Pilgrims’ Tents Destroyed at Sichuan’s Yachen Gar Buddhist Center

tibet-tents-041317.jpeg Pilgrims' tents are shown outside Yachen Gar in an undated photo.
Photo sent by an RFA listener

Authorities in western China’s Sichuan province have demolished hundreds of tents set up by Tibetan pilgrims visiting the large Yachen Gar Buddhist Center, citing difficulties posed by the encampments to the orderly management of the complex, a local source reports.

At least 200 tents and other temporary dwellings were torn down after a notice ordering their destruction was posted on April 1, a Tibetan living in the area told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

“The pilgrims come here for one to two months to receive teachings and accumulate merit by circumambulating and viewing the complex,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“So they build tents just outside Yachen Gar, and the authorities recently cracked down on them and demolished about 200 structures,” he said.

Yachen Gar, located in Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) prefecture’s Palyul (Baiyu) county and founded in 1985, until recently housed an estimated 10,000 monks and nuns devoted to scriptural study and meditation.

County authorities had given a deadline of April 10 for the tents set up outside Yachen Gar to be cleared away, RFA’s source said.

Restricted access

Authorities are now restricting access to the sprawling complex and areas nearby, with foreign visitors drawing particular scrutiny from police, sources told RFA in earlier reports.

Chinese surveillance and other tightened security measures at Yachen Gar have become growing causes of concern for the center’s resident monks and nuns, RFA’s source said, adding, “It is difficult for news about Yachen Gar to reach the outside world now.”

“Though the complex has internet service, residents hesitate to share their stories. Many fear Chinese retaliation at Yachen Gar if stories about the center get out to world media,” he said.

Restrictions on Yachen Gar and the better-known Larung Gar complex in Serthar are part of “an unfolding political strategy” aimed at controlling the influence and growth of these important centers for Tibetan Buddhist study and practice, the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) said in a March 13 report, “Shadow of Dust Across the Sun.”

“[Both centers] have drawn thousands of Chinese practitioners to study Buddhist ethics and receive spiritual teaching since their establishment, and have bridged Tibetan and Chinese communities,” ICT said in its report.

Reported by Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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