Giant Buddha statue and prayer wheels forcibly demolished with prayer flags removed and burned

A photograph showing Tibetans circumambulating the 99-foot-tall Buddha statue in Drago County.
The 99-foot statue was demolished in December 2021, supervised by the military to prevent any protests.
31st December 2021

A 99-foot statue of Buddha, built with a financial contribution of 4,000,000 Yuan from local Tibetans in Drago (Ch: Luhuo 炉霍) County, Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province, was destroyed under the instruction of the local Chinese government.

The demolition took place from 12 December 2021 onwards, with military troops heavily deployed in the crossroads of its vicinity to prevent any form of protest. 45 huge prayer wheels erected near Drago Monastery were also destroyed and large vertical prayer flags were removed from their staves and burned.

Anonymous sources reported to Free Tibet's research partner, Tibet Watch, that the statue was constructed with the full approval of the local authorities and intended for preventing famine, war, and catastrophes of fire, water, earth and air. However, during the demolition, the local Chinese authorities have invalidated the documents related to these constructions and said that a statue of that height was not allowed.

This practice of constructing statues to prevent catastrophes is well known amongst Tibetans. The learned religious figures overseeing such plans attend to great detail in following the tradition of respecting the location, time, cardinal direction and layout of these activities. The statue of Buddha, which officially completed its construction on 5 October 2015, shows a specific hand gesture known in Sanskrit as Bhumisparsha mudra, literally translated as ‘touching the earth’. Videos obtained from anonymous sources show the devotion of Tibetans, circumambulating around the statue which used to be kept alight even at night

Photograph of the Buddha Statue in Drago County at night, illuminated by lights.
The statue in Drago County was built legally with the approval of local authorities, but this approval was rescinded prior to demolition with authorities claiming that the statue was too tall.
Image of the large prayer wheels that were destroyed (a screenshot taken from video).
45 large prayer wheels, on which were written thousands of Buddhist mantras, were also destroyed.

 

Spinning the prayer wheels into a clockwise rotation is also a centuries-long tradition of Tibetans. Scrolls of scriptures embedded inside them contain hundreds of thousands of Buddhist mantras. Turning the prayer wheel into circles with a sincere meditation on the mantra’s meaning is therefore believed to awaken the Buddha nature in the person committing to the circumambulation.

The destruction of both the statue and the row of huge prayer wheels (Tib:མ་ནི་དུང་འཁོར།།) has profoundly infringed on the freedom and dignity of lay Tibetans and the monastic community, for whom these form a tangible part of expressing and continuing their history, religion, and culture on a daily basis. 

This tragic wave of demolition follows the forced demolition of the nearby Gaden Namgyal Monastic School (Tib: དགའ་ལྡན་རྣམ་རྒྱལ་་གླིང་དགོན།), in late October this year. As a result, over a hundred of its young students were expelled and ordered an immediate return to their homes.

With demolition orders targeting nearly every object and place of religious significance to the Tibetans of Drago County, Wang Dongsheng, Secretary of Drago County Party Committee since October 2021,  has once again implemented the Chinese Communist Party’s hardline policies against Tibetans, and elevated his reputation as a top official who continues to issue wanton demolition orders. 

Information supplied by Tibet Watch

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