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Beijing bids for the heart of Tibet

The passive resistance of Tibet’s Buddhists has caused China’s communist regime headaches, Hamish McDonald reports from Lhasa.

On benches topped with thick floral carpets, shaven-headed teenage boys in yellow woollen cloaks chant Buddhist sutras, led by abbots patrolling the aisles gesturing with bunches of smoking incense sticks.

When each psalm ends there is silence until a bass rumble comes from an elderly lama on a raised throne in the shadows. Quickly, the young monks begin another chant.

The light from flickering wicks in bowls of butter catch rich colours in cloth hangings and glints of gold on effigies. After the sutra study, the boys sip butter tea, then put on yellow hats as they file out to play in the courtyard before disappearing to dormitories.

The ritual may be as it has been for centuries. But deep unease and shame hang over Tashilhunpo after a long dispute with Chinese communist authorities that has torn out the monastery’s heart.

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