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China Daily Website

Modernization and religion in harmony

Updated: 2012-07-16 09:53
By Liu Xiangrui and Dachiong in Lhasa ( China Daily)

Related: Samye Monastery reborn, In with the old

While modernization and traditional culture exist in harmony in Tibet autonomous region, religion and secular groups are also thriving.

Monasteries play a critical role in Tibet where Buddhism and other religions wield a strong influence over the masses.

Nearly 90 percent of the region's 3 million people, mostly ethnic Tibetans, are devout Buddhists.

In Tibet autonomous region there are nearly 1,700 Buddhist sites and more than 46,000 Tibetan Buddhist monks.

To better serve and manage the monasteries, the local government has started a number of practical projects to benefit monasteries, according to Soinamrigdzin, vice-chief of the Tibet autonomous region's United Front Department.

The government plans to invest more than 1 billion yuan ($157 million) to improve the infrastructure of monasteries. The projects, which will be completed in 2014, include supplying water, electricity, TVs and libraries to monasteries and improving the traffic.

The funds are allocated by governments at various levels. Even monasteries in remote areas are included, though water projects and traffic enhancements are tougher to implement.

Equally significant for monks and nuns is the social security system newly introduced to monasteries, such as an old-age pension, medical insurance, and a minimum living allowance.

About 93 percent of the region's clergy have accepted medical insurance; while more than 4,700 monks and nuns now have minimum living allowances; and about 1,900 monks and nuns, age above 60, have claimed a basic pension of 120 yuan per month, starting January.

"The pension is meaningful for those monks and nuns in remote areas, who earn just several hundred yuan a year," Soinamrigdzin says.

Also, since 2011, 480 libraries have been built in monasteries.

In five years, the nation will pour 1.7 billion yuan into the protection of Tibet's rich cultural heritage, a large portion of which will go to the protection of monasteries.

Renovation of Lhasa's Johkang Temple has been completed, while Xigaze's Tashilhunpo Monastery is among eight other monasteries whose repairs are underway.

"Monasteries are important carriers of Tibet's culture. They are also places for religious people to pursue their beliefs, inherit culture and satisfy believers' needs, and they shouldn't be a factor of instability in Tibet," Soinamrigdzin says.

"The management work of Tibetan Buddhism is a long-term and complicated job, and we must have enough patience while respecting its own traditions."

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