Bud­dhist academy get­ting face-lift

Many build­ings were not well-planned and pose hy­giene prob­lems, fire risks

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By HUANG ZHILING in Chengdu huangzhiling@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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.

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