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'Sunning of the Buddha' at China monastery

(Xinhua)

10:34, February 05, 2012

XIAHE, Gansu - A huge Thangka bearing the image of the Buddha was unrolled to kick off an important Tibetan Buddhist gathering Saturday at Labrang Monastery in northwest China's Gansu Province.

The annual "sunning of the Buddha" is one of the most important ceremonies at Labrang, an 18th-century monastery in Xiahe County, which is regarded as a top Tibetan Buddhism educational institution in China.

The ceremony, held each year on the 13th day of the first lunar month, was heralded by a team of escorts who, dressed in their best Tibetan costumes, welcomed the Buddha on horseback on the square in front of the monastery's main hall.

At 10 a.m., nearly 100 lamas carried the Thangka scroll down the side of a back hill about 1 km from the monastery.

They were followed by throngs of devout Buddhists, some of whom had traveled from Sichuan and Qinghai provinces. Many people tried to touch the Thangka with their foreheads to pray for safety and good luck.

The 100-meter by 40-meter Thangka was unrolled at 10:30 a.m., when crowds of Buddhists prostrated on the ground, prayed and presented hadas, a traditional white ceremonial scarf.

The portrait was sunned for an hour before it was rolled up again for next year's presentation.

The local government of Xiahe county said more than 30,000 people watched this year's ceremony, including tourists from Germany and Austria.

Labrang Monastery, built in 1709, is home to more than 1,000 lamas and is one of six prestigious monasteries of the Gelugpa, also known as the Yellow Hat Sect, of Tibetan Buddhism.

The monastery serves as a religious center for more than 340,000 Tibetans in Gansu's Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Gannan, one of the country's 10 Tibetan autonomous prefectures known for its sprawling pastureland and a rooted Tibetan culture.

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