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Special> China's Tibet: Facts & Figures> Background
UPDATED: October 14, 2008 NO. 42 OCT. 16, 2008
Protection and Development of Tibetan Culture
Information Office of the State Council of the People's Republic of China
September 2008, Beijing

There are now over 4,000 art and literary workers in the region, with 90 percent being Tibetans. There are 10 professional performing art groups, four children's performing art groups, 18 folk art troupes, over 500 amateur village art and literary teams, and 160 Tibetan opera teams. These art and literary groups create programs and perform in Tibetan, and often go deep in farming and pastoral areas.

The spoken and written Tibetan languages are developing in all respects. In 1984 a Tibetan-script processing system compatible with Chinese and English versions was developed, and so precise Tibetan-script photo typesetting was realized. In 1997, an international-standard Tibetan character code was approved by the International Standards Organization, making the Tibetan script the first ethnic minority script in China with an international standard. At present, a Tibetan grammar framework and a grammar system have been set up for automatic machine processing in Tibet, and the work to enable automatic word segmentation and chunking identification of texts in the Tibetan script by machine is under way. A machine-based Tibetan-Chinese dictionary (120,000 entries) has been completed, while an electronic dictionary of Tibetan grammar needed for machine translation has been set up, laying a solid foundation for passing down, spreading and carrying forward Tibetan culture in the information age.

The application of computer technology and wide use of the Internet have provided a new platform for the learning, use and development of the Tibetan language. An advanced Tibetan-script editorial system, laser photo typesetting system and electronic publishing system developed independently in China have been widely applied in the press and publication field of Tibet. Through Tibetan platforms on the Internet and mobile phones, Tibetans can browse, read, listen to or watch domestic and world news and get access to various kinds of information. Tibetan has also been widely adopted for postal and telecommunications services in Tibet, including Tibetan telegram, Tibetan paging and Tibetan SMS. The advent of an identification system for Tibetan documents marked the prelude to a campaign to apply Tibetan script identification in the digitalization of the Tibetan language.

The standardization of Tibetan has also made great progress. In 2005 the Rules on Translating New Words and Terms and Using Borrowed Words was drawn up. Altogether, over 3,500 Tibetan terms concerning the market economy and primary and high school education were approved and standardized, nearly 60,000 scientific and technological terms were approved, and over 8,000 terms concerning computer interfacing were translated and approved. Over the years, many Tibetan dictionaries and other language reference books have been published, including A Tibetan Dictionary by Geshe Chosta, A Comprehensive Tibetan Dictionary, A Tibetan-Chinese Spoken Dictionary, Chinese-Tibetan Glossary, Tibetan-Chinese Glossary, A Tibetan-Chinese Dictionary, A Tibetan-Chinese Dictionary of the Market Economy and A Tibetan-Chinese Law Dictionary. In addition, the Plan for Standardizing the Tibetan Language has been drafted, while the work to collect and collate materials for the Standard Manual for Transliterating Tibetan Personal Names Into Chinese Characters has been completed.

II. Inheritance, Protection and Promotion of the Tibetan Cultural Heritage

The Tibetan cultural heritage is an important part of Chinese cultural heritage. The Central People's Government sets great store by the protection and development of traditional Tibetan culture, devoting a great amount of human, financial and material resources through legal, economic and administrative means to ensure the inheritance, promotion and development of the fine traditional culture of Tibet on the basis of effective protection.

Effective protection of historical sites and cultural relics has been made. Since the Democratic Reform in 1959, the Central People's Government has attached great importance to the protection of cultural relics in Tibet by providing vigorous support in terms of policy, human and financial resources, and technology. As a result, institutions of cultural relics administration in Tibet have become more complete, the cultural relics protection system further improved, the cultural relics preservation contingent constantly strengthened, the cultural relics preservation system gradually improved, and the capability in the study and protection of cultural relics continuously enhanced. So far, the Tibet Autonomous Region has promulgated a dozen regulations, including the Regulations on the Protection of Cultural Relics, Interim Provisions on the Administration of Cultural Relics in Monasteries, the Regulations on Fire Prevention at Historical Sites, the Interim Provisions on the Administration of Scattered Cultural Relics and the Measures for the Protection and Administration of the Potala Palace. These regulations have brought the protection of cultural relics in Tibet onto the orbit of legalization and standardization.

The state has made two systematic surveys of cultural relics in Tibet (a third survey is currently underway), and a detailed survey of the relics scattered along the Tibetan section of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway Line. As a result, the overall distribution, quantity and status quo of various kinds of cultural relics and sites have become clear, enabling endangered historical sites and relics to have been timely saved, excavated, sorted out and repaired; and over 20,000 widely scattered relics have been collected and put in museums. By the end of 2006, there were at least 2,330 registered historical sites of various types in the region, among which 329 had been put under protection at different levels, including 35 key ones under state protection, 112 under regional protection, and 182 under the protection of cities and counties. The Potala Palace is on UNESCO's World Cultural Heritage list, and the Jokhang Temple and the Norbulingka have been included in its extended items. The cities of Lhasa, Xigaze and Gyangze are listed as national famous historical and cultural cities. Hundreds of thousands of cultural relics are now in the collection of museums in Tibet, among which over 10,000 are state-class ones.

Since the 1980s, the state has allocated a huge amount of funds to protectively repair key cultural relics sites in Tibet, restoring and opening a large group of key historical sites to the public. In the last two decades of the 20th century, the Central People's Government invested more than 300 million yuan to help Tibet renovate and open to the public over 1,400 monasteries, and to conduct scientific excavations of such Neolithic sites as Karup in Qamdo, Chokong in Lhasa, and Trango in Shannan Prefecture, thus filling blanks in the archeological studies of prehistoric Tibet. Key protection and repair measures have been adopted for the Jokhang Temple, the monasteries of Tashilhunpo, Sakya, Samye, Champa Ling, Shalu and Palkhor Chode, Mount Dzong (Dzongri) Anti-British Monument in Gyangze County, and the Norbulingka. In particular, from 1989 to 1994 the Central People's Government allocated 55 million yuan and a great amount of gold, silver and other precious materials for the renovation of the Potala Palace. In 2001, a special fund of 330 million yuan was apportioned to repair the Potala Palace, the Norbulingka and the Sakya Monastery. During 2006-10, the Central Government will allocate 570 million yuan for the repair and protection of 22 key cultural relics sites in Tibet. Such a colossal investment and large-scale renovation were unprecedented in China's history of cultural relics protection. In recent years, the China Association for the Preservation and Development of Tibetan Culture and other non-governmental organizations have come into being in succession, and they are playing a vigorous role in promoting the protection of Tibetan culture as well as its development.

Great achievements have been made in the protection, inheritance and development of the intangible Tibetan cultural heritage. Since the 1970s, a group of institutions have been set up at the regional and prefectural (city) levels to rescue, sort out and research on the Tibetan cultural heritage. They have conducted extensive surveys on Tibetan folk literature and art, collected, sorted out and studied literature and art materials widely spread among Tibetans in aspects of drama, dance, music, ballads, folk songs, proverbs and folk tales. These efforts have resulted in the collection and collation of about 30 million words of written materials in the Tibetan and Han languages, over 1,000 academic papers on traditional Tibetan culture, and more than 30 research works on literature and art. Since 2003, the Central People's Government and the People's Government of the Tibet Autonomous Region have launched and implemented a project for intangible cultural heritage protection. Leading groups and special offices for this purpose have been set up at regional and prefectural (city) levels to conduct more extensive and thorough investigations throughout the region, to effectively save and preserve endangered cultural heritage items. A total of 19 townships have been named by the region as "homes of folk arts;" 120 items listed as representative works of region-level intangible cultural heritage, with 61 on the national intangible cultural heritage list; and 31 people placed on the list of representatives for national intangible cultural heritage. A large number of ancient Tibetan books and records have been saved from oblivion. The completion of the Tibetan volumes in the 10-tome series, including the Annals of Chinese Operas, A Collection of Chinese Folk Ballads, A Collection of Folk Dances of China's Ethnic Groups, A Collection of Chinese Proverbs, A Collection of Folk Performing Art Genres, A Collection of Folk Songs of China's Ethnic Groups, A Collection of Traditional Operas and Music and A Collection of Folk Tales, has put an end to the history of scanty records of Tibetan culture and art, and enabled a large number of major items of the Tibetan cultural heritage to be saved and protected in an effective way. The Life of King Gesar, a lengthy epic, had been passed down orally until the state placed it on the key scientific research project list. The state has set up a special body and earmarked special funds for the collection, collation and publishing of the masterpiece. So far, 5,000 hours of audiotapes have been recorded, over 300 volumes collected, with the publication of 120 volumes in the Tibetan language, 25 volumes in Mongolian, over 20 volumes in Han Chinese translation, and 20 monographs; and many volumes have been translated into English, Japanese and French.

Tibet enters the most favorable time for literary and art creation. Traditional Tibetan art has been continuously updated and developed in combination with modern art. After the peaceful liberation of Tibet, literature and art workers from different ethnic groups went into the thick of life in Tibet to explore and inherit the fine aspects of the ethnic literature and art tradition. They created a lot of poems, novels, songs, dances, music and fine art works, films and photos, enriching Tibetan artistic forms and varieties while improving the overall artistic levels. In recent years, a large group of literary and art works made their debuts on the stage, such as the grand dance opera Mount Qomolangma; the song-and-dance performances Golden Years, Colorful Hada, Tibet in Paradise and Odes to Harmony; the drama Across the Summit; the new Tibetan opera Spring for Dokshung; and the new historical play Princess Wencheng which integrates Peking and Tibetan opera techniques. With refreshing themes and new contents, distinctive ethnic features and a strong feel of the times, these works have upgraded the overall level of the Tibetan performing arts, and greatly enriched and enlivened the cultural life of the local people of different ethnic groups. Princess Wencheng, in particular, has been honored as one of the 10 recommended operas of the National Best Stage Art Project. In the last five years, the three region-level professional troupes created 34 new performing art works, and the seven prefecture-level professional troupes added over 300 new performing art works and other performances to their repertoires. They gave more than 3,000 shows for audiences totaling 5 million persons, winning over 40 national and 270 regional awards. There are also vigorous cultural exchanges between Tibet and the rest of the world. In the past three decades, 360 Tibetan cultural and performing art delegations totaling 4,320 people visited the United States, Canada, Russia and some 50 other countries and regions. Over 200 performing artists from some 30 countries and regions visited Tibet for cultural exchange and gave performances.

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