Interviewee Profile

Name: Thupten Sonam
(Alias: No)

Gender: Male

Interview Age: 78

Date of Birth: 1937

Birthplace: Khora Dokpa - Dayab, Kham, Tibet

Year Left Tibet: 1959

Profession: Monk

Monk/Nun: Previously

Political Prisoner: No

Interview Details

Interview No.: 5N

Date: 2015-04-06

Language: Tibetan

Location: Kathmandu, Bagmati, Nepal

Categories: Culture and History

Keywords: childhood memories, Chushi Gangdrug guerrillas, escape experiences, Kham, monastic life, nomadic life


Thupten Sonam was born in a middle class family in Kham Province. They were nomads that raised yaks and sheep in the mountains during summer and descended in the winter. There were more than a 100 families in his region that bartered their milk products, meat and pelts for grains with the farmers in the 8th or 9th Tibetan lunar month.

Thupten Sonam was sent to Yatol Lekpa Monastery as a monk at the age of 6, where he learned to read and write and memorized prayers. At age 17 he and three other monks spent nearly two-months travelling to the city of Lhasa to study for three years at the great Drepung Monastery. He talks about life in the monastery, reading prayers in people's homes and serving the patrons of the Drepung Loselling Monastery in various capacities, including as a bodyguard.

Thupten Sonam noticed the Chinese presence in Lhasa and watched their propaganda films played on street corners. He attended a Kalachakra Empowerment bestowed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama primarily just to be in his presence. During the second Kalachakra he attended, the Chushi Gangdrug Defend Tibet Volunteer Force offered His Holiness the Golden Throne, which was built so that the members of the Chushi Gangdrug could have an excuse to meet and discuss resistance against the Chinese. Thupten Sonam joined the force hoping to drive the Chinese out of Tibet and if not to find a route to escort the Dalai Lama abroad.

Interview Team:

  • Marcella Adamski (Interviewer)
  • Tenzin Yangchen (Interpreter)
  • Henry Tenenbaum (Videographer)
Interview Video

Link: Watch On Youtube

Topic: Interview with Thupten Sonam on 4/6/2015

Length: 01:38:22

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