Larung Gar religious festivities cancelled for second successive year

Demolitions taking place at Larung Gar in 2016
Demolitions taking place at Larung Gar in 2016

2nd November 2017

Local authorities stated they did not want large numbers of residents to gather. Since 2016 nearly 5,000 residents have been forced out of the site.

UPDATE 6 November 2017: 

Tibet Watch have learned that Larung Gar’s monastic administration submitted appeals and petitions to the local authorities in Sichuan Province, urging them to allow the Dechen Shingdrup festival to go ahead. According to a source from inside Larung Gar, authorities denied these requests, claiming that:

1)     There is ongoing construction taking place in Larung Gar, so a large gathering would not be appropriate. Such construction would also be unsightly for visitors

2)     A large number of monks were evicted from Larung Gar over the last year. Those who were evicted would not be allowed to return.    

3)     Larung Gar would not be able to cope with the traffic created by many people coming to the site to gather. 

The source pointed out that the word of the Chinese authorities was final and the festival therefore had to be cancelled.

Following the cancellation of Dechen Shingdrup, the abbot at Larung Gar, Khenpo Tsurtrim Lodoe, requested that monks, nuns and laypeople across Tibet recite 400,000 mantras of Amitabha Buddha (The Buddha of Immeasurable Life and Light) . He asked the devotees to send the mantras that people earned to Larung Gar so that a prayer event could be conducted at the site.

Chinese authorities have cancelled a key religious festival at Larung Gar Buddhist Institute for the second year running.

Plans by Larung Gar's residents to observe the Dechen Shingdrup festival had to be scrapped following an announcement issued by authorities in Sichuan Province on 29 October. 

The authorities stated that large numbers of people congregating would not be appropriate at Larung Gar at a time when building works were still taking place. However, a source told Free Tibet’s research partner, Tibet Watch, that a key reason for the prohibition is to prevent any demonstrations or protests that could result by residents gathering.

Since July 2016, over 4,800 residents have been forced to leave Larung Gar as part of efforts to dramatically reduce the number of people at the site.

During this period, some 4,700 homes have also been torn down. Satellite images and photos acquired by Free Tibet show how many of these homes have been destroyed to widen roads, create new paths and clear space around temples. These measures appear to be aimed at facilitating access to Larung Gar by tourists.

The demolitions at Larung Gar have had a devastating effect on residents. Last summer, three nuns at Larung Gar committed suicide in response to the damage done to the community.

Image of the centre of Larung Gar in January 2016 (left) and April 2017 (right)

The Dechen Shingdrup festival takes place every year from the 22nd day of the ninth Lunar month, which this year will be on 10 November. It commemorates the day that Buddha descended from heaven to earth, and lasts eight days.

When the festival was cancelled for similar reasons last year, monks and nuns had to instead pray privately in their rooms.

Despite the authorities’ concerns over large numbers of people gathering while works are taking place, Free Tibet has been aware for some time of large numbers of Chinese tourists walking freely around the site. An indication of these numbers came on 26 April this year, when Serthar County Tourism Office temporarily limited visitors to Larung Gar to 1,000 per day. This measure lasted until 15 May.

The demolitions and forced removals at Larung Gar are detailed in Free Tibet and Tibet Watch’s latest report, Destroying Heaven (PDF). The report also covers China’s ongoing plans to convert the site into a tourist destination.

Information supplied by Tibet Watch

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