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New Railway to Make Travel Easier for Tibetan Lamas

Dressed in their saffron-colored robes, the two Tibetan lamas, Jayang Qoipei and Tubdain Namgyai, stand out in the crowd of monks clad in yellow.


Their language, their look and even their names say they are different from the other monks. Jayang and Tubdain have traveled from their Tibetan monasteries to study in Shanghai's Yufo (Jade Buddha) Monastery.


The trip to Shanghai is Jayang and Tubdain's first off the plateau and a voyage of such a distance is quite rare for Tibetan lamas. That won't be the case for much longer as many more lamas are soon expected to travel east when the Qinghai-Tibet Railway starts running on July 1.


An expected side benefit of the first rail link between Tibet and the rest of China will bring closer between Buddhists in Tibet and other Chinese regions.


"If we and Tibetan Buddhists can work more closely we can do a good job in boosting the development of Buddhism in modern times," says Jue Xing, abbot of Yufo Monastery based in Shanghai's downtown Putuo District.


Jayang, from Yushu Country in northwest China's Qinghai Province, and Tubdain, from Shannan Prefecture of southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, are taking immersion courses at the Jade Buddha Monastery.


"We hope the new railway will bring more modern technologies, as well as a broader view of the world," said Tubdain. "More exchanges and better communication are needed in Tibet," he said.


"Jayang Qoipei and I have been here at Jade Buddha Monastery for more than three months to recite holy scriptures and pray before Buddhas with resident monks here," said Tubdain Namgyai adding, "There's never enough time for studies." The two Tibetan lamas will stay in Jade Buddha Monastery for a year.


"I'm amazed that every day thousands of tourists swarm to Jade Buddha Monastery, but there is always good order at the monastery, " said Jayang Qoipei.


Unlike lamas at Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, the 120 monks with the Jade Buddha Monastery don't have to cook or clean or sell tickets, which are done by an outside management company. This means the monks and the lamas can devote more time to studying.


Master Jue Xing, vice chairman of the China Buddhist Association, says traveling to and from Tibet was never easy or it was very expensive to fly. The new railway, he says, means it will now be much easier for young monks and lamas to get together.


"Tibet remains a mystic shrine of Buddhism to many monks living in interior area of China, while Tibetan lamas who live in west China don't know much about Chinese Buddhism. They also don't know much about reforms and innovations made by some monasteries in the interior that have allowed Buddhism to adapt and develop in modern times," said the abbot.

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