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16:41 Dec 15 2008

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English>>Tibet Online>>Culture
Protection and development of Tibetan culture (2)
14:22, December 10, 2008  

The most favorable time for literary and art creation in Tibet. Traditional Tibetan art has been continuously updated and developed in combination with modern art. After the peaceful liberation of Tibet, literature and art workers from different ethnic groups went into the thick of life in Tibet to explore and inherit the fine aspects of the ethnic literature and art tradition. They created a lot of poems, novels, songs, dances, music and fine art works, films and photos, enriching Tibetan artistic forms and varieties while improving the overall artistic levels. In recent years, a large group of literary and art works made their debuts on the stage, such as the grand dance opera Mount Qomolangma; the song-and-dance performances Golden Years, Colorful Hada, Tibet in Paradise and Odes to Harmony; the drama Across the Summit; the new Tibetan opera Spring for Dokshung; and the new historical play Princess Wencheng which integrates Peking and Tibetan opera techniques. With refreshing themes and new contents, distinctive ethnic features and a strong feel of the times, these works have upgraded the overall level of the Tibetan performing arts, and greatly enriched and enlivened the cultural life of the local people of different ethnic groups. Princess Wencheng, in particular, has been honored as one of the ten recommended operas of the National Best Stage Art Project. In the last five years, the three region-level professional troupes created 34 new performing art works, and the seven prefecture-level professional troupes added over 300 new performing art works and other performances to their repertoires. They gave more than 3,000 shows for audiences totaling five million persons, winning over 40 national and 270 regional awards. There are also vigorous cultural exchanges between Tibet and the rest of the world. In the past three decades, 360 Tibetan cultural and performing art delegations totaling 4,320 people visited the United States, Canada, Russia and some 50 other countries and regions. Over 200 performing artists from some 30 countries and regions visited Tibet for cultural exchange and gave performances.

In old Tibet, there were no cultural establishments for the ordinary people. Today, however, a fairly complete network of public cultural facilities has taken shape in Tibet. There are now 12 large modern libraries, two museums, six multi-functional public art centers, 37 county-level cultural activity centers, 22 satellite stations for sharing cultural resources, 175 township-level cultural centers, and 550 village-level culture rooms/halls. With the rapid development of the culture industry, there are now 2,596 cultural and recreational venues in Tibet, employing 18,350 people, and over 3,000 cultural travel agencies, artistic advertisement and decoration services, art galleries, holiday resorts and parks. The establishment of these public cultural facilities and the development of the culture industry are playing an increasingly important role in improving the local people's cultural life and promoting Tibetan culture.

Accelerated development of Tibetan medicine and pharmacology. With distinctive Tibetan characteristics, Tibetan medicine and pharmacology forms a unique part of traditional Tibetan culture. Yet in old Tibet there were only three small official medical organs - the "Mantsikhang" (Institute of Tibetan Medicine and Astrology), the "Chakpori Zhopanling" (Medicine King Hill Institute for Saving All Living Beings) in Lhasa, and the Hall of Gathering Immortals in Xigaze - with fewer than 100 medical staff in total and serving mainly high officials, nobles and senior monks. They were not accessible to the ordinary people. Since the Democratic Reform in 1959, the state has input a huge amount of funds to develop Tibetan medical and healthcare services for everyone. By the end of 2007, there were 18 hospitals of Tibetan medicine, and all county hospitals had set up Tibetan medicine clinics. At present, there are 650 beds for Tibetan medicine treatment, 1,484 staff members working in Tibetan medicine hospitals and clinics, and 678 rural and folk medicine doctors. In 2007, Tibetan medicine institutions provided treatment to 489,000 patients, including treatment to 7,340 in-patients. The production of Tibetan medicine has also developed from workshop manual labor to modern industry, being brought into the orbit of standardization, regulation, mass production and scientific management. There are now 18 Tibetan medicine production enterprises, turning out over 360 types of Tibetan medicines, all of which have been included in the list of medicines covered by medical insurance. In 2007, the output value of Tibetan medicines reached 660 million yuan, with a sales revenue of 450 million yuan. Some Tibetan medicines are sold in other Chinese regions and even abroad.

Great achievements have been made in scientific research and education concerning Tibetan medicine. The Tibetan Medicine Research Institute of the Tibet Autonomous Region and other Tibetan medicine institutions at all levels are actively carrying out scientific research into Tibetan medicine, and have collected, collated, edited and published a number of medical works of high academic value, including the Chinese Medical Encyclopedia: Tibetan Volume, A Complete Collection of Tibetan Astronomy and Calendar, Ganlu Materia Medica, The Four Medical Tantras (Tibetan-Chinese bilingual edition), A Complete Collection of the Eighty Colored Tibetan Medical Thangkhas of the Four Medical Tantras, Mirror of Crystal Tantra, Diagnostics of Tibetan Medicine and Complete Prescriptions of Tibetan Medicine. The establishment of the College of Tibetan Medicine in 1989 has enabled the teaching of Tibetan medicine to be transformed from traditional methods to modern medical education. By 2007, some 1,200 students had graduated from the college (including two-year students), and 56 graduates had received doctoral or master's degrees. Now the college has an enrollment of 1,194 students, with 54 postgraduates. The old science of Tibetan medicine and pharmacology is now full of vigor and vitality, playing an important role in improving the health conditions of the Tibetan people and bringing benefits to mankind as a whole.

III. Religious Beliefs and Native Customs Respected

Tibetan Buddhism is the faith of the majority of the residents of the Tibet Autonomous Region. It is an important component of Tibetan tradition and culture. Over a long course of historical development, the Tibetans have developed their unique customs and lifestyle. Since the peaceful liberation of Tibet in 1951, the Chinese government has set great store by respecting the freedom of religious beliefs and customs of the various ethnic groups living in Tibet.

Old Tibet practiced theocracy, like that in the Middle Ages of Europe. The upper class, represented by the Dalai Lama, dominated the politics, economy and culture of Tibet, and controlled the "admission" of the followers of Tibetan Buddhism to paradise. Under the system of theocracy and religious autocracy, ordinary people had no freedom of religious belief at all. Such a system proved to be a tight fetter on people's minds and social functions. The Democratic Reform toppled the decadent and outdated theocracy and the religious regime controlled by the Dalai Lama and other living Buddhas, and separated religion from politics. The monasteries were put under democratic management, thus providing an institutional guarantee for the freedom of religious belief.

The state has placed Tibetan Buddhism under effective protection as part of traditional Tibetan culture. To satisfy the needs of religious believers, great endeavors have been made by the state for the preservation of monasteries, cultural relics and sites of historical significance. The Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, and the Drepung, Sera, Ganden, Tashilhunpo, Sakya and many other monasteries are placed under the protection of the state or the autonomous region, which allocate a large amount of funds annually for their repairs. Since the 1980s, more than 700 million yuan and a large quantity of gold and silver have been channelled from central and local funds for repairing a large number of religious sites. Today, there are more than 1,700 religious venues in Tibet, accommodating over 46,000 monks and nuns. The murals, sculptures, statues, Thangkas, sutras, ritual implements, and Buddhist shrines have been well repaired and protected.

A large quantity of religious documents and classics have been collected, collated and published. Traditional sutra printing shops still operate in monasteries and are developing well. There are nearly 60 large printing shops, including those of the Meru Monastery and the Potala Palace, producing 63,000 titles of sutras a year, available at 20 non-government-funded sales outlets. In 1984, the government of the Tibet Autonomous Region presented the Lhasa version of the Tibetan-language Kangyur to the Tibet branch of the Buddhist Association of China, and gave funds to the Lhasa Sutra Printing Shop to produce more woodblocks for the monasteries in and outside Tibet. In 1990, the government allocated 500,000 yuan to Lhasa's Meru Monastery to engrave a new woodblock edition of Tengyur, and the 160 volumes so far engraved are now being printed. This is the first time that Tengyur has been engraved and printed in Lhasa.

The state has committeed 40 million yuan and organized more than 100 Tibetan-language experts to finish collating Tibetan versions of Tengyur and Kangyur within two decades. Now all 124 volumes of Kangyur are available, and 108 volumes of Tengyur are to be published by the end of 2008. So far, 1,490 volumes of Kangyur have been printed; Tibetan Buddhist classics on rituals, biographies and treatises have also been printed and distributed. In 1998, The Kangyur of Bon Religion was compiled and published by the Tibetan-language Classics Press of Tibet, and The Tengyur of Bon Religion, by the Tibet People's Publishing House. A large quantity of other Buddhist works, such as On Pattra-leaf Scriptures and History of Bon Monasteries in Tibet are also available in bookstores.

Normal religious activities and beliefs protected by law. Buddhist groups have been set up in the Tibet Autonomous Region as well as its seven prefectures (cities). The Tibet branch of the Buddhist Association of China runs the Tibetan Buddhism Academy, Tibetan-language sutra printing shop and Tibetan-language journal Tibetan Buddhism. The state has established the China Tibetan-Language Academy of Buddhism to train senior Tibetan Buddhist personnel. More than 100 living Buddhas and eminent monks from Tibet have studied there. Various traditional Buddhist activities are carried out in a normal way - from sutra studies and debates to the conferring of academic degrees and ordination. As a unique way of passing on Tibetan Buddhism, the living Buddha reincarnation system has received respect from the state, and 40-odd living Buddhas have been approved in line with religious rituals and historical practice.

Religious activities in Tibet are rich in content and diverse in form. Since the 1980s, more than 40 religious festivals have been resumed. Believers are free to take part in the Sakadawa Festival, Shoton (Yogurt) Festival and other religious activities. Everywhere in Tibet, sutra streamers, Mani mounds and masses of believers engaging in religious activities can be seen. Many believers have sutra rooms or shrines in their homes, and they often circumambulate monasteries and sacred places, go on pilgrimages, or invite monks or nuns to conduct Buddhist services.

Tibetan customs and lifestyle respected and protected. Since Tibet's peaceful liberation, the Chinese government has respected and protected the customs and lifestyle of the Tibetan and other ethnic groups in the Tibet Autonomous Region, including respect for, and guarantee of, their freedom to conduct religious and folk activities.

Over the past 50 years or so, the Tibetan and other ethnic minorities living in Tibet have preserved their traditional garments and ornaments, diets and housing styles, and are free to celebrate their traditional festivals. Some decadent, backward practices relating to feudal serfdom and despising laboring people have been discarded and replaced with modern, civilized and healthy fashions. In Tibet, people celebrate national and international festivals, such as National Day, March 8 Women's Day and May Day, in addition to traditional and religious festivals, such as Tibetan New Year, Bathing Festival, Ongkor (Bumper Harvest) Festival, Butter Lamp Festival, Dharma Festival, Burning Offerings Festival, Garchachen Festival and horse race fairs. They have also brought into being such modern events as the Yarlung Art Festival in Shannan, Khampa Art Festival at Qamdo, Mount Qomolangma Art Festival at Xigaze and Azalea Festival at Nyingchi. Now that fine Tibetan traditions integrating with modern ideas and cultures, Tibetan folk culture has adopted a new character.

IV. All-round Development of Modern Science, Education and the Media

Since its peaceful liberation in 1951, along with the drive for modernization, in Tibet not only has the fine traditional Tibetan culture been inherited, protected and promoted, but modern scientific, educational, journalistic and cultural undertakings have also been developing in an all-round way.

A historical leap has been achieved in education. In old Tibet, there was not a single school in the modern sense. Access to education was restricted to members of the aristocracy, and the broad masses of laboring people were robbed of any opportunity for education. Since the peaceful liberation, the state has adopted vigorous measures to develop education in Tibet. Between 1952 and 2007, the state's investment in Tibet totaled 22.562 billion yuan, of which 13.989 billion yuan was invested from 2002 to 2007. In addition, various other provinces and municipalities also rendered energetic support to the development of education in Tibet in terms of manpower, materials and finance. So far, more than 7,000 teachers have been selected to aid Tibet in this respect. Since 1985, the state has adopted the measure to cover all tuition as well as food and boarding expenses for students in the stage of compulsory education from Tibet's agricultural and pastoral families. In 2007, the state again decided to exempt all primary and junior high school students of all tuition and other fees, thus making Tibet the first place in China to enjoy free compulsory education. In recent years, the state has increased its investment in improving school facilities and learning conditions, spending 1.85 billion yuan between 2000 and 2006 on new school buildings and their expansion, totaling 1.5 million sq m in floor space. From 2004 to 2007, 133 classrooms equipped with computers were built, in addition to 983 distance-education locations served by satellites and 1,763 educational resource systems. As a result, most of Tibet's primary and high schools possess hi-tech teaching facilities. Tibet has already formed a relatively comprehensive education system ranging from preschool education, nine-year compulsory education to secondary education, higher education, vocational education, distance education, correspondence education and special education.

Educational and cultural levels have been noticeably improved. Now in Tibet, there are 884 primary schools, 94 high schools and 1,237 teaching stations, with a total enrolment of 547,000. The illiteracy rate has fallen from more than 95 percent in old Tibet to the present 4.76 percent. The enrollment rate for school-age children has risen from 2 percent in old Tibet to the present 98.2 percent, and the enrollment rate for junior high schools has reached 90.97 percent, basically ensuring free nine-year compulsory education. At present, there are 14 senior high schools and nine schools with both junior and senior high school education, with the enrollment rate for senior high schools hitting 42.96 percent; seven secondary vocational schools, with students totaling 19,000 in 2007; and six colleges and universities, with students numbering 27,000 and an enrollment rate of 17.4 percent. There are 30,652 teachers in primary and high schools, colleges and universities, among whom teachers of the Tibetan or other ethnic minority groups account for more than 80 percent. Throughout the country, 33 schools have classes specially for Tibetan students, including 19 junior high schools, 12 senior high schools and two teacher-training schools. In addition, 53 key senior high schools in inland China enroll students from Tibet. By the end of June 2008, a total of 34,650 Tibetan students had been admitted to these schools, and at present the number of Tibetan students has reached 17,100. The higher education admission rate of these Tibetan classes in inland China has exceeded 90 percent. Meanwhile, over 90 inland colleges and universities have admitted students from Tibet, with a total of 5,200 students still studying, and 15,000 having already graduated. Large numbers of highly educated Tibetans, including some with Ph.Ds and MAs, as well as scientists and engineers, have become a major force in promoting Tibet's development.

Modern science and technology in Tibet started from scratch and developed rapidly. The state has adopted a number of policies, laws and regulations, and invested a large amount of money to promote the development of science and technology in Tibet. At present, Tibet has 42 scientific research institutions, 56 academic groups of various kinds, 140 institutions at different levels popularizing agricultural and animal husbandry skills, 37 science and technology demonstration bases and locations, five key laboratories and three research centers of engineering technology. There are 42,525 professionals of various kinds, with Tibetans and people of other ethnic minorities accounting for 74.04 percent. From 2000 to 2007, Tibet completed 613 key scientific research projects, including 148 key national ones. Tibet has made remarkable achievements in science and technology, especially in the fields of cosmic rays observation, plateau atmosphere, deep geophysical exploration for the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, prevention of geological hazards such as mudslides, development and utility of clean energy including geothermal and solar energy, plateau medicine, etc. Certain achievements have taken the lead nationwide and even worldwide. By 2007, the rate of contribution from science and technology to Tibet's growth in the agricultural and pastoral sectors had reached 36 percent, with the farmers and herders being the greatest beneficiaries.

An unprecedented advance has been made in Tibetology research. In old Tibet, Tibetology research was confined mainly in the "greater five aspects of knowledge" (skill, medicine, literature, logic and religion) and the "lesser five aspects of knowledge" (poetry, rhetoric, rhythm, opera and calendar), focusing primarily on religion and serving the interests of the aristocrats and senior monks, an extremely small proportion of the Tibetan population. Nowadays, Tibetology has become an important discipline of China's social sciences and an important undertaking serving the country as well as the Tibetan people. There are now more than 50 Tibetology research institutions in the country, including the China Tibetology Research Center, with nearly 3,000 Tibetology experts and scholars. Tibetology is now a fairly complete research discipline in China and enjoys high reputation among the Tibetology circles throughout the world. China has compiled and published hundreds of Tibetology monographs, including A Comprehensive History of Tibet, A Historically Produced Unity, Historical Documents of Tubo Kept in Dunhuang, and Artistic Exchanges between Tibetans and Han Chinese in the Yuan Dynasty; edited and published over 400 Chinese-language collections of historical documents on Tibet, such as Old and New Tang Books - Historical Materials in Tibetan, The Ming-dynasty Records - Historical Materials in Tibetan, and The Qing-dynasty Records - Historical Materials in Tibetan, more than 70 collections of ancient Tibetan documents, including The Collected Works of Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyaltsen and The Collected Works of Tonpa Sherab, as well as more than 24,000 papers on Tibetology published in various newspapers and magazines.

The press and publishing industry in Tibet is flourishing. Old Tibet had no publishing houses in the modern sense, apart from a few workshops for printing Buddhist sutras using printing blocks. Now, Tibet has two publishing houses for books, and two for audio-visual products. Some 250 million volumes of over 11,300 titles, written in the Tibetan or Chinese language, have been published, including 3,000 Tibetan-language titles, of which 200 titles, such as Annotations of the Four Medical Tantras, A New Edition of Tibetan Medicine and Encyclopedia of Tibet, have won national awards. There has been a 20 percent annual increase in the production of Tibetan-language books for five consecutive years. Since its establishment in 1989, the Tibet Audio-Visual Publishing House has put out more than 100 audio-visual and electronic publications, including Tibet Today, Nangma and Thoeshey, Tibetan Light Music and The Ngari Area of Tibet, and distributed over 330,000 audio and visual products. There has been a 13-percent annual increase in the production of audio-visual products for five consecutive years. Currently, Tibet has 35 printing houses of various types, widely applying such new technologies as electronic typesetting, off-set lithography, electronic color separation and multi-color printing. A book distribution network covers the entire region. In 2002-2007 alone, 10.08 million yuan was invested in building or expanding 35 Xinhua Bookstores, bringing the total number of these shops to 67. There are now 272 sites that distribute more than 40 million books of over 200,000 titles every year. Moreover, the region has invested over 18 million yuan to build a new logistics distribution center, each day distributing 560,000 copies (discs) of books, newspapers, audio-visual and electronic publications of 50,000 titles.

Old Tibet had only one lithographically printed newspaper in the Tibetan language in the last years of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), titled The Tibet Vernacular Newspaper, and its print-run was fewer than 100 copies a day. Now, Tibet has 57 openly distributed newspapers and periodicals - 23 newspapers and 34 periodicals. Each of Tibet's seven prefectures and cities has a Tibetan newspaper and Han Chinese newspaper. In 2007, Tibet published 55.50 million copies of newspapers and 2.67 million copies of periodicals, both boasting a double-digit growth for five years in a row. Magazines such as Tibetan Studies and Tibet Travels have won national magazine award nominations and key social science magazine awards.

No radio, film or TV industry existed in old Tibet. In the 50-odd years since the peaceful liberation of Tibet, the central and regional finance together allocated 1.2 billion yuan for the development of Tibet's radio, film and TV industry. Relevant departments in the central government as well as other provinces have also rendered great support to Tibet in technology, personnel, materials and equipment, helping to train a large number of professionals for it. In 2007, Tibet had nine broadcast and radio stations, 39 medium-wave transmitting stations, 76 FM radio transmitting and relay stations of 100 watts or above, 80 TV transmitting stations of 50 watts or above, 76 cable TV transmitting stations above the county level, and 9,111 radio and TV stations at the township and village levels. All these have made radio and TV coverage rates in Tibet reach 87.8 percent and 88.9 percent, respectively, achieving the target of extending broadcast and TV coverage to each administrative village. Currently, the Tibet People's Radio Station provides four programs, broadcasting 79 hours and 55 minutes a day, while the Tibet TV Station operates three channels, airing programs 59 hours and 30 minutes a day. The Tibet Cable TV Network Transmission Center can receive and transmit 50 analog cable TV programs and 90 digital TV programs as well as 11 radio programs a day. Besides, all the prefectures (cities) and some counties have set up their own cable TV networks, marking the initial formation of a radio and TV network covering the whole region. In addition, there are 559 movie-projection agencies, 82 movie-projection management agencies, 472 projection teams and 7,918 projection locations in Tibet's farming and pastoral areas, covering 98 percent of the region's administrative villages, with each person watching 1.6 movies per month for the region's farmers and herders.

New media forms, such as the Internet and mobile phones, have quickly developed as a new force in terms of their popularization and applications. Tibet started its Internet construction in 1997, achieved broadband Internet access in 1999, and created its first website "Window on Tibet" in 2000. At the end of 2007, Tibet had 760 websites, 82,858 Internet subscribers and 200,000 netizens, accounting for six percent of the total population. Mobile phone services were launched in Tibet in August 1993, with a switchboard capacity for only 4,500 mobile subscribers, as well as only one base station. Now, Tibet has over 8,300 base stations and 800,000 mobile phone subscribers. New media have become major channels enabling the Tibetan people to keep up with current events, and have rapid access to information as well as leisure and amusement. These media have enriched the local people's spiritual and cultural lives and brought Tibet closer to the rest of the world.

Conclusion

Facts show that there has been no "cultural genocide" in Tibet at all over the past half-century and more. On the contrary, the traditional culture of Tibet has been appropriately inherited, effectively protected and vigorously promoted, while modern Tibetan culture, oriented toward modernization, the future and the rest of the world, has opened up to the outside world and achieved rapid and all-round development propelled by Tibet's economic and social development. Tibetan culture is blooming with new vigor and energy in the new age and profoundly influencing the life of Tibetans and the development of Tibet's modernization through its diverse content and innovative forms. Moreover, with its unique charm, Tibetan culture is attracting worldwide attention, enriching the diverse cultural heritage of the Chinese nation and influencing that of the world as a whole. It is safe to say that the situation concerning the protection, prosperity and development of Tibetan culture in any historical period of old Tibet bears no comparison with the situation in Tibet today, and the achievements in this regard are undeniable to anyone who respects facts.

It deserves the utmost notice that the 14th Dalai Lama and his clique have spread the rumor about the "cultural genocide" in Tibet to the world in defiance of objective facts. It is known to all that the 14th Dalai Lama and his clique are the chief representatives of the backward feudal serfdom system and culture of theocratic rule and religious despotism that used to prevail in Tibet, as well as the vested-interest monopolists of the political, economic and cultural resources of old Tibet. The Democratic Reform in 1959 abolished the feudal serfdom system and overturned the unfair ownership and distribution system of Tibetan cultural resources, which had been monopolized by a small number of feudal serf owners. Furthermore, the reform removed theocratic rule and religious despotism over social and political life, cleared away the decadent and backward cultural scum which had been obstructing social progress and development, accomplished the democratization and modernization of Tibetan culture, and freed the productive forces of Tibetan culture, enabling Tibetan culture, protected and carried forward as a common spiritual wealth of all Tibetans, to keep up with the times and develop prosperously. Facts prove that the 14th Dalai Lama and his clique are the representative and guardian of the backward culture of old Tibet, and that China's Central People's Government and the local people's government of the Tibet Autonomous Region are the ones that truly protect and develop Tibetan culture.

The 14th Dalai Lama and his clique fled abroad nearly half a century ago, and have never made any efforts for, or contributions to, the protection and development of Tibetan culture. However, they absurdly claim themselves to be "protectors of Tibetan culture." They have clamored about the "cultural genocide" in Tibet for the sole reason that their cultural despotism and cultural system along with their cultural privileges and vested interests have been irretrievably destroyed due to the irresistible development of Tibetan culture. The 14th Dalai Lama and his clique's clamor for "cultural autonomy of Tibet" is essentially a political conspiracy to restore theocratic rule over the culture of Tibet and other Tibetan-inhabited regions, and thus realize the "independence of Greater Tibet." Such a scheme of historical retrogression is bound to fail.

It is an overwhelming historical trend for the times to move forward, society to progress and culture to develop. The world is in an age of intensified globalization and spread of infomation. People who conform to the mighty trend of modernization will prosper, while those who do not will perish. Any people or culture can only retain its characteristics and life force by conforming to the trend of modernization, keeping up with the times, and following the path of inheritance and innovation, protection and promotion, and opening-up and development. The 14th Dalai Lama and his clique and the anti-China forces in the West conspire to force the Tibetan ethnic group and its culture to stagnate and remain in a state similar to the Middle Ages, in effect to become living fossils, while they themselves enjoy the fruits of modern civilization and culture. Such an attempt must have ulterior motives. The people of Tibet and other ethnic groups in China will absolutely not fall for such a scheme.

Source: China Daily

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