Over 700 Buddhist monks converged this week on a Tibetan monastery in northwestern China’s Qinghai province to observe a seven-day period of religious teachings, gathering together in what one source described as a “subdued atmosphere” due to Chinese security restrictions.
The Jang Gunchoe, or Winter Teachings, is the 21st in the series of annual events, drawing participants this year from as many as 27 different monasteries in Tibetan regions of western China, sources in the region and in exile said.
“This year’s Jang Gunchoe is being held in Ragya monastery in Golog [in Chinese, Guoluo] prefecture, and those attending are primarily monks, with very few laypeople taking part in the event,” a Tibetan participant told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Friday.
Though previous Jang Gunchoe gatherings have featured special teachings on moral ethics and conduct addressed to the general public, “these programs are not scheduled this year,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Today is the second day, and it will conclude five days from now,” he said.
Over 700 monks from 27 monasteries are taking part in the event, with some coming from Zilkar monastery in Qinghai’s Yulshul (Yushu) prefecture, Rebgong Riwu monastery in Malho (Huangnan) prefecture, and Se monastery in the Ngaba (Aba) prefecture of neighboring Sichuan, a monk living in South India said, citing local sources.
“The event is said to be proceeding in a subdued atmosphere due to unprecedented Chinese restrictions in the area,” the monk, named Damchoe, said.
Public assemblies at monasteries in Tibetan regions of China have greatly increased in size in recent years, observers and participants say, as tens of thousands of Tibetans gather to assert their national and cultural identity in the face of Chinese domination.
Chinese security forces, however, fearful of sudden protests by Tibetans opposed to Beijing’s rule, frequently monitor and sometimes close down events involving large crowds, sources say.
Sporadic demonstrations challenging Chinese rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008, with 143 Tibetans to date setting themselves on fire to oppose Beijing’s rule and call for the return of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.
Reported by Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.