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13:44 Dec 12 2008

Protection and development of Tibetan culture
14:08, December 10, 2008  

The Information Office of China's State Council on Thursday issued a white paper titled "Protection and Development of Tibetan Culture". Following is the full text of the document:

Protection and Development of Tibetan Culture

Information Office of the State Council of the People's Republic of China

September 2008, Beijing

Tibetan horsemen join a horse race in Litang county, Sichuan province. Wu Chuanming



I. Learning, Use and Development of the Spoken and Written Tibetan Languages

II. Inheritance, Protection and Promotion of Tibetan Cultural Heritage

III. Religious Beliefs and Native Customs Respected

IV. All-round Development of Modern Science, Education and the Media



China is a unified multi-ethnic country. Tibet is an inseparable part of China, and the Tibetan ethnic group is an important member of the big family of the Chinese nation. The Tibetan ethnic group has a long history and a splendid culture. Tibetan culture is a lustrous pearl of Chinese culture as well as a precious part of world culture.

The Tibetans have been living on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau generation after generation. In a tough environment with unique natural conditions, they have demonstrated vitality and tenacity in pursuing a happy life. In their long history, the Tibetans have created a substantial, distinctive and diverse culture of their own through the understanding, adaptation, remaking and development of nature, society and themselves, and through cultural communication, integration and interaction with the people of the Han and other ethnic groups and peoples of southern and western Asia. Tibetan culture encompasses indigenous spoken and written languages, philosophy, religion, medicine, astronomy and the calendar, music and dance, drama and folk performing arts, architecture, sculpture and painting, and arts and crafts. The Tibetan people have developed their culture by means of interaction and fusion with other cultures, especially that of the Han people. Over the centuries, Tibetan culture has remained a spiritual pillar for the Tibetan ethnic group.

Tibet had long been a society languishing under a system of feudal serfdom under theocratic rule, a society which was even darker than the European society of the Middle Ages, until the mid-20th century. Before 1959 the 14th Dalai Lama, as a leader of Tibetan Buddhism and also head of the Tibetan local government, monopolized both political and religious power. The serf owners, accounting for less than five percent of the total population of old Tibet, possessed all the means of production and cultural and educational resources in Tibet, monopolizing the material and cultural wealth of the region. The serfs and slaves, making up over 95 percent of the total population in old Tibet, suffered destitution, cruel oppression and exploitation, and possessed no means of production or personal freedom, not to mention access to culture and education. The long centuries of theocratic rule and feudal serfdom suffocated the vitality of Tibetan society and led to the decline of Tibetan culture.

The founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949 brought hope to the protection and development of Tibetan culture. Through the peaceful liberation in 1951 Tibet shook off imperialist invasion and trammels, ended its chronic isolation and stagnancy, and created the basic conditions for realizing progress and prosperity along with the rest of China. After the peaceful liberation of Tibet, the Central People's Government actively helped Tibet protect and recover its traditional culture, and develop its modern cultural, educational and health sectors, opening up a completely new chapter for the development of Tibetan culture. The Democratic Reform in 1959 abolished theocratic feudal serfdom, while ending the monopoly of the minority of nobility and senior monks over culture and education. The broad masses of serfs and slaves were politically, economically and mentally emancipated, and became the real masters in protecting, developing and enjoying Tibetan culture. The reform made Tibetan culture a people's culture, and inaugurated a promising future for its development.

Over the past half century, and especially since the adoption of the reform and opening-up policies in 1978, the Chinese government has attached great importance to the protection and development of Tibetan culture. With great enthusiasm and a highly responsible attitude, and in accordance with the Constitution of the People's Republic of China and the Law on Ethnic Regional Autonomy, the Chinese government has dedicated a large amount of manpower, materials and funds to the protection and promotion of fine traditional Tibetan culture, and vigorously developed modern scientific, educational and cultural undertakings in Tibet, bringing about unprecedented protection and development of Tibetan culture.

This white paper is published to give the international community a better understanding of the reality of the protection and development of Tibetan culture, citing facts to expose the lie about the "cultural genocide" in Tibet fabricated by the 14th Dalai Lama and his cohorts, exposing the deceptive nature of the "cultural autonomy of Tibet" they clamor for, and to further the protection and development of Tibetan culture.

I. Learning, Use and Development of the Spoken and Written Tibetan Languages

A member of the Han-Tibetan language family, Tibetan has been an important tool of communication for the people in Tibet over thousands of years, and an important symbol and carrier of Tibetan culture. It holds a special position among the diverse languages and cultures of the Chinese nation. For over a half century, the Chinese government has attached great importance to guaranteeing the Tibetan people's right to learn and use the Tibetan language, both the spoken and written, and has made huge efforts in promoting the learning, use and development of it, registering major progress.

The learning and use of the spoken and written Tibetan languages are guaranteed by law. The Constitution of the People's Republic of China and the Law on Ethnic Regional Autonomy both clearly prescribe that all ethnic minorities have the freedom to use and develop their own spoken and written languages. The Tibet Autonomous Region issued and implemented the Several Provisions of the Tibet Autonomous Region on the Learning, Use and Development of Tibetan (Trial) in 1987 and the Detailed Rules for the Implementation of Several Provisions of the Tibet Autonomous Region on the Learning, Use and Development of Tibetan (Trial) in 1988, specifying that equal importance is given to both Tibetan and Chinese in Tibet, with priority given to Tibetan. In 2002, the Tibet Autonomous Region revised the above provisions for trial implementation into the Provisions of the Tibet Autonomous Region on the Learning, Use and Development of Tibetan, providing a reliable legal guarantee in this respect. To promote this work, in 1988 the Language Steering Committee of the Tibet Autonomous Region was set up, later renamed the Language Committee of the Tibet Autonomous Region. Tibetan language translation institutes have been established in all prefectures (cities) and counties. At present there are over 100 Tibetan language translation institutes and nearly 1,000 specialists in translation and relevant work in Tibet.

The spoken and written Tibetan languages have been widely learned and carried forward. In old Tibet, it was a privilege of the nobility and a few monks to learn the proper Tibetan language, whereas serfs and slaves, who accounted for 95 percent of the total population, had no right in this respect whatsoever. After the peaceful liberation of Tibet, the Central People's Government paid great attention to the learning and popularization of Tibetan, and made clear requirements for people who were to go to Tibet on learning, using and spreading Tibetan. In the 1950s it held short-term training courses on Tibetan, training courses for young people, social education courses, and training courses in agricultural technologies, finance and accounting, and movie-making technology in Qamdo, Lhasa, Xigaze and other places, encouraging, supporting and organizing people of all ethnic groups in Tibet to learn Tibetan as well as science and technology. After the Tibet Autonomous Region was set up in 1965, it was stipulated that schools of all kinds and at all levels must lay stress on the learning and use of Tibetan and strengthen work on the teaching of Tibetan. A bilingual teaching system was adopted in an all-round way in the educational sector of Tibet, with priority given to teaching in Tibetan. At present, Tibetan-Chinese teaching is adopted in all the farming and pastoral areas, and in some urban primary schools, with the major courses being taught in Tibetan. Tibetan-Chinese teaching is also adopted in high schools. Moreover, courses in the Tibetan language have been opened at Tibetan high schools in the inland areas of China. In the matriculation examinations for institutions of higher learning and secondary vocational schools, Tibetan is a subject of examination and the score is included in the total score. There are now 15,523 bilingual teachers and 10,927 Tibetan-language teachers in Tibet. Altogether, 181 textbooks, 122 reference books and 16 teaching programs covering 16 subjects from primary to senior high school have been compiled and translated in the Tibet Autonomous Region. Tibetan has been unprecedentedly popularized at all schools in Tibet.

The spoken and written Tibetan languages are widely used. Since the establishment of the Tibet Autonomous Region in 1965, both Tibetan and Chinese have been used for resolutions, laws and regulations adopted by the people's congresses at all levels, and official documents and public notices of people's governments and subordinate departments at all levels. During judicial proceedings, Tibetan is used in hearing any case involving Tibetan people, and the written Tibetan language is used for legal papers. Both Tibetan and Chinese are used for official seals, credentials, forms, envelopes, letter paper, writing paper and signs of all entities; logos of government departments, factories and mines, schools, bus and train stations, airports, shops, hotels, restaurants, cinemas, tourist attractions, sports venues and libraries; as well as signs for streets and traffic.

Since its establishment, Tibetan People's Radio (TPR) has persisted in making good Tibetan radio programs. It now has 42 programs broadcast in standard Tibetan, including 21 hours a day for news in Tibetan, and 18 hours a day in the Kamba dialect. The TPR's annual capacity for dubbing Tibetan TV programs increased from 1,200 hours in 1996 to 9,235 hours in 2007. The Tibet Television Station formally opened a Tibetan satellite TV channel in 1999. With 21 Tibetan programs, and films and TV dramas dubbed in Tibetan, it is very popular among people of all ethnic groups in Tibet. Since October 1, 2007, Tibet satellite TV has been broadcasting 24 hours a day. Films and TV dramas dubbed in Tibetan reached 500 hours (639 episodes) in 2007, including 564 copies of films and 35 programs. Every year 25 new films dubbed in Tibetan are shown in farming and pastoral areas.

Tibetan book, newspaper and periodical publication is developing rapidly. There are nine publishing houses in China that publish books in Tibetan, including China Tibetology Publishing House, Ethnic Publishing House, Tibet People's Publishing House and Tibetan Ancient Books Publishing House. They publish more than 1,000 titles in Tibetan every year. Many ancient Tibetan books previously kept in private libraries or with only one copy still existing have been collated by experts, and then published and distributed. At present, there are 14 Tibetan periodicals and ten Tibetan newspapers in Tibet. Over 20 periodicals in China have Tibetan-language versions. The Tibetan version of Tibet Daily was expanded in July 2002 from 28 pages to 36 pages, and its daily circulation is now 25,000 copies. Tibetan newspapers and periodicals, such as Tibetan Science and Technology, Tibetan Scientific and Technological Information and A Guide to Help You Get Rich, are very popular among the farmers and herdsmen thirsty for scientific and technological knowledge in order to learn more and master good ways of improving their lives.

There are now over 4,000 art and literary workers in the region, with 90 percent being Tibetans. There are ten professional performing art groups, four children's performing art groups, 18 folk art troupes, over 500 amateur village art and literary teams, and 160 Tibetan opera teams. These art and literary groups create programs and perform in Tibetan, and often go deep into farming and pastoral areas.

The spoken and written Tibetan languages are developing in all respects. In 1984 a Tibetan-script processing system compatible with Chinese and English versions was developed, and so precise Tibetan-script photo typesetting was realized. In 1997, an international-standard Tibetan character code was approved by the International Standards Organization, making the Tibetan script the first ethnic minority script in China with an international standard. At present, a Tibetan grammar framework and a grammar system have been set up for automatic machine processing in Tibet, and the work to enable automatic word segmentation and chunking identification of texts in the Tibetan script by machine is under way. A machine-based Tibetan-Chinese dictionary (120,000 entries) has been completed, while an electronic dictionary of Tibetan grammar needed for machine translation has been set up, laying a solid foundation for passing down, spreading and carrying forward Tibetan culture in the information age.

The application of computer technology and wide use of the Internet have provided a new platform for the learning, use and development of the Tibetan language. An advanced Tibetan-script editorial system, laser photo typesetting system and electronic publishing system developed independently in China have been widely applied in the press and publication field of Tibet. Through Tibetan platforms on the Internet and mobile phones, Tibetans can browse, read, listen to or watch domestic and world news and get access to various kinds of information. Tibetan has also been widely adopted for postal and telecommunications services in Tibet, including Tibetan telegrams, Tibetan paging and Tibetan SMS. The advent of an identification system for Tibetan documents marked the prelude to a campaign to apply Tibetan script identification in the digitalization of the Tibetan language.

The standardization of Tibetan has also made great progress. In 2005 the Rules on Translating New Words and Terms and Using Borrowed Words was drawn up. Altogether, over 3,500 Tibetan terms concerning the market economy and primary and high school education were approved and standardized, nearly 60,000 scientific and technological terms were approved, and over 8,000 terms concerning computer interfacing were translated and approved. Over the years, many Tibetan dictionaries and other language reference books have been published, including A Tibetan Dictionary by Geshe Chosta, A Comprehensive Tibetan Dictionary, A Tibetan-Chinese Spoken Dictionary, Chinese-Tibetan Glossary, Tibetan-Chinese Glossary, A Tibetan-Chinese Dictionary, A Tibetan-Chinese Dictionary of the Market Economy and A Tibetan-Chinese Law Dictionary. In addition, a Plan for Standardizing the Tibetan Language has been drafted, while the work to collect and collate materials for the Standard Manual for Transliterating Tibetan Personal Names into Chinese Characters has been completed.

II. Inheritance, Protection and Promotion of Tibetan Cultural Heritage

Tibetan cultural heritage is an important part of Chinese cultural heritage. The Central People's Government sets great store by the protection and development of traditional Tibetan culture, devoting a great amount of human, financial and material resources through legal, economic and administrative means to ensure the inheritance, promotion and development of the fine traditional culture of Tibet on the basis of effective protection.

Effective protection of historical sites and cultural relics. Since the Democratic Reform in 1959, the Central People's Government has attached great importance to the protection of cultural relics in Tibet by providing vigorous support in terms of policy, human and financial resources, and technology. As a result, institutions of cultural relics administration in Tibet have become more complete; the cultural relics protection system further improved, the cultural relics preservation contingent constantly strengthened; the cultural relics preservation system gradually improved; and the capability in the study and protection of cultural relics continuously enhanced. So far, the Tibet Autonomous Region has promulgated a dozen regulations, including the Regulations on the Protection of Cultural Relics, Interim Provisions on the Administration of Cultural Relics in Monasteries, Regulations on Fire Prevention at Historical Sites, Interim Provisions on the Administration of Scattered Cultural Relics and the Measures for the Protection and Administration of the Potala Palace. These regulations have brought the protection of cultural relics in Tibet into the orbit of legalization and standardization.

The state has made two systematic surveys of cultural relics in Tibet (a third survey is currently underway), and a detailed survey of the relics scattered along the Tibetan section of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway Line. As a result, the overall distribution, quantity and status quo of various kinds of cultural relics and sites have become clear, enabling endangered historical sites and relics to have been timely saved, excavated, sorted out and repaired; and over 20,000 widely scattered relics have been collected and put in museums. By the end of 2006, there were at least 2,330 registered historical sites of various types in the region, among which 329 had been put under different levels of protection, including 35 key ones under state protection, 112 under regional protection, and 182 under the protection of cities and counties. The Potala Palace is on UNESCO's World Cultural Heritage list, and the Jokhang Temple and the Norbulingka have been included in its extended items. The cities of Lhasa, Xigaze and Gyangze are listed as national famous historical and cultural cities. Hundreds of thousands of cultural relics are now in the collection of museums in Tibet, among which over 10,000 are state-class ones.

Since the 1980s, the state has allocated a huge amount of funds to protectively repair key cultural relics sites in Tibet, restoring and opening a large group of key historical sites to the public. In the last two decades of the 20th century, the Central People's Government invested more than 300 million yuan to help Tibet renovate and open to the public over 1,400 monasteries, and to conduct scientific excavations of such Neolithic sites as Karup in Qamdo, Chokong in Lhasa, and Trango in Shannan Prefecture, thus filling blanks in the archeological studies of prehistoric Tibet. Key protection and repair measures have been adopted for the Jokhang Temple, the monasteries of Tashilhunpo, Sakya, Samye, Champa Ling, Shalu and Palkhor Chode, Mount Dzong (Dzongri) Anti-British Monument in Gyangze County, and the Norbulingka. In particular, from 1989 to 1994 the Central People's Government allocated 55 million yuan and a great amount of gold, silver and other precious materials for the renovation of the Potala Palace. In 2001, a special fund of 330 million yuan was apportioned to repair the Potala Palace, the Norbulingka and the Sakya Monastery. During 2006-2010, the central government has allocated 570 million yuan for the repair and protection of 22 key cultural relics sites in Tibet. Such a colossal investment and large-scale renovation were unprecedented in China's history of cultural relics protection. In recent years, the China Association for the Preservation and Development of Tibetan Culture and other non-governmental organizations have come into being, and are playing a vigorous role in promoting the protection of Tibetan culture as well as its development.

Effective protection, inheritance and development of the intangible Tibetan cultural heritage. Since the 1970s, a group of institutions have been set up at regional and prefectural (city) levels to rescue, sort out and research Tibetan cultural heritage. They have conducted extensive surveys on Tibetan folk literature and art, and collected, sorted out and studied literature and art materials widely spread among Tibetans in aspects of drama, dance, music, ballads, folk songs, proverbs and folk tales. These efforts have resulted in the collection and collation of about 30 million words of written materials in the Tibetan and Han languages, over 1,000 academic papers on traditional Tibetan culture, and more than 30 research works on literature and art. Since 2003, the Central People's Government and the People's Government of the Tibet Autonomous Region have launched and implemented a project for intangible cultural heritage protection. Leading groups and special offices for this purpose have been set up at regional and prefectural (city) levels to conduct more extensive and thorough investigations throughout the region, and to effectively save and preserve endangered cultural heritage items. A total of 19 townships have been named by the region as "homes of folk arts"; 120 items listed as representative works of region-level intangible cultural heritage, with 61 on the national intangible cultural heritage list; and 31 people placed on the list of representatives for national intangible cultural heritage. A large number of ancient Tibetan books and records have been saved from oblivion. The completion of the Tibetan volumes in the 10-tome series, including the Annals of Chinese Operas, A Collection of Chinese Folk Ballads, A Collection of Folk Dances of China's Ethnic Groups, A Collection of Chinese Proverbs, A Collection of Folk Performing Art Genres, A Collection of Folk Songs of China's Ethnic Groups, A Collection of Traditional Operas and Music and A Collection of Folk Tales, has put an end to the history of scanty records of Tibetan culture and art, and enabled a large number of major items of the Tibetan cultural heritage to be saved and protected in an effective way. The Life of King Gesar, a lengthy epic, had been passed down orally until the state placed it on the key scientific research project list. The state has set up a special body and earmarked special funds for the collection, collation and publishing of the masterpiece. So far, 5,000 hours of audiotapes have been recorded, over 300 volumes collected, with the publication of 120 volumes in the Tibetan language, 25 volumes in Mongolian, over 20 volumes in Han Chinese translation, and 20 monographs; and many volumes have been translated into English, Japanese and French.

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