China Reduces Number of Larung Gar Dwellings Marked For Destruction

2017-03-17
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Workers tear down a dwelling at Larung Gar Buddhist Academy in February 2017.
Workers tear down a dwelling at Larung Gar Buddhist Academy in February 2017.
Photo sent by an RFA listener

UPDATED at 01:30 p.m. EST on 03/20/2017

Chinese authorities have reduced the number of monastic dwellings at Sichuan’s Larung Gar Buddhist Academy targeted for destruction to 3,225, in response to appeals by the management committee of the complex, one of Larung Gar’s abbots says.

The decision, announced on March 12, reverses a projected total of 4,320 demolitions announced earlier on Jan. 13, according to a public address given by the abbot on March 16.

“The destruction of these houses will be completed by April 30 without excuse,” according to the talk, a recording of which was obtained by RFA’s Tibetan Service.

Last year, a total of 1,500 homes was demolished at Larung Gar, the abbot said, leaving unclear whether the total of 3,225 now announced for destruction includes that figure or is a number to be destroyed in addition to those already torn down.

Meanwhile, a total of 259 monks and nuns who had come to Larung Gar from neighboring Qinghai province are still present at the institute but will soon be forced to return to their home towns, the abbot said.

“Initially, the authorities had prepared a list of 500 monks and nuns from Qinghai, but many who were included in that list had previously passed away or had already left, so now there are 259 who will have to leave,” he said.

A total of 3,729 monks and nuns were forced to leave Larung Gar last year, with another 1,600 removed from the institute in 2015 and 600 forced out in 2014, the abbot said.

“All of the issues causing pain and hardship to this institution are being discussed in a democratic fashion by [Larung Gar’s] management committee, and we ask all of the members of this institute to exercise patience and tolerance, taking lessons from the teachings of the Buddha and our beloved teacher,” the abbot said.

Political reeducation

Many thousands of Tibetans and Han Chinese once studied at Serthar (in Chinese, Seda) county’s sprawling Larung Gar complex, 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 number of students now left at Larung Gar is still unclear, though many coming originally from the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and western China’s Qinghai and Gansu provinces have already been removed and sent back to their native regions, sources said in earlier reports.

Those sent back to the TAR have been subjected to month-long courses of political reeducation before being allowed to return to their family homes.

Hundreds of nuns from Tibetan-populated counties of Sichuan have meanwhile been housed in temporary camps of two-storey buildings set up in desolate areas of the province until more permanent accommodations can be found.

Tourist destinations

As the work of destruction proceeds at Larung Gar, construction of a nearby tourist village has meanwhile begun as part of a plan by authorities to “confront trends of Tibetan religious and cultural expression and contain monastic growth,” according to a report released in March by the Washington, D.C.-based International Campaign for Tibet.

“Tibet is being turned into a huge tourist destination,” says one Tibetan resident of Serthar quoted in the report, titled Shadow of Dust Across the Sun.

“Guesthouses and fancy hotels inside and immediately outside monastic environments will grow to host more and more Chinese tourists, with the purpose of improving the local economy and at the same time detracting time from monastics’ education and activities,” the man said.

“This is the main objective of the Chinese government with regards to Buddhism, and we Tibetans have no power to influence any of these plans.”

Reported by RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.

UPDATE: This update provides information on the total numbers of Larung Gar monks and nuns expelled in 2016, 2015, and 2014.


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