Kharnang region is one of the remotest areas of eastern Tibet. It is situated at about 4000m above sea level in the Yushu prefecture and about 725km from Xining, the capitol city of Qinghai province. Yushu city is about 80 km from Kharnang and is the main center for trade and commerce.
Yushu prefecture is spread over a 26,000 sq. km. area. It's total population is 270,000 people, 90% of whom are Tibetans. Kharnang region is inhabited by 1,215 nomadic Tibetan families. The height and remoteness of the region make it heighly secluded and almost inaccessible during the winter.
The climatic condition in this region in particular is very inhospitable. The year is divided into four seasons each comprising of 3 months. Summer is very pleasant with temperatures ranging from 15 to 25 degrees celcius (59 to 77 degrees fahrenheight). This is an eagerly awaited time of year and coincides with several festivals. The Gosang festival is the most prominent of these and is celebrated with horse racing.
Many varieties of flowers blossom on the hill slopes and this, combined with the pleasant weather, attracts many tourists to the region. Winter covers the entire region with snow as deep as two feet and the temperature falls to -28 to -40 degrees celcius (20 to 40 below zero fahrenheight).
The people of Kharnang are predominantly nomads and follow a very traditional lifestyle. Their livelihod is entirely dependent on their livestock and their dairy products. Their primary diet consists of meat, roasted barley flour, butter, milk and cheese. During the summer, they migrate two or three days horseback to the higher mountains. There is no running water or electricity in the kharnang region. The lack of clean water has resulted in disease outbreaks, and the lack of electricity limits when doctors can see patients or study.
Kharnang Monastery lies in the heart of the region and is the only monastery in the region. The monastery was established centuries ago by then Kharnang Yangtul Rinpoche. Prior to the cultural revolution, the monastery housed more than 700 monks studying various levels of tibetan literature and buddhist philosophies. It had an Institute of Higher Buddhist Education including a sutra and tantra college. It was one of the largest monasteries in the Zaghukha area in those days. During the cultural revolution the monastery was completely destroyed, including the Golden Maitreya statue.
In 1981, the Chinese government authorized the re-institution of the monastery. It started with 30 monks, now there are about 400. The monastery is headed by H. E. the XIth Kharnang Yangtul Rinpoche.
The community pays tremendous respect to the monastery and to the office of H. E. Kharnang Yangtul Rinpoche. The monastery plays a vital and constructive role in the social and spiritual development of the people of the region. Monastic education remains the main source of education in the region. Considering the problems and difficulties faced by the people of this region, monastery administration under the guidance of H. E. Kharnange Yangtul Rinpoche has shouldered the responsibility of undertaiking six principle projects.
1. Language and Grammar School for Small Monks:
There are around 100 young monks in Kharnang monastery. They are divided into four sections, each with a teacher of Tibetan grammar and recitations.
As of now, they do not have a classroom. Classes are taught in open air, which can be a hinderance especially when it is raining or snowing. Students catch cold and many develop skin conditions due to constant exposure to the sun and cold. There is a genuine and urgent need to for a school wherein classes may be conducted more comfortably.
The estimated cost of this project (construction and recurring staff salaries) are:
2. Institute of Higher Buddhist Education:
An institute of learning is of prime importance for the development and enriching of human knowledge and understanding. Around 300 monks are currently studying higher Buddhist philosophical texts. There are no classrooms or buildings for them to use while carrying out their studies. Daily lessons are usually taught in the teachers quarters, which are very small and not well ventilated.
Since there are no schools for higher buddhist studies in the region, this institute will also serve as the center for higher education for monks from neighboring monasteries.
The project details and estimated costs are:
3. Reconstruction of Golden Maitreya statue:
One of our prominent projects is to reconstruct the Golden Maitreya Statue which was destroyed during the cultural revolution in 1965. The people of the region consider it one of the most sacred and highly revered shrines. The construction of the Maitreya Hall is almost completed but the paintings are yet to be finished. Also the metalwork and ornamentation of the statue have been placed on hold due to insufficient funds. Upon completion, this will be the second tallest Maitreya statue in Tibet.
4. Kharnang health care center:
Due to the remoteness of the area, the health care needs of the Kharnang people have been overlooked by the regional and national administrations. Kharnang has no modern health care facilities or qualified medical practitioners. Presently, the medical needs of the region are being tended by a monk who has recieved only minimal health training.
When the people of Kharnang get sick, they must travel to Yushu which is about 80km from their tents. Seriously ill patients sometimes die on the way to the monastery, and treatments can easily consume the annual income of an entire family. Many people are illiterate and purchase expired medications which can cause complications.
Post natal and infant mortality rates are very high. Women travel to town to give birth, and sometimes births occur during the journey. Complications often lead to the death of the child, mother, or both.
This project has been started. The ground floor of the Kharnang Health Care center has been constructed under the sponsorship of the A.R.T. association.
5. Welfare for the old and infirm:
The elderly living in the Kharnang region face the largest problems. They are unable to stay with their families, who must move their camps depending on the availability of vegitation for their animals. Tranditionally, the elderly take shelter at a nearby monastery which also enables them to worship more easily.
There are currently about 60 elderly people residing near the monastery in very poor conditions and who currently have to look after themselves.
$65,000.00 for the construction of a facility for elderly people, including:
We also need food allowances of $20.00 each per month for about 60 elderly people.
6. Water and Electricity:
There is no water or electrical supply in the region. Any help or support in this regard will be highly appreciated.
The problems faced by the people of Kharnang region have remained unsolved until now because no official level of administration has ever come forward to undertake development projects in the region. These communities rely heavily upon the monastery to solve every major problem. The clergy is paying attention to all of their major problems. But due to the lack of sufficient financial basis and support, we hav not been able to solve their problems entirely. As the spiritual head of the monastery, I have a responsibility to attend to their basic problems, and it is my sincere hope to see our projects launched for the betterment of our community.
These projects will be successful with your generous help and support.
I, therefore, appeal to all generous and kindhearted people to make your valuable contributions and extend your support in making these above mentioned projects a reality.
His Eminence Kharnang yantul Rinpoche
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