Lecture by Yongdrol K. Tsongkha, Life Among the People of Choni

News item posted on: July 7th, 2009
Life Among the People of Choni:
A Lost Tibetan Kingdom
Yongdrol K. Tsongkha

Yongdrol K. Tsongkha

Choni is a beautiful place on the north-eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau. Still rarely known to the western world, it was a Tibetan Principality with over 500 years of history and a vital cultural centre on the Chinese-Tibetan Borderlands. Eighty years ago, Joseph Francis Rock (1884-1962), one of the last classic explorers, geographer, linguist and botanist, set foot on the Tibetan Plateau, embarking on his extensive expeditions in this area. His remarkable article in National Geographic in 1928, “Life Among the Lamas of Choni,” was the first written piece to vividly reveal to the world the mysteries of the religious festivals in Tibetan monasteries. His works and studies were testimony to a lost culture and tradition. His extraordinary visual materials of the Chinese-Tibetan borderlands and its people is unique and remains invaluable to the history of this region. Beyond this, the man is a fascinating character and his personal papers are rich in the texture and personality of their author.

Eighty years later, this carefully crafted documentary follows in the footsteps of this legendary explorer. By blending over 500 original photographs from Rock’s expeditions with modern images, and by weaving an extensively research chronology via narration and excerpts from his dairies, the film not only shows how eastern Tibet looked in the 1920s, but also portrays how the same places and people look now. It is a memorial meeting of the east and west, a long lasting dialogue between the past and the present.