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08:41 Apr 06 2011

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U.S. report says Tibetan religion well-preserved, well-developed
08:41, April 06, 2011  

A report made by a U.S. delegation returning from China's Tibet said the Tibetan religions were well-protected and have improved markedly.

The report said, China has supported Tibet's religious preservation and development through financial aid, monasteries renovation and construction.

It also made a suggestion to establish a cooperative relationship between the U.S. and China in future research on Tibetan Buddhist teachings.

Lamas enjoy a healthy and rich life

According to the report, people in Tibet lead a better life through development of religious tourism. It took the example of monastery towns in eastern Tibet's areas (historically referring to Amdo), saying "they shared certain benefits of economic development and government spending across Tibet Autonomous Region."

The report quoted a lama at the large Labrang Monastery in Gansu, "The monastery supports lamas and students from families that are too poor to provide basic subsistence funds, but in recent years such community support was almost completely unnecessary since all of the surrounding nomad families 'were not rich, but no longer poor'."

Apart from the central government and other aid-Tibet programs, Tibet itself has made great efforts in developing tourism, which was also referred by the U.S. delegation's report, "Religious tourism brings money. Religious tourism appears to constitute an important source of income in the towns surrounding important monasteries. "

The tourism develops well due to its opening-up policy for tourists and pilgrims not only in China's mainland but the world at large. It also took the example that "Another lama at the Labrang monastery stated that lamas were allowed to keep all of the proceeds from admissions tickets, and use them to repair and rebuild facilities. In the easier-to-reach monasteries within a day's trip of an airport, we encountered groups of well-off Buddhist pilgrims from Taiwan, Guangdong, and Japan."

In terms of the government support, it pointed out that "Inside the TAR, many monasteries appear to depend on government subsidies to perform renovations and restorations of facilities, using their own income only to cover basic daily expenses."

According to the report, lamas lead various religious life in eastern Tibet. "We observed lamas engaged in a wide range of religious activities-philosophy classes, debates, dance and music practice, pilgrimage, instruction for young lamas, and escorting visitors. Many of the monasteries we visited had increased the number of lamas in residence in recent years, building new housing or renovating existing houses to accommodate the influx. At Labrang Monastery, we were told that 3,000 lamas are now studying-up from only about 1,200 in 2002."

Protection and construction for monasteries and temples

The delegation observed that the "intensive cultural restoration and preservation efforts" have been made by the government. It visited "several sites of great religious and cultural significance during its travels in the TAR and Tibetan-inhabited regions outside the TAR."

They saw that "Most were thronged with pilgrims, evidence that Tibetans remain deeply spiritual and that for average Tibetans, a visit to a local shrine or monastery remains a regular feature of life."

The delegates reported the government investing "more than 1.4 bln yuan (more than $200 million) inside the TAR to help reconstruct and renovate cultural sites damaged during the Cultural Revolution since 2001."

They also pointed out that "hundreds of those monasteries have been rebuilt today. The reconstruction at Ganden Monastery just outside of Lhasa–leveled during the Cultural Revolution–has been particularly dramatic."

Another example was "Samye monastery, the first built in Tibet. Like many religious sites, the monastery had been sacked and nearly destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. It is now under extensive government-funded restoration."

After spots investigation across Tibetan-inhabited areas of China, the delegates got "a general impression" that "there are massive investments being made to restore sites of religious and historical significance, and in some cases expand them. Some of the restoration work is being carried out with central government funding."

Meanwhile the report also provided a suggestion for the U.S. to embark on studies through collaborative relationship built with China.

"We (delegates) believe there is room to explore collaborative efforts in Tibet."

Collaborative research on Tibetan Buddhist teachings is possible, given the on-site investigation and the staff delegation's meeting with professors and scholars engaged in research on ancient Tibetan Buddhist scriptures at the very modern, just completed Lhasa campus of Tibet University (8,000 students).

From: China Tibet Online

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