Authorities in southwestern China’s Sichuan province have temporarily halted demolition work at the Larung Gar Buddhist Academy as winter moves into the area, with the destruction of monastic dwellings expected to resume at a more “aggressive” pace in the spring, sources say.
Thousands of Tibetan and Han Chinese monks and nuns, along with a few Western students, have already been expelled from the makeshift dwellings that once lined the hillsides around Larung Gar as authorities seek to reduce the center’s population by about half to a maximum level of 5,000.
With winter slowing the work of destruction, though, the expulsions of Larung Gar residents and destruction of their homes were suspended “at the beginning of January,” a resident of the area told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“However, we hear that it will begin again in April, and that this time it will be more aggressive and widespread,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“For now, things have calmed down considerably,” the source said.
Many thousands of Tibetans and Han Chinese once studied at Serthar (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 all monks and nuns coming originally from the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and western China’s Qinghai and Gansu provinces have been removed and sent back to their native regions, RFA’s source said.
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, sources said in earlier reports.
Hundreds of nuns coming from Tibetan-populated counties of Sichuan are meanwhile being housed in temporary camps of two-storey buildings set up in desolate areas of the province until more permanent accommodations can be found.
“Larung Gar’s annual exams will be held in the 12th month of the Tibetan Year [in late January or early February], and we don’t know if the monks and nuns who have been expelled will be allowed to return to take part,” RFA’s source said.
“When they were first sent away, they were told that they would be allowed to come back to take their exams,” he said.
Reported by Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.