New Year event in Tibet draws 100,000 Buddhist followers

Xinhua, Feb 3, 2008

LHASA, Tibet (China) -- More than 100,000 Buddhist followers have converged at a Tibetan monastery to celebrate a local religious festival in Lhasa, capital of southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region.

The Sera Bengqin Festival, which falls on the equivalent of Dec. 27 of the Tibetan calendar each year and is held at the Sera Monastery, has attracted tens of thousands of Tibetans every year. Many travel from neighboring Qinghai and Sichuan Provinces.

Lines stretching several kilometers were seen outside the monastery on Sunday morning. Believers were waiting with hada, a traditional white scarf, and sometimes cash, which they would present to the monastery.

They would kowtow to a portrait of the "horse-headed king" and wait to be touched on the head by the Vajra Pestle, a sacred instrument in Buddhism.

The annual one-day festival can require long periods of travel to get to the mountainous region.

"I set off yesterday because I wanted to avoid the rush," said an old man waiting in line.

It is believed that celebrating the festival can ward off disaster and hardship in the coming year.
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