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A story of love and intrigue in the high grasslands and mountains of Tibet
7th February 2019
Love In No Man’s Land by Duo Ji Zhuo Ga, a story of love and intrigue in the high grasslands and mountains of Tibet – translated by Hallie Treadway.
Love In No Man’s Land is an epic adventure written with passion and sensitivity. It covers the years from 1967 through to the early 2000s – but it could have come from an earlier time… a much earlier time. In many ways it is reminiscent of Middle Earth. It describes the village in the grasslands (at over 4,500m) where Gongzha was born and raised. Life is tough for the inhabitants of the grasslands. They hunt, tend their yaks and sheep, and live in yak-skin tents. They are a primitive, but very proud, people. Violence is the way of settling disagreements,
Then, in 1967, comes the Cultural Revolution with the Red Guards trying to take over and control every aspect of village life. Seven year old Gongzha is asked by the living Buddha to help him hide the much revered black Medicine Buddha from the Guards. He does so, and he buries it – promising to restore it to the Temple when the present danger has passed. Around the same time a bear called Kaguo is born in the grassland. Little does Gongzha realise what an impact the animal is to have on his life…
A few years later, Gongzha falls in love with Cuomo – a girl in the village. They vow to marry each other. Gongzha goes off to join the Chinese army, but returns every couple of years. He is almost home on his final visit when he sees Cuomo being mauled and killed by Kaguo (whom he recognises by her distinctive marking). Cuomo had disturbed Kaguo and her two cubs – and a bear mother will do anything to protect her young. Gongzha is distraught, and vows to slay Kaguo to avenge Cuomo’s death. He spends years travelling far and wide in the grasslands and mountains to accomplish his mission. He hunts and lives off the land.
Meanwhile Feng, a smart and sophisticated young business lady from Shanghai, decides to visit Tibet. She is a friend of the son of a doctor who used to work on the grasslands back in the late 60s. Her friend’s father recommends that she tries to visit Gongzha, who he has not seen for years but remembers fondly. She, almost by chance, encounters Gongzha in the grasslands – and falls in love with him (but doesn’t know whether he has with her – and is very aware of Cuomo). She goes back to Shanghai, but can’t get him out of her mind. She returns to Tibet to see if she can pick up where she left off. They find each other again, and embark on an epic adventure – first they are captured by a violent antelope poaching bandit gang, and then they live in a remote settlement where the inhabitants still practice the ancient religion of the grassland. All is explained about the tradition of the Medicine Buddha, which Gongzha still carries with him.
Feng and Gongzha live happily on the grassland ‘for ever’. Kaguo survives.
Love in No Man’s Land is a beautifully written (and beautifully translated) story of our times. The story is a real insight into the rapidly changing life of the tribes that live in the harsh grasslands and mountains of Tibet. In the course of the book, telephones appear and roads are built. It is about a people trying to move forward but maintain their past. Duo Ji Zhuo Ga is an author much famed in her native Tibet. She currently lives in Lhasa, the capital.
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