In China, a recently screened TV drama, Tibet's Secret (西藏秘密), caused outrage amongst many Tibetans, critical of the director, Liu Depin, for what they perceive as a distortion of Tibetan culture and religion. Since the drama was broadcast on the state-run China Central Television (CCTV), in early January 2013 via CCTV channel 8 in prime time 7:00pm, the controversy has intensified, and somewhat inevitably, begun to turn political in nature.
The main character in Tibet's Secret, a 46 episode drama, is Tashi, a Tibetan Lama who speaks on behalf of the Tibetan people about the history of Tibet during the period between the 1930-40s, a time before the Chinese Communist Party liberated Tibet. The character of Tashi was himself involved in the overthrow of the rural slavery system in Tibet during that period.
While Tibet is an extremely sensitive topic and heavily censored in both online and offline media outlets in China, the CCTV's drama is an important source for Han Chinese to understand the Tibetan history, culture and religion. Indeed, commentaries from entertainment pages in various media outlets have routinely stressed the the drama is an honest representation [zh] of the Tibetan culture and history and that it has won the recognition of Tibetan scholars. Yet, to many Tibetans, the drama is a highly distorted source of insight.
For example @泽仁多真 criticizes [zh]:
From the Tibet's Secret Drama, for those who know about Tibet, they would see that the director is ignorant about Tibetan culture and has defamed the Tibetan history. The drama is obnoxious and we should not waste our time and energy on it.
Tsewang Thar believes [zh] that the drama will harm the relations between Han Chinese and Tibetan:
Liu Depin, you don't have deep understanding of Tibet, you don't love Tibetan and you are ignorant about Tibet culture. What do you know about Tibet's secret? This TV drama is to ridicule Tibet, insult Tibetan and debase Tibetan culture. You are responsible for the destruction of the relation between Han and Tibetan and the stability of the society.
A lengthy article written by a Han Chinese woman has been widely circulated [zh] online, also criticizing the director:
今天我實在是忍不住要發聲，因為我看到劉德瀕導演對於藏族朋友指出電視劇中錯誤和曲解置著罔聞，甚至給藏人扣上「分裂祖國的跳梁小丑們」的帽子，更甚者還要出書，還要拍第二部 […] 我哭了，不知道是因為覺得自己無能為力而悲哀，還是為這個時代悲哀，為看到這部劇而讚精彩的漢族人悲哀 […] 劉德瀕導演所說的分裂祖國的跳梁小丑，其實分裂祖國的並不是提意見的藏族人，而恰恰是不懂得尊重，惹惱藏族人的劉導。
I can't help from voicing out today. Liu Depin is playing dumb to Tibetan friends’ criticisms on all the distortion in the drama. He even labelled them as “clowns who acted stupid to separate the country” and said he would write a book based on the drama and shoot the second series. […] I cried. Not sure if the tears is shed for my being helpless, or for the time that we live in or for those Han Chinese who keep praising the drama […]. Director Liu Depin accused people of being clowns who intend to separate the country, the true separatists are not the Tibetans who criticize the drama, but are the people who have no idea about respect and stirred up anger among Tibetans.
While the director has claimed that he will begin shooting a second series, many netizens have begun spelling out their opposition. @康巴潮人 invites other micro-bloggers [zh] to join the effort in the campaign against the production of a second series:
这部电视剧（西藏秘密） 自从播出后，在藏族文化圈的人分分议论，说这部电视剧不仅是违背历史，不尊重事实，故意丑化藏人和诽谤藏传佛教，真不知这位@刘德濒 导演用意何在，难道他比西藏人还了解西藏历史吗？希望多点尊重事实，尊重宗教，注重民族团结！尊重我们藏族的信仰，反对播出！见者转发！
Soon after the TV drama, Tibet's Secret, was aired, it has become a hot topic among Tibetans, many saying that it is against historical fact and with an intention to defame the Tibetans and their religion. I don't know why director @Liu Depin will produce the drama, does he know more Tibetan history than the Tibetans? Please respect fact, religion and ethnic unity. Respect Tibetan belief and stop airing the drama! please forward this message!
To defend himself against criticism, the director posted a page from a book called “Tibet encounter” (西藏奇遇） and claimed that he referenced the book, which is a 1986 translated version of “Seven Years in Tibet”, the English version of “Sieben Jahre in Tibet” written by Heinrich Harrer. Prominent Tibetan writer Woser decided to cross-check the book page with the original text in Germany and found out that the so-called Chinese translation is a distorted re-writing of the original text:
Co-incidentally, I have a friend in Germany who is a language expert. He is very interested to help out. He found the original text written by Heinrich Harrer and cross checked with the Chinese version. He was so astonished and yelled out: “My god! the CCP writer is shameless. The word ‘relics’ has been translated into ‘feces'.
In the Chinese text that Liu read, it said:
Almost every wealthy household in Tibet are in possession of a sacred medicine, they showed me the feces of Dalai Lama 13, preciously sewn in silk bags”.
However, the original text in Germany is: Fast jeder Adelige zeigte mir stolz Reliquien vom 13. Dalai Lama, sorgfältig in kleine Seidensäckchen eingenäht, meaning “Almost every noble proudly showed me relics of Dalai Lama 13, carefully sewn in small silk bags”.
In fact there are many distortions in the translation of “Tibet Encounter” and Liu Depin‘s “Tibet's Secret” is just a further distortion of an already distorted truth.