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New museum willhold rare Tripitaka

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, from China's Qinghai Province, whose ancestor was said to be one of the 30 generals of the legendary King Gesar. The 700 surviving volumes of the Tripitaka saved by his family is considered the oldest and most complete version held by ordinary people.

The museum, a two-story Tibetan-style building, cost nearly 1 million yuan (US$150,000) and covers 456 square meters.

Nestled on a hillside in Gyegu Township, Yushu Tibetan Prefecture, the building is the first built by the government for an ordinary Tibetan collector. The government has also spent 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.

Religious treasure

"The Tripitaka is a religious treasure so the museum was built to look like a monastery," Dechong said.

She said the 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, 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 Tibetan prayer Om Mani Padme Hum.

The Tripitaka was kept in an abandoned village house before being moved to a wooden house in Gyegu Township in 1995 by Dongtsang Pomo, Dechong's father.

Dechong recalled the struggle to keep the books. "In the past, there was no electricity and people used ghee lamps," she said. During the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) they feared that the books would be confiscated so they slept beside them. A third of the encyclopedia was destroyed in a fire. "Many of the remaining volumes were decayed, worn out or damaged by moths."


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