Tibet is a country that fascinates, especially since it benefits in the West from the aura of charismatic characters such as the Dalai Lama or, for France, his interpreter Matthieu Ricard, to name but a few. But do we really know it? Beyond mythology, clichés and other misconceptions, the work of Katia Buffetrille – anthropologist and Tibetologist at the École Pratique des Hautes Etudes – succeeds here in tackling an era little known to the general public – Tibet. from the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries – quite accessible for the neophyte.
The real difference with the historical works on Tibet published until now lies in the conception of the book itself. Indeed, thanks to the format proposed by the Guides Belles Lettres des Civilizations collection, the reader can choose to read the book linearly, from the first to the last page, or go from chapter to chapter in order. he wishes, letting himself be guided by his curiosity or his questions of the moment, or, finally, directly using the very extensive index in order to quickly find precise information. Which is very useful here since the book covers the land of snow of the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries in ten chapters, which deal with history, geography, political and administrative organization, society and the economy, religions, intellectual life, the relationship to time, the arts, leisure, or even privacy. The spectrum is vast!
But why have you approached precisely these two centuries? There are many reasons for this: these two hundred years are a pivotal time for the country which saw the establishment of the country's administrative structures which lasted until 1959 (date of the invasion of Tibet by China) , it was a period of unparalleled cultural abundance, great figures like the Ve Dalai Lama left their mark on society as a whole, and – very prosaically – many sources have come down to us. The selected bibliography offered at the end of the volume also demonstrates that the author has immersed herself in a very large number of them, both in Western languages and in Tibetan! Unsurprisingly, sources of religious origin are widely represented, but the reports of missionaries and other travelers who visited the Himalayan high plateau are also particularly fascinating first-hand accounts, which allow us to grasp what the society was like. Tibetan at the time. Note that the bibliographical references are divided according to the main chapters of the book, which is, to say the least, practical for those who wish to deepen certain points.
Richly illustrated, Tibet's Golden Age is not a travel guide in the strict sense, but it takes us on a journey through a time in a Tibet that we discover open to the outside world, tolerant of other religions (there was even two mosques in Lhasa!) and in full transformation with the establishment of a political and administrative unit which makes Lhasa the capital of a gigantic territory. This book sheds light on a Tibet of yesterday which lasted until the middle of the XNUMXth century and which, unfortunately, is in the process of disappearing today.