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Protection and Development of Tibetan Culture
Updated: 2008-09-25 15:45

Accelerated development of Tibetan medicine and pharmacology. 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. In2007, 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.