New Museum Offers the Official Line on Tibet





BEIJING — Not far from National Stadium, the city’s mammoth, just-finished Olympic arena, another construction project is still facing an Olympic deadline. The building, sheathed in a green construction tent, will house Beijing’s first museum exclusively dedicated to Tibet.

Inside, curators will display antiquities, dynastic records and reproductions to demonstrate China’s dominion over Tibet as far back as the 13th century. Many experts question China’s historical claims, but few clouds of doubt are likely to darken the museum. Even the Dalai Lama is being edited out of the narrative.

“He will not appear after 1959,” said Lian Xiangmin, a Chinese scholar involved in the museum, referring to the year the Tibetan spiritual leader fled to India after a failed uprising against Chinese rule. “This is a Tibet museum, and we don’t recognize him as part of Tibet anymore.”

History is often interpreted to meet the political objectives of whichever government is doing the interpreting. The historical relationship between Tibet and China is replete with claims, disputes and caveats. But the ruling Communist Party does not hesitate to eliminate any uncertainty and use history as a political tool to validate its hold on Tibet.


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