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Tibetan monasteries mark death of 14th century teacher

Ganden Ngachoe gathering draws large crowds as Chinese authorities keep close watch

Published: December 13, 2017 07:08 AM GMT

Updated: December 13, 2017 07:15 AM GMT

 Tibetan monasteries mark death of 14th century teacher

Tibetan monks pray inside a monastery marking the 58th anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule in New Delhi in this March 10, 2017 photo. Monasteries across Tibet marked the death anniversary of one of Tibetan Buddhism’s most important teachers on Dec 12. (Photo by Chandan Khanna/AFP)

Monasteries across Tibet and in Tibetan-populated areas of China marked the death anniversary of one of Tibetan Buddhism’s most significant teachers on Dec.1, drawing large crowds closely watched by Chinese police, sources said.

The Ganden Ngachoe, or Festival of Light, gathering marks the death of Tsongkhapa, the fourteenth-century founder of Tibet’s largest Buddhist school, the Gelugpa, and is celebrated with lamp displays and offerings to monks.

A Tibetan living in Rebgong County in northwestern China’s Qinghai province told Radio Free Asia (RFA) that large numbers of devotees had gathered at Rongwo monastery to make offerings and prostrate themselves in devotion in a circuit around the temples.

"As evening approached, those taking part offered not only butter lamps inside and outside the temples, but also electric lights inside the prayer halls, a practice that is becoming more and more popular in observance of Tsongkhapa’s day," he said.

At Labrang monastery in Gansu province’s Sangchu County, similar activities took place, a local source said.

"Some also freed animals from slaughterhouses or meditated, reciting prayers," the RFA source said.

"Armed Chinese police usually stationed in the area kept a watch on the gathering, but showed no sign of threatening behavior or of cracking down," he said.

Many devotees in Tibet’s capital Lhasa visited important monasteries and the city’s central Jokhang cathedral in tightly packed lines to offer lamps and ceremonial scarves, Tibetan sources said.

Public gatherings at monasteries in China’s Tibetan regions have increased in size in recent years, observers and participants say, as a sign of Tibetans asserting their national and cultural identity in the face of Chinese domination.

Chinese authorities, mindful of protests by Tibetans opposed to Beijing’s rule, often monitor and sometimes shut down events involving large crowds, sources say.

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