The Sera Monastery was famous for its warrior monks, the Dob-Doa. Once home to 5,000 monks, today there are less than one-tenth that number, although the energetic renovation suggests that this may improve.
In 1950, the Chinese took advantage of a tenuous claim to the territory and invaded , calling it “liberation”. In the uprising that followed in 1959, the 14th Dalai Lama age 16 fled to India where he still heads the Tibetan Government- in- Exile. By 1970 more than a million Tibetans had died either directly at the hands of the Chinese or through famine caused by incompetent agricultural policies. Tibet’s cultural heritage was razed, and over 6,000 monasteries destroyed.
Conditions have improved today, and there are signs of religious revival. Many monasteries that were ravaged during the Cultural Revolution are now being repaired and returned to their former roles, but creating or owning an image of the Dalai Lama is still illegal.
The monks debate every day for one hour in the afternoon. It was fascinating to watch, but would have been even better if we could have understood what they were saying. It is a competition so at the end of each year one monk is chosen from each monastery to compete with the other monks.
The monks ritualized gestures-clapping hands and stamping when a point is made- made it fascinating to watch.
This video was taken in front of the Jokhang Temple. You can see the monks and the big incense burner.
It was near this square that the rioting started last year with the monks. They were protesting the arrest of monks the year before. It got out of control with looting and fires being started in the Chinese shops. So today the Chinese military presence is everywhere with soldiers with guns and shields on every corner. We were told not to take any pictures of the military. If you look closely you will see green picnic umbrellas on the right roof tops where a soldier is stationed.
Barkhor Square where rioting took place.
It was only when I got home and looked at this picture that I saw another umbrella on the right roof so the military must be all around the square.