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Lama basketball players harbor hoop dreams
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11:26, April 20, 2008

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Wearing a red cloak and bouncing a basketball, Chenang Doje heads to the court in the backyard of his monastery after his Buddhism studies.

With his fellow monks, they emulate the most fashionable dribbling and shooting actions they have seen among the NBA stars.

"I like Michael Jordan very much," said Chenang Doje, a member of the Tsuame Monastery basketball team. "His flying slam dunks are gorgeous. Among the NBA players in service now, I like the (Denver) Nuggets' Allen Iverson."

At an altitude of 3,400 meters, the Tsuame Monastery sits almost atop the Holy Tsuame Mountain in the Tibetan-inhabited Maerkang County, the seat of Aba Tibetan-Qiang Autonomous Prefecture (ATQAP) in southwest China's Sichuan Province. Being half-isolated from the outside world, basketball and the Olympic Games are their most favorite topics of discussion besides Buddhism.

"Our monastery has a half-court," said Cewangtar, the deputy director of the monastery's administrative committee. "We are going to build a full court this year." He said a deputy head of ATQAP had agreed to donate two basketball stands for their new court.

Cewangtar, 39, is also a basketball fan. When hearing the name Yao Ming, the Chinese NBA star with the Houston Rockets, his eyebrows raise just as if hearing the name of an old friend.

He said among the 86 monks at the monastery, half liked playing basketball. Their team often played against other teams of some government departments and enterprises at the bottom of the mountain on weekends.

Chenang Doje, 18, became a monk at the monastery two years ago. As a hoop fan, he found the monastery has a tradition of playing basketball.

"It was very pleasing and unexpected that I can continue to play basketball after I became a lama," he said.

After monks finish their Buddhism lessons they come to the court, while others sit around and watch. As most of the players often wear cloaks with the same red color, they have to distinguish their teammates by faces.

"We are so interested in sports, especially basketball. So we all hope the Olympic Games can be held in our country," Cewangtar said.

However, the monks have only three TV sets. Furthermore, according to monastery rules, they have to wait until weekends to watch sports TV programs such as the NBA. Cewangtar said during the Olympics, monks would be allowed to watch different events everyday.

"I will watch basketball and track and field," said 21-year-old Nyi'ma Doje after sinking a three-point shot while playing a pick-up game with his fellow monks. "I wish for the Chinese basketball team to put in a good performance, especially Yao Ming."

"Sports and Buddhism are connected," added Cewangtar. "Sports can make people strong and healthy. Without a healthy body, one cannot practice Buddhism effectively."

The monks held a Buddhist ceremony in February to pray for the Olympics. A banner with Chinese characters reading "the Tsuame Monastery Buddhist ceremony of praying for the Beijing Olympics" still hangs in the hall of chanting scriptures.

The monks routinely chant scriptures each morning. They pray for a prosperous and peaceful society without war, disease and disaster. Now they have another goal -- praying for a successful Olympics.

"We cannot make economic contributions to the Olympics, however, we can pray for it," Cewangtar said.

Source:Xinhua




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