Recent images widely shared by online news outlets and social media show the extent of recent demolitions at the sprawling Yarchen Gar Buddhist monastic center in Baiyu County, Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, after the state authorities in western China’s Sichuan Province begun a new round of evictions, reportedly removing more than 7,000 monks and nuns from the sprawling monastic complex.*
According to reports from Radio Free Asia (RFA), the latest eviction campaign began in May, mainly targeting sangha residents who had come to Yarchen Gar from outside of Sichuan. The Buddhist complex was originally home to some 10,000 monastics.
“Almost half of the entire Yachen Gar complex has been razed since the demolition of the nuns’ dwellings began in July,” an unidentified source was quoted as sayin by RFA. (Radio Free Asia)
Another source, identified as a local Tibetan, was cited by RFA as saying in August that the demolition of mainly wooden huts built as dwellings for resident monastics began on 19 July and progressed rapidly, with at least 100 structures removed at that time.
Radio Free Asia is a private, nonprofit news organization and broadcaster that publishes online content on events in Asia, with the stated mission of providing “accurate and timely news and information to Asian countries whose governments prohibit access to a free press.” Funded by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, an independent agency of the US government, RFA has at times been accused of producing news coverage aimed at advancing the goals of US foreign policy.
“The Chinese authorities took days to clear the wreckage of Yarchen Gar. Now in its place they have planted grass and the ground is covered by green plastic,” a source in exile told RFA. “It takes a walk of about 20–30 minutes to cover the entire length of the leveled ground. The Chinese authorities have cordoned off the areas from pedestrians and also to foster the growth of grass.” (Radio Free Asia)
Situated in a remote valley in the traditional Tibetan region of Kham, some 4,000 meters above sea level, Yarchen Gar was until recent years home to an estimated 10,000 nuns, monks, and lay practitioners devoted to scriptural study and meditation. The monastery and educational institute was established in 1985 by the abbot, Achuk Rinpoche (d. 2011), a Dzogchen practitioner and one of the most senior Nyingma masters in Tibet.
“The Chinese authorities still intend to destroy more monks’ dwellings in other parts of Yachen Gar. However, due to repeated appeals by senior monks, it is temporarily put on hold,” said an RFA source in Tibet. “A definitive and stern order from high-level authorities would easily break the truce.” (Radio Free Asia)
According to media reports, travel in and out of the complex is now closely monitored by state officials who have been stationed at Yarchen Gar, and many of the expelled monastics are reportedly being held in detention in their hometowns for political re-education.
“The forceful confinement of the evicted residents, including the beatings of the evicted nuns who are currently confined in Jomda County of eastern Tibet, are emanating from Tibet, with reports emerging of the use of police torture against protestors,” a source told The Tibet Post on condition of anonymity, adding that the nuns are being subjected to a “patriotic re-education campaign” and are not allowed to wear their monastic robes. (The Tibet Post)
Like the better-known Larung Gar Buddhist Institute located in a valley to the northeast, Yarchen Gar is associated with the Nyingma school of Vajrayana Buddhism. Indeed, Yarchen Gar’s monastic population has been bolstered by the arrival of evictees from Larung Gar in recent decades. In June 2017, a senior abbot at Larung Gar said that 4,725 monastic dwellings had been torn down over the course of a year, with more than 7,000 demolished since efforts to reduce the population began in 2001, noting that more than 4,828 monks and nuns had been expelled since 2016. Larung Gar Buddhist Academy was founded in 1980 by the respected teacher Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok (1933–2004), and is widely considered to be the largest center of Buddhist learning in the world.
In April this year, the local authorities were reported to have further tightened restrictions at Larung Gar, according to Tibetan sources. A government notice delivered to senior monks at Larung Gar prohibited further enrollments and ordered that no new residents be admitted to live and study there.
* Mass Evictions Reported at Yarchen Gar Buddhist Monastery in China’s Sichuan Province (Buddhistdoor Global)
Photo Shows Dramatic Demolition of Yachen Gar Buddhist Complex (Radio Free Asia)
Large-Scale Demolition Begins at Yachen Gar Tibetan Buddhist Center (Radio Free Asia)
Thousands More Expelled From Sichuan’s Yachen Gar Buddhist Center (Radio Free Asia)
Thousands of Monks, Nuns ‘Politically Re-Educated’ After Eviction From Sichuan’s Yachen Gar (Radio Free Asia)
New photos of Yachen Gar shedding more light on China’s repression in Tibet (The Tibet Post)
Chinese Authorities Have Begun Large-Scale Demolition at Tibetan Buddhist Yarchen Gar (World Religion News)
Photo Shows Dramatic Demolition of Yachen Gar Buddhist Complex (Central Tibetan Administration)
Persecution and Sexual Abuse of Tibetan Buddhist Nuns by the CCP (Bitter Winter)
Evicted Tibetan nuns from Yachen Gar beaten by Chinese guards (Phayul.com)