Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and study centers must begin to translate classroom texts from Tibetan into Mandarin Chinese, China’s “common language,” according to instructions given at a conference held last month in Qinghai, Tibetan sources said.
Monks and nuns must also learn and speak to each other in Chinese instead of their native language, government authorities said at the three-day conference launched on Sept. 27 at the Tso-Ngon Buddhist University in Qinghai’s capital city Xining.
Attended by more than 500 religious figures and students from Tibetan and Chinese Buddhist universities and other educational organizations, including more than 300 students from Tso-Ngon University, the campaign looks set to advance Chinese President Xi Jinping’s call to Sinicize religion across the country.
It was unclear if the policy will also include the gradual translation into Chinese of the thousands of classical Buddhist scriptures also written in Tibetan, many of which were translated from Sanskrit many hundreds of years ago.
The Chinese language is not able to communicate the full range of meaning of Buddhist doctrine, though, said Geshe Lhakdor, Director of the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharamsala, India, the seat of Tibet’s exile government the Central Tibetan Administration.
“This policy is just an ignorant power play by the Chinese government,” said the Geshe, an honorific title granted to Buddhist scholars after years of rigorous study and other academic work. “The question now is: who will translate these Buddhist texts, and what kind of job will they be able to do?”
“There is no good intention behind this plan,” the Geshe said.
“Rather, it is aimed at China’s Sinicization of Tibetan Buddhism, and even though a few Tibetan scholars and researchers participated in this meeting, they were forced to do so in spite of their reluctance,” he said.
Phentok, a researcher at the Dharamsala-based Tibetan Policy Institute, said the meeting held at Tso-Ngon Buddhist University was intended only to further the destruction of Tibetan religion and culture, and to force Tibetan Buddhist scholars and religious teachers to obey China’s government.
“Tibetans [must now] show their loyalty to the communist government and consider themselves Chinese,” he said.
Chinese Communist Parry efforts to supplant local language education with teaching in Chinese has raised anger not only among Tibetans, but also in the Turkic-language-speaking Uyghur community of Xinjiang and the Mongolians of Inner Mongolia.
Formerly an independent nation, Tibet was invaded and incorporated into China by force 70 years ago.
Language rights have become a particular focus for Tibetan efforts to assert national identity in recent years, with informally organized language courses in the monasteries and towns deemed “illegal associations” and teachers subject to detention and arrest, sources say.
Reported by Sangyal Kunchok for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Tenzin Dickyi. Written in English by Richard Finney.