Friday, February 23, 2018

Arson? Fire strikes Tibet's holy Jokhang temple

BBC (2/18/18); LA Times;; Ashley Wells, CC Liu (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly

A fire has hit the most important shrine in Tibetan Buddhism -- the Jokhang Monastery in Lhasa.

Footage posted online showed flames billowing from the roof and what appeared to be at least one gutted pagoda. No casualties were reported.

Chinese state media said the blaze started on Saturday evening and was soon put out. [What's the Dalai Lama up to while holy Jokhang burns in Lhasa? He must be deep in meditation and prayer.]

PLAN 1902: Journey to Lhasa & Central Tibet
The extent of damage to the sprawling compound is unclear. State media said there was no damage to cultural relics.

Tibet, the remote and mainly Buddhist territory known as the "roof of the world," is governed as an autonomous region of China.
Massive fire at Jokhang Monastery, in Tibet's capital Lhasa (Robert Barnett/Twitter)

The Jokhang Monastery is more than 1,000 years old and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Streets near the monastery reopened to pilgrims on Sunday morning, state media said.
Dalai Lama in Ladakh, India (
Reports say that Chinese authorities quickly tried to block footage and images of the fire appearing on social media.
Beijing maintains tight control of news reports from Tibet, where Buddhist sites have been a focal point for separatist [Tibetan independence] unrest in the past.

Foreign journalists are not able to enter Tibet without special permission.
Pueblo architecture Buddhists taught Native Americans is evident in Jokhang, 1840s.
Tibetan writer Tsering Woeser told AFP she was "very worried" about the state of the monastery.
"Tibetans consider Lhasa to be a sacred place, but Jokhang is a sacred place within that sacred place -- the most sacred in all of Tibet," she said.
"Some people say it's only because of Jokhang that the holy city of Lhasa exists at all."
"No matter where they are in the world, Tibetans all wish to come to Lhasa to pray at Jokhang; it's the wish of a lifetime. Many who make pilgrimage to Lhasa prostrating do so just to visit the temple," she added.

Jokhang Monastery, Tibet's capital Lhasa (now China), 2016 (AFP/Getty Images)
The fire comes as Tibetans celebrate Losar, their traditional new year, which began on Friday.

Tibet has had a tumultuous history, during which it has spent some periods functioning as an independent entity and others ruled by powerful Chinese and Mongolian dynasties.
China sent in thousands of troops to enforce its claim on the region in 1950. Some areas became the Tibetan Autonomous Region and others were incorporated into neighboring Chinese provinces.
China says Tibet has developed considerably under its rule. But rights groups say China continues to violate human rights... More + VIDEO

Fire may have damaged precious relics at Tibet’s holiest temple
"Save Tibet"! Free it from China.
China says no -- but experts aren't sure. A fire broke out at Tibet's most sacred temple on Saturday, and the public knows no more.
The blaze may have severely damaged the 1,300 year-old temple and many of its precious architectural features, murals, and relics. Or perhaps it was small and quickly extinguished, and the temple is more or less fine.
On Saturday evening, Tibetan social media users posted photos and videos of the ancient Jokhang Temple complex in the [autonomous] region's capital Lhasa, a UNESCO world heritage site, with one of its golden roofs engulfed in flames.

Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhist art: thangka
Hours later, Chinese state media said that the fire had been extinguished and that cultural relics were safe. No deaths have been reported.
Yet authorities have since restricted discussion of the fire on social media, leaving Tibetologists poring over shreds of dubious information to ascertain its most basic facts:

How was it started, how long did it continue, how much damage did it cause? [All of these unanswered questions] underscore the Chinese government's vice-like grip on information in Tibet, a minority [autonomous] region that has historically chafed against Beijing's rule. More
What does the Dalai Lama have to say about it?

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