Friday, 21 August 2009

TIBET - are these people really so poor and downtrodden?

We are living in surroundings where half-truths, omissions, or slight distortions of events have a fair chance to become the real thing. They might become fully confirmed facts and are thus supposed to make us salivate like well trained dogs seeing a bone............

Some months ago I saw a report on the telly regarding the fast disappearing Indian tiger. The animal was killed by poachers right in the Indian National Parks where it was supposed to live unmolested. But it remained unclear why and what happened to the furs.

Then the author of the report realized that the skins were smuggled to Tibet where they adorn wealthy Tibetans. And then I had the pleasure to look at those people wearing Indian Tiger skins. See for yourself, look at those photos in Belinda Wright's "The End of the Tiger trail"

Now that killed me. For years and years, whenever Tibet was mentioned, I saw those desperately poor, downtrodden people, living miserably at the feet of the cruel Chinese. Those photos just don't square with the general idea about that country. Each one of those skins fetch several thousand Euro (and a little more in US Dollars). Unlike those poor Tibetans I am unable to shell out that money for a weekend outfit and I don't know anybody around here who could and would do this and spend this amount.

A tent made up of 108 tiger skins

The poor downtrodden Tibetans: can't help thinking this to be another case were we are being force-fed another piece of crap and bullshit.


  1. I just can't wait to see if some one has an answer to this..
    I refuse to believe anything that i am told. Are there not always 2 sides to any story?
    I wonder...
    bonjour Georg

  2. Hi Georg,

    The tiger is much in demand in China. Every single bit of it is used by the Chinese for various purposes, including and mainly as an aphrodisiac. That is one reason why tigers are being poached to extinction. In India, tiger skins used to adorn the houses of the better off. Now, of course it is a crime. In addition, tiger skin is also valued by ascetics who sit on it for meditation etc.

    In Tibet, all animal skins are used. In that cold country, that is how people kept themselves protected and warm. Tiger skins are valued.

    But, don't let these pictures fool you into believing that all Tibetans are rich and all can afford tiger skins. Leopards are available locally. That tent of 108 (incidentally that is sacred number for Hindus, Buddhists and Jains) tiger skins must belong to a very rich and powerful person, and perhaps will be the only one in the world.

    It is not just the tiger that is so hunted. The musk deer, found only in parts of Tibet and India at very high altitudes, is almost extinct for its valuable pod that contains musk. Musk, apart from use as a cosmetic and aphrodisiac, has been used in various religious rituals for thousands of years. It is costlier than gold and is much in demand. But that does not mean all Indians are rich!

  3. 108 is a very auspicious number.What one sees in the picture,I am not sure if those are tiger skins.It could be skin of any other animal.Surely,Tibrtians are not rich.

  4. To Sorrow
    Well, my dear, it seems Vinod from India has some answers.
    As to your remark in general, yes one might end up taking whatever you are being told "cum grano salis" (with a pinch of salt).

    To Vinod
    Thanks for all those explanations. You are certainly right, all Tibetans are not rich but here we are being told they are ALL poor and downtrodden!

    There is one point a little off the subject: can those tiger skins really warm? They belong to an animal living in hot and steaming India. If those Tibetans shiver a bit in their barren deep freeze country, they should organize expeditions to lay their hand on some Polar Bears in Canada! Could be they would be well received over there..........

    The Musk Deer was extinct here, too but nowadays this animal is being reintroduced with some success.

    To BK Chowla
    Your remark is very much to the point. I was told the 8 is a lucky number in Asia and therefore the big airplane Airbus A380 has this number. Only to please superstitious Asians. But you are right: 108 skins is a big number, maybe it is made half of rabbit or rat skins, who knows.


  5. I agree with sorrow and Vindo, there are always two sides of story. Poor Tibetan who you saw in TV reports are really there and are in great need, but yes there are also rich side of this country. But I think there are quite few percent of Tibetan who can afford these kind of luxury ...

  6. Hallo Georgy,
    It sorts of remind me of how expensive silk is here but not so much in Thailand (but then silk isn't made of endangered species stuff).

    I guess it is of some consolation that the tiger tent would probably last a long time... It is maddening looking at how the big fish in a small pond like the rich and royal in 3rd world countries (or even here, the multi-billionaire mega-rich) live compared to the rest of the country. I don't know if I should try to compare this to Ludwig II's Neuschwanstein and other extravagances that bankrupted his country but are now cash cow tourism magnets... After all, these tiger skins probably won't still be in good shape a century from now. :oP

    Thanks a bunch for the link to more photos! I hadn't seen any of those before. Would love to visit Tibet and India one of these days (and have a glimpse of the Himalayas while I'm at it). :o)

  7. To Hiva,
    Sure, there are some rich in every country and a bigger number of poor. However, I intensely dislike to being shown of lopsided picture to influence my thinking. Just remember the fuss about Tibet when the Chinese were running their Olympic torch through Europe or elsewhere.

    We should stop meddling in other people's affairs and should stop to tell them what to do as if where are a bunch of saints.

    To Smorgy,
    Hallo old pal. You can compare those tiger skins to Neuschwanenstein but I wouldn't do it. I would certainly like to go to Bavaria and visit the place (I have never been in Bavaria) but those people on the photos I have another sentiment: a big kick in the ass with a pointed Italian shoe.


  8. C'est vrai le tigre disparaît comme peau de chagrin mais il me semble utile de rectifier une erreur.
    Sur la première photo il s'agit d'une peau de panthère. ce qui ne change presque rien au problème.
    C'(est comme la disparition du dahu des montagnes auvergnates. IL n'en reste presque plus. Mais on voit toujours les traces de leur passages parallèlement aux flancs des montagnes.
    bonne soirée et bises à Elisabeth

  9. Bonjour Vincent,

    T'a l'oeil, faut le dire.

    Quant au Dahu auvergnat, je te propose d'aller le chasser ensemble dès ton retour parmi nos collines.

    Jusque là, amigo


  10. dear herr Georg, your post reminds me of one of the most heart-breaking films I have seen in a while, it's about pochers too and the Tibetan antelope, please watch the film, I feel it goes deep into the truth of how Tibetan people survives now

    and remember one can never generalize! of course they might be some wealthy mean Tibetans, and of course they are many cultured and sensitive chinese people, is like saying that all French people drink wine and eat cheese, or that all Germans were Nazi, one never know and it's very dangerous to generalize...

    i agree very much with Vinod's comment

    and i truly hope you watch this film, is has beautiful landscapes from the Kekexili region in Tibet, and shows the hardships people have to go through on those areas

    also it's based on a true story of a Mountain Patrol that Tibetan people organized without help from the government in an attempt to rescue their 'sacred' antelopes from the hands of assassins and pochers, and remember, when it comes to animal-killing, the only ones who have their hands clean are the vegetarians, in way or another, we all meat eaters, participate on the sacrifice of animals, some of us in a "civilized" way, some others not so much...

    here the links for the film
    my old humble review from 2006

    and from the National Geographic page

  11. Impossible!!! ils sont protégés!!

  12. That's abominable...a tent made up of tiger skins!!! Vinod and Berenice's comments brought some understanding to this dastardly practice. There is also perhaps another culprit responsible for such atrocities - illiteracy resulting in ignorance. The term 'downtrodden' suggests a person deprived of the basics that we in the developed world take for granted, one of these basics being education & literacy.
    A very interesting post Georg...I like your take on issues and the unique directions they take :)

  13. To Id it Is,

    Can't help thinking these people have clogged minds but that does not stop them to make plenty of money to spend perniciously.

    As to illiteracy, well, I have a book here "Chronicles of the Crusades" by Joinville and Villehardouin relating the Conquest of Constantinople. Those 2 authors lived in the 12th Century and were both illiterate. They dictated their text to some monk, I imagine.
    They were not deprived of anythink just as you might not be able to read Braille or Greek.

    As to the thinking, I do my best. There is this dicton "think beyond the limits". I try.


  14. Shocking stuff, Georg; I'm going to do a bit of research myself, too. Thank you for this post.
    btw, if you "Facebook", please add me as "Lisa Nanette Allender" in a "Friend-Request".

  15. There is a mention of this particular tent here : where they say "Nevertheless, even in olden times, there was excess, as demonstrated in the exquisite, but outrageous tiger skin tent, (see below) which belonged to the sixth Dalai Lama (1683-1705), made of some hundred pelts."