BEIJING, Jan. 30 (Xinhua) -- The religious rights of Tibetans are duly protected in China, with ample sites for worship and intensified efforts to preserve their Buddhist culture, a noted Tibetan studies specialist said in a bylined article Thursday.
In his article, Li Decheng, a scholar with the Beijing-based China Tibetology Research Center, refuted a recent Human Rights Watch report that blamed China for suppressing Tibetan religious rights.
"Such accusations are groundless," said Li, who serves as director of the center's institute for religious studies.
Four weeks before the Tibetan new year, countless pilgrims were seen performing religious rituals at the foot of the Gangsrinpoche, widely revered as a sacred peak of the Kailas Mountain in the north of the Himalayas in Tibet's Ngari Prefecture.
"It's one of the Tibetan traditions duly preserved in Tibet Autonomous Region as well as in Tibetan-inhabited areas of the neighboring Sichuan, Qinghai, Gansu and Yunnan provinces," the article said.
In China, the Tibetans' faith is highly respected, thanks to state policies that allow religious freedom, the article said.
Tibet Autonomous Region alone has more than 1,700 religious sites and 46,000 Buddhist monks and nuns. An additional 1,800 monasteries operate in Tibetan communities in the four neighboring provinces, where monks and nuns totaled 100,000, it said.
Most of these monasteries were renovated or rebuilt after New China was founded in 1949, but have retained their unique Tibetan style.
Different schools of Tibetan Buddhism have set up separate research institutes at major monasteries: the Gelugpa based at Ganden Monastery near Lhasa, the Nyingmapa based at Dorjedrak and Mindroling monasteries, the Sakyapa at Sakya Monastery, and the Kagyupa at Tsurpu and Drigung Thil monasteries.
"These serve as centers of Tibetan Buddhism research, as well as worship venues for devout faithfuls," it said.
The clergy are free to preach Tibetan Buddhism and debate over the sutra, while all Tibetan Buddhists are free to perform observances at monasteries, holy mountains and lakes.
Tibetans are also encouraged to celebrate their traditional festivals, most of which carry Buddhist themes, the article said.
In the first month of the Tibetan new year, for example, Tibetans mark the "Monlam," or Great Prayer Festival. In the fourth month, they celebrate the Saga Dawa, the anniversary of Buddha's birth, enlightenment and death.
Many other important Tibetan festivals, such as the Shoton (yogurt banquet) Festival, Lhabab Duechen and Thangka unveiling festivals at major monasteries are also religious occasions.
The Chinese government's efforts to preserve Tibetan religion is also seen in its support for the compilation and publication of Tibetan Tripitaka, an ancient encyclopedia.
The Tripitaka is the earliest collection of Buddhist writings. The information contained in the writings was originally passed down orally, and was finally written down in the third century B.C.
The Tibetan Tripitaka was translated from the Sanskrit language of ancient India and contains two parts, the Gangyur and the Dangyur.
Meanwhile, many traditional Tibetan art forms, including three schools of Thangka painting and at least three forms of Tibetan Buddhist music, have been inscribed on the national list of intangible heritage for special preservation, the article said.
"These are all evidence that Tibetans' religious classics are under preservation and the Tibetans' religious rights are duly protected," it said.