Tibetan Monasteries in Qinghai, Gansu Observe Dalai Lama's Birthday

Hundreds of Tibetans gathered at monasteries in western China’s Qinghai and Gansu provinces this week in defiance of Chinese bans to celebrate the birthday of the Dalai Lama, burning incense and offering prayers in honor of the exiled spiritual leader, sources said.

The celebrations were held despite widespread efforts by officials across Tibetan-populated regions to warn against observances of the politically sensitive event and to block public gatherings that could be linked to it.

On June 23, over a thousand Tibetans assembled at Jonang Chamda monastery in Qinghai’s Golog (in Chinese, Guoluo) prefecture to honor both the Dalai Lama and senior Jonang monk Khenchen Sherab Salje, whose birth dates fall within the same month, a local Tibetan source told RFA.

“A portrait of the Dalai Lama was brought to the monastery and placed on a throne, and offerings were set out in front of it,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“More than 500 monks of the monastery then began a three-day recitation of prayers of blessings for [the Dalai Lama’s] long life,” he said.

Offerings, performances

Two days before, the monks of Khagya Toe monastery in Gansu’s Kanlho (Gannan) prefecture also paid respect to a portrait of the Dalai Lama, standing in two lines to offer incense and ceremonial scarves, a Tibetan source said.

“They also saved the lives of numerous birds” that had earlier been captured, returning them to freedom, the source said.

On June 21 and 22, local Tibetans meanwhile staged plays about eighth-century Tibetan emperor Trisong Detsen, and about Ling Gesar, an early Tibetan national hero, he said.

Though Chinese police came out to watch the festivities, they made no attempt to close them down, and later left to attend meetings of their own, the source said, adding, “The Tibetans were able to carry on their activities without obstruction.”

The Dalai Lama, who turns 80 this year, fled Tibet into exile in India in the midst of a failed 1959 national uprising against Chinese rule, and displays by Tibetans of the Dalai Lama’s photo or public celebrations of his birthday have been met with harsh punishment in the past.

Sporadic demonstrations challenging Chinese rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008, with 141 Tibetans to date setting themselves ablaze to oppose Beijing’s rule and call for the Dalai Lama’s return.

Reported by Chakmo Tso for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.