China builds museum for family's ancient Tibet encyclopedia 2009-03-18 20:53:51   Print

Special Report: Focus on Tibet

    YUSHU, Qinghai, March 18 (Xinhua) -- Kunsong Dechong, a 25-year-old Tibetan, will see a dream fulfilled when a 1,000-year-old Tripitaka (Tibetan Encyclopedia) her family has protected for decades moves into a new, government-built museum.

    Dechong is a member of the ancient Dongtsang family in China's Qinghai Province, whose ancestor was said to be one of the 30 generals of the legendary King Gesar. The Tripitaka kept by his family was recognized as the oldest and most complete version preserved by ordinary people.

Gesum Dyzong, an offspring of Dongtsang Family, shows the scriptures of the Tripitaka on March 16, 2009. (Xinhua/ Yang Shoude)
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    The museum, a two-story Tibetan-style building, cost nearly 1 million yuan (about 150,000 U.S. dollars) and covers 456 square meters. Nestled on a hillside in Gyegu Township, Yushu Tibetan Prefecture, the south-facing building looks like a Tibetan monastery with its red walls.

    The building is the first built by the government for an ordinary Tibetan collector. The government has also allocated more than 5 million yuan since 2003 for preservation of the books.

    The volumes "are an exceptionally precious cultural heritage in our country," said Gama Thugar, head of the Yushu Cultural Relics Bureau.


Gesum Dyzong, an offspring of Dongtsang Family, makes preparations for having the Tripitaka moved into the newly-built family museum on March 16, 2009. (Xinhua/ Yang Shoude)
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    "The Tripitaka is a religious treasure, so the museum was built to look like a monastery," Dechong said. She said interior decoration was still being completed and the museum would open to visitors after the entire collection was moved in. She said she didn't know exactly when that would happen.

    The Tripitaka comprises sutras, poems, art and scientific knowledge. The Tripitaka has more than 700 volumes made of cowhide, birch bark or black, blue or green traditional Tibetan paper with golden and silver powder, vermilion markings and ink. The bindings are carved or incised with traditional patterns or words of the Om Mani Padme Hum, the most common prayer in Tibetan Buddhism.

    The Tripitaka was formerly kept in an abandoned village house, before being moved to a wood-and-earth house in Gyegu Township in 1995 by Dongtsang Pomo, who is Dechong's father.


Gesum Dyzong and her father are tidying out the scriptures of the Tripitaka before having them moved into the newly-built family museum on March 9. 2009. (Xinhua/ Yang Shoude)
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    Dechong recalled hardship and their struggles to keep the books.

    "In the past, there was no electricity and people used ghee lamps," she said. During the Cultural Revolution, they feared that the books would be confiscated, so they slept beside them. A third of the encyclopedia was destroyed in a fire at one point.

    "Many of the remaining volumes were decayed, worn out or damaged by moths," she said.

    Dechong said that the Tripitaka is by no means a mere classic to Tibetan people. "It is seen as a sacred text that could protect us," she said.

    "After the building was completed last year, many people, mostly Tibetans, came to ask us when the books would be moved into the museum," Dechong said. All she can tell them is, "I hope they go to their new home as soon as possible."

Editor: Lu Yanan
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