‘Song of Sadness’ from Drapchi prison: the official Chinese verdict on the Drapchi ‘singing nuns’

The release of 34-year old Tibetan nun Phuntsog Nyidron into exile in the United States on March 15 marks the end of the imprisonment in Tibet for a courageous and determined group of women who became known as the “singing nuns” of Drapchi prison (Tibet Autonomous Region Prison). They were known as the “singing nuns” after they secretly recorded songs about the Dalai Lama and Tibet’s future on a tape cassette that was smuggled out of prison and reached the West.

ICT has obtained a copy of the court document from Tibet which gives details of the sentences and “counter-revolutionary crimes” of the 14 singing nuns, which is made publicly available for the first time (see below). The document makes it clear that the nuns’ non-violent acts of defiance and continued comradeship and loyalty to the Dalai Lama in prison were regarded by the authorities as threats to the Chinese state.

The court document states that Phuntsog Nyidron, a former chant-mistress from Mechungri nunnery who served 15 years in prison, was one of the “main criminals” among the group of nuns who recorded the songs. The court hearing, which was presided over by three Tibetan judges, stated that the 14 nuns recorded “the reactionary song: ‘The Chinese have taken Tibet, our home/Tibetans are locked away in prison/Oh, fellow Tibetans, please come here/Buddhism’s holy land will be free soon'”.

The nuns’ defense that recording the songs in their cells was intended “to commemorate their lives [together] in prison” was rejected by the court, according to the sentencing document, which is dated September 22, 1993. The judges conclude that the 14 nuns had “recorded reactionary ‘Tibetan independence’ songs in an attitude of counter-revolutionary arrogance” and with “the aim of countering the revolution”. It states that “their behavior was criminal” and ‘their attitude to confession was abominable”, and details the extended sentences imposed on each prisoner.

The longest extended sentence of eight years was handed down to Phuntsog Nyidron, who was already serving a nine-year sentence. Ngawang Sangdrol, her former cell-mate, who was 16 at the time, had her sentence extended by six years, and served 11 years of a sentence that was approximately 21 years1 before her release and departure to the U.S. in 2003.

Former Garu nun Ngawang Sangdrol, who is now studying English in New York, said: “We recorded the songs because we wanted our families to know that we were still alive, and we wanted Tibetan people to know about our situation and our love for our country. We hoped it would reach our families, but we didn’t know for sure. I had no idea until I arrived in America that people all over the world heard those songs while we were still in prison. Now, it makes me feel so sad to listen to the recording, because I remember our friends in prison who died.”

In February 1994, a year after the new sentences for the tape recording were handed down, Garu nun Gyaltsen Kelsang collapsed after a session of military drills enforced by the authorities as punishment for the nuns and other prisoners at Drapchi. Gyaltsen Kelsang was hospitalized, suffering from paralysis in her legs, and released on medical parole in December 2004. She died at home two months later, at the age of 26.

In June 1998, five nuns died in Drapchi after five weeks of severe maltreatment following peaceful protests at the prison a month earlier. All of the nuns were close comrades, ranging in age from 19 to 25 at detention, and all of them had been imprisoned for peaceful resistance to Chinese rule in Tibet. Their names were Drugkyi Pema (lay name Dekyi Yangzom); Tsultrim Zangmo (layname: Choekyi); Lobsang Wangmo (layname: Tsamchoe Drolkar); Tashi Lhamo (lay name Yudron) and Khedron Yonten (lay name: Tsering Drolkar).

The Drapchi nuns were known for their comradeship and solidarity, and sometimes put their own lives in danger to protect their friends and cell mates. Ngawang Sangdrol recalls the aftermath of the May 1998 protests in Drapchi, when all of the prisoners were severely beaten and tortured after they protested about the raising of the Chinese flag, and shouted slogans in support of the Dalai Lama. She said: “At one point several guards were kicking me in the head and beating my body with batons and I fell unconscious. Later, I heard that another nun, Phuntsog Peyang, had thrown herself on top of me to protect me from the beating, thinking that I would be killed. She was then beaten badly herself. Phuntsog probably saved my life.” The nuns’ determination and refusal to submit to prison officials is noted in the sentencing document, which describes their “attitude to confession” as “abominable”.

Phuntsog Nyidron, who was one of the most senior of the group of Drapchi nuns in age, and highly respected by the others for her religious devotion and scholarly nature, said last week: “During my time in prison, although the Chinese government made it difficult for me both physically and mentally, I did not waver at all in my initial motivation. At times when I underwent unimaginable torture, my determination to struggle for Tibetan independence became stronger. After 15 years in prison, I owe my freedom firstly to the grace of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and also to those countries who have shown their concern for the Tibetan political prisoners by putting pressure on the Chinese government.”

Criminal sentencing document of the Drapchi singing nuns

Prisoners in Tibet and China are generally given copies of relevant legal documents, especially sentencing documents, which inmates often keep with them while imprisoned or send home to their families. They provide “proof” of charges, length of punishment, and post-release conditions. These documents have become more difficult to obtain in recent years given the risks that former prisoners face in bringing them into exile, and also because a substantial number of the documents were destroyed during a period of tightened security in Rukhag (Unit) 3 of Drapchi Prison, which housed female political prisoners, after the May 1998 protests. The report ‘Rukhag 3: The Nuns of Drapchi Prison’ by Steven D Marshall, quotes two of the nuns, Choeying Gyaltsen and Choeying Kunsang, as saying: “In 1998 they came to collect all books, letters and sentence documents from our rooms, and they burned them…Some nuns had their sentence documents hidden in their pillow, but they searched mattresses and pillows as well, and all sentence documents were confiscated…[The documents were burned] in the kitchen” (Tibet Information Network, 2000). The nuns clearly appreciated the importance of the documents: Another nun said: “[The sentence document] contained clearly what they had said and what we had said. […] It was confiscated from us […] and they burned it. Ours was in Tibetan, it was very clear, otherwise these would have been very important to keep.”

The translation of this sentencing document below from Chinese is by ICT. Tibetan names havebeen added in square brackets.

Lhasa City Intermediate People’s Court, Tibet Autonomous Region
Criminal Sentencing Document

(1993) Lhasa Sentence No. 42

Defendant: Dawa Yangji, also known as Tenzin Thubten, female, born 1971, Tibetan, from Mozhu Gongka [Meldro Gonkar] County, TAR, was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment and 2 years deprivation of political rights for the crime of counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement by Lhasa City Intermediate People’s Court on December 11, 1990 in accordance with ‘(90) Lhasa Court Criminal Ruling No. 34’. On February 1, 1993 and in accordance with ‘(93) Lhasa Court Criminal Decision No. 155’, Lhasa City Intermediate People’s Court reduced the sentence by 1 year and 6 months. Sentence is being served at TAR No. 1 Prison.

Defendant: Phuntsog Nyidron, also known as Cidan [Tseten], female, born 1969, Tibetan, from Linzhou County, TAR, was sentenced to 9 years imprisonment and 2 years deprivation of political rights for the crime of counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement by Lhasa City Intermediate People’s Court on November 27, 1989 in accordance with ‘(89) Lhasa Court Criminal Ruling No. 51’. Sentence is being served at TAR No. 1 Prison.

Defendant: Basang Lamu [Pasang Lhamo], also known as Ngawang Choezom, female, born 1973, Tibetan, from Duilong Dechen Country, TAR, was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment and 2 years deprivation of political rights for the crime of counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement by Lhasa City Intermediate People’s Court on July 8, 1992 in accordance with ‘(92) Lhasa Court Criminal Ruling No. 26’. Sentence is being served at TAR No. 1 Prison.

Defendant: Yixi [Yeshi], also known as Ngawang Choekyi, female, born 1970, Tibetan, from Duilong [Toelung] Dechen County, TAR, was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment and 2 years deprivation of political rights for the crime of counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement by Lhasa City Intermediate People’s Court on July 3, 1992 in accordance with ‘(92) Lhasa Court Criminal Ruling No. 23’. Sentence is being served at TAR No. 1 Prison.

Defendant: Deji Wangmu [Dekyi Wangmo], also known as Ngawang Tsamdrol, female, born 1973, Tibetan, from Duilong Deqing [Toelung Dechen] County, TAR, was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment and 2 years deprivation of political rights for the crime of counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement by Lhasa City Intermediate People’s Court on July 3, 1992 in accordance with ‘(92) Lhasa Court Criminal Ruling No. 23’. Sentence is being served at TAR No. 1 Prison.

Defendant: Xiao Yangzong [Yangdzom Chungwa], also known as Rigzin Choekyi, female, born 1969, Tibetan, from Gongga [Gongkar] County, was sentenced to 7 years imprisonment and 3 years deprivation of political rights for the crime of counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement by Lhasa City Intermediate People’s Court on November 30, 1990 in accordance with ‘(90) Lhasa Court Criminal Ruling No. 35’. Sentence is being served at TAR No. 1 Prison.

Defendant Bandan Yangji [Palden Yangkyi], also known as Palden Choedron, female, born 1964, Tibetan, from Nimu [Nyemo] County, TAR, was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment and 1 year deprivation of political rights for the crime of counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement by Lhasa City Intermediate People’s Court on November 30, 1990 in accordance with ‘(90) Lhasa Court Criminal Ruling No. 35’. Sentence is being served at TAR No. 1 Prison.

Defendant: Dawa, also known as Gyaltsen Drolkar, female, born 1971, Tibetan, from Mozhu Gongka [Meldrogonkar] County, TAR, was sentenced to 4 years imprisonment and 1 year deprivation of political rights for the crime of counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement by Lhasa City Intermediate People’s Court on December 2, 1990 in accordance with ‘(90) Lhasa Court Criminal Ruling No. 34’. Sentence is being served at TAR No. 1 Prison.

Defendant: Da Sangmu [Sangmo Chewa], also known as Lhundrub Zangmo, female, born 1967, Tibetan, from Linzhou County, TAR, was sentenced to 4 years imprisonment and 1 year deprivation of political rights for the crime of counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement by Lhasa City Intermediate People’s Court on December 2, 1990 in accordance with ‘(90) Lhasa Court Criminal Ruling No. 34’. Sentence is being served at TAR No. 1 Prison.

Defendant: Renqu [Rigchoe], also known as Ngawang Sangdrol, female, born 1975, Tibetan, from Linzhou [Lhundrub] County, TAR, was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment and 1 year deprivation of political rights for the crime of counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement by Lhasa City Intermediate People’s Court on November 16, 1992 in accordance with ‘(92) Lhasa Court Criminal Ruling No. 46’. Sentence is being served at TAR No. 1 Prison.

Defendant: Dunzhu Zhuoma [Dondrub Drolma], also known as Ngawang Lochoe, female, born 1974, Tibetan, from Duilong [Toelung] Deqing County, TAR, was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment and 2 years deprivation of political rights for the crime of counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement by Lhasa City Intermediate People’s Court on July 3, 1992 in accordance with ‘(92) Lhasa Court Criminal Ruling No. 23’. Sentence is being served at TAR No. 1 Prison.

Defendant: Nizhu [Nyidrol] also known as Namdrol Lhamo, female, born 1965, Tibetan, from Renbu [Rinpung] County, TAR, was sentenced to 6 years imprisonment and 2 years deprivation of political rights for the crime of counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement by Lhasa City Intermediate People’s Court on July 8, 1992 in accordance with ‘(92) Lhasa Court Criminal Ruling No. 24’. Sentence is being served at TAR No. 1 Prison.

Defendant: Yangjin [Yangchen] , also known as Jigme Yangchen, female, born 1969, Tibetan, from Gongga [Gongkar] County, TAR, was sentenced to 7 years imprisonment and 2 years deprivation of political rights for the crime of counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement by Lhasa City Intermediate People’s Court on November 30, 1990 in accordance with ‘(90) Lhasa Court Criminal Ruling No. 35’. Sentence is being served at TAR No. 1 Prison.

Defendant Bianba Quzong [Penpa Choezom], also known as Gyaltsen Choezom, female, born 1969, Tibetan, from Dazi [Tagtse] County, TAR, was sentenced to 4 years imprisonment and 1 year deprivation of political rights for the crime of counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement by Lhasa City Intermediate People’s Court on December 2, 1990 in accordance with ‘(90) Lhasa Court Criminal Ruling No. 34’. Sentence is being served at TAR No. 1 Prison.

On September 7, 1993, Lhasa City People’s Procuratorate brought a case to this court against the defendants [all 14 listed not using their ‘also known as’ names] for the crime of counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement. After accepting the case, the court convened a judicial collegiate panel and tried the case in public. Lhasa City People’s Procuratorate prosecutor Quzha [Choedrag] appeared in court in support of the case, and the above named defendants were in court to participate in proceedings and to present their own defense. The trial in this case has already concluded.

Lhasa City People’s Procuratorate charges that [all 14], between March 20, 1993 and 10 o’clock in the evening of April 10, while in blocks 1, 4 and 7 of Rukhag 3 recorded the reactionary song “The Chinese have taken Tibet, our home/ Tibetans are locked away in prison/ Oh, fellow Tibetans, please come here/ Buddhism’s holy land will be free this year or next year.” The above named defendants have confessed in full and without reservation to the crime with which they are charged by the prosecution. However, the defendants Dawa Yangji [Tenzin Thubten] et al [14] contended that recording songs in their cell was not intended to be counter-revolutionary, but only to commemorate their lives [together] in prison. The above-named 14 people, having severally committed the crime of counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement between 1989 and 1992 were each sentenced to prison by this court. After entering reform through labor, they not only refused to be reformed, they even employed every kind of strategy to record reactionary “Tibetan independence” songs in prison. Accordingly, the claim that the songs were only recorded for the reason of commemorating life in prison cannot be established, and should be rejected.

It was ascertained at the trial that after prison guards had discovered that the reactionary song “The Chinese have taken Tibet, our home/ Tibetans are locked away in prison/ Oh, fellow Tibetans, please come here/ Buddhism’s holy land will be free some year” had been recorded by [the 14 named] in their cells between March 20, 1993 and April 10 of the same year, the tape recorder and the tape were then hidden.

The above facts, witnesses’ testimonies, the tools of the crime, each of the defendant’s verified confessions, the clarity of the facts and the volume of evidence are all sufficient for confirmation. This court considers that the [14 named] defendants maintained a counter-revolutionary standpoint while serving their prison sentences, and with the aim of countering the revolution recorded reactionary “Tibetan independence” songs in an attitude of counter-revolutionary arrogance. Their behavior was criminal, constituting the crime of counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement; furthermore, their attitude to confession was abominable and they should be severely punished according to law. The defendants Dawa Yangji [Tenzin Thubten], Yixi [Ngawang Choekyi], Dawa [Gyaltsen Drolkar] and Pingcuo Nizhen [Phuntsog Nyidron] played important roles in the course of this crime, and as the main criminals they should be punished heavily. The defendants Renqu [Ngawang Sangdrol], Nizhu [Namdrol Lhamo], Basang Lamu [Ngawang Choezom], Yangjin [Jigme Yangchen], Bandan Yangji [Palden Choedron], Da Sangmu [Lhundrub Zangmo], Xiao Yangzong [Rigzin Choekyi], Dunzhu Diaoma [Ngawang Lochoe], Deji Wangmu [Ngawang Tsamdrol] and Bianba Quzong [Gyaltsen Choezom] all played secondary roles, and being complicit in the crime they should be given lesser punishments than the main criminals.

In order to strengthen the democratic dictatorship of the people, protect the unity of the Motherland, strike hard against counter-revolutionary criminal activities, and to ensure the smooth implementation of prison work, sentences in accordance with regulations in article 102 clause 2; article 22, article 23, article 24, article 52, article 60, article 66 and article 64 of the current “Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China” are as follows:

  1. Defendant Dawa Yangji [Tenzin Thubten] was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment and 2 years deprivation of political rights on August 22, 1990 [sic -December 11, 1990] for the crime of counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement. Her sentence was reduced by 1 year and 6 months on February 1, 1993 by Lhasa City Intermediate People’s Court when 3 years and 30 days of the sentence had already been served, leaving 144 days to be served when another counter-revolutionary crime was committed, [for which] sentence is 9 years imprisonment and 3 years deprivation of political rights; it is decided the sentence shall be 9 years imprisonment with 5 years deprivation of political rights.
  2. Defendant Yixi [Ngawang Choekyi] was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment and 2 years deprivation of political rights on April 14, 1992 [sic – July 3, 1992 above] for the crime of counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement. One year and 132 days had already been served, leaving 3 years and 233 days to be served when another counter-revolutionary crime was committed, [for which] sentence is 8 years imprisonment and 3 years deprivation of political rights; it is decided the sentence shall be 11 years imprisonment with 5 years deprivation of political rights.
  3. Defendant Dawa [Gyaltsen Drolkar] was sentenced to 4 years imprisonment and 1 year deprivation of political rights on August 22, 1990 [sic – December 2, 1990] for the crime of counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement. Three years and 32 days had already been served, leaving 332 [sic] days to be served when another counter-revolutionary crime was committed, [for which] sentence is 8 years imprisonment and 3 years deprivation of political rights; it is decided the sentence shall be 8 years and 6 months imprisonment and 4 years deprivation of political rights.
  4. Defendant Pingcuo Nizhen [Phuntsog Nyidron] was sentenced to 9 years imprisonment and 2 years deprivation of political rights on October 14, 1989 [sic – November 27, 1989] for the crime of counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement. Three years and 344 days had already been served leaving 5 years and 21 days to be served when another counter-revolutionary crime was committed, [for which] sentence is 8 years imprisonment and 3 years deprivation of political rights; it is decided the sentence shall be 12 years and 6 months imprisonment and 5 years deprivation of political rights.
  5. Defendant Renqu [Ngawang Sangdrol] was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment and 1 year deprivation of political rights on June 17, 1992 [sic – November 16, 1992] for the crime of counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement. One year and 97 days had already been served leaving 2 years and 268 [sic] days to be served when another counter-revolutionary crime was committed, [for which] sentence is 6 years imprisonment and 2 years deprivation of political rights; it is decided the sentence shall be 8 years and 6 months imprisonment and 3 years deprivation of political rights.
  6. Defendant Nizhu [Namdrol Lhamo] was sentenced to 6 years imprisonment and 2 years deprivation of political rights on May 11, 1992 [sic – July 8, 1992] for the crime of counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement. One year and 144 days had already been served leaving 4 years and [?not clear] 210 days to be served when another counter-revolutionary crime was committed, [for which] sentence is 6 years imprisonment and 2 years deprivation of political rights; it is decided the sentence shall be 10 years imprisonment and 4 years deprivation of political rights.
  7. Defendant Basang Lamu [Ngawang Choezom] was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment and 2 years deprivation of political rights on March 21, 1992 [sic – July 8, 1992] for the crime of counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement. One year and 214 days had already been served leaving 3 years and 141 days to be served when another counter-revolutionary crime was committed, [for which] sentence is 6 years imprisonment and 2 years deprivation of political rights; it is decided the sentence shall be 9 years imprisonment and 4 years deprivation of political rights.
  8. Defendant Yangjin [Jigme Yangchen] was sentenced to 7 years imprisonment and 3 years deprivation of political rights on October 29, 1990 [sic – November 30, 1990] for the crime of counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement. Two years and 328 days had already been served leaving 4 years 37 days to be served when another counter-revolutionary crime was committed, [for which] sentence is 5 years imprisonment and 2 years deprivation of political rights; it is decided the sentence shall be 9 years imprisonment and 5 years deprivation of political rights.
  9. Defendant Bandan Yangji [Palden Choedron] was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment and 1 year deprivation of political rights on August 27, 1990 [sic – November 30, 1990] for the crime of counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement, a sentence now served to completion. However, a counter-revolutionary crime was again committed while sentence was being served, for which sentence shall be 5 years imprisonment and 3 years deprivation of political rights.
  10. Defendant Da Sangmu [Lhundrub Zangmo] was sentenced to 4 years imprisonment and 1 year deprivation of political rights on August 22, 1990 [sic – December 2, 1990] for the crime of counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement. Three years and 30 days had already been served leaving 335 days to be served when another counter-revolutionary crime was committed, [for which] sentence is 5 years imprisonment and 2 years deprivation of political rights; it is decided the sentence shall be 5 years and 6 months imprisonment and 3 years deprivation of political rights.
  11. Defendant Xiao Yangzong [Rigzin Choekyi] was sentenced to 7 years imprisonment and 2 years deprivation of political rights on October 29, 1990 [sic – November 30, 1990] for the crime of counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement. Two years and 328 days had already been served leaving 4 years and 37 to be served when another counter-revolutionary crime was committed, [for which] sentence is 5 years imprisonment and 2 years deprivation of political rights; it is decided sentence shall be 8 years and 6 months, and 4 years deprivation of political rights.
  12. Defendant Dunzhu Zhuoma [Ngawang Lochoe] was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment and 2 years deprivation of political rights on May 14, 1992 [sic – July 3, 1992] for the crime of counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement. One year and 131 days had already been served leaving 3 years and 234 days to be served when another counter-revolutionary crime was committed, [for which] sentence is 5 years imprisonment and 2 years deprivation of political rights; it is decided the sentence shall be 8 years and 6 months, and 4 years deprivation of political rights.
  13. Defendant Deji Wangmu [Ngawang Tsamdrol] was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment and 2 years deprivation of political rights on May 14, 1992 [sic – July 3, 1992] for the crime of counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement. One year and 131 days had already been served leaving 3 years and 234 days to be served when another counter-revolutionary crime was committed, [for which] sentence is 5 years imprisonment and 2 years deprivation of political rights; it is decided the sentence shall be 8 years and 6 months, and 4 years deprivation of political rights.
  14. Defendant Bianba Quzong [Gyaltsen Choezom] was sentenced to 4 years imprisonment and 1 year deprivation of political rights on August 22, 1990 [sic – December 2, 1990] for the crime of counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement. Three years and 22 days had already been served leaving 333 days [sic] to be served when another counter-revolutionary crime was committed, [for which] sentence is 5 years imprisonment and 2 years deprivation of political rights; it is decided the sentence shall be 5 years and 6 months, and 3 years deprivation of political rights.
  15. All implements for carrying out the crime presented [as evidence] shall be confiscated.

Those contesting sentence may file an appeal via this court or directly to the TAR High People’s Court within 10 days of the day after receiving this sentencing document. A written appeal should be submitted with 3 copies.

Sentencing judge: Qiangba Ouzhu [Chamba Ngodrub]
Trial judge: Awang Suolang [Ngawang Sonam]
Assistant trial judge: Danzeng Gongga [Tenzin Kunga]
September 22, 1993
Secretary: Qiangba [Chamba]

“I looked out from Drapchi prison” and other song lyrics by the Drapchi 14
A recording of the songs sung by Phuntsog Nyidron, Ngawang Sangdrol and the other nuns was smuggled out of prison and to the West, where it was made into the CD Seeing Nothing but the Sky available from Free Tibet Campaign. You can listen to an extract here.

We’ve Sung a Song of Sadness
We’ve sung a song of sadness
We’ve sung it from Drapchi prison
Like the happy and joyful snow mountains
We’ve sung this song for the sake of freedom
Previously, a spiritual realm of dharma
Now, is changed to a barbaric prison ground.
Even at the cost of our lives, we Tibetans,
Will never lose our courage.
O, what a sad fate we Tibetans have!
To be tortured mercilessly by barbarians
We don’t have freedom
Under the yoke of these barbarians

I looked out from Drapchi Prison
I looked out from Drapchi prison
There was nothing to see but sky
The clouds that gather in sky,
We thought, if only these were our parents.
We fellow prisoners
[Like] flowers in Norbulingka,
Even if we’re beaten by frost and hail,
Our joined hands will not be separated.
The white cloud from the east
Is not a patch that is sewn
A time will come when the sun will emerge
From the cloud
And shine clearly
Our hearts are not sad;
Why should we be sad?
Even if the sun doesn’t shine during the day
There will be the moon at night
Even if the sun doesn’t shine during the day
There will be the moon at night

“May No Others Suffer Like This”
Song of sadness in our hearts
We sing this to our brothers and friends
What we Tibetans feel in this darkness will pass
The food does not sustain body or soul
Beatings impossible to forget
This suffering inflicted upon us
May no others suffer like this
In the heavenly realm, the land of snows
Land of unending peace and blessings
May Avalokiteshvara Tenzin Gyatso2
Reign supreme throughout all eternity

For further information on the story of the Drapchi nuns, see: Rukhag 3: The Nuns of Drapchi Prison by Steven D. Marshall, Tibet Information Network, 2000

ICT report: Phuntsog Nyidron, last of the “Drapchi singing nuns”, arrives in US: March 15, 2006

Footnotes
1 Ngawang Sangdrol was serving 23 years of sentence that the court consolidated to approximately 21 years
2 The Dalai Lama, who is known as the embodiment of the Tibetan deity of compassion Avalokiteshvara

 

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