A week-long competition testing Tibetan language skills has gone ahead with apparent approval from authorities in a Tibetan-populated county in northwestern China’s Qinghai province, with top scorers winning a car, motorcycles, and cash awards, according to a local source.
Proceeding despite official concerns over similar events in other areas, the competition drew in over a thousand contestants from Nangchen (in Chinese, Nangqian) county in the Yulshul (Yushu) Tibetan Autonmous Prefecture, an area resident told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
The contest was organized by the Dzanyin Mother Tongue Promotion Association in Nangchen, and ran from Jan. 20 to Jan. 25, RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Skills were tested by asking competitors to identify Tibetan vocabulary terms with the help of picture cards, and participants were graded according to their skills in matching the pictures to the terms and to their knowledge of those terms in both classical and contemporary forms,” the source said.
Competitors included both school students and laypersons with no formal education, with Buddhist monks from nearby monasteries helping to run the program, he said.
“Those who performed well were awarded different prizes,” the source said.
“The top winner was presented with a car and a ceremonial scarf, with second- and third-place winners given motorcycles, cash awards, and so on.”
Founded in 2012, the Dzanyin Mother Tongue Promotion Association was established by residents of Nangchen’s Lingru and Dotram townships and associated villages and “had organized many such events to promote Tibetan vocabulary and language in the past,” RFA’s source said.
Language rights have become a particular focus for Tibetan efforts to reassert national identity in recent years, with Chinese authorities frequently giving preference to instruction in Mandarin Chinese and closing Tibetan language classes taught outside the state-controlled education system.
Informally organized programs in Tibetan areas are sometimes deemed “illegal associations” challenging Beijing’s rule, with tightened security measures in Qinghai’s Pema (Banma) county recently leading area residents to take classes in secret due to fear of arrest, sources said.
Reported by Lobsang Choephel. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.