Interviewee Profile

Name: Tenzin Chonphel, Geshe
(Alias: No)

Gender: Male

Interview Age: 80

Date of Birth: 1933

Birthplace: Bomthoe, Utsang, Tibet

Year Left Tibet: 1959

Profession: Monk

Monk/Nun: Currently

Political Prisoner: No

Interview Details

Interview No.: 10B

Date: 2013-12-26

Language: Tibetan

Location: Lugsung Samdupling Settlement, Bylakuppe, Karnataka, India

Categories: Resistance and Revolution

Keywords: Chinese -- first appearance of, Chushi Gangdrug guerrillas, escape experiences, monastic life, refugee in India -- life as, resistance, Utsang


Tenzin Chonphel was born in Bomthoe close to Lhasa and was the oldest among five siblings. His parents earned their livelihood as farmers. He tells that it was his parents' decision to make him a monk at the age of 8 at Sera Monastery. They found a teacher for him with whom he studied the scriptures and then later learned the art of philosophical debating.

Tenzin Chonphel shares his experience of the first appearance of Chinese in Lhasa, which lasted peacefully for nine years. The Chinese exhibited gentle behavior in the beginning and claimed they would leave after helping to develop Tibet. However, Tenzin Chonphel explains that gradually the Chinese became imposing once they had constructed drivable roads from Amdo to Lhasa and brought in huge quantities of arms and soldiers.

When conflict arose in March 1959, Tenzin Chonphel went to the Potala Palace along with many other monks to get guns from the armory to put up resistance. He describes the bombardment of the Potala Palace, the Norbulingka, Sera Monastery, and what the general scene was in the aftermath. He and other monks escaped from Sera Monastery, planning to join the Chushi Gangdrug Defend Tibet Volunteer Force since they already had weapons. When they arrived at the Chushi Gangdrug camp, many Tibetans were fleeing and the resistance soon ended.

Interview Team:

  • Marcella Adamski (Interviewer)
  • Tenzin Yangchen (Interpreter)
  • Pema Tashi (Videographer)
Interview Video

Link: Watch On Youtube

Topic: Interview with Geshe Tenzin Chonphel on 12/26/2013

Length: 01:41:50

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