The Sociocultural Life of
By Huatse Gyal
No one has written so intimately about the implications of Chinese state-led resettlement policy for Tibetan pastoralists as renowned Tibetan writer, Tsering Dondrup (b. 1962). And no other work has generated as many lively discussions concerning the fate of Tibetan pastoralists in Tibet as Tsering Dondrup’s short story, The Valley of Black Foxes.
Since its publication in 2012 in Light Rain,one of the foremost Tibetan language literary journals in contemporary Tibet, the sociocultural life of The Valley of Black Foxes has grown organically through reviews, commendations, interpretative essays and group discussions among different generations of Tibetans inside Tibet. The story of a Tibetan Drokpa family, wading through the quotidian uncertainties of the new space of resettlement, viscerally captured the concerns of many Tibetans, including a generation of young college Tibetan students, most of whom hail from Drokpa places.
In November 2017, for example, a group of passionate Tibetan college students at Qinghai Normal University in the city of Xining organized a forum on The Valley of Black Foxes. With the support of their revered Tibetan literature professor Mogru Dondrup Tsering, they also invited the author Tsering Dondrup as an honorary guest. A summary of this event in Tibetan language, along with audio recordings of the students’ thoughtful reflections, and author Tsering Dondrup’s speech, were shared on their Wechat platform, which was then subsequently viewed by thousands of Tibetans online. It can be said that the sociocultural life of the Valley of Black Foxeshas also been amplified by the ever-increasing use of social media in Tibet.
In my conversation with author Tsering Dondrup in the summer of 2019, he said that initially he took notes of all the discussions on The Valley of Black Foxes has generated in different spaces of Tibetan society. But later, they were so many discussions proliferating, he couldn’t keep track of all of them. Other leading contemporary Tibetan writers and scholars such as Rigdan Gyatso (novelist), Gombo Skyabs (Professor at Northeastern Minzu University), Mogru Dondrup Tsering (Professor at Qinghai Normal University) have reviewed and shared their own thoughts on the deep value of The Valley of Black Foxes not just as a piece of literary work, but also as cutting-edge social commentary about the real concerns of perhaps the last generation of Tibetan Drokpa -- people who are not an "Other" for them, but simply their parents, siblings, and family.
It’s their story, too.
In November 2019, Qinghai Minzu Press published a collection of short stories by Tsering Dondrup under the title The Valley of Black Foxes. The initial 5000 copies were sold out within two days. An additional publication run of 5000 copies also sold out within weeks. As one Qinghai Minzu Press editor put it only partly in jest, "The Valley of Black Foxes is now the second bestseller next to the commonly-used Tibetan Dictionary itself."
Tsering Dondrup indeed has taken on a key role as a public critic and a penetrating voice of conscience for a large Tibetan audience inside Tibet. His large body of work, and particularly The Valley of Black Foxes, has galvanized a generation of Tibetans to deeply reflect on contemporary social issues they are facing today.
Lastly, visuals are more effective than just my written word. To illustrate what I mean by the sociocultural life of The Valley of Black Foxes inside Tibet, let me share a few images of young passionate college Tibetan students who organized a spirited forum on The Valley of Black Foxes at Qinghai Normal University in 2017.
You will see hope, courage, and determination in these faces.
Huatse Gyal is a PhD Candidate at the University of Michigan
You can see the original article in Tibetan here. ཚེ་རིང་དོན་གྲུབ་དང་མཉམ་དུ་ཝ་ནག་ལུང་བའི་ཕྱི་ནང་ཉུལ་བ།