I was looking forward to reading this, as although I did encounter the Tibetan Book Of The Dead in my youth, and have since seen a few documentaries and some travel writing, I couldn't claim to know much about the history.
There was a recent science item I had seen which brought Tibet back to mind, another example of damage Chinese rule has wrought.
Perhaps that was what prompted me to stop and check this book when I saw the cover. I was intrigued at the prospect of finding out about a whole pre-Buddhist civilisation, the Zhang Zhung, that I had never heard of.
As it turned out, the book was not what I had hoped. It is nearer a textbook than an entertainment. There is far more detail than any casual reader would care to know. I do not mean this as a criticism, it is just not the book I had imagined it might be. The linked cover picture at left will take you to the library's description of what is covered.
It was interesting to hear that in the past, much older historical information had been reworked, rewritten, or adapted from earlier records, in attempts to alter the perceptions of the later audience. I'm talking mostly about the Bon religious scholars who wanted to claim an earlier origin for their faith, i.e. earlier than Buddhism; and Buddhist scholars who wanted to recast earlier Animist beliefs in a Buddhist mould.
The interest to me was not that this was a new concept, but that it reminded me of the way Christianity appropriated earlier religions' stories in Europe.
Ref. Santa Claus: - Germanic paganism, Odin, and Christianisation, and
St. Patrick stories in Ireland: - St. Patrick uses shamrock in an illustrative parable,
St. Patrick speaks with ancient Irish ancestors.
Another facet of interest was the influence of climate change. He details how much the change in climate would have reduced fertility and led to a slow decline of the Zhang Zhung culture. The older I get the more I am prepared to believe various ups and downs of historical cultures have not been due to reasons passed down which arise from culturally rooted post-event rationalisation, but rather simply to either natural climate change, or anthropic generated environmental issues.
I also not so recently saw this item at New Scientist which covers crop introduction in times prior to much of this book's material, but sheds some light on the origins of human occupation of the area.
In the end, I was overwhelmed by facts, found it hard going, but did appreciate this window on a previously unknown area of history.
Read as an e-book borrowed from Auckland Libraries via Overdrive, on my Kobo Touch e-reader.