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Thứ Tư, tháng 3 01, 2006

No. 0794

Revival of Tibetan Buddhism in China
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
By Peter Harmsen

HOHHOT, China: To the rhythmic beating of drums and the trance-inducing recital of prayers, monks burn a wooden pole adorned with silk and paper slips, and a skull, exorcising the evil spirits of the new year.

It was the weekend in Hohhot, the frozen capital of north China’s Inner Mongolia region, and hundreds had turned up at the Dazhao temple, a center of Tibetan Buddhism for the past more than four centuries.

“It’s important for me to visit at least once a year,” said Tuoya, a courteous 55-year-old woman, who like many Mongolians has just one name.

As the Great Prayer Festival culminated Saturday and Sunday, the thickening crowds were testimony to the region’s religious revival, even if the different generations did not display exactly the same degree of devotion.

“I believe in it, but only a little,” said Sharina, Tuoya’s 25-year-old daughter, returning home from her university studies in Beijing, and entering the Dazhao temple only for the second time in her life.

“Maybe I’ll start believing more once I reach my mother’s age,” she said with a shrug.

As China becomes a freer society, Mongolians and other ethnic minorities are allowed to quietly trace their cultural roots, and usually those with memories of life before Communist times are the first to seize the opportunity.

“It’s mostly elderly people who really fervently believe,” said Tengus Bayaryn, an anthropologist at the Inner Mongolian University, his long gray hair tied flamboyantly in a pony tail.

“There are also some young people who think life without religious belief is empty, and that some problems are hard to solve without the aid of religion, but it’s not very common.”

The narrow temple yards at the center of the Dazhao complex filled with the sweet, penetrating odor of burning incense during the weekend’s rituals.

But even the dense smoke could not disguise the constant and, it seemed, deliberately visible presence of uniformed police.

While post-reform China boasts of its religious tolerance, the authorities remain watchful for any signs that spiritual emotions could challenge the existing social order.

This is especially the case in areas such as Inner Mongolia, where different ethnic groups mix to an unusual extent, bringing together Mongolians, Han Chinese and Muslim Huis, the descendants of Arab and Persian traders.

Further complicating the situation, the Mongolians have adhered to the unique Tibetan style of Buddhism since the late 16th century.

Recognizing the power of religion, the Chinese government is unlikely to ever allow the monks to regain the sway they had in society before the Communist revolution of 1949.
--AFP

http://www.manilatimes.net/national/2006/feb/22/yehey/opinion/20060222opi7.html