High Peaks Pure Earth (with a sweet new trilingual layout, by the way) has yet more from Woeser’s travels. In “Nyarong County’s Gonpo Namgyal” she describes a famous Khampa from the area, while in “Tibetan Buddhist Gatherings Worship a Portrait of His Holiness” she writes about the huge gathering in Lithang last summer:
On the bumpy road leading from Nyarong to Lithang, I used my mobile phone to note a few sentences describing my feelings at the time: road inspection points have been set up in every county, there are piles of ordinary and armed police forces registering people’s ID cards in a suspicious manner. The ordinary police are mainly Tibetans, whereas the armed police are basically Han Chinese. In Gyangpa township, Lithang County, we stopped to take pictures, the police car that was always following us stopped right in front and waited, afraid that we would start a conversation with any local Tibetans.
Lithang Monastery (also called Tupchen Chökhor Ling Monastery) has a special meaning in the history of Tibet. In March 1956, the Chinese Communists who claimed to bring happiness to the Tibetan people, flew over Lithang and bombed the Monastery and on the ground they sent troops of the PLA that massacred monks and laymen; only in the 1980s did the monastery recover, albeit with great difficulties. I have been to Lithang Monastery many times but because we were being followed I discarded the thought of paying it another visit. This was probably sensible because otherwise I would have been subject to great analysis by concerned parties. Many days later, on the road when I was online and unexpectedly managed to “jump the great firewall”, I saw the following shocking news: On July 15 (precisely 2 weeks before we passed through Lithang) Lithang Monastery held the 4th Winter Buddhist Assembly, which was attended by thousands of monks from several hundred monasteries of different Buddhist Schools from Kham and Amdo. What made this one different from previous gatherings, however, was that at the beginning, during the prayers, a large portrait of His Holiness the Dalai Lama was revealed on the solemn altar; monks and devotees respectfully offered khatas, many with warm tears in their eyes. According to the report, prior to the assembly, many monks had revealed to the local government and public security department that a portrait of His Holiness would be worshipped during the meeting and that if this was stopped by the local authorities, they could not guarantee the smooth running of the event and protests may erupt.
He then moved on to express in a suppressed and low voice that could hardly cover up his excitement that the revival of traditional Tibetan Buddhism is already approaching and that during the critical and determinative times today, the efforts of many visionary Lamas from different Buddhist Schools have brought back to life the united religious movement that had been initiated over 200 years ago by the monasteries of Derge County, Kham.
Indeed, three months later, the 7th Kagyu Buddhist Assembly took place in Nangchen County, which is situated near Yushu; it was attended by 1500 monks from 35 different monasteries of different Buddhist Schools from Kham and Amdo. Once more, a large portrait of His Holiness the Dalai Lama was presented and most sincerely revered by practicing Buddhists and believers. Clearly, the portrait of His Holiness has already become a distinct symbol for the unification of monks from different religious schools and regions in Tibet.