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  • Home > News > Details
    Tibet to invest $75m on sky burial sites protection

    LHASA - Southwest China's Tibet will spend 490 million yuan ($75 million dollars) over the next five years on the repair and protection of sites for the traditional Tibetan funeral practice of sky burial, local authorities said Wednesday.

    Sky burial is a Tibetan and Mongolian ceremony, whereby the dead are fed to predatory birds, in place of cremation, so that their souls may ascend to heaven.

    In total 156 sky burial sites will receive funding. The regional government will invest 165 million yuan this year on 47 sky burial sites, mostly close to a lamasery. Each site will be assigned up to 5 million yuan, which will finance repair and protection work, according to the regional civil affairs department.

    Wild dogs, burial waste, bumpy roads and a lack of facilities for mourners are affecting the practice, said Xu Jiali, deputy head of the regional civil affairs department who visited 60 sky burial sites during the preliminary investigation.

    The funding will cover the construction of roads, fences, reception rooms, mortuaries and furnaces to burn waste, said Xu.

    Xu said the authorities are also mulling legislation on sky burials.

    "The government is committed to protecting this tradition," said Dachung, an academic at Tibet Autonomous Regional Academy of Social Sciences.

    Pawo Samtenling Nunnery, built some 400 years ago in Qonggyai County, is one of the first recipients of the program. It is expected to be a model of the protection project, said Champa Drolkar, a principal nun at the nunnery.

    The nunnery has a 1.4 kilometer fenced-off enclosure for some 100 vultures, two dedicated rooms for mourners to rest and for the bodies to await sky burial. In addition, a waste storage tank was installed for the burial waste.

    "A fence alone is not enough to prevent the wild dogs from entering the site," said Sonam Rigzin, head of the civil affairs bureau of Shannan City, which administers Qonggyai County.

    At least one body is interred every day, sometimes three or four, according to Champa Drolkar.

    A dozen nuns help with the ceremony on rotation, with two to a team. They chant sutras for the deceased, summon the vultures and clear the burial waste, said Champa Drolkar.

    Namgyal, 68, said he will definitely choose the sky burial.

    "The protection of sky burial sites is very important," he said.

    © Copyright 2017 Invest in Shannan
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