Dalai Lama in Informal Talks on Pilgrimage Trip to China

By Richard Finney
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View of Buddhist temples on Wutai Shan Mountain in Wutai county, northwest China's Shanxi province, Sept. 17, 2012.

Tibet’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama signaled Thursday that he is in informal talks with Beijing over his long-held wish to make a pilgrimage trip to China.

“It’s not finalized, not yet, but the idea is there,” the spiritual leader told Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency in an interview on Thursday in northern India’s hill town Dharamsala, where he has been living in exile since he fled Tibet in 1959 in the midst of a failed national revolt against Chinese rule.

He said the talks were being held through contacts, including “retired officials.”

The Dalai Lama, now 79, said that he looks forward to making the pilgrimage to Wutai Shan, a mountain in China’s Shanxi province considered sacred by both Tibetan and Chinese Buddhists.

“I express, this is my desire, and some of my friends, they are also showing their genuine interest or concern,” he said.

Buddhism 'important to China'

The Dalai Lama’s office in Dharamsala confirmed with RFA’s Tibetan Service the spiritual leader’s remarks on the informal talks about his potential pilgrimage trip to China.

The Dalai Lama has said at several events that he would like to make a pilgrimage to the Buddhist sacred site in Shanxi.

In August, during a meeting with Chinese scholars in Hamburg, Germany, the Dalai Lama was quoted as saying in answer to a question: “I’ve always wanted to visit Wutai Shan."

“I thought about going there in 1954. Then it came up during the fifth round of talks with the Chinese, but was rejected,” he said.

The Dalai Lama also quoted Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s recent remark that Buddhism has an important role to play in reviving Chinese culture and the finding that there are now said to be 300-400 million Buddhists in China.

Chinese blog post removed

Senior Chinese leaders have described the Dalai Lama in the past as a separatist intent on “splitting” Tibet from Chinese rule, and talks held on Tibet’s status between envoys of the Dalai Lama and Beijing stalled in January 2010.

There has been no progress in the discussions since then despite calls from U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders for a resumption of the Sino-Tibetan dialogue.

On Sept. 17, an anonymous blog posting on China’s Sina.com discussed the Dalai Lama’s possible return to China, but was removed the next day after being viewed by thousands of people.

“According to informed sources familiar with the situation, the Dalai Lama’s recent communications with the central government in Beijing have gone very smoothly, with the Dalai Lama expressing a strong wish to return to the country,” the blog post read, according to a translation released by the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet.

“The Dalai Lama’s path to returning home doesn’t seem to be far off,” the posting read.

Speaking to AFP, the spiritual leader himself, though hopeful, appeared to take a philosophical view of the chances he might visit China.

“If things go that way, a more happy sort of way, very good. If not -- okay.”


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