How the ‘Soul of Tibet’ Was Turned Into a Pigsty
How the ‘Soul of Tibet’ Was Turned Into a Pigsty
The desecration of Jokhang Temple epitomizes the destruction of Tibet’s monasteries

Commentary

Generally speaking, people have an understanding of the brutality of China’s Cultural Revolution, but, for some reason, people know very little about the Cultural Revolution in Tibet.

I recently read the precious book, Forbidden Memory: Tibet During the Cultural Revolution, written by Tibetan writer Woeser and her father Tsering Dorje. It depicted Tibet during the Cultural Revolution through words and photos.

What shocked me the most was the destruction of Tibetan culture, which was as heartbreaking and tragic as the complete destruction of traditional Chinese culture.

For example, a large number of Tibetan lamas were forced to resume secular life, and many precious scriptures were burned. By 1976, only eight of the original 2,700 monasteries were left.

What Jokhang Temple, known as the “soul of Tibet,” suffered during the Cultural Revolution is undoubtedly the epitome of those 2,700 monasteries.

Jokhang Temple

Jokhang Temple is located in the center of the old city of Lhasa and is regarded as the most sacred Buddhist temple in Tibet. It was first constructed in the year 647 during China’s Tang Dynasty and Tibet’s Tubo Dynasty, by King Songsten Gampo to commemorate Princess Bhrikuti of Nepal’s coming to Tibet.

Through additions and repairs, the Jokhang Temple complex expanded to occupy 270,000 square feet. Its architectural style blends Tubo Dynasty, Tang Dynasty, Nepalese, and Indian styles and has become the model for Tibetan religious architecture through the ages.

Jokhang Temple housed many Buddha statues, relics, and ritual instruments. It also had amazing mural paintings dating from the Tubo period to the more recent Gesang Phodrang time period. As a religious shrine, Jokhang Temple is respected by a variety of sects, and its customary Monlam Prayer Festival is very famous.

During the festival, tens of thousands of monks from the three main monasteries of Drepung, Sera, and Ganden in Lhasa and other temples will gather in Jokhang Temple. They hold activities such as practicing Dharma, having sutra-debates, exorcism, and welcoming the Jampa Buddha of the future.

The Dalai Lama (the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism) and Ganden Tripa (the title for the spiritual leader of the Gelug School of Tibetan Buddhism) of past dynasties have all taught the Dharma there.

The importance of Jokhang Temple is not limited to religion. It was also one of the locations for the Tibetan Kashag (Tibet’s governing council since China’s Qing Dynasty, 1644-1911).

The fifth Dalai Lama established the regime by integrating religion and politics. Departments for finance, taxation, food, justice, and foreign affairs were all set up on the second floor of Jokhang Temple. Later the Qing government’s Golden Urn, the activity used to select Tibetan lamas, was also held here.

Cultural Revolution

Since Jokhang Monastery held important spiritual and secular roles, it became a major target for “destroying the four olds” during the Cultural Revolution.

In August of 1968, the Red Guards in Lhasa took red-tasseled spears with them to start robbing Jokhang Monastery. According to the story told in Forbidden Memory, Jokhang Monastery experienced unprecedented destruction.

A large amount of vestments, books, Buddha statues, and prayer wheels were smashed, destroyed, and burned.

A dunce cap with insulting words written on it was placed atop Shakyamuni’s statue. The precious clothes on the statue were taken, the gold painted on his body and face was scraped off, an incomparable jewel set between his eyebrow and a pair of old gold earrings were taken.

The army stationed in Jokhang Monastery used the upper level as a dormitory and the lower level as a pigpen. The soldiers shipped out the remaining Buddhist instruments and Buddha statues, which later were destroyed. It is said that only Buddha Shakyamuni’s statues were not smashed.

A monk who once sent pig food said, “They set up a bathroom at one corner of Jokhang Monastery and we can see they pee on the ground. The other side of Jokhang Monastery was set up as a livestock slaughter house.”

In the 1970s, following the army’s withdrawal, Jokhang Monastery became the second hostel of Lhasa City Committee where officials and ordinary people of nearby counties might come. Because of the influx of visitors, murals were severely damaged by flames and moisture from steaming Tibetan butter tea.

In 1972, with the change in the international political environment, especially changes in the relationships between China and Japan and between China and the United States, the Chinese regime decided to repair Jokhang Monastery in order to change the regime’s international image.

Unfortunately, the repairers didn’t know what kind of Buddha statues should be put in the temple. Finally, a so-called “demon,” a cursed eminent monk, helped them repair the first level of this Buddha palace.

The entire repair project was finished in 1980, and Jokhang Monastery returned to a life of burning incense every day.

However, the Buddha statues are not the original Buddha statues, the murals are not the original murals, and the manager in charge of the temple is not the then-eminent monk. In fact, quite a few of the monks residing there are the very same ones who destroyed Jokhang Monastery during the Cultural Revolution.

One more reincarnation, one more long sigh, while the evil party hasn’t been brought to justice yet.

Translation by Quincy Yu and Aileen Wu. Written in English by Arleen Richards

  • s k

    Totally missed the point on Buddhism….just comments upon parlor religions…

    • Richard M

      So a Police State brutalizes it’s citizens (victims). And your “take” is to criticize the victims……Condoning the brutalizing, torturing and killing of people based on their religious beliefs is something I have difficulty finding polite words to describe.

      • Johnnymoreno

        I have always wondered if seeing cause and effect through the lens of Karma, is in a sense, always “blaming the victim”

        • Richard M

          An interesting philosophical point. I would say, (since you ask) that from the standpoint of the victim, the answer would be yes. Karma accumulates like debt over many lifetimes. So the abuse is in fact the karmic debt coming due.

          From the standpoint of the perpetrator, I would say no. He is acting as a criminal and adding to his own debt total.

          I would also say that if we wait until people are deserving of mercy or kindness. That will never happen.So we’d better start dealing with people out of need, not merit.

          • Johnnymoreno

            I have always been drawn to Buddhism; many of the precepts resonate with me as being self evidently true.
            However. I have a hard time grappling with the concept of reincarnation. It may be true, but it is hardly useful on a practical level when dealing with immediate suffering: i.e., It’s not helpful to explain to a starving child that she is simply “:purifying” her Karma.
            The track record for alleviating this type of suffering seems to be much better amongst the Christians, at least of the better sort.

          • Richard M

            As you point out in your response to Karze, our belief or non-belief is not the determinate factor…..We can believe in gravity, or not believe. Either way, if we step off a 40th story ledge, the result will be the same.

        • Karze

          Karma means retribution for your bad deeds or crime or hateful things one do – if someone murders someone do you think that person should face consequences of law or society.

          • Johnnymoreno

            If I understand it correctly, the Law of Karma stipulates that you WILL suffer (eventually) for causing harm. What I think “should” happen has nothing to do with it.

  • s k

    Richard, I was not making social commentary nor are you apparently aware of the ‘other’ darker, vicious histories concerning Buddhism…it is not ‘polite reading’. The Dalia Lama points out in his books that he doesn’t know what Nirvana is…nor if it even exists. Buddhism is about
    Nirvana and Dharma….in that order…..unless…one belongs to the parlor variety of Buddhism intended for the public. Each system has higher and lower echelons. As for your comments about police states, why limit that notion to Tibet. Look around.

    • Richard M

      So you’re saying that if a religion has a philosophy not accepted by government, the government has the right to attack that religion, kill its adherents, and persecute any survivors…

      As for looking around, I have. See my comments referencing NSA.

      And, no. I know nothing about the “vicious history of Buddhism”. Off hand, it sounds to me like some sort of propaganda production of a Police State. Much like Adolf’s regime utilizing the fictional “Protocols of Zion”…I doubt it holds a candle to the tens of millions killed by Adolf, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, though…..Feel free to cite a credible source for that “vicious history” though.

      • s k

        Richard M. Read this to fill in your lack of knowledge concerning the history of Buddhism. http://www.michaelparenti.org/Tibet.html The book entitled
        “Sources of Oriental Tradition” is also helpful in revealing the early violent clashes of say, Taoists and Buddhists. Again, once more, I am NOT describing nor condoning government actions, as you misconstrue my words and meaning. Here it is again: The most important thing is
        the Nirvana aspect of Buddhism. As for government actions, it’s best if they are governed by Dharma-like ethics. This being only ideal, numerous repercussions abound. 150,000 people die on the planet every day.
        If you would like an expose on Nirvana as well, search for TED Jill Bolte Taylor. This is all the time I’m spending here. Your anger betrays you.
        .

        • Richard M

          Comrade Parenti makes it sound as if the Red Army takeover of Tibet was a mission of brotherly peace and love. You probably believe that the Red Army invasion of S Korea in early 1951 was the “People’s Volunteer Army” showing brotherly solidarity with the oppressed S Koreans!

          Haha! Have a great day Comrade S talin/ K alinin!

          • s k

            Richard, You seem like a spiritually inexperienced, loud mouthed Coward. To each their own. Anger is your tool in trade. Good luck with the Karma…

          • Richard M

            That’s a very immature comment, SK. If you have nothing more than juvenile schoolyard insults, I will waste no more time with you.

  • Johnnymoreno

    My father is an ex Korean War POW and was held in China for several years. His accounts of the re-education methods used by the Chinese on him were virtually the same as those accounts I read about the Tibetans suffering under

  • Ferdinand Alexander

    What the Chinese have done in Tibet over the last 60 years is about as serious a crime against humanity as could possibly be committed. Even the way many of them treat animals is horrific so why should they treat Tibetans any better? They’re like robots, no souls.

  • 12Gd34

    Why does the Epoch Times report that Tibet is a region of China – caption

  • geesepeace

    Christians believe that because when your physical bodies die they die and will not go anywhere; there has to be something else of you to get to heaven. Since there is no eternal life in us, as plain humans we are spiritually separated from God, we need God’s life to have that spark of life in us and you get that when you believe in Christ.

  • highpriestess

    Old Tibet was run by an oligarchy, the severing of hands and feet of serfs was rife. The gouging of eyes and the cutting off of noses and tongues was common, it was a horrible culture ran by tyrants, only priest (lamas could own land) all secular people were subject to torture for any infringement no matter how small…thank god for Red China, they needed to destroy the tyranny of TIBET!

    • ilyas252

      yeah such an improvement, the materialistic psychos of china

  • ilyas252

    cultural thugs,period.

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