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Buddhism Under Attack:. The Attempted Eradication of Buddhism in Tibet during the 9 th and 20 th Centuries. By: Selena Strandberg. http://library.thinkquest.org/10131/tibet.html. A Cyclical Pattern. Arrival of Dharma met with opposition

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buddhism under attack

Buddhism Under Attack:

The Attempted Eradication of Buddhism in Tibet during the 9th and 20th Centuries

By: Selena Strandberg


a cyclical pattern
A Cyclical Pattern
  • Arrival of Dharma met with opposition
  • Persecution of Buddhism - a cyclical pattern in many Asian nation-states
    • Destroyed/Revived
    • Cambodia, Japan
case studies
Case Studies
  • Cambodia
    • Initial establishment of Buddhism - 12th century
    • Struggled against the colonial powers
    • 1975 – Khmer Rouge actively persecutes the religion
  • Japan
    • Introduced from Korea in 552 CE
    • 17th century rise of Shinto and Confucianism
    • Ruler Mitsukuni contributed to destruction of the religion
  • Eradication under Lang Darma – 9th Century
  • Current Confliction & the 1959 Chinese Communist takeover


research question
Research Question
  • How does the 20th Century persecution of Tibetan Buddhism compare with the 9th Century persecution?
  • Compare and Contrast
  • Focus on:
    • The rulers who initiated the destruction
    • The type and extent of destruction
    • The possible motives of destruction
    • The consequences of destruction
    • The reaction of the people/how they were influenced
9 th century destruction
9th Century Destruction
  • Timeline for First Destruction of Buddhism
    • 836 – Lang Darma (b. c. 803) succeeds. Suppression of Buddhism in Central Tibet.
    • 842 – Assassination of Lang Darma. Succession contested. Break-up of Tibetan kingdom.

Snellgrove, David and Hugh Richardson. A Cultural History of Tibet. Boston: Shambhala Publications, Inc., 1995. 92-94. 288-289.

lang darma motives for destruction
Lang Darma – Motives for Destruction
  • Responsible for the assassination of Tri Ralpachen
  • Pro-Bon; anti-Buddhism
  • Motivated by jealousy and hatred of Buddhism


type and extent of destruction
Type and Extent of Destruction
  • Created anti-Buddhism laws
  • Persecuted monks and nuns
  • Executions
  • Closing of Temples
  • Defamed Buddha
  • Burned Sacred Texts
  • Damaged Shrines
  • Pro-Bon ministers appointed as leaders
  • Places of study destroyed
reaction of the people
Reaction of the People
  • Complied: sacrificed their religion
  • Refused to Comply: executed/tortured
  • Many fled Tibet
consequences of destruction
Consequences of Destruction
  • Buddhism nearly erased from Tibet for over 100 years
  • Destruction of many important texts/shrines


20 th century destruction
20th Century Destruction
  • Timeline for the 2nd Attempt at Destruction of Buddhism
  • 1949 – People’s Republic of China established. Begins focused effort on annihilation.
  • 1966 – 1976 – Cultural Revolution. Severe persecution.
  • 1976 – PRC leader Mao Zedong dies.
  • 1980 – Some religious reintegration is permitted, though highly restricted and monitored by the PRC.
  • 1996 – Strike Hard and Reeducation Campaigns initiated. Heavy restriction of religion.
  • Present – Continued tight control of religion and execution of political prisoners
motives for 20 th century destruction
Motives for 20th Century Destruction
  • Initiated by the Chinese Communist Party under the instruction of Mao Zedong
  • Tibetan religious cultural identity poses a threat to Chinese political power




type and extent of destruction1
Type and Extent of Destruction
  • Estimated only 13 of 6,000 monasteries remained in 1979
  • Monks and nuns tortured and executed
  • Refusal of the Chinese government to acknowledge religious leaders
  • Reeducation systems (particularly in 1996)
  • Burning/destruction of precious shrines
reaction of the people1
Reaction of the People
  • Many flee to India and Nepal
  • Dalai Lama established government in


  • Protests held in Tibet
  • Remaining monks and nuns forced to choose:
    • Comply with new communist restrictions
    • Disrobe
ongoing consequences of destruction
Ongoing Consequences of Destruction
  • Government in Exile in India
  • Human rights violations throughout the Tibet Autonomous Region
  • Strengthened cultural identity of the Tibetans
9th Century Motives

Lang Darma’s jealousy and hatred of Buddhism

20th Century Motives

Mao Zedong sees religion and the strength of the Tibetan identity as a source of opposition

9th Century Destruction

Monastic figures forced to disrobe

Execution & torture

Flee to neighboring countries

More isolated

20th Century Destruction

Monastic figures forced to disrobe

Execution & torture

Flee to neighboring countries

More globally connected

Appeal to international legal and human rights community