Buddhist academy getting face-lift
Many buildings were not well-planned and pose hygiene problems, fire risks
Officials called it “a sheer rumor” that buildings at a prominent Buddhist academy in Sichuan province are being permanently demolished and that monks are being driven out.
On the contrary, they said, the plan is to replace the buildings with better, safer ones.
Photos showing buildings being torn down were posted and forwarded on messaging platform WeChat recently. The sender of the photos claimed the buildings belonged to the Wuming Buddhist Academy in Sertar county, Ganzi Tibetan autonomous prefecture, and that monks were being forced to move.
The photos caused a stir, with a few travel agencies in the province even trying to cash in by luring tourists to “visit the last Wuming Buddhist academy”.
But an official of the Sertar county government, who didn’t want to be named, said in a phone interview on Monday that demolition at the academy— a top destination for Tibetan Buddhism studies in China and the world’s largest such institute — will be followed by reconstruction that will create more order and improve safety.
“The efforts are made to improve the institute rather than demolishing it and driving away the monks,” she said.
Hua Ke, head of the United Front Work Department of the Sertar County Committee of the Communist Party of China, said the structures at the academy, which were built in 1980, were designed haphazardly, without regard to geological risks, and they have hidden dangers, as well as problems of hygiene. They also lack modern fire-suppression systems, he said.
Residential structures need to be demolished to reduce fire and landslide
The efforts are made to improve the institute rather than demolishing it and driving away the monks.”
An official of the Sertar county government
dangers, and to improve hygiene, he said.
One Buddhist who studied in the academy for eight years confirmed that many buildings appear to have been thrown up without careful planning and said nine fires have occurred in recent years.
A fire in January 2014 destroyed a number of buildings and brought economic losses of more than 2.3 million yuan ($346,000).
In addition, many of the buildings are situated in valleys, and these face the danger of rain-induced landslides, he said, adding that rubbish can be found everywhere because there are too many people.
The academy accommodates more than 4,000 people, including monks, nuns and believers from Tibetan and Han ethnicities, according to official records.
Hua said the governments of Sichuan province, the Ganzi Tibetan autonomous prefecture and Sertar county have supported the academy with preferential policies and financial aid, and thanks to that support it has grown to its current size.
Liu Xiaoling, a resident of Chengdu who has visited the academy several times, either alone or with friends, said it appeals strongly to outside visitors who are curious about Tibetan Buddhism. Each year, tens of thousands of people drive to Serdar to see it.