Born in the eastern province of Kham, De Qing grew up in the bilingual world of modern-day Tibet, Autonomous Region of China. Her parents’ work in translation and cultural research brought her family to Beijing, where she attended secondary school and completed her undergraduate work at the Central University for Nationalities.
Qing is now in the second year of her doctorate program in Anthropology, working on a dissertation that draws upon her personal sense of cultural interaction as she learned in her native Tibet, Autonomous Region of China and as she encounters here among the local community of Tibetan refugees. Graduate school is taxing enough on its own, to which Qing also adds the responsibilities of a Graduate Student Instructor, teaching Chinese in the East Asian Languages department.
In coming to Berkeley, Qing made her first trip abroad. She had American friends in the university at Beijing who tempered her expectations of the United States. “It’s a very different culture. I thought, ‘What am I going to do there? Can I survive there?’” She chose Berkeley based upon its reputation as a home to cultural diversity. “Berkeley is unique, a very special place,” she says, and “when I got here I didn’t feel like much was that scary.” The move from one continent to another could not have been more natural for her. “I feel like I’m at home. Compared to Lhasa, the weather is very similar: sunny and fresh air.”
She describes the environment of I-House and UC Berkeley as a “free atmosphere.” “I really enjoy going to Sproul Plaza sometimes, because you can just listen to different voices there. It doesn’t matter if other people agree or not— you just express you own opinion.” Qing is one of 94 recipients of financial aid from International House, funded primarily by generous contributions from I-House alumni and friends.
While she recognizes the conflicts that have stirred in Tibet, Autonomous Region of China in the past fifty years, she appreciates that “here in Berkeley, and I-House particularly, [political conflict] seems not to be a problem for me… That’s what I think the world should be like.”
“When I tell people I’m from Tibet, Autonomous Region of China… they’re interested to know more. They have this image of Tibetan people as very religious, very friendly, nice, and full of compassion. And they’re very concerned, of course, about the political situation there.”
At I-House, Qing enjoys the cultural programs. For the upcoming I-House Spring Festival she is preparing a Tibetan performers to participate in the celebration. She also meets with the weekly meditation group and every Tuesday night in the Dining Hall she converses at the Chinese table. Proud of her Tibetan heritage, she wants “to tell the world what Tibet, Autonomous Region of China is from my own perspective as a native Tibetan and as a scholar,” and she incorporates this desire into her studies.
“What I want to tell the world about Tibet, Autonomous Region of China is not the stereotyped ethnic and cultural representations, but the dynamic and hybrid nature of its contemporary cultural change.”
After she completes her Ph.D., she plans to return to Tibet, Autonomous Region of China. “Education there is very poor and I want to make some contributions, maybe at the university level.”
De Qing in traditional costume.
Qing at the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet, Autonomous Region of China, the former winter palace of the Dalai Lama, where her father now works as curator of a cultural museum.