On a quick browse through, the visual impact of this book is stunning. Six teams of Chinese photographers who spent some eight months in Tibet during 1980 have produced a dazzling panorama of this rooftop of the world, from iridescent sunsets on Mt. Chomolungma (Everest) to the shimmering golden bells of the Potala Palace in the capital city of Lhasa.
Even more remarkable, however, is the commentary. Chapters on ethnic minorities, women's rights, and the pervasive influence of religion might be taken for granted in a picture book about, say, Spain or Malaysia. But this is Tibet, annexed by the People's Republic of China in 1951 and sealed off from the rest of the world for almost 30 years. During that time communist rule replaced the ancient Buddhist theocracy, temples were gutted, and much of the population imprisoned or executed.
The fact that the few travelers who are admitted to Tibet today report widespread destruction of religious shrines and few signs of the country's formerly rich ceremonial life makes publication of these selected photographs a landmark event for sociologists, historians, journalists, and armchair adventurers alike.