China

Four Tibetans set themselves on fire

At least four people set themselves on fire in ethnic Tibetan parts of China on Wednesday, a rights group and media reports say.

Three teenage monks set themselves alight in Aba county in Sichuan province, where many self-immolations have taken place in recent months.

One of the boys died and the other two were taken to hospital.

Later the same day a 23-year-old woman died after setting herself on fire in Qinghai province.

More than 60 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since early 2011, in what rights group say are acts of protest against Beijing’s rule.

Beijing says Tibetans have religious freedom and accuses …

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If you meet the Buddha in the produce aisle, eat him

A funny thing: If you go to Google Images and search for “bad Buddhist art” (don’t ask) you’ll find that the first result is of a pear shaped like a Buddha. No, it’s not like one of those potatoes that looks like Mickey Mouse — a freak of nature. It’s a cultivated pear.

And there’s not just one of them. A Chinese farmer called Hao Xianzhang has been growing pears inside Buddha shaped plastic molds. And he sells them. For 50 Yuan, which is, at today’s rate of exchange, just over $7.85.

It’s cute, but I’m not sure many Buddhists would want to bite into the juicy flesh of the Fully and Perfectly Awakened One, or how many non-Buddhists would be willing to shell out almost $8 for the same privilege.

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What should the Dalai Lama do about Tibetan self-immolations?

On CNN, we see two dramatically different views on the Dalai Lama’s position on the wave of self-immolations by Tibetans protesting the Chinese occupation of their country and the persecution of their religion and culture.

Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar, author of “The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation,” and regular CNN Belief Blog contributor, calls on the Dalai Lama to condemn the protesters.

Tenzin Dorjee, executive director of Students for a Free Tibet, responds, saying that Prothero’s post is a “crass display of moral blindsight” that “blames the victim.”

Dorjee praises the courage of the self-immolators and compares them to past non-violent protestors:

How can the Dalai Lama condemn the self-immolators when their motivation was evidently selfless and their tactic nonviolent? Would we ask Gandhi to condemn activists in the Indian freedom struggle who were killed while lying on the road to block British police trucks? Or the hunger strikers who were starving themselves to death in order to protest the injustices of British rule in India?

He also rightly calls into question some of the odd rhetoric that Prothero employs.

They sacrifice their own lives not in the name of “God” or “Buddha,” as Mr. Prothero so dismissively suggests, but in an altruistic intention of alerting the world to their people’s suffering.

and

From all of Mr. Prothero’s accusations, the most offensive is his comparison of self-immolations to sati – a social system in ancient India where widows were pressured to throw themselves into the funeral pyre of their deceased husbands. Self-immolation – a political act of reason – is the polar opposite of sati – a blind act of superstition.

I’m broadly with Dorjee, and think that as well as distorting what’s going on in Tibet and China, Prothero overlooks the complexities of the Dalai Lama criticizing those who protest against China. There are two prominent problems that spring to mind. First, if the Dalai Lama says “stop the protests,” the Chinese are able to say he’s responsible for them. Second, the Chinese can then say to Tibetans that their own leader has turned against them.

The Dalai Lama walks, as he has acknowledged, a fine line. He can’t approve of violent acts, even if they are violent only to the perpetrator but he also can’t walk into the trap of outright condemning the protests. He is also sensitive to the feelings of the protestors’ families:

If I say something negative, then the family members of those people feel very sad. They sacrificed their … life. It is not easy. So I do not want to create some kind of impression that this is wrong.

He certainly hasn’t encouraged the protestors, but in a BBC interview he in fact questioned their wisdom and the effectiveness of their actions:

In an interview with our correspondent, he said he was not encouraging his followers to sacrifice themselves – as alleged by China.

“The question is how much effect” the self-immolations have, the Dalai Lama said.

“That’s the question. There is courage – very strong courage. But how much effect?

“Courage alone is no substitute. You must utilise your wisdom.”

My own view is that the Dalai Lama displays far more wisdom here than Stephen Prothero, who asks, rather absurdly, “Where are the protests against these Tibetan protesters?”

If we’re going to protest against anything, let it be against the oppression and torture that has driven the Tibetan people to such desperate acts of protest.

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New Jersey celebrates the 20th anniversary of Falun Dafa

Adriana Rambay Fernández, Hudson Reporter: People came out from across New Jersey on May 12 to observe World Falun Dafa Day, which was held in Secaucus for the first time. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the ancient Chinese Buddhist tradition, which consists of meditation and Tai Chi-like exercises.

Adults and children wearing blue and yellow t-shirts with Falun Dafa slogans gathered during a sunny day on the Buchmuller lawns and before the stage to hear live music, watch dance performances and to learn exercises. Mayor Michael Gonnelli spoke during the day’s events to welcome the group.

Proclamation by town

The mayor and …

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Falun Gong brings tranquility to Times Square

Joshua Philipp & Zachary Stieber, Epoch Times: Something unique happened on Times Square on Saturday. From the morning until late afternoon, it became calm. Beneath the flashing billboards and amidst the bustling of tourists, hundreds of people sat in meditation while soft Chinese music played above low voices.

The event was one of several throughout the city marking the 20th year since Falun Gong was introduced to the public in China. Meditation lasted through the easy afternoon, and turned to music and Chinese dance as the day drew on.

And although this was a celebration, people standing on corners with fliers for …

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Ancient Buddhist temple found in China’s Taklimakan desert

Xinhua: The ruins of a Buddhist temple dating back 1,500 years ago have been discovered in China’s largest desert, offering valuable research material for historians studying Buddhism’s spread from India to China.

The temple’s main hall, with a rare structure based around three square-shaped corridors and a huge Buddha statue, has been uncovered after two months of hard work in Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, Dr. Wu Xinhua, the leading archaeologist of the excavation project, said Monday.

“The hall is the largest of its kind found in the Taklimakan Desert since the first archaeologist came to work in the area in the 20th century,” said Wu, also head of the Xinjiang archeological team of the Chinese Academy of Social Science.

The ruins are located in the south of the Taklimakan Desert, in the Tarim Basin, known as the Damago Oasis in the ancient kingdom of Khotan, a Buddhist civilization believed to date back to the 3rd century BC.

Temple halls with square-shaped corridors stemmed from early Buddhist architecture in India, and gradually disappeared after the Northern and Southern Dynasties (420AD-589AD), when Buddhist architecture in China began to pick up its own characteristics, according to Xiao Huaiyan, a member of the excavation team and a former researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Judging from the layout of the ruins, and the artifacts uncovered at the site, Wu and his colleagues believe the temple dates back to the Southern and Northern Dynasties.

It is so far the best Buddhist site for scholars to study how the religion arrived in China from India, and its early development in the country, said Wu.

Judging from the size of the pedestal on which it would have rested, the missing Buddha statue should be at least three meters tall, reaching the size limits of the hall when its roof was intact, he estimates.

The innermost corridor extends six meters from both south to north and from east to west, the second corridor is 10 meters long and 10 meters wide, while the hall’s wall surrounds an area of 256 square meters.

Still visible on corridor walls are mural paintings of items including the Buddha’s feet, Buddhists and auspicious animals. They are painted in a Greco-Buddhist artistic style, which was seldom seen after the 6th century.

Ruins of several residential structures were found to the southwest of the main hall, along with some pottery kilns and ancient coins.

There is still a scripture hall, a stupa and residential houses for Buddhists to be uncovered, Wu added.

The southern end of the ancient Silk Road, a major historical trade route, went across the 337,000-square-km Taklimakan Desert, and a wide variety of cultural heritage items have been buried in what is now known as the “sea of death.”

In 1901, British explorer Marc Aurel Stein trekked far out in the desert and into the ruins of Niya, an ancient Pompeii-like city with homes, Buddhist stupas, temples, pottery kilns, orchards, tombs, waterways and dams.

Since then, more than 10 Buddhist sites have been discovered by archaeologists from China and abroad in the Damago Oasis.

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Tibetan self-immolations rise as China tightens grip

Andrew Jacobs, New York Times: Like many children of Tibetan nomads, Tsering Kyi started school relatively late, at age 10, but by all accounts she made up for lost time by studying with zeal.

“Even when she was out at pasture with her parents’ flock, there was always a book in her hand,” a cousin said.

That passion for learning apparently turned to despair this month when the Maqu County Tibetan Middle School, in Gansu Province near Tibet, switched to Chinese from Tibetan as the language of instruction. The policy shift has incited protests across the high-altitude steppe that is home to five million …

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Dying as a political act: Centuries-old Buddhist tradition of self-immolation continues in China

Peter Goodspeed: On Wednesday, Jamyang Palden, a 39-year-old monk, described as “calm, humble and virtuous,” set himself aflame in Drolma Square in the town of Rongwo in the Chinese province of Qinghai, along the border with Tibet.

He prostrated himself three times beside a Buddhist monastery that was founded in 1301, said a silent prayer, then set himself alight, according to the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet.

In a matter of minutes more than 500 crimson-robed monks and 700 students from nearby schools were swarming over the site of the attempted suicide, chanting prayers for the monk’s soul, shouting political slogans, waving outlawed photographs of the …

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Meet the monk who spent spent 19 years in one room after China invaded Tibet

Joyce Morgan, Sydney Morning Herald: After China invaded Tibet in 1959, a young monk went into solitary confinement. He remained in a tiny dark room in the capital Lhasa for 19 years.

Choden Rinpoche’s confinement was self-imposed and he spent the two decades secretly meditating and reciting sacred texts he had memorised.

Rinpoche had none of the ritual objects, no altar, or books associated with a monk, just a set of rosary beads he hid under his blanket. Even retaining these was dangerous.

“If you kept even one scripture text, that is a serious crime – more serious than keeping a gun,” he said through an …

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Three Tibetan herders self-immolate in protest

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Sharon LaFraniere, NY Times: In a fresh illustration of growing turmoil among ethnic Tibetans in Sichuan Province, three livestock herders set themselves on fire to protest what they saw as political and religious repression at the hands of the Chinese authorities, according to a Tibetan rights group and an ethnic Tibetan living in Beijing.

If confirmed, the latest cases would bring the total self-immolations over the past year to 19, an unprecedented wave of self-inflicted violence among the tiny ethnic minority in China, according to scholars. They were also apparently the first by lay people, rather than current or former members of the …

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