Samzhub, 79, cannot read. But this does not prevent him from talking and singing the "Gesser," an ancient Tibetan epic portraying the legendary hero Gesser.
Samzhub can sing nearly 20 million words of the epic, probably the longest epic in the world, which has been passed down orally through generations.
Samzhub is one of the few people in Tibet who can sing such a long part of the Gesser epic. Twenty years ago, the Tibet Autonomous Regional Academy of Social Sciences invited Samzhub to record and save the epic.
Samzhub was born into a farmer's family in a small village in the northern part of Tibet. His grandfather, who used to run a small business, was also a popular epic singer in Tibet.
But Samzhub said that what really inspired him to talk and sing the epic was a dream he had at the age of 11. He said, in the dream, a god told him how to sing the epic "Gesser."
Samzhub began singing the epic when he was 11 years old. He gained respect from his country fellows because Tibetans believe that a man who can sing the epic is a reincarnation of a high- ranking officer of Gesser.
Later, Samzhub moved about for years because his family could not make ends meet. Finally, he traveled to Gangrenboqin Mountain, following pilgrims. Samzhub then listened to the epic "Gesser" sung by others and added the pieces to his own. It was unusual that Samzhub was able to recite the story just by listening to it once.
He got married at the age of 30. In the 1950s, Samzhub and his wife moved to Mezhugongkar County, where they received a cow and a piece of farmland from the local government. Samzhub worked during the day time and sang the epic for his country fellows in the evening since then.
The Tibet Autonomous Regional Academy of Social Sciences invited Samzhub to record the epic in 1979, and to date, Samzhub has finished more than 50 parts. It still remains a secret why Samzhub, who cannot read, can recite accurately such a long part of the story.
Samzhub's recording will be compiled into books and will be published.
Samzhub received an award from the government for his outstanding contribution to saving the epic. In 1996, Samzhub went to Beijing to attend the awarding ceremony. Samzhub sang the epic in Beijing, and caused a stir in the national capital.
Like most Tibetans, Samzhub is a believer in Buddhism.
(People’s Daily 05/15/2001)