Religion & Culture

The Preservation and Development of Tibetan Culture

Updated: 2011-11-16 17:06

The Preservation and Development of Tibetan Culture


Deputy Inspector of the Culture Department and Deputy Director of the Cultural Relics Bureau of the Tibetan Autonomous Region

The Tibetan ethnic group lives on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau for generations. During its long history, through the cultural exchange and integration with other Chinese ethnic groups including the Han and some nationalities in South and West Asia, the ethnic group developed rich and colorful culture with distinctive characteristics and in various forms. However, due to some special natural and historical reasons, until the 1950s, Tibet remained a society of feudal serfdom under theocracy, in which monks and nobles practiced dictatorship. The long centuries of theocratic rule and feudal serfdom stifled the vitality of Tibetan society, and brought about the decline and decay of Tibetan culture. Since the peaceful liberation of Tibet, both China's central government and governments at all levels in Tibet have attached great importance to the development of Tibetan culture. A great amount of human, material and financial resources were allocated to protect and promote the excellent traditional culture of the Tibetan ethnic group and vigorously develop modern science education and cultural undertakings. Tibetan culture has hence enjoyed unprecedented protection and development.

Great importance has been attached to guaranteeing the Tibetan people's right to learn, use and develop the Tibetan language. A member of the Han-Tibetan language family, Tibetan has been an important symbol and carrier of Tibetan culture. It holds a special place among the diverse languages and cultures of the Chinese nation. For sixty years since the peaceful liberation of Tibet, the Chinese government has attached great importance to guaranteeing the Tibetan people's right to learn and use the Tibetan language, and has made huge efforts in promoting its study, use and development. Now, Tibetan schools have adopted bilingual teaching in Tibetan and Chinese. The region hosts 14 Tibetan magazines, 10 Tibetan newspapers, a special Tibetan radio station and a Tibetan satellite TV channel which broadcasts 24 hours a day. In 1984, a Tibetan-script processing system compatible with its Chinese and English counterparts was developed, paving way for the realization of precise Tibetan-script photo typesetting. In 1997, the International Standards Organization approved an international-standard Tibetan character code, making the Tibetan script the first ethnic minority script in China with an international standard, greatly carrying forward Tibetan culture in the information age.

Historical sites and cultural relics have been effectively protected. 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 for administrating cultural relics in Tibet became more equipped, and the preservation system for cultural relics gradually improved. Government officials made three systematic surveys of cultural relics in Tibet, giving transparency to the overall distribution, quantity and status quo of various kinds of cultural relics and sites. This led to the timely identification and repair of endangered historical sites and relics. The total fund allocated for repairs has reached 1.4 billion yuan. There are currently more than 4,277 historical sites of various types in the region, among which 35 are key ones under state protection, 224 under regional protection, more than 400 under the protection of cities and counties, and three identified as national famous historical and cultural cities. 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 intangible cultural heritage has been inherited and developed. The central government has established a number of education & training bases and research institutions including Tibet University, the China Tibetology Research Center and the Tibet Academy of Social Sciences. A group of institutions were set up at the regional level to rescue, sort out and research on the Tibetan cultural heritage. They have collected, sorted out and published the Tibetan volumes in the 10-tome series, including "The Annals of Chinese Operas," "A Collection of Folk Dances of China's Ethnic Groups" and "A Collection of Chinese Folk Ballads." Protection of the intangible cultural heritage has been carried out in all its aspects. There are currently 406 intangible cultural heritage projects, 83 organizations for traditional opera performance and 1,177 masters of cultural arts in Tibet. Tibetan opera and the epic "The Life of King Gesar" have been listed as representatives of U.N.'s intangible cultural heritage; 76 projects, including traditional Tibetan medicine, folk art and the Sholton Festival, have been labeled as representatives of national intangible cultural heritage; 53 masters of cultural arts have been included in the representative list of persons who inherited national intangible cultural heritage.

A fairly complete network of public cultural facilities took shape. Governments at all levels in Tibet insisted on taking the enrichment of people's spiritual and cultural life as an important aspect of improving people's livelihood, and vigorously carried out cultural projects that benefit the people. Their efforts contributed to the complete coverage of comprehensive cultural centers and county-level sharing of cultural information and resources. The radio and TV coverage rate has reached 90.3 percent and 91.4 percent, respectively. There are now 6 public art centers, 4 libraries, 3 museums, 3,245 bookstores for farmers, 10 professional performance troupes as well as 500-odd amateur performance and Tibetan opera teams. Eighty percent of the administrative villages in the region host viewings of digital films. Also, there are facilities such as the art center for Tibetan opera, cultural centers for women and children, cultural centers for the old and cultural parks for children in rural areas. A network of grassroots cultural facilities is taking shape, with prefecture-level and city-level public art and cultural centers as the lead, county-level comprehensive cultural centers as the link, and township-level cultural centers and village-level culture rooms and halls as the base. Fundamental cultural rights for people of all ethnic groups are effectively guaranteed.

Cultural exchanges between Tibet and the rest of the world continues to enhance. With Tibet's increasing opening-up, cultural exchanges and cooperation between Tibet and the rest of the world have become more and more vigorous. More than 360 Tibetan cultural and performing art delegations, totaling almost 4,000 people, visited over 50 countries and regions including the United States, Austria, Chile, India and Taiwan. They came to more than 110 overseas cities for cultural exchange, gave performances and held cultural relics exhibitions. Meanwhile, experts, scholars and performing artists from all over the world also visit Tibet for exchange and cooperation every year.

Tibetan culture, with its unique charm, is attracting the attention from home and abroad. We can say that Tibetan culture's protection, prosperity and development today is greater than in any point in history. During the 12th Five-Year Plan, Tibetan culture will welcome a new development period. The Central People's Government and the Tibet Autonomous Regional Government will focus on building Tibet into "the important base for protection of culture with Chinese national features." They will also insist on listing culture construction in the overall plan for economic and social development. The plan will enhance investment and carry out a group of key cultural projects to establish a public cultural service system, protect cultural relics, create cultural and art works, and develop the cultural industry. Among them, the planned project for the protection of cultural relics in Tibet will receive funds of more than 1.7 billion yuan. As a cultural worker, I have full confidence in the future of Tibetan culture.

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