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Tibet: Preserving the precious heritage


From using traditional construction methods to bringing restoration experts, all efforts are being made to protect Tibetan Buddhist culture.

On the northern bank of the Yarlung Tsangpo River is the Samye Monastery. Boasting a 1,300-year history, this monastery in Shannan, in the southern part of the Tibet autonomous region, is the earliest Buddhist monastery in Tibet.

One morning in late July, about 200 local people chant folk songs, dance in unison and simultaneously plaster the floors of the monastery using a mixture of pebbles, mud and water to pave the floor and the roof of the structure, as part of an event called da a ga.

The work will go on for at least 10 days.

After the plastering is done, the gathered people use elm sap to polish the material and coat it with rape oil to make the surface smooth and water-proof.

This process dates back to the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).

"As this method is very time-consuming, ordinary Tibetans no longer use it for their homes," says Champa Tsering, director of the Shannan cultural heritage bureau.

"But we follow the tradition for the monastery."

The renovation of the main temple of the monastery began in April, though a three-year rehabilitation of its auxiliary structures was completed in 2015.

In the 1980s, the monastery was renovated using cement.

But Champa Tsering says the cement will be removed this time and the facades will be restored using the da a ga method.

"The traditional material offers more flexibility compared with cement, especially when there are rainstorms or earthquakes," he says.

"Surfaces paved with cement crack more easily in harsh natural conditions," he adds.

The temple's drains will also be repaired and the rotten lumber replaced.

A grant of 12 million yuan ($1.8 million) from the central government is being used to fund the ongoing work on the main temple.

Residents from neighbouring areas are being hired for the project and each of them is paid 180 yuan a day, says Champa Tsering.

Source: China Daily

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