A Beijing museum attracts visitors with its unique exhibitions on Tibet Autonomous Region
A Beijing museum sheds exclusive light on the true Tibetan culture
By Li Nan  ·  2021-10-25  ·   Source: NO.43 OCTOBER 28, 2021
Wax statues of representatives of the Tibet local government signing the Agreement of the Central People's Government and the Local Government of Tibet on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet in Beijing on May 23, 1951 (YIN KANG)

If you are a big fan of Tibet but worry about the altitude, the Beijing-based Tibet Culture Museum may be a good option for you to get a closer look at the plateau. A special exhibition featuring 61 artifacts and more than 350 old photographs is hosted in the museum, which aims to illustrate the region's development over the past seven decades, ever since it was peacefully liberated on May 23, 1951.

The exhibition, with descriptions in both Chinese and English, focuses on seven topics, including Tibet's relationship with the Central Government before 1951, the development of Tibet's political system and economy, poverty alleviation, support from the Central Government, and the partnership assistance program in the region. It started on June 29, and will run for one year.

It's one of four ongoing exhibitions in the museum. The other three display the reincarnation of Tibetan living Buddhas, artworks of a Tibetan Buddhist temple, and inscribed tablets from the region. Since its establishment in 2013, the museum has staged dozens of unique exhibitions to introduce the history and culture of the region.

A replica of the golden urn and its ivory slips that were bestowed upon the Eighth Dalai Lama (1758-1804) by Emperor Qianlong (1711-99) of the Qing Dynasty (1616-1911) are on display in the museum (YIN KANG)

"We aim to show the true Tibet to the world," Yao Maochen, curator of the museum, told Beijing Review. Many people overseas are interested in Tibet, but most of them only get to know about the region based on hearsay. Consequently, some of their impressions about Tibet are wrong, he added.

Many are interested in Tibetan Buddhism and but few know how living Buddhas are reincarnated. As is shown in the ongoing exhibitions, the reincarnation of the living Buddhas initially emerged to set the leadership succession within Tibetan Buddhist sects. In 1793, the Central Government of the Qing Dynasty (1616-1911) adopted a system of drawing lots from a golden urn to improve the process of recognizing new incarnations.

The exhibitions include a replica of the golden urn and its ivory slips that were bestowed upon the Eighth Dalai Lama (1758-1804) by Emperor Qianlong (1711-99) of the Qing Dynasty, as well as historical pictures and footage showing how living Buddhas were reincarnated.

The exhibition gives details of how to confirm a young boy possesses the reincarnated soul of a deceased living Buddha, who will leave clues for his reincarnation before passing away. Four major Buddhist guardians are then summoned. The names of the candidates, as well as their birth years, are written on the ivory slips in three languages—Manchu, Han Chinese and Tibetan—and the ivory slips are then placed in the golden urn. Prominent living Buddhas subsequently pray for seven days before they, along with the resident minister of the Central Government, officially confirm which young boy holds the reincarnated soul by drawing a lot from the golden urn in front of the statue of Sakyamuni at the Jokhang Monastery.

The system helped to prevent malpractices and corruption and showed respect for the principles and traditions of the reincarnation of living Buddhas, as well as the sentiments of believers. Moreover, it shows the authority of the Central Government over the reincarnation process and allows the Central Government to ensure the process is fair.

One section of a special exhibition to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the peaceful liberation of Tibet, at the Tibet Culture Museum in Beijing, on September 30 (YIN KANG)

Since its opening on March 28, 2010, more than 200 groups of foreign travelers have visited the museum, and its website (, launched in February 2020, has received 13.9 million page views from overseas thus far.

"The exhibition was excellent in terms of its presentation and makes one want to visit Tibet in the near future," Robert Sterling Quant, Ambassador of the Bahamas to China, wrote in the museum's guestbook on April 11, 2019.

With several clicks, visitors can reserve a free ticket and enter the museum after registering via an online reservation system. "We will diversify the ways in which exhibits are presented to better serve sightseers," Yao added.

Copyedited by G.P. Wilson

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