Massive cuts are being planned for the number of monks and nuns allowed to live at a large Buddhist study center in southwestern China’s Sichuan province, with some evictions of residents already taking place, Tibetan sources say.
The reductions at the Larung Gar Buddhist Academy in Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture’s Serthar (Seda) county will see the center’s population capped at 5,000 by September 30, 2017, according to an official document obtained by RFA’s Tibetan Service.
Many thousands of Tibetans and Han Chinese study at Larung Gar, which comprises a sprawling settlement resting between two adjacent hills located more than 4,000 meters (13,000) feet above sea level and hundreds of miles from the nearest city.
The center was founded in 1980 by the late religious teacher Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok following China’s turbulent Cultural Revolution, and is one of the world’s largest and most important centers for the study of Tibetan Buddhism.
Following the demolition in 2001 of more than 1,000 dwellings at Larung Gar and the expulsion of hundreds of monks and nuns, Chinese authorities are again attempting to limit the numbers of students allowed to settle there, one local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“Last year, 600 members of this center were ordered to leave, and they returned to their hometowns,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“About 400 members aged 60 and older were also asked to leave, and they left as well,” the source said.
“This year, the authorities are talking about 1,200 members who will have to leave, and it is said that China has now issued a document saying that only 5,000 monks and nuns will be allowed to remain [at Larung Gar],” he said.
Marked for destruction
Government officials are now marking houses that block the passage of firefighting vehicles or the construction of roads, and dwellings targeted for demolition will be torn down by force if necessary, the source said.
“About 60 to 70 percent of the houses of monks and nuns are being marked for demolition,” he said.
The order to reduce the number of residents at Larung Gar is not a Serthar county plan "but comes from higher authorities,” with China’s president Xi Jinping taking a personal interest in the matter, RFA’s source said.
In January 2014, a massive blaze destroyed the houses of around 100 nuns living at Larung Gar, with some sources saying the fire could have been started by a butter lamp in a nun’s residence or by a faulty power line.
Reported by Lhuboom for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.