- Her mother had a difficult life, which I try to get at by showing her aunt (in monk robes) massaging her shoulders. She was constantly looking after things around the house, fetching water (that’s a water jug next to her), and the like. She was not even the only wife — when she was unable to bear more children, Pachen’s father took another wife, Kunsang. It turned out that Kunsang, too, couldn’t bear children. ↩
- Pachen’s aunt notably said at one point, “Once one is wed, there is no turning back. The path is full of sorrow.” ↩
- Pachen didn’t actually run away by herself. She threatened to jump off the roof unless the family servant helped her run away. I wanted to include this bit of brattiness in this telling, but a) it would have come so early on, you don’t have a good sense of her character yet; and b) this story took long enough to illustrate as is. ↩
- “Om Mani Peme Hum” is a Buddhist mantra whose meaning isn’t widely agreed upon, that helps the practitioner focus on enlightenment. Nowadays it’s more commonly spelled Om Mani Padme Hum, but I’m deferring to how her autobiography spelled it. ↩
- Her father spent months undoing her marriage contract — this was not a small bit of work on his part. ↩
- The slavery issue is one that Pachen doesn’t bring up in her autobiography, but it was one of the chief accusations leveled at Tibet by Mao’s China. Academic Kensaku Okawa, who studied nang zan (Tibetan servant workers), argues that nang zan were not an immutable, monolithic caste, but a diverse category. Some were freelance laborers, some were contract labor, some were indentured servants. Traditional Tibetan society was feudal in nature and definitely not equitable, but, Okawa argues, it did not feature outright slavery. ↩
- The argument over Tibetan serfdom/slavery is far more complex than this entry has time for, but I wanted to at least touch on it. I try in this story to portray Tibetan society, and Pachen herself, as complicated and flawed – by including her struggles with anger, whipping servants, forced marriages, and unequal labor. ↩
- There were more charges than I could fit here. The Chinese began importing Chinese citizens into Tibet so they would outnumber native Tibetans – many of whom the Tibetans described as peasants and thieves, which is to be taken with a bit of salt. There were instances where soldiers would beat Tibetan priests, urinate on them, and ride them like animals. There were numerous instances of soldiers killing landowners and sparking mini-rebellions, which were sometimes led by women. ↩
- Pachen actually went to a monastery for six months, along with her mother, and became an initiate of Dorjee Phurba during this time. I am unsure if she would have started shaving her head at this point, but after reading up on it and consulting some friends, I don’t think it’s an unreasonable assumption. ↩
- The guns that the Tibetans used were incredibly old and hard to use. Note the support prong that she has set up. They were very long and inefficient weapons. ↩
- This is the monastery in Lithang. Three months prior, the Chinese had ordered the monastery to draw up an inventory of its possessions, with the unstated goal of confiscating its cultural artifacts, as they often did. The monastery refused to comply and began organizing a resistance. Some stole Chinese supplies and holed up in the monastery. When they refused to come out, the Chinese sent in bomber planes and destroyed it. This was in 1956. ↩
- I skip over it, but her father had been in declining heath for some time, and it contributed to his pushing her to take the reins. ↩
- That is a verbatim quote from her autobiography. She’d actually tried to stop it from happening, by begging her stepmother Kunsang to run in and plead for mercy – which she would have shown, and called off the whipping. However, Kunsang was terrified to step forward and, without an out that would allow her to save face, Pachen let the whipping go forward. Her servant was the one to carry it out. ↩
- Yeah, the CIA backed some Tibetan rebels, but not very well or for very long. The US can’t help but meddle. ↩
- Pachen kept asking to be put on the front lines, but was continually kept away from the fighting. She did send men to stymie Chinese road builders, though. When the Chinese were about to hit Gonjo, she organized a mass evacuation. ↩
- This outfit is based off Tibetan hunters, and isn’t 100% accurate to what she wore — she had a larger, fox fur hat, a revolver, and a sword at her side. I wanted to show how technologically outmoded the Tibetans were, however, so I opted to portray her with one of their long rifles. ↩
- They were offered amnesty if they gave up all their possessions, but nobody took the Chinese up on it, because nobody believed them. ↩
- The prison in this case was Deyong Nang, where she stayed from 1960-1965. She was later transferred to a second prison. ↩
- She mentions giving her food to starving elders, but was unable to save them. ↩
- She was put into solitary confinement for nine months for refusing to acquiesce to the cultural re-education and give up her beliefs. ↩
- I wanted to include this image in particular because it’s so different from what most people probably picture regarding Tibetan religion. Phurba is a three-headed, six-armed, four-legged deity with a crown of skulls, invoked to destroy barriers. He is closely associated with the sharpness of a ritual dagger (seen between his two lowest hands), and to my understanding, his name actually means “irreducible depth truth piercing through like a dagger-spike.” Draped across his front, as he is often portrayed, is his goddess consort. ↩
- At this point, Pachen didn’t even know if the Dalai Lama was alive. ↩
- At a certain point, her Tibetan clothes were so worn that she began wearing the black Chinese prison garb, which she hated — black being a color anathema to her religion. ↩
- She’s tossing out a pot of urine here. In the early days of her incarceration, volunteering to dump the massive latrine pot was the only time she got fresh air. ↩
- The slogan on the wall, to my understanding, translates to “We model ourselves using Mao Zedong Thought.” I found it here. ↩
- What Pachen tells her mother is a verbatim quote from the book. ↩
- As Pachen tells it, when a Chinese person found out that her family were from a family of lords, they bribed a Tibetan woman to turn against them. She served poisoned food to her mother, aunt, and grandmother, the latter two of whom died. When they did, Pachen’s mother carried their bodies to the river and threw them in. Nobody would help her, for the fear of the Chinese. ↩
- Pachen’s mother is here wearing the clothing of the Kongpo. ↩
- Her mother’s last words to her were that she was going to get her some butter, so she wouldn’t be hungry. But the soldiers ushered Pachen away before her mother could return.. ↩
- This is the same landscape from the “idyllic childhood” panel on page 2, but there are people working the fields and Mao propaganda. ↩
- Again, this is a verbatim quote from her autobiography. The “caves” bit references some meditation she did inside a cave while on her pilgrimage. ↩
First, I must give many thanks to reader Jeanette Wu, who, on top of being a longtime help with translation on countless entries, provided coloring on pages 1-3! She requested to add that she is Han Chinese and does not approve of the human rights abuses in Tibet.
As for the art direction, a lot of it is color coded:
- Red and yellow generally represent traditional Tibet, as per their clothing.
- White represents enlightenment, while black is the death of the soul.
- Green is the color of the encroaching Chinese.
- Purple is the color of leadership and duty, most closely linked to her father.
- Blue is the color of determination, as personified by Dorjee Phurba. It’s what she wears during the armed rebellion. When she veers off her path by whipping her subordinate, the colors shift past blue and start going into the green range.
- The saturated red shirt against the desaturated blackness is reminiscent of Schindler’s List, I know, but I wanted to communicate how embers of her old life lived on, and presage her being reunited with it when she got to Nepal.
Next Time on Rejected Princesses
I’m scrambling to get an online store up so I can get personalized RP books (and pins, and stickers) to you all for the holidays! Hope to have it in the next couple days. I know, it’s been a long time in coming. After that, I’ll look at the next entry.