Tibetan Refugee Culture in America


Yeh, ET, 2007. Exile meets homeland: politics, performance, and authenticity in the Tibetan diaspora. Environment and Planning D: Society and space , 25 (4), pp.648-667.

There are generally three groups of Tibetan refugees in the United States

  1. Tibetans who went into exile in India with the Dalai Lama in 1959, and exiles born in South Asia afterward.
  2. Tibetans who fled from Tibet to India and Nepal in the 1980s, together with the first type, successively obtained green cards and arrived in the United States.
  3. Those who fled directly to the United States from Tibetan areas in mainland China.

The third group is more educated and more urbanized, so that their lifestyles are considered to be closer to “Chinese” than to traditional Tibetans. The way of life of the first kind of people is somewhat influenced by the Indian style. All three people think that they have inherited the orthodox Tibetan culture, and then complain about each other.

Mainland Tibetans: You haven’t stayed in Tibetan areas for so many years, so you’re not authentic.
Indian Tibetans: You have been distorted by Chinese culture for so many years, so you are not authentic.

In 2002, a song and dance troupe from Lhasa performed at a Tibetan festival in the Bay Area. Although it is not the exaggerated lyrics of “Beijing’s Golden Mountain”, it is also the Tibetan style of the Spring Festival Gala that we are familiar with.

Tibetans from the mainland to the United States are very happy to see: this is my happiest day! Finally saw the familiar Tibetan culture. It seems that I have returned to Norbulingka (Lhasa’s version of the Summer Palace, where social gatherings are often held)…

Descendants of the older generation of Tibetan exiles: this is a ghost… I’ve had enough! Let’s watch an Indian movie~~

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