The photo shows Drepung Monastery, one of Lhasa’s three main monasteries. After the protests of March 2008, hundreds of monks were expelled, many residences were closed down and sealed.
High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Woeser written in January 2014 for the Mandarin service of Radio Free Asia and published on her blog on January 23, 2014.
Woeser’s post is a good follow-up to her previous article “An Overview of the CCP’s Religious Policies in Tibetan Areas” and touches on the same territory.
Be sure to scroll down to after the text ends for four more photos taken by Woeser in and around Lhasa.
“Tibetan Buddhism designed by the CCP”
Not long ago, several important incidents took place in succession: 1) Because of a minor explosion at the end of October 2011, of the originally over 300 monks only 6 are now left in Karma Monastery in Chamdo County, Kham, TAR. 2) At the end of 2013, Drongna Monastery in Driru County, Nagchu Prefecture, TAR was closed down, all monk residences were sealed and many monks arrested; subsequently, the Tarmoe and Rabten monasteries of Driru County were also closed down. 3) In December 2013, an official government notice was issued to the famous Labrang Monastery in Sangchu County, Gannan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu Province, requesting to expel all non-local monks studying at the monastery within a three months period.
At the end of 2008, I wrote several essays: “‘Patriotic Education’ in Tibet”, “Another Cultural Revolution is Quietly Sweeping across Tibet’s Monasteries”, “Behind the Curtain of ‘Legal Education’”, “The Intentions Behind Transforming Monasteries into Tourist Attractions”, “The ‘Clean Up’ of Lhasa that is Hidden from the Outside World”. It is evident that the encircling and annihilation of Tibet’s monasteries is continuously moving forward, becoming more and more far-reaching. Just as I wrote at the end of 2008, “the local Party authorities are currently launching the cruelest and most bitter clean up of Tibetan monasteries since the Cultural Revolution. In the Chinese media, none of these “black box operations” are ever mentioned. Another Cultural Revolution is currently sweeping across Tibet. In 1966, Buddhist temples and statues were smashed and monks and nuns expelled, leaving behind a forlorn field of ruins. Now this second Cultural Revolution will completely eradicate any genuine monks and nuns, leaving behind nothing but the shell of monasteries and monks and nuns who are bound to lose their courage and conscience.”
If we have not already forgotten, we must remember how on April 10, 2008, the three main monasteries in Lhasa – Drepung monastery, Sera monastery and Ganden monastery – were attacked by military police in the middle of the night, monks – almost entirely students of Buddhism coming from Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan, or Yunnan provinces (officially called “the four Tibetan provinces”) – were arrested at their residences. They were sent to Gormo military prison and repatriated to their hometowns after the Beijing Olympics; none of them were allowed to ever return to the monasteries.
It has always been true that more than half of the monks in Lhasa’s three main monasteries were not locals. This is a 500-year-old tradition, existing ever since the establishment of these three main monasteries, and it is the tradition of 2000 years of Buddhism. This, indeed, also includes monasteries of Chinese Buddhism that have always been inhabited by monks from all across the country. Today, Chinese monasteries have remained the same, monks from different counties and provinces reside there to study, but the monks of Lhasa’s three main monasteries have been expelled and imprisoned by military force. This has hardly ever happened in the history of Tibetan Buddhism, it only started occurring frequently in modern times under the rule of the CCP.
If we have not already forgotten, we must remember the official Tibetan document that appeared on the website of the local authorities at the end of 2008; it was a decision issued by the head of the Kardze Autonomous Prefecture targeting all 18 counties of Kardze Prefecture, stating that the local authorities will carry out the following steps against 10-30% of the monasteries whose nuns and monks participated in the protests: any religious events will be forbidden, the movement and actions of nuns and monks will be strictly controlled; all nuns and monks inside monasteries must once again “officially enrol”, all monks and nuns who do not pass the “patriotic education” examination will be expelled, all monks residences will be demolished. As for those who participated in the protests, in minor cases they will be sent back to their hometowns, in severe cases they will be imprisoned.
Starting from 2011, work groups have been stationed inside over 1700 monasteries in the TAR, employing over 7000 members of staff. Altogether, the official number of registered monks and nuns is 46,000; does this mean that each official stationed in a monastery is responsible for 6-7 monks? The problem is that in Karma Monastery, the birthplace of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, for example, officials currently outnumber monks. So does this mean that the goal of this movement, launched by Chen Quanguo and now already experiencing the third change of shifts, is to step-by-step decrease the amount of monks and eventually close down all monasteries?
Meanwhile, the authorities of “the four Tibetan provinces” are equally encircling and attacking the over 150,000 monks and their monasteries. It is impossible that all these local cadres are simply imitating what officials in the TAR do; no, these are clearly the hard-liner policies coming from the highest level. In fact, it is the continuation and implementation of Mao Zedong’s “Tibet Policies”. Mao once said: “We must also reform all monasteries. After successful reform, there will be a time when the number of lamas is greatly reduced… how should we reform monasteries, you should think of a solution.” (May 7, 1959, Guidelines After Putting Down Tibet’s Revolt). This so-called solution seems to be the model that we can observe in today’s Karma and Drongna monasteries and also in Lhasa’s three main monasteries, it is a model of Tibetan Buddhism designed by the CCP.
Lhasa, January 2014
This post is also available in: English