Reading Pema Tseden's films as palimpsests

Wai Ping YAU*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This article analyses the Tibetan filmmaker Pema Tseden's films as palimpsests in order to draw attention to his transformation of earlier work into new constellations and additional layers of meaning. It is argued that Pema Tseden's films, read as palimpsests, constitute attempts to resist narrative closure, dissolve dichotomies and stress the unfixity of the self and the diversity of perspectives. It is also argued that a palimpsestic reading shows Pema Tseden to be both a sober realist and a visionary: even in the bleakest of hours, his films are driven by a utopian impulse springing from a compassionate view of the world that is an essential part of Buddhism. Reading Pema Tseden's films as palimpsests in the context of contemporary China, it is argued, highlights the ways in which his films challenge the cinematic representation of Tibet and articulate the problems and aspirations of Tibetans in the face of Chinese domination.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)120-134
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Chinese Cinemas
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 3 May 2016

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Communication
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts

User-Defined Keywords

  • Buddhism
  • Palimpsests
  • Pema Tseden
  • Tibetan cinema
  • utopian


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