The majority of Tibetans believe in Tibetan Buddhism. There are also about 2,000 Muslims and 600 Catholics in the autonomous region.
Respect for and protection of freedom of religious belief is a basic policy of the Chinese government. After the peaceful liberation of Tibet, organizations at all levels in Tibet earnestly carried out the policy, gaining the appreciation of both monks and lay people. Protected by the Constitution of the People's Republic of China and state laws, the Tibetan people now enjoy full freedom to participate in normal religious activities. Almost every religious family has a small sutra recitation hall or a niche for a Buddhist statue. More than 1 million worshipers make the pilgrimage to Lhasa each year. Sutra streamers and Mani stone mounds put up by devout believers can be seen everywhere in Tibet. Inside and outside famous monasteries such as the Jokhang are crowds of worshipers either prostrating in prayer, turning their prayer wheels or bowing to Buddhist statues.
During the period of the "cultural revolution" (1966-76),
however, in Tibet as in other parts of China, the policy on freedom of religious belief
was disrupted, and sites and facilities for religious activities were seriously damaged.
After the "cultural revolution" ended, the policy on freedom of religious belief
began to be implemented again in Tibet in an all-round way. Since 1980, unjust, false and
wrong cases have been redressed in Tibet and religious institutions have been reinstated
or established, and a great deal of work has been done to
In recent years, various religious organizations have organized
religious activities on their own. The Tibet branch of the Buddhist Association of China
established the Tibet College of Buddhism in 1983 and opened sutra studying classes in
some monasteries and temples of various religious sects. There are a total of 3,000 monk
students. Every year, a number of Living Buddhas and lamas are sent to the China Tibetan
Language High Institute of Buddhism in Beijing for advanced studies. In 1984, the
autonomous region's people's government presented the Lhasa edition of the Gangyur
of Tripitaka in Tibetan, which used to be kept in local archives, to the Tibet
Buddhist Association. It offered 500,000 yuan to the latter for
The government respects and protects traditional religious activities and the rites of the various sects. According to the rituals of Tibetan Buddhism and historical traditions, after a Living Buddha passes away his position should be inherited by his incarnation through traditional methods. On June 25, 1992, the central government confirmed the incarnate soul boy of the 16th Living Buddha Garmaba. Government department officials attend such religious activities as the annual Grand Summons Ceremony in Lhasa, the pilgrimage to Snow Mountain in the Year of the Horse, the pilgrimage to the Holy Lake of Nam Co in the Year of the Sheep and the Walking-Around-Religious-Rock Festival at the Razheng Monastery, and offer alms each time. Wedding and funeral customs with religious links also receive full regard.
Thanks to the earnest implementation of the policy on freedom of
religious belief, different religions, sects, monasteries,
Buddhist organizations and religious circles in Tibet have actively carried out friendly exchanges with their counterparts abroad. Since China introduced reform and opening up, the Tibet branch of the Buddhist Association of China and some monasteries and temples have organized religious groups to go on friendly tours, visits, inspections and academic exchanges abroad. They have also hosted more than 10,000 people from several dozen countries who came, either in groups or individually, on pilgrimage, or for sightseeing or inspection tours.
Since the peaceful liberation of Tibet in 1951, many noted religious
figures have worked in co-operation with the Chinese Communist Party and the government,
and participated in the management and discussion of government affairs. They have played
an active part in the construction of the country and Tibet, earning the admiration of the
people and winning the respect of the government. For several decades, the late 10th
Bainqen Erdeni Qoigyi Gyaincan, co-leader of Tibetan Buddhism with the Dalai Lama,
constantly adhered to a patriotic stand and made great contributions to the peaceful
liberation of Tibet, to the struggle against separatism, to the safeguarding of the
unification of the motherland and to the strengthening of the unity of various ethnic
groups. After the founding of the