China Removes Antique Statues From Tibetan Monastery


Devotional statues and imagery play an important part in Tibetan Buddhism. Photo: Robert Aichinger

WASHINGTON--Chinese authorities in Tibet have removed 12 historic statues from a monastery in Pashoe county and replaced the monks there with eight monks approved by the government, a source in Tibet said.

"I am calling from Tibet. So it is not safe to give my name and place. What I want to tell you is that 12 precious statues have gone missing from Pashoe Nyera monastery," the caller told RFA's Tibetan service.

The Pashoe Nyera monastery in Pashoe (in Chinese, Basu) county was formerly home to 21 monks and 12 relics precious to Tibetan Buddhist traditions.

Situated in Chamdo (in Chinese, Changdu) prefecture, about 300 kilometers (186 miles) from the prefectural capital, the monastery has housed the statues since its foundation.

"Even one of the smaller statues is valued about one million yuan (U.S.$137,690) on the international market," the Tibetan caller said.

Even one of the smaller statues is valued about one million yuan (U.S.$137,690) on the international market.

"This monastery had 21 monks but later all of them were either forced to leave, or they left the monastery on their own and moved to Lhasa. In their place, the Chinese authorities selected their own monks to be in the monastery."

Officials unresponsive

The caller said local Tibetan devotees had appealed to the newly installed monks and local officials to search for and restore the statues, but met with no response.

He said local people were sure that local officials must have been involved.

"The local Tibetans know very well that only the local sub-county officials had access to those precious statues. When the local officials were approached, the officials were not responsive and even refused to investigate the incident. The local people were told that it will be gradually found," the caller said.

Local Chinese officials had installed replacement statues of a controversial protector spirit known as Shugden, whose followers have been barred from certain initiations by the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama has characterized Shugden as detrimental to the unity of Tibetan Buddhism, because the followers of that sect emphasize purity at the expense of other Tibetan Buddhist sects.

China has ruled the Dalai Lama out of Tibet's future, and is currently rolling out an ideological campaign to get Tibetans to renounce him, sparking unrest and detentions all through last summer.

"In 1998, this monastery had 21 monks who conducted all the religious events, but when they refused to install Shugden statues, the Chinese authorities forced them to leave," the Tibetan caller said.

"After their departure, Chinese officials appointed eight monks of their choosing and installed statues of Shugden. This monastery previously had no history of worshiping Shugden," he added.

Original reporting in Kham dialect by Tsewang Norbu. RFA Tibetan service director: Jigme Ngapo. Translated and edited by Karma Dorjee. Written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.


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