Chinese authorities destroyed 4,725 monastic dwellings during the last year at Sichuan’s Larung Gar Buddhist Academy, with a total of over 7,000 demolished since efforts to reduce the number of monks and nuns living at the sprawling center began in 2001, a senior abbot at Larung Gar said this week.
In a June 20 address to Larung Gar’s remaining residents, the abbot said that more than 4,828 monks and nuns had also been expelled since 2016, with many forced back to their hometowns and deprived of opportunities to pursue religious studies.
“We are discussing ways to help those who have had to leave Larung Gar in their studies and practice,” the abbot said, while praising those who remained for their hard work and “excellent performance” following this year’s final exams.
Counting both China’s initial campaign of destruction in 2001 and a second campaign begun last year, the abbot said “these two stages of hardships faced by Larung Gar were unprecedented in the 40 years [since the center’s founding].”
“We are hoping that Larung Gar will not face tough situations like these again for a very long time,” he said.
Sources said in March that in response to appeals by the Larung Gar management committee, authorities had pledged to reduce the number of dwellings to be torn down in the current campaign, for a projected total of 4,320 houses finally targeted for destruction.
No explanation was given for the larger number now said to have been destroyed.
Many thousands of Tibetans and Han Chinese once studied at Serthar (in Chinese, Seda) county’s Larung Gar Academy, which was founded in 1980 by the late religious teacher Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok and is one of the world’s largest and most important centers for the study of Tibetan Buddhism.
The expulsions and demolitions at Larung Gar, along with restrictions at Yachen Gar, another large Buddhist center in Sichuan, are part of "an unfolding political strategy" aimed at controlling the influence and growth of these important centers for Tibetan Buddhist study and practice, the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) said in a March 13 report, "Shadow of Dust Across the Sun."
"[Both centers] have drawn thousands of Chinese practitioners to study Buddhist ethics and receive spiritual teaching since their establishment, and have bridged Tibetan and Chinese communities," ICT said in its report.
Reported by Lhuboom for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.