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, the 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 The Democratic Reform toppled the decadent and outdated theocracy and the religious regime controlled by the Dalai Lama and other living Buddhas, and separated religion from politics.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 appropriated from the central and local revenues 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 of monasteries still operate 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 appropriated 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. The Buddhist associations 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 to pass 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, diet and housing styles, and are free to celebrate their traditional festivals. Some decadent, backward practices related 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. With the fine Tibetan traditions integrating with modern ideas and cultures, Tibetan folk culture has adopted a new character.