Festival-Goers Ordered to Wear Fur or Face Fines as China Flouts Dalai Lama’s Ruling

July 27, 2007

Author: Jane Macartney

Source: The Buddhist Channel/The Times


Yushu, China -- Tsedang is reluctant to don his traditional Tibetan fur-trimmed robe at the Yushu annual horse-racing festival. It is not what the Dalai Lama would want.

But the 20-year-old student has no choice. The command has come down from the Government of the remote Chinese county that he must defy his spiritual leader.

Tsedang has been practising traditional dances for two months to perform at the biggest such festival to be held in Yushu county. His brown robe, or chuba, is trimmed with blue-and-gold brocade. It is also edged with otter skin, a detail over which he has agonised and that has divided the crowd of 20,000.

“I don’t want to wear this skin but we have to,” he told The Times. “It’s an order from the Government. I hate wearing this. It’s a terrible thing. The Dalai Lama said we must not wear skins.” He dropped his voice to a whisper: “The Dalai is our king, you know.”

The only cloud over the picnickers,riders, dancers and visitors dressed in their finest is the order to wear furs. Entertainers who ignore it face being fined their appearance money of 3,000 yuan (£200), a huge sum for a Tibetan farmer.

The question of whether to wear traditional fur was sparked by the Dalai Lama last year. He told Tibetans who gathered for a Buddhist festival that he was ashamed of photographs showing his people dressed in robes decorated with tiger skins and other animal pelts. Within days people across the Himalayan region began to set alight mounds of fur-trimmed chubas.