Tibetan holy site hit by fire, streets reopen

BEIJING: Streets around Lhasa’s fire-hit Jokhang temple, one of the most sacred sites for Tibetan Buddhism, were reopened to pilgrims on Sunday after a blaze broke out the night before, Chinese state media said, but the extent of damage remained unclear. The official Xinhua news agency said the fire had erupted on Saturday evening in part of the more than 1,300-year-old Jokhang temple, but was soon put out. Images posted on social media of the blaze showed the caved roof of a section of the building lit with roaring yellow flames and emitting a haze of smoke. “The fire was quickly extinguished, there were no casualties and order is normal in the area,” said the state-run Tibet Daily, adding that Tibet’s top Communist party official Wu Yingjie had rushed to the scene.
Jokhang temple is a Unesco World Heritage Site which lies at the heart of old Lhasa.
The Barkhor — a bustling, shop-lined area surrounding Jokhang whose streets and square constitute one of the most important pilgrimage circuits for Tibetans — was temporarily closed after the fire but has been reopened, the state Xinhua news agency said on Sunday.
Prominent Tibetan writer Tsering Woeser said she was “very worried” about the state of the monastery.
“Tibetans consider Lhasa to be a sacred place, but Jokhang is a sacred place within that sacred place — the most sacred in all of Tibet,” she said.
SYDNEY: Passengers travelling on an Australian cruise line to the South Pacific have slammed the handling of the management after amass brawl by an «unruly» 23-member family who had to be offloaded. The Carnival Legend 10-day cruise turned into a nightmare with th “Some people say it’s only because of Jokhang that the holy city of Lhasa exists at all.”
“No matter where they are in the world, Tibetans all wish to come to Lhasa to pray at Jokhang; it’s the wish of a lifetime. Many who make pilgrimage to Lhasa prostrating do so just to visit the temple,” she added.
The area has been the site of past protests against Beijing’s presence in Tibet.
On Twitter, which is blocked in China, Tibetans abroad noted that photos and posts about the blaze were quickly being censored.
Robert Barnett, a London-based Tibetologist, tweeted that sources in Lhasa “claim police have threatened anyone distributing pictures or unofficial news about the fire.”
The incident comes as Tibetans across the country are celebrating Losar, the traditional Tibetan New Year that began on Friday, the same day as the Chinese lunar new year.
The temple had been closed to the public on Saturday, Xinhua reported, citing a schedule from local authorities from before the holiday began.
Jokhang monastery houses one of Tibetan Buddhism’s most venerated icons, the Jowo Shakyamuni — a statue believed to be one of just three crafted during the Buddha’s actual lifetime, depicting him at age 12.
It is also home to numerous other priceless cultural artefacts, including over 3,000 images of Buddhas, deities and historical figures as well as treasures and manuscripts, according to Unesco.
Many murals and other items were damaged during the Cultural Revolution, but much of its wooden architectural structure had remained intact over the centuries despite countless renovations, said Woeser. — AFP