:

Who is going to write in their native language — or read what is written for that matter — if they cannot receive a decent education in it?

Those weighty questions remain unanswered, but happily, some publishers are pushing ahead to make more such fiction available to potential readers. According to a May 19 news report (藏语首部母语长篇小说丛书), a new five-volume series of novels in Tibetan has just been launched by Qinghai Nationalities Publishing (青海民族出版社). A similar item has now appeared in English (First Collection).

The promotional material states that this is the first such collection of contemporary novels in Tibetan. This may just be advertising hype, but if true, it indicates that Tibetan authors are either not writing a lot of novels in their mother tongue . . . or they couldn’t previously find publishers!

The titles and authors are as follows:

My Two Fathers by Tsering Dondrup (ཚེ་རིང་དོན་གྲུབ།, 次仁顿珠)

Yesterday’s Tribe by Tenpa Yargye (བསྟན་པ་ཡར་རྒྱས།, 旦巴亚尔杰)

Waning Crescent by Tsering Tashi (ཚེ་རིང་བཀྲ་ཤིས།,才让扎西)

Falling Stones by Phurbu Tsering (ཕུར་བུ་ཚེ་རིང་།,普布次仁)

Grand Ditch by Gangnyön (གངས་སྨྱོན།, 宽太加)

For a graphic which lists all works and authors in both Chinese and Tibetan (sorry, I can’t reproduce too clearly!), visit here.

For those of you who — like me — don’t read Tibetan, Françoise Robin (Associate Professor of Tibetan language and Literature at INALCO, France) has kindly provided me with a link to the bilingual (English and Tibetan) Latse Library Newsletter. Click here to download for free. This issue features articles on these subjects:

  • Tibetan Novels: Still A Novelty. A Brief Survey of Tibetan Novels since 1985. (By Françoise Robin)
  • An introduction to author Tsering Dondrup and an English excerpt from his novel, The Red Wind Scream (translated by Dr. Heather Stoddard)


  1. Francoise Robin says

    This is good news. So far only 25 novels in Tibetan have been published in Tibet (+ a handful in exile), so the addition of 5 novels is important. When I was in Xining last summer I talked to the editors and they said that the aim of this collection was to convince other potential Tibetan novel writers to submit manuscripts.

    Regarding the authors, a few more details: Tsering Dondrup (ཚེ་རིང་དོན་གྲུབ།) is the most prolific of Tibetan novel writers, with 5 novels so far (this one included). He is a Tibetan of Mongolian ancestry but only writes in Tibetan; seldom in Chinese; never in Mongolian (which he does not know). Tenpa Yargye (བསྟན་པ་ཡར་རྒྱས།) is from Nagchu (ནག་ཆུ།) and has written a first novel, very interesting, called The Faraway Black Tent (ཐག་རིང་གི་སྦྲ་ནག, 2005, Beijing) on what appears to be a similar topic. As for Grand Ditch by Kuan Taijia, the Tibetan title seems to be The Mule Valley and the author’s name is Gangnyön (གངས་སྨྱོན།), a pseudonym meaning “The Crazy one from the Snow”.

  2. Very interesting, thank you! I read some of Tsering Dondrup’s short stories in Chinese and even translated one (from English, I think) many years ago. I really liked his writing. Maybe I should brush up on my extremely bad Tibetan to read more … It’s also interesting how Chinese authors writing on Tibet seem to exoticise Tibetan culture and religion (in novels like The Tibet Code) while a Tibetan writer like Tsering Dondrup can be quite critical.

  3. You should see this one: AHP 53 Contemporary Tibetan Short Stories
    Asian Highlands Perspectives (AHP 53), 2019
    Detailed Description
    Free Download: PDF
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    at cost paperback
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    Storytelling is at the heart of this collection. More than two dozen young writers from the Tibetan Plateau have probed their most tender memories and curious encounters to pen tales with characters and circumstances that fascinate, puzzle, disappoint, or leave us pained. Each story is prefaced by introductory remarks on the author’s inspiration. Many draw on actual occurrences, however surreal. This framing lends an “embedded” effect to several of the works: stories are nested inside stories, sometimes within a yet wider narrative reminiscent of the vetāla cycle by which the carrier of the narrative (and of a story-telling corpse) is drawn to pose another question unwinding a garland of tales. This collection provides a portal for readers unfamiliar with Tibetan lives, whether in adobe-style homes or in yak-hair tents dotting the grasslands. (Lauran Hartley)

    Introduction Lauran Hartley
    God-Door Tshe dbag rnam rgyal ཚེ་དཔག་རྣམ་རྒྱལ།
    Cry of the Black Yak Chos bstan rgyal ཆོས་བསྟན་རྒྱལ།
    A Bleeding Watermelon Nor bzang ནོར་བཟང་།
    An Unseen Sign Rin chen rdo rje རིན་ཆེན་རྡོ་རྗེ།
    Fate Skal bzang lha mo སྐལ་བཟང་ལྷ་མོ།
    A Stolen Journey Blo bzang tshe ring བློ་བཟང་ཚེ་རིང་།
    A Spoiled Boy Sangs rgyas bkra shis སངས་རྒྱས་བཀྲ་ཤིས།
    Land Conflict Sangs rgyas bkra shis སངས་རྒྱས་བཀྲ་ཤིས།
    Is It Karma? Pad ma rgya mtsho པད་མ་རྒྱ་མཚོ།
    Torn Between Two Lovers G.yu ‘brug གཡུ་འབྲུག (Yongzhong 拥忠)
    A College Student ‘Phrin las nyi ma འཕྲིན་ལས་ཉི་མ།
    Set Free by Tragedy G.yang mtsho skyid གཡང་མཚོ་སྐྱིད།
    Who is to Blame? Klu rgyal ‘bum ཀླུ་རྒྱལ་འབུམ།
    Young Love Bkra shis rab brtan བཀྲ་ཤིས་རབ་བརྟན།
    Silent as a Winter Cuckoo: My Grandparents’ Lovers Pad+ma dbang chen པདྨ་དབང་ཆེན།
    QQ Destiny Pad+ma dbang chen པདྨ་དབང་ཆེན།
    Longing for Snow-covered Peaks: Deity Possession in the Philippines Lhun ‘grub ལྷུན་འགྲུབ།
    Elopement Thub bstan ཐུབ་བསྟན།
    Love in Shambhala ‘Ba’ blo bsang mgon po འབའ་བློ་བཟང་མགོན་པོ།
    The Price of a Thesis Pad+ma skyabs པདྨ་སྐྱབས།
    Scattered Memories of a Misspent Youth Pad ma rin chen པད་མ་རིན་ཆེན།
    Conflict Pad ma rin chen པད་མ་རིན་ཆེན།
    A Small Piece of Turquoise Nyi ma rgyal mtshan ཉི་མ་རྒྱལ་མཚན།
    Under the Shadow Dpa’ brtse rgyal དཔའ་བརྩེ་རྒྱལ།
    Waiting for the Return Rdo rje skyabs རྡོ་རྗེ་སྐྱབས།
    Faith, Faith, Faith Pad+ma skyabs པདྨ་སྐྱབས།
    A Powerful Ghost ‘Jam dbyangs bkra shis འཇམ་དབྱངས་བཀྲ་ཤིས།
    A Demon Monk ‘Jam dbyangs bkra shis འཇམ་དབྱངས་བཀྲ་ཤིས།
    Three Brothers and the Sickness-Causing Demon
    ‘Jam dbyangs bkra shis འཇམ་དབྱངས་བཀྲ་ཤིས།
    You are My Mother’s Mother Gu ru ‘phrin las གུ་རུ་འཕྲིན་ལས།
    Pain Gu ru ‘phrin las གུ་རུ་འཕྲིན་ལས།
    Mirror Gu ru ‘phrin las གུ་རུ་འཕྲིན་ལས།
    Herding Pikas Klu thar rgyal ཀླུ་ཐར་རྒྱལ།
    Dpal rgyal དཔལ་རྒྱལ། (illustrations)
    A Day in the Garden Blo bzang བློ་བཟང་།
    Sgrol ma Mkha’ ‘gro ‘tsho མཁའ་འགྲོ་འཚོ།
    The Monlam Flower Dgos ‘dod nor bu དགོས་འདོད་ནོར་བུ།
    A Good Person Is Hard to Find Rdo rje don grub རྡོ་རྗེ་དོན་གྲུབ།
    The Fugitive Rdo rje don grub རྡོ་རྗེ་དོན་གྲུབ།

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