Though the Chinese marked the location of Mount Qomolangma. the world's highest peak, on their map more than 280 years ago, Westerners today continue to refer to the peak as Mount Everest, rather than Tibetans' Goddess Qomolangma, the peak's original name.
It is time, say scholars and Tibetans, for the world to rectify the error made by British colonialists over a century ago.
"In an era when colonialism has long been past, it is high time for the Western world to respect us Tibetans by recognizing the highest peak on earth in its Tibetan name, Qomolangma," Gelek, a Tibetan scholar with China's Tibetology Center in Beijing, said.
Blindly believing themselves the first to discover the tallest mountain straddling the border of China's Tibet and Nepal, British people named the peak in honor of George Everest, a British surveyor general of India who led a team in surveying the Himalayan ranges in the early 1840s.
In a paper published in 1958, Lin Chao, a late prestigious expert on geographic history and topography with Beijing University, noted that the British man did not deserve the honor, as it was Tibetans themselves who first discovered the peak.
According to Lin's research, the Manchurian and Han (or Chinese) languages in names of Qomolangma first appeared in different editions of the Atlas of the Whole Imperial Territory in 1719 and 1721 respectively during the reign of Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
The survey and marking of Qomolangma on the map by Chinese people preceded the British colonists' mapping by more than 130 years, Lin said.
In the Tibetan language, Qomolangma represents the mother goddess of the earth.
"The British colonists gave the name only because they thought it had no name," Prof. Chen Qingying, an expert with the Tibetology Center, said. "It was very cocky and blind of the British to believe that they could make discoveries everywhere and pose themselves as discoverers."
Basang Cering, a Tibetology major from Shigatse of Tibet studies in the Central University for Ethnic Minorities, said he was convinced that no Tibetans could accept the British name for the world's highest peak.
"How could they name our goddess after a foreign man?" he said. "The sound is disharmonious with the legends about the holy peak we Tibetans have known from generation to generation. This is a disrespect and discrimination against our Tibetan culture."
Prof. Losang Tenzin, working at Basang Cering's university, said, "It's not simply a question of the name. The name, as well as the peak, holds dear and remains very important to us, it has become part of the Tibetan culture."
Xu Tiebing, a professor of international relations at the Beijing Broadcasting Institute, noted that the name given by the indigenous people should be fully respected in compliance with the norms governing international relations.
"It was excusable for Westerners to call the peak 'Everest' because of their ignorance of its Tibetan name," Xu said. "But now so many years have passed and it is really a high time for them torectify the error."
Gelek said it is also the duty of the international Tibetology community to use Tibetan names for Tibetan things.
"When Qomolangma becomes the only word the people worldwide useto refer to the highest peak on earth, I, as a Tibetan, will then feel at ease and very contented."
Surely, Gelek said, the goddess Qomolangma, too, will feel relieved when that day comes.
(People's Daily November 20, 2002)