When I was in Beijing, a Tibetan friend of mine showed me this video on the Chinese version of YouTube–tudou.com. That was three weeks ago, and the video has since been banned in China, but can somehow still be seen on Tudou.
The video was made in Switzerland and is the Tibetan equivalent of the US’s The Lonely Island–a rap conducted in a serious manner, but containing humorous lyrics and props that are meant to make people laugh. In one month, the video was viewed over 30,000 times.
In Tibetan, ཤ་བག་ལེབ། (pronounced sha-pa-le), can literally be translated as “meat bread,” and is made by stuffing meat in nicely shaped dough and deep frying it. Needless to say, people love it. The video portrays the doughy deliciousness soaking in hot pans of oil, and the rapper even sports a giant one around his neck. For Tibetans, ཤ་བག་ལེབ། (sha-pa-le) has a second meaning, and that is when adults spank naughty children on the bum–herein lies the humor.
The fact that a seemingly harmless, comedic video was banned in China shows the severity of censorship in China. Why was this video banned? Most likely because it was made by a Tibetan, and also probably due to the following line: “Even if you live in the west / Don’t forget that Tibet is where you come from / speak Tibetan and write Tibetan / Be proud to be Tibetan.”
A simple statement of Tibetan pride is exactly what the Chinese government does not want people to see.
Dechen’s blog: The Tibetan Shapale Goes Viral!
China Digital Times: Viral Rap Video Marks Tibetan Cultural Renaissance