Over 5,000 Tibetan monks and laypeople coming from across western China gathered this week at Sichuan’s Kirti monastery to begin a traditional period of religious teachings and debates, according to a local source.
The Jang Gunchoe or Winter Teaching—the tenth to be held in Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) county’s Kirti monastery—began on Oct. 2 and will run for 20 days, a Tibetan living in the area told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“The monks are from different schools of Tibetan Buddhism, including over 100 monks from the Jonang tradition, but come mainly from Kirti monastery and its different branches—Lhamo, Hortsang, and Tsoden,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“The monks of Chethang and Kyada monasteries in Qinghai have also joined in the event,” the source said.
The assembly at Kirti follows similar Winter Teaching gatherings held in other Tibetan-populated regions of western China in recent weeks.
Participants in the gathering will debate subjects taught in Buddhist texts, the source said, adding that senior religious instructors called Geshes are also on hand to instruct laypeople in the importance of preserving Tibetan cultural traditions, including the Tibetan language.
“Several hundred members of the public have gathered to watch the debates and listen to the teachings and instructions,” he said.
Large numbers of police are now stationed in and around Kirti, previously a frequent scene of monks’ protests against Chinese rule, to monitor the proceedings, RFA’s source said.
“However, no obstacles were put in the way of the ongoing events.”
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, fearful of sudden protests by Tibetans opposed to Beijing’s rule, often monitor and sometimes close down events involving large crowds, sources say.
Reported by Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.