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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

In old Tibet, there were no cultural establishments for the ordinary people. Today, however, a fairly complete network of public cultural facilities has taken shape in Tibet. There are now 12 large modern libraries, two museums, six multi-functional public art centers, 37 county-level cultural activity centers, 22 satellite stations for sharing cultural resources, 175 township-level cultural centers, and 550 village-level culture rooms/halls. With the rapid development of the culture industry, there are now 2,596 cultural and recreational venues in Tibet, employing 18,350 people, and over 3,000 cultural travel agencies, artistic advertisement and decoration services, art galleries, holiday resorts and parks. The establishment of these public cultural facilities and the development of the culture industry are playing an increasingly important role in improving the local people's cultural life and promoting Tibetan culture.

Development of Tibetan medicine and pharmacology accelerates. With distinctive Tibetan characteristics, Tibetan medicine and pharmacology forms a unique part of traditional Tibetan culture. Yet in old Tibet there were only three small official medical organs-the "Mantsikhang" (Institute of Tibetan Medicine and Astrology), the "Chakpori Zhopanling" (Medicine King Hill Institute for Saving All Living Beings) in Lhasa, and the Hall of Gathering Immortals in Xigaze-with fewer than 100 medical staff in total and serving mainly high officials, nobles and senior monks. They were not accessible to the ordinary people. Since the Democratic Reform in 1959, the state has input a huge amount of funds to develop Tibetan medical and healthcare services for everyone. By the end of 2007, there were 18 hospitals of Tibetan medicine, and all county hospitals had set up Tibetan medicine clinics. At present, there are 650 beds for Tibetan medicine treatment, 1,484 staff members working in Tibetan medicine hospitals and clinics, and 678 rural and folk medicine doctors. In 2007, Tibetan medicine institutions provided treatment to 489,000 patients, including treatment to 7,340 in-patients. The production of Tibetan medicine has also developed from workshop manual labor to modern industry, being brought into the orbit of standardization, regulation, mass production and scientific management. There are now 18 Tibetan medicine production enterprises, turning out over 360 types of Tibetan medicines, all of which have been included in the list of medicines covered by medical insurance. In 2007, the output value of Tibetan medicines reached 660 million yuan, with a sales revenue of 450 million yuan. Some Tibetan medicines are sold in other Chinese regions and even abroad.

Great achievements have been made in scientific research and education concerning Tibetan medicine. The Tibetan Medicine Research Institute of the Tibet Autonomous Region and other Tibetan medicine institutions at all levels are actively carrying out scientific research into Tibetan medicine, and have collected, collated, edited and published a number of medical works of high academic value, including the Chinese Medical Encyclopedia: Tibetan Volume, A Complete Collection of Tibetan Astronomy and Calendar, Ganlu Materia Medica, The Four Medical Tantras (Tibetan-Chinese bilingual edition), A Complete Collection of the Eighty Colored Tibetan Medical Thangkhas of the Four Medical Tantras, Mirror of Crystal Tantra, Diagnostics of Tibetan Medicine and Complete Prescriptions of Tibetan Medicine. The establishment of the College of Tibetan Medicine in 1989 has enabled the teaching of Tibetan medicine to be transformed from traditional methods to modern medical education. By 2007, some 1,200 students had graduated from the college (including two-year students), and 56 graduates had received doctoral or master's degrees. Now the college has an enrollment of 1,194 students, with 54 postgraduates. The old science of Tibetan medicine and pharmacology is now full of vigor and vitality, playing an important role in improving the health conditions of the Tibetan people and bringing benefits to mankind as a whole.

III. Religious Beliefs and Native Customs Respected

Tibetan Buddhism is the faith of the majority of the residents of the Tibet Autonomous Region. It is an important component of Tibetan tradition and culture. Over a long course of historical development, the Tibetans have developed their unique customs and lifestyle. Since the peaceful liberation of Tibet in 1951, the Chinese Government has set great store by respecting the freedom of religious beliefs and customs of the various ethnic groups living in Tibet.

Old Tibet practiced theocracy, like that in the Middle Ages of Europe. The upper class, represented by the Dalai Lama, dominated the politics, economy and culture of Tibet, and controlled the "admission" of the followers of Tibetan Buddhism to paradise. Under the system of theocracy and religious autocracy, the ordinary people had no freedom of religious belief at all. Such a system proved to be a tight fetter on people's minds and social functions. The Democratic Reform toppled the decadent and outdated theocracy and the religious regime controlled by the Dalai Lama and other living Buddhas, and separated religion from politics. The monasteries were put under democratic management, thus providing an institutional guarantee for the freedom of religious belief.

The state has placed Tibetan Buddhism under effective protection as part of traditional Tibetan culture. To satisfy the needs of religious believers, great endeavors have been made by the state for the preservation of monasteries, cultural relics and sites of historical significance. The Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, and the Drepung, Sera, Ganden, Tashilhunpo, Sakya and many other monasteries are placed under the protection of the state or the autonomous region, which allocate a large amount of funds annually for their repairs. Since the 1980s, more than 700 million yuan and a large quantity of gold and silver have been appropriated from the central and local revenues for repairing a large number of religious sites. Today, there are more than 1,700 religious venues in Tibet, accommodating over 46,000 monks and nuns. The murals, sculptures, statues, Thangkas, sutras, ritual implements, and Buddhist shrines have been well repaired and protected.

A large quantity of religious documents and classics have been collected, collated and published. Traditional sutra printing shops of monasteries still operate and are developing well. There are nearly 60 large printing shops, including those of the Meru Monastery and the Potala Palace, producing 63,000 titles of sutras a year, available at 20 non-government-funded sales outlets. In 1984, the government of the Tibet Autonomous Region presented the Lhasa version of the Tibetan-language Kangyur to the Tibet branch of the Buddhist Association of China, and gave funds to the Lhasa Sutra Printing Shop to produce more woodblocks for the monasteries in and outside Tibet. In 1990, the government allocated 500,000 yuan to Lhasa's Meru Monastery to engrave a new woodblock edition of Tengyur, and the 160 volumes so far engraved are now being printed. This is the first time that Tengyur has been engraved and printed in Lhasa.

The state has appropriated 40 million yuan and organized more than 100 Tibetan-language experts to finish collating Tibetan versions of Tengyur and Kangyur within two decades. Now all 124 volumes of Kangyur are available, and 108 volumes of Tengyur are to be published by the end of 2008. So far, 1,490 volumes of Kangyur have been printed; Tibetan Buddhist classics on rituals, biographies and treatises have also been printed and distributed. In 1998, The Kangyur of Bon Religion was compiled and published by the Tibetan-language Classics Press of Tibet, and The Tengyur of Bon Religion, by the Tibet People's Publishing House. A large quantity of other Buddhist works, such as On Pattra-Leaf Scriptures and History of Bon Monasteries in Tibet are also available in bookstores.

Normal religious activities and beliefs are protected by law. The Buddhist associations have been set up in the Tibet Autonomous Region as well as its seven prefectures (cities). The Tibet branch of the Buddhist Association of China runs the Tibetan Buddhism Academy, Tibetan-language sutra printing shop and Tibetan-language journal Tibetan Buddhism. The state has established the China Tibetan-Language Academy of Buddhism to train senior Tibetan Buddhist personnel. More than 100 living Buddhas and eminent monks from Tibet have studied there. Various traditional Buddhist activities are carried out in a normal way-from sutra studies and debates to the conferring of academic degrees and ordination. As a unique way to pass on Tibetan Buddhism, the living Buddha reincarnation system has received respect from the state, and 40-odd living Buddhas have been approved in line with religious rituals and historical practice.

Religious activities in Tibet are rich in content and diverse in form. Since the 1980s, more than 40 religious festivals have been resumed. Believers are free to take part in the Sakadawa Festival, Shoton (Yogurt) Festival and other religious activities. Everywhere in Tibet, sutra streamers, Mani mounds and masses of believers engaging in religious activities can be seen. Many believers have sutra rooms or shrines in their homes, and they often circumambulate monasteries and sacred places, go on pilgrimages, or invite monks or nuns to conduct Buddhist services.

Tibetan customs and lifestyle are respected and protected. Since Tibet's peaceful liberation, the Chinese Government has respected and protected the customs and lifestyle of the Tibetan and other ethnic groups in the Tibet Autonomous Region, including respect for and guarantee of their freedom to conduct religious and folk activities.

Over the past 50 years or so, the Tibetan and other ethnic minorities living in Tibet have preserved their traditional garments and ornaments, diet and housing styles, and are free to celebrate their traditional festivals. Some decadent, backward practices related to feudal serfdom and despising laboring people have been discarded and replaced with modern, civilized and healthy fashions. In Tibet, people celebrate national and international festivals, such as National Day, March 8 Women's Day and May Day, in addition to traditional and religious festivals, such as Tibetan New Year, Bathing Festival, Ongkor (Bumper Harvest) Festival, Butter Lamp Festival, Dharma Festival, Burning Offerings Festival, Garchachen Festival and horse race fairs. They have also brought into being such modern events as the Yarlung Art Festival in Shannan, Khampa Art Festival at Qamdo, Mount Qomolangma Art Festival at Xigaze and Azalea Festival at Nyingchi. With the fine Tibetan traditions integrating with modern ideas and cultures, Tibetan folk culture has adopted a new character.

IV. All-Round Development of Modern Science, Education and the Media

Since its peaceful liberation in 1951, along with the drive for modernization, in Tibet not only the fine traditional Tibetan culture has been inherited, protected and promoted, but modern scientific, educational, journalistic and cultural undertakings have also been developing in an all-round way.

A historical leap has been achieved in education. In old Tibet, there was not a single school in the modern sense. Access to education was restricted to members of the aristocracy, the broad masses of laboring people were robbed of any opportunity for education. Since the peaceful liberation, the state has adopted vigorous measures to develop education in Tibet. Between 1952 and 2007, the state's investment in Tibet totaled 22.562 billion yuan, of which 13.989 billion yuan was invested from 2002 to 2007. In addition, various other provinces and municipalities also rendered energetic support to the development of education in Tibet in terms of manpower, materials and finance. So far, more than 7,000 teachers have been selected to aid Tibet in this respect. Since 1985, the state has adopted the measure to cover all tuition as well as food and boarding expenses for students in the stage of compulsory education from Tibet's agricultural and pastoral families. In 2007, the state again decided to exempt all primary and junior high school students of all tuition and other fees, thus making Tibet the first place in China to enjoy free compulsory education. In recent years, the state has increased its investment in improving school facilities and learning conditions, spending 1.85 billion yuan between 2000 and 2006 on new school buildings and their expansion, totaling 1.5 million square meters in floor space. From 2004 to 2007, 133 classrooms equipped with computers were built, in addition to 983 distance-education locations served by satellites and 1,763 educational resource systems. As a result, most of Tibet's primary and high schools possess hi-tech teaching facilities. Tibet has already formed a relatively comprehensive education system ranging from preschool education, nine-year compulsory education to secondary education, higher education, vocational education, distance education, correspondence education and special education.

The educational and cultural levels have been noticeably improved. Now in Tibet, there are 884 primary schools, 94 high schools and 1,237 teaching stations, with a total enrolment of 547,000. The illiteracy rate has fallen from more than 95 percent in old Tibet to the present 4.76 percent. The enrollment rate for school-age children has risen from 2 percent in old Tibet to the present 98.2 percent, and the enrollment rate for junior high schools has reached 90.97 percent, basically ensuring free nine-year compulsory education. At present, there are 14 senior high schools and nine schools with both junior and senior high school education, with the enrollment rate for senior high schools hitting 42.96 percent; seven secondary vocational schools, with students totaling 19,000 in 2007; and six colleges and universities, with students numbering 27,000 and an enrollment rate of 17.4 percent. There are 30,652 teachers in primary and high schools, colleges and universities, among whom teachers of the Tibetan or other ethnic minority groups account for more than 80 percent. Throughout the country, 33 schools have classes specially for Tibetan students, including 19 junior high schools, 12 senior high schools and two teacher-training schools. In addition, 53 key senior high schools in inland China enroll students from Tibet. By the end of June 2008, a total of 34,650 Tibetan students had been admitted to these schools, and at present the number of Tibetan students has reached 17,100. The higher education admission rate of these Tibetan classes in inland China has exceeded 90 percent. Meanwhile, over 90 inland colleges and universities have admitted students from Tibet, with a total of 5,200 students still studying, and 15,000 having already graduated. Large numbers of highly educated Tibetans, including some with Ph.Ds and MAs, as well as scientists and engineers, have become a major force in promoting Tibet's development.

Modern science and technology in Tibet started from scratch, and developed rapidly. The state has adopted a number of policies, laws and regulations, and invested a large amount of money to promote the development of science and technology in Tibet. At present, Tibet has 42 scientific research institutions, 56 academic groups of various kinds, 140 institutions at different levels popularizing agricultural and animal husbandry

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