Monas­ter­ies be­come cen­ters of artis­tic preser­va­tion

China Daily (Canada) - - TIBET - By LU­OWANG­SHU, PALDEN NY­IMA and DAQIONG in Lhasa

The Pal­cho Monastery, the main Bud­dhist es­tab­lish­ment in Gyangze county in the south­west of the Ti­bet au­ton­o­mous re­gion, is fa­mous for its stun­ning ar­chi­tec­ture and large num­ber of re­li­gious mu­rals.

An en­shrined Buddha and the mu­rals demon­strate the nar­ra­tives of three dif­fer­ent schools of Ti­betan Bud­dhism — the Gelukpa, the Sakya and the Ny­ingma — which have co-ex­isted har­mo­niously for hun­dreds of years within the monastery’s walls.

The most fa­mous ar­chi­tec­tural fea­ture is the Kum­bum, also known as “The 100,000 Buddha Pagoda”, which con­tains about 100,000 im­ages and mu­rals de­pict­ing the Buddha.

The Kum­bum mu­rals were and its

largely de­stroyed in the early 20th cen­tury when Bri­tish troops in­vaded Gyangze, and were also dam­aged dur­ing the “cul­tural revo­lu­tion” (196676).

Now, they are be­ing re­stored thanks to fund­ing pro­vided by the cen­tral and lo­cal gov­ern­ments, which in­vested about 110 mil­lion yuan ($17 mil­lion) dur­ing the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15), ac­cord­ing to Jamyang Chophel, a high-rank­ing monk at the monastery.

“The ma­jor­ity of the monastery’s in­come comes from ad­mis­sion tick­ets and do­na­tions from pil­grims. The gov­ern­ment is pay­ing for the ren­o­va­tion of the his­tor­i­cal relics,” he said.

The monastery is one of 4,277 reg­is­tered cul­tural relic sites in the re­gion, and 55 of them are listed as na­tional his­tor­i­cal relics.

In re­cent years, the cen­tral gov­ern­ment has in­creased in­vest­ment in the preser­va­tion process, and 380 mil­lion yuan was spent be­tween 2001 and 2005. The fig­ure rose to 570 mil­lion yuan in the fol­low­ing five years, be­fore jump­ing to more than 1 bil­lion yuan be­tween 2011 and this year.

In ad­di­tion to gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies, most monas­ter­ies in Ti­bet are al­lowed to keep the in­come they earn from tourist ad­mis­sions, pro­vid­ing they use the money to sub­si­dize restora­tion and preser­va­tion of an­cient relics.

Tashihunpo Monastery, in Xigaze, is home to 800 monks. It’s one of the most im­por­tant monas­ter­ies in the Gelukpa, and also the tra­di­tional seat of the Panchen Lama.

Atan, who leads the monastery’s cul­tural relics preser­va­tion team, said 30 per­cent of the in­come from its 80 yuan en­trance fee is di­rected to­ward preser­va­tion, and the ris­ing num­ber of tourists means the sums set aside are con­stantly in­creas­ing, he said.

Dur­ing the 11th Five-Year Plan (2005-10), the gov­ern­ment in­vested 12.3 mil­lion yuan on pro­tect­ing and ren­o­vat­ing the monastery’s relics, he said.

The monks also play an im­por­tant role. For ex­am­ple, the his­tor­i­cal relics preser­va­tion team at the Tashihunpo Monastery is com­posed of seven monks, while a fur­ther 270 are charged with daily main­te­nance of the assem­bly halls, he said.

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Monks walk past the re­cently ren­o­vated main sanc­tu­ary at the Lingbu Monastery in Gyangze county, Ti­bet.

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