Lhasa’s Historic Barkhor District Opens, But Monasteries Remain Closed


2020-04-28
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tibet-larunggar1-042820.jpg The Larung Gar Tibetan Buddhist Academy is shown before demolitions by Chinese authorities in an undated photo.
Photo provided by an RFA listener

The central Barkhor old town and market area of Tibet’s regional capital Lhasa has reopened to the public, and worshippers have begun again to walk devotional circuits around the city’s famed Jokhang temple as coronavirus restrictions continue to lift, Tibetan sources say.

Major religious sites in and near Lhasa including the Drepung, Sera, and Ganden monasteries, the summer palace of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, and the Jokhang itself remain closed, however, a Lhasa resident said.

“K-12 schools in Lhasa reopened weeks ago, and Tibet University in Lhasa reopened on April 26,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “But the Jokhang temple, the Norbulingka, and the three main monasteries of Lhasa have still not opened to the public yet.”

Meanwhile, the opening of the Barkhor central district and its public square for the first time since early February “is a clear indication that the coronavirus-related restrictions have lifted in Lhasa,” the source said.

“However, when people enter the Barkhor, they are still being checked for body temperature at screening booths set up at the entry points,” he said.

Larung Gar closes to the public

Meanwhile, an April 27 notice issued by authorities at the Larung Gar Tibetan Buddhist Academy in Sichuan’s Serta (in China, Seda) county said the center will remain closed to public visits until after the May 1 observance of International Labor Day.

“Serta Larung Gar is a center for learning for monks’ and nuns’ spiritual practices. It is not a tourist spot for sightseeing,” the notice issued by the Serta Larung Gar Management Committee said.

“The Center will not open again until the May 1 International Labor Day is over,” the Committee said, adding, “During the celebration, no outside persons or vehicles will be allowed to enter the Buddhist center.”

Many thousands of Tibetans and Han Chinese once studied at Larung Gar, making it one the world’s largest and most important centers for the study of Tibetan Buddhism.

In April 2019, Chinese authorities closed Larung Gar to new enrollments, declaring that no new residents would now be admitted to live and study there, sources told RFA in an earlier report.

The move followed a years-long campaign of expulsions of monks and nuns and demolition of their dwellings that saw thousands already living at the sprawling study center forced to leave and forbidden to return.

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

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