Hundreds of soldiers and police deployed around Kumbum Monastery during key religious festival
Video obtained by Free Tibet shows hundreds of armed troops deployed outside a prominent Tibetan monastery during a major Buddhist festival.
Soldiers and police lined outside the front of Kumbum Monastery in Amdo on 11 February in a show of force during Monlam Chenmo – the Great Prayer Festival.
Monlam Chenmo is one of the most significant events of the year in the Gelugpa school of Buddhism and Tibetans travel great distances to attend its prayer rituals.
This is not the first time that such a large detachment of security forces has been deployed at Kumbum Monastery during Monlam Chenmo. In 2015, an intimidating and obstructive military presence disrupted the festivities. One Tibetan said: “I was so afraid that I forgot to pray", while another wondered whether they were “supposed to watch the army or watch the prayer festival".
According to Chinese state media, some 20,000 people gathered at the monastery this year to see its annual display of butter sculptures.
Butter sculptures, a series of statues representing Buddha, human figures, landscape, animals, plants, and mystical stories, are a speciality of the monks of Kumbum.
The practice of crafting these statues out of butter dates back hundreds of years and Tibetans take pride in the combination of geometry, colouring, ornaments and sculpture required to create the intricate designs. The sculptures attract thousands of devotees from across the Tibetan plateau and from China.
Some of the designs can be seen below.
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