More or Less Tibet – a Translation of a Weibo poem

This morning on Weibo I came across what I thought to be a really interesting poem entitled “More or Less Tibet“, and decided to translate it. “More or Less Tibet” caught my attention because of the very simple language it uses to engage some of the most topical and complex events that occurred in past weeks as well as contemporary Tibet more broadly. General concerns about identity, language, religion, and culture are all reflected upon throughout the poem, but so too are more specific recent discussions of Tibetan representation at the Olympics, Drolma’s animal release affairand the rise of “dangka” (党卡), a recent wave of Thangka paintings in which Chinese party (dang) officials feature prominently.

The poem was penned by Arok, a Khampa Tibetan man who, according to his Weibo, hails from Yul Shul (Tib. ཡུལ་ཤུལ; ; Ch. 玉树) and describes himself as “a southern barbarian residing in a place far from home who always takes with him a sense of place and the temperatures of the Land of Snows.” 

(This translation is my own. While I have made every effort to remain faithful to the original text, I am not a professional translator. Please get in touch if you feel that any particular section needs attention or have any suggestions for improvement! All images are from the original news piece.)


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More or Less Tibet

The time I more or less slept in

I got up more or less early

and saw more or less Tibet

I am no longer there so much

I put on more or less Tibetan attire

Drink a gulp of more or less butter tea

Gaze upon more or less Tsampa

I no longer gobble it down

I ride more or less horses

Drive along the more or less herds

Wave the more or less yak hair sling

I no longer yearn for the past

I return to my more or less Tibetan family

See more or less Tibetans

Speak more or less Tibetan

I no longer stay there much

I hurry to go to more or less school

Study more or less Tibetan

Write more or less Tibetan

I no longer speak it

I enter more or less society

Make more or less friends

Pick up more or less girls

I no longer love anyone

I roll into the more or less nangma hall (1)

Drink more or less barley beer

Sing more or less Tibetan songs

Dance more or less Tibetan dance

With those nearby more or less friends

I make more or less pledges

Raise more or less beer bottles

Wave them at more or less foes

After some more or less time

Along come the more or less police

I enter more or less prison

and don’t see those more or less friends

I enter a more or less work unit (2)

Muddle through a more or less job

Take a more or less wage

I no longer care about others’ interests

I return to my more or less house

Watch more or less television

See the more or less news

I no longer sigh

I pick up my more or less phone

Open up more or less WeChat

Speak more or less Tibetan

See the more or less “dangka” (2)

and also see more or less Tibetans

Speaking more or less Tibetan

Commenting on more or less Thangka

I don’t know the more or less artist

From which more or less teacher they studied

More or less Thangka

Featuring more or less Tibet

Depicting the more or less snow mountains

The more or less rising sun

I see more or less Tibet

They are all more or less Tibetans

They know more or less Buddhism

Understand more or less history

Comment upon all kinds of more or less things

Read more or less Tibetan

Appearing in the more or less Olympics

Feel more or less moved

See more or less Tibetans

Releasing more or less sheep

Thanking more or less Tibetans

I am more or less a sheep

Poor more or less Tibet

Without more or less purity

Still speaking more or less my thoughts

Always speaking more or less complete nonsense

See more or less the media

Reporting on more or less Tibet

See more or less Tibet

Feeling more or less grateful

More or less Tibet

Don’t say more or less things

Or do more or less things

Or pass a more or less life

Time is already more or less up

I put down my more or less phone

Enter the more or less Buddha hall

Light the more or less butter oil lamp

Recite three times the more or less scriptures

Make three more or less prostrations

Make one more or less vow

Make a little more or less money

Take off my more or less Tibetan attire

Lie on my more or less bed

Smoke a more or less cigarette

Another more or less day passes

More or less Tibet

Living on more or less the margins

More or less Tibet

In fact you’re really different (3)


  1. Nangma bars are a kind of Tibetan karoke bar or nightclub. They began to emerge in Tibetan cities in the early 1990s.
  2. “dangka” (党卡)is a word that has become very popular among Tibetans in recent weeks and describes a form of Thangka, traditional Tibetan paintings, in which Chinese party officials feature prominently. “Dang” (党)  is Mandarin for “party”, hence the term “dangka”. For more on this, see here.
  3. The entire poem revolves around the phrase “chabuduo” (差不多), meaning more or less, almost, about the same, just about etc. The final line of the poem contains the phrase “chahenduo” (差很多), the opposite of “chaobuduo”, meaning not more or less, i.e. not really the same at all, very different.
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