Bitter Winter – by He Yuyan (August 3, 2022)
Due to quotas limiting the number of nuns in Tibet, they traveled to the great monastery in Sichuan. The CCP’s long arm found them the.
Yarchen Gar was once the largest monastery in the world. It is located in the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Garzê, part of historic Tibet now incorporated into the Chinese province of Sichuan. Most of Yarchen Gar’s residents are Tibetan Buddhist nuns, and the huge monastery has been dubbed the ‘nun town’. At one time, some 10,000 nuns lived there.
Until a few years ago, the CCP monitored nuns but also welcomed tourists to Yarchen Gar, using it to claim that Tibetan Buddhists enjoyed religious freedom. In fact, when the authorities considered that the monastery was growing too much, some parts were demolished, since the beginning of the 21st century.
It was under Xi Jinping, however, that the sense that the Yarchen Gar was a threat to the CCP prevailed, and mass demolitions were carried out in 2017 and 2019, which generated widespread international protests. Thousands of nuns were sent to “re-education” camps.
At the same time, the CCP has played a complicated game around Yarchen Gar tourism. Periodically, tourist access was closed to allow for the demolition and deportation of the nuns. At the same time, areas of the monastic complex have been subjected to a process of touristification. There are those in the CCP who would like to see Yarchen Gar follow the path of countless other religious landmarks that have been converted into a tourist attraction and “Disneyfied,” perhaps leaving behind a few pro-CCP nuns for tourists to photograph.
Recently, however, the CCP faced a new problem in Yarchen Gar. Quotas imposed by the CCP in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) limit the number of novices who can be admitted to Buddhist monasteries. There are more girls who want to become nuns than places available. COVID and heightened border surveillance are now limiting the ability of these girls to go to India or Nepal and become novices in the monasteries there.
The only alternative for them is to seek a monastery in China but outside the TAR. Despite the demolitions, the Yarchen Gar is still a great monastery and a prestigious possibility. This explains why hundreds of TAR Buddhist girls traveled to Yarchen Gar in Sichuan, hoping to become nuns there.
The CCP, however, sees it as a evasion to escape the consequences of regulations limiting the number of Buddhist nuns in Tibet. In recent weeks, the Yarchen Gar has again been strictly closed to tourists, and TAR novices have been put on buses and sent back to TAR. Not at home, however. They are in “transformation through education camps”, to be re-educated and learn that one cannot escape the CCP’s long arm.
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