Implementing President Xi Jinping’s orders to advance the ‘sinicization’ of Tibetan Buddhism, local authorities eradicate traditional architecture and symbols.
by Zhang Feng
During the 7th Central Symposium on Tibet Work, held in Beijing on August 28-29, President Xi Jinping ordered to “build the new modern socialist Tibet.” According to the CCP’s official mouthpiece, the Xinhua News Agency, he also called for “continuous efforts to enhance recognition of the great motherland, the Chinese nation, the Chinese culture, the CCP and socialism with Chinese characteristics by people of all ethnic groups,” stressing that “Tibetan Buddhism should be guided in adapting to the socialist society and should be developed in the Chinese context.” Meaning, it should be further “sinicized.”
The CCP has been trying to destroy Tibetan culture and religion for years: from banning traditional prayer flags to purging Tibetan Buddhist temples, even those with the history spanning over a millennium, and “sinicizing” Tibetan youth through education.
Bitter Winter continues to receive reports about the government’s suppression of Tibetan Buddhism.
In June, the government ordered to cover up a Tibetan Buddhist white stupa—a shrine that houses sacred relics associated with the Buddha—on the Xiaolong Mountain in the Jimo district of Qingdao, a sub-provincial city in the eastern province of Shandong. Officials claimed that the icon was distracting drivers and thus “affected the traffic on the nearby highway.”
The Huiquan Temple in Xisi village under the jurisdiction of Datong city in the northern province of Shanxi was originally built in the Ming dynasty (1368–1644) and rebuilt in 2002. It has been subsequently perfected by a Tibetan master.
In May last year, Datong city government officials ordered to rectify the temple. Its stupa has been converted into a Chinese pavilion with gray bricks and black tiles. The traditional Tibetan bronze pillars in front of its entrance were demolished.
“We do not have any ties with the Dalai Lama, but the government still fears that his thoughts will ‘infiltrate’ our believers’ minds and encourage them to ‘split the state.’ That’s why Tibetan-style architecture is being rectified,” a Datong resident explained.
A resident in Shanxi’ Taiyuan city reported to Bitter Winter that in November 2018, a Tibetan Buddhist statue was removed from the first-floor hall at the city’s Wusu International Airport. The icon has reportedly been displayed there for over 20 years.
The Xingguo Temple in Dingzhou city in the northern province of Hebei was built in the Jin dynasty (1115–1234) and became known as the “Dingzhou No. 1 Ancient Temple.” The Tibetan scripts below the temple’s signboards were recently painted over or replaced with other design elements or Chinese characters.
“The government issued a notice last year, demanding to remove all Tibetan texts in the temple,” a staff member who lives in the temple said. “United Front Work Department officials made several trips to the temple to rectify these texts.”
This spring, officials from Shandong’s Yantai city painted over the signboard on the entrance to a local temple featuring Buddha or wisdom eyes and other Tibetan Buddhist elements on the walls inside. They claimed that Tibetan Buddhist symbols are banned.