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Restored Ashoka Stupa in China symbolises India’s propagation of Buddhism

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Nangchen (China): Radiant in its grandeur and serene in its effect, a newly inaugurated restored Ashoka Stupa in this remote Himalayan town close to Tibet symbolizes the missionary zeal of Indians to spread the message of Buddhism since the ancient ages.

BCE273-232_01_lgBeckoning tourists and pilgrims alike, the dome-shaped shrine, whose complex includes a newly-installed giant 35 meter statue of Lord Buddha atop a temple dedicated to him, stands in this mystic land of monks and yogis, around 3,600 meters above sea level in China’s Qinghai province neighboring Tibetan Chamdo district.

The stupa was restored by followers of Gyalwang Drukpa, the Ladakh-based Indian spiritual chief of the Drukpa lineage of Buddhism, with support from the Fu Rui Charitable Foundation accredited by the Chinese government, marking out the $25 million project as a significant milestone in China-India cooperation.

Contributions also came from many Asian devotees of the Drukpa, including renowned industrialists like the Lim family of Singapore.

Amid chanting of hymns, reading from the Buddhist scriptures and the presence of over three lakh devotees from across the world, the Drukpa formally inaugurated and consecrated the temple and the stupa alongside senior monks.

Chinese officials and Indian Lok Sabha member Vinod Sonkar graced the occasion.

Drukpa hoped it would help better China-India relations as per Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s wish.

“Yes, this will be a very good contribution towards (prime minister) Modi’s wish and be beneficial for bilateral ties between India and China,” he said.

The original stupa was set up in Nangchen — an important centre of trade and politics in what was then eastern Tibet — by Buddhist missionaries carrying the message of India’s third Maurya emperor Ashoka the Great, who ruled from circa 65-238 B.C. or 273-232 B.C.

Ashoka had divided the relics of Lord Buddha into 84,000 stupas and despatched missionaries and close relatives across India and abroad to propagate Buddhism and promote peace.

As per records of the Tang dynasty which ruled China between 608 A.D. and 907 A.D., 19 such stupas existed in China, but most of these gave way due to natural wear and tear, human negligence, or were shifted to other locations.

Locals say the original Nangchen Stupa — said to be 2,000-odd years old — was destroyed during the Chinese Cultural Revolution when people took away the foundation rocks to make their own homes and over time, the structure became unrecognisable.

Later, apparently a stone pillar inscribed with the history of Ashoka’s building of the stupa was unearthed, but the pillar disappeared a year after, and the location was reduced to a historical site of ruins.

Keen to see the stupa restored, devotees requested the local Drukpa spiritual chief Tulshik Adeu Rinpoche to take the initiative.

He took the initial steps and informed the supreme leader Gyalwang Drukpa, but passed away before the project could start.

His nephew Trulshik Satrul Rinpoche then took up the task.

The restored stupa is a grand, multi-level ornate structure, before which stands the remains of an original rock edict of Ashoka detailing the features.

The lowest level has a statue of the stupa’s protector Mahakala, whose reference is also there in Hindu religion.

The gold-plated stupa forms the cover for remnants of the original stupa which is kept in a glass case.

“The newly restored stupa has five levels. It contains five million small stupas made by the locals over a period of three years. The stupa itself documents the developments in the history of the stupa, all five stages of Buddha’s lives are depicted through murals, and the eight different types of stupas commoerate the eight fold path of Buddhism,” said monk Yeshe Namgyal.

One hundred and fifty thousand mani sones and 160,000 engravings of Tripitakas containing Buddha’s teachings are other highlights.

“There are 500 mini stupas, each of which tells a story,” said the monk.

The 35-metre Amitabha Buddha statue on the top of the temple has been donated by Felix Lim, chairman of Maz Energy Private Limited of Singapore.

“The Drukpa told my wife that he has dreams to install a stature of Buddha. My wife informed me. I initially thought of an earthen stature. Then his holiness said he wanted something which would exist for hundreds of years. So we made this statue of mixed alloy.

“I contributed to this out of love for my wife and reverence for His Holiness,” said Lim.

(Sirshendu Panth, IANS)

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Tibetan Activist Sentenced to 5 Years of Imprisonment in China

A Tibetan education activist was on Tuesday sentenced to five years in prison by a Chinese court for inciting separatism, Amnesty International (AI) said, calling the sentence "unjust" and urging his immediate release.

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A Tibetan education activist was on Tuesday sentenced to five years in prison by a Chinese court for inciting separatism, Amnesty International (AI) said, calling the sentence “unjust” and urging his immediate release.

The main evidence against Tashi Wangchuk, who was sentenced by a court in Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai province, was a 2015 video by the New York Times about his campaign for saving the Tibetan language, according to his lawyer.

“Today’s verdict against Tashi Wangchuk is a gross injustice. He is being cruelly punished for peacefully drawing attention to the systematic erosion of Tibetan culture,” AI East Asia Research Director Joshua Rosenzweig was cited as saying by Efe news.

Before his arrest, the 31-year-old activist had expressed concern over the fact that many Tibetan children could not fluently speak their native language, contributing to the progressive extinction of the Tibetan culture.

Representational Image: Tibetan Teachings
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

“Tashi must be immediately and unconditionally released,” demanded AI, pointing out that the activist had already spent two years in detention without access to his family.

Rosenzweig claimed that Tashi Wangchuk “was a human rights defender and prisoner of conscience who used the media and China’s own legal system in his struggle to preserve Tibetan language, culture and identity”.

In the New York Times video, the activist had highlighted “the extreme discrimination and restrictions on freedom of expression that Tibetans face in China today”.

Also Read: An Attempt to Preserve Ancient Tibetan Literature

Non-profit Human Rights Watch (HRW) also criticized the prison term for Tashi Wangchuk, whose “only crime was to peacefully call for the right of minority peoples to use their own language”, a right safeguarded by the Chinese Constitution.

“His conviction on bogus separatism charges show that critics of government policy on minorities have no legal protections,” said HRW China Director Sophie Richardson. (IANS)