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08:34 Mar 15 2010

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English>>Tibet Online
Tibetans pray for peace, better life on riot anniversary
08:30, March 15, 2010  

Tibetan monk Gyatso carefully painted gold powder on a statue of Buddha Maitrya at the Drepung Monastery in Lhasa, making last-minute preparations for a grand Buddhist service scheduled for Monday.

From time to time, he dubbed his painting brush into a bowl full of gold powder donated by Buddhists.

"The Tibetans are better-off these days and more people make donations to the monastery," he said. "Now we have far more gold than what's necessary to keep Buddha Maityra, the Buddha of the future, brilliant."

At least 60 Tibetans were tamping the floor of the Coqen Hall, the centerpiece structure that is undergoing repairs.

They sang as they worked, improvising new lyrics to describe the scenes and matching the rhythm with their actions.

Repairs of the Drepung Monastery, about 5 km from Lhasa's city center, began in June 2009 and are expected to last for a year. The central government has earmarked 65 million yuan for the project, which covers the Coqen Hall, four sutra study halls and their frescos.

Sunday is the 29th day of the Tibetan New Year, not a particular date for mass pilgrimages -- which happen on the eighth,15th and 30th days of every month.

But pilgrims are constantly seen at Lhasa's major monasteries, including the Drepung, Sera and Jokhang. Many are local residents who make their pilgrimage every day, while others have traveled tothe holy city from other Tibetan communities in Qinghai, Gansu and Sichuan provinces.

In the square outside the 1,350-year-old Jokhang Temple, Pasang, 45, crawled on the ground and kowtowed to make long prayers.

Pasang, a Tibetan woman from Garze, a Tibetan autonomous prefecture in Sichuan, said she made at least 1,000 long prayers every day to express her gratitude for every happiness in life.

For more than a decade, Pasang and her husband have been running a curio business in Lhasa and made a fortune. They have three daughters, aged from eight to 18.

"My eldest daughter studies in Chengdu and will enter college this fall," she said. "She's a straight-A student."

Exactly two years after the deadly riots, with charred shops refurbished and a new travel peak a few weeks away, many people say they cherish the peaceful life the holy city has regained.

The police officers and People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers who are standing guard on every downtown street are probably the only reminder of the violence.

A spokesman of Tibet's regional public security bureau said last week they had sent extra police force to patrol Lhasa's streets ahead of the riot anniversary to "prevent crime and maintain social stability."

On Porgor and several other busy streets, the officers on duty have set up booths providing tea and newspapers to the pedestrians for free.

Sixty-year-old Tashi said he did not mind the tightened security.

"When you are getting on in years, you'd feel safe to see policemen around," Tashi said as he sat down for tea and snacks ata Tibetan eatery on Porgor Street, Lhasa's major commercial street,after a three-hour pilgrimage Sunday morning.

ECONOMIC RECOVERY

About half of the stores on Porgor Street opened before 10 a.m.

"Business is good," said Phurjung, a woman from Gyangze County in Xigaze who sells tsampa, Tibetans' major staple food. Her turnover averages 3,000 to 4,000 yuan a day even on the quiet days. "In the buying spree before the Tibetan New Year in mid February, it hit 10,000 yuan a day."

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