March 15-17, 1995, Dharamsala, India
Amnye Machen InstituteThe Centre for Advanced Tibetan Studies
McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala 176219 H.P. India
Ph/Fax: 91+(1892) 23073
Since 1959, Dharamsala in Northern India has not only served as a temporary political capital but also as a major centre of intellectual and cultural life of Tibetans-in-exile. In recent years it has progressively become the focus for writers and artists from inside Tibet itself.
This has resulted in the growth of a secular literary and journalistic movement in exile, and has also been inspirational in the creation of the Amnye Machen Institute (AMI). This Institute is an independent centre for research and publication aimed at informing the Tibetan people and raising their cultural and intellectual awareness.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama inaugurated the Conference and in spite of another engagement the same morning spent one hour with the delegates. In His message he mentioned this conference would have a great and positive impact on the development of Tibetan literature and commended AMI for this and other laudable works. His Holiness remarked that inside Tibet, even more than literature Tibetan words and names were disappearing. It was therefore vital that Tibetans living in a free country should make every effort to protect Tibetan literature. On a more immediate level the Dalai Lama talked about the need for Tibetan writing to modernise and the need for a consistent phonetic system to render all foreign and scientific terms into Tibetan.
Elderly lama scholar/writers from Switzerland and Seattle mingled freely and deliberated not only with younger monk writers but also with long-haired bohemian poets. Everyone seemed to thoroughly enjoy each other's comany. Sober academics and writers from Ladakh and Lahaul, and a Nepalese editor of a Tibetan language paper, added to the variety in peoples and opinions. Everyone was surprised at how much each had in common in their passion for Tibetan literature. In all there were 62 active participants, and a number of observers. Many of the younger writers expressed great satisfaction in being able to meet, many for the first time, older better-known writers living far-away or abroad, and discuss their works with them. A number of the senior writers also expressed their pleasure not only in being able to meet so many younger writers, but were encouraged by their zeal and their ability.
One of the participants Palden Gyal, a poet now living in London, remarked at how much he was enjoying the event but that his feelings were somehow mingled with sadness at the thought of his poet friends back home in Amdo, who could not attend this first ever gathering of poets and writers in Tibetan history.
Ven. Thupten Palden, a robust middle aged monk from Ladakh (Education Department) impressed the interviewer with his prolificacy. Not only had he produced many short stories (his latest collection has just been released) but also a number of radio-plays, which had been broadcast on All India Radio. Thupten Palden praised the efficient organisation and atmosphere of the conference and the high-level of papers and discussion. Ladakh's own tremendous efforts to preserve its literature and culture would certainly gain from these deliberations, Thupten Palden added.
The conference took a very practical turn with all the writers concerned about the modernisation of the language and the need for a modern Tibetan in journalism as well as playwriting and screen-writing. The need for standardisation of Tibetan computer codes, programmes, keyboards etc.
Many participants elected to join PEN International, and also to form a Tibetan chapter.
In the three days all the topics for the discussions were covered though many felt the Conference should have been longer. There was active participation by the writers with many questions and discussions that prolonged the length of each session. The pace and focus of the conference did not slacken at all.
Among the many outstanding papers one that generated much interest was Mr. Tashi Tsering's Survey of Tibetan Women's Writings from the 7th Century Onwards. Much of the information was absolutely new even to the seniors.
In the evening many writers got up in turn to declaim spontaneous verses and to sing songs of their own composition. One of the most popular songs was an ode to Amnye Machen; the mountain as well as the Institute. This spontaneous literary event carried on well into the early hours of the morning.
We received a message on the 15th from the headquarters of International PEN (A World Association of Writers) London:
"We send you our warmest wishes for the success of this, you first meeting, which is to be inaugurated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. As an international organisation of writers which fights for endangered languages, as well as for our persecuted colleagues, we have a particular interest in the preservation of the Tibetan language and literature, as well as a particular sympathy for Tibetan writers."
We also received a message from Czeslaw Milosz, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, 1980:
"Please recieve my words of solidarity and sympathy. I lived a long time in exile and I understand your problems and your hopes. You have friends in may counteries of the world, and you should be convinced that what you write in solitude and isolation will one day be known and remembered with gratitude."
Original Announcement for the Conference
LITERATURE FOR FREEDOM Role of the Tibetan Writer in the Freedom Struggle Theme for the FIRST NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF TIBETAN WRITERS THE CONFERENCE THEME The main discussion will be on the role of Tibetan writers in initiating change and progress in Tibetan society and taking a lead in the freedom struggle. To ensure that the discussion tackles specific issues and problems, and does not sink into generalities, a number of participants will be requested to present papers around which the various aspects of the discussion will centre. Examples of topics for papers: 1. Prison Literature: Revealing the Realities of Contemporary Tibetan Life. 2. Courage in Writing: A Comparison of Russian and Chinese Literature. 3. Literature vs Propaganda: The Power of Truth . 4. Gendun Choephel: the Writer as a Social Pioneer. 5. The Social & Political Limits of Contemporary Tibetan Literature. 6. Modern Tibetan Women Writers. 7. Tibetans Writing in English, Chinese, Urdu and Sanskrit. WRITERS AND THE AMNYE MACHEN INSTITUTE To introduce these writers to various new facilities created by AMI for research and for the publication of their works, not only in book form, but also in literary and academic journals and newspapers published by AMI. To introduce AMI's translation programme of great books of the world into Tibetan. This would not only provide many writers with an immediate source of income but also bring about a wider appreciation for modern humanist literature within Tibetan society. (We are planning to introduce this in a panel discussion.) TIBETAN PEN To form a Tibetan P.E.N. Centre, in order that Tibetan writers view their profession and ideals in a more global context. Furthermore it is hoped that membership in P.E.N will provide some minimal protection to writers who are persecuted by Chinese Occupation authorities. The Institute has discussed this project with International P.E.N, London, and P.E.N. American Centre and has received all necessary agreement and documentation. WORKSHOPS AND PANEL DISCUSSIONS -- TOPICS: a. Obligations in Writing: Recognition of Intellectual property, necessity of proper publication data in books, submission of copy of every publication to the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, etc,(Workshop). b. New Tibetan writing. Origins and features. (Panel Discussion). c. Academic Writing. Technicalities. (Workshop) d. Developing new punctuation conventions, proof-readers marks, and styling for contemporary Tibetan writing.(Panel Discussion) f. Computers and Tibetan Word Processing programmes.(Workshop). g. Playwriting and Scriptwriting. Importance of these in a semi-literate society. (Panel Discussion). h. Writing for Children. (Panel Discussion). GEDUN CHOEPHEL AWARD The chief guest to the conference will be requested to present the Gedun Choephel Award. This award will be presented by AMI every three years to an outstanding Tibetan writer who has maintained his dedication and courage in the face of persecution and hardship. The award will carry a cash award, and a specially framed citation. Nominations for this award will be solicited from all invitees to the conference. 100 YEARS OF THE TIBETAN PRESS, AN EXHIBITION Arrangements are also being made to organize an exhibition of Tibetan newspapers and periodicals published in exile including the first Tibetan newspaper The Tibet Mirror. Photographs of Tibetan media personalities and the works of Tibetan political cartoonists will also be featured. A detailed brochure is being prepared which will not only provide a detailed history of the Tibetan media but also provide a guide to the role of the press in the democratic process. It is planned to inaugurate this exhibition on the first day of the Conference. PARTICIPANTS About seventy Tibetan writers have already written to confirm their participation. In all from 80-100 delegates are expected. Among them will be some of the foremost writer/scholar lamas teaching in the west as well as other in universities and monasteries in India and Nepal: such as Dongthok Rimpoche from Seattle and Rakra Rimpoche from Switzerland. Many younger writers living in exile and also recently arrived from Tibet will be participating as well as over thirty editors of cultural/literary journals and newspapers in exile. Partticipation has also been confirmed from Nepalese writers who use The Tibetan language , as well as writers from Ladakh, Kinnaur, Lahaul and Sikkim. Participation is also expected from Bhutan. His Holiness as Tibet's best-selling author will grace the ocassion. A THOUGHT FOR FREEDOM Every participant will be requested on the first day to contribute an essay, story, verse or else, of no more than a page on the subject of the Tibetan Freedom Struggle. These will be collected at the end of the conference and published in book form.
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