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Local Colleges Monumental in Tibet's Culture

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 02/07/30; July 30, 2002.]

People's Daily - Commentary [Official news agency fof the PRC]
July 29, 2002

The graduation of the first group of postgraduates from colleges in Tibet Autonomous Region has proved that local institutions of higher learning have become sacred sites where traditional Tibetan culture is carried forward and developed.

The 10 postgraduates, all Tibetans, completed their post-graduate studies and were awarded graduation and master's degree certificates on July 17. They majored in Tibetology, the history of the Tibetan ethnic group, Tibetan language and Tibetan medicine-- which constitute the core of Tibetan culture -- over the past three years. Their success shows that Tibetans can promote and carry forward their traditional culture in pace with the times.

This was unimaginable in the past, however. Before the peaceful liberation of Tibet in 1951, there was not a single school in Tibet in a modern sense and education was only a tool controlled and manipulated by temples, with some people taught in private schools. Tibetan culture and art were made to cater to the nobles and high officials, and the feudal serfdom shackled the spread and growth of fine Tibetan culture.

King Gesar, the longest epic poem in the world, was then only handed down orally by folk ballad singers, who, at the bottom of the social ladder, could only make a living by singing the story of King Gesar, the legendary hero of the Tibetan ethnic group. Butthe ballad-singing was regarded by the nobles as "beggars' hurly-burlies".

For a prolonged historical period, many fine aspects of Tibetanculture ceased to develop and some were on the verge of extinction.

Historical records show that in old Tibet, there were only a few schools for monks and high officials and few private schools, with less than 3,000 students at most. Among ordinary Tibetans, less than two percent of the school-age children were at school, with the illiteracy rate standing at over 90 percent.

The founding of the Qamdo primary school, with the help of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), in March 1951, marked the emergence of modern schooling in Tibet. In the ensuing half century, the Chinese central government helped Tibet set up a comprehensive modern education system covering elementary education, the education of pre-school children and adults, vocational and higher education.

Tibet's first school of higher learning, which focuses on fostering and training local Tibetan cadres, was set up in 1958. Tibet Gongxue (Public School) provides not only liberal education courses, but also courses of Tibetan ethnic culture. Tibetan language has remained a required course for all those studying in the school over the past four decades and more.

Tibet University, the first multiversity in Tibet, offers such courses as the Tibetan language, Tibetan art and the history of the Tibetan ethnic group. More than 10,000 students, 85 percent ofwhom are of Tibetan and other ethnic groups, have graduated from the university since its establishment in 1985.

With an aim to develop and carry forward traditional Tibetan medicine, the College of Tibetan Medicine was founded with the assistance of the central government. The college has become the largest and most authoritative educational institution of Tibetan medicine in China.

Tibetan experts and scholars have made marked achievements in the study of Tibetology, the history of the Tibetan ethnic group, Tibetan Buddhism, Tibetan culture, art, music and relations with other parts of China, and the epic King Gesar in addition to theircontributions to educating university students over past decades.

Tibet University and the College of Tibetan Medicine opened post-graduate courses on the history, languages and art of China'sethnic groups, and a course in the Tibetan medicine starting 1998.

The founding and development of colleges and universities in Tibet signify the real revival of the cultural consciousness of the Tibetan ethnic group. Tibet's colleges and universities have become major venues for people to systematically study, sort out and carry forward the traditional Tibetan culture. They also serveas important bridges through which traditional Tibetan culture is mingled with the process of modernization and globalization.

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