China provides free gyms to Tibetan monks

Free gyms in monasteries are a part of China`s new initiatives to end the unrest among them.

Updated: Mar 29, 2012, 23:52 PM IST

Beijing: Chinese government has offered Tibetan Buddhist monks free gyms in monasteries as part of its new initiatives to end the unrest among them.

The government has offered monks in Tibet a convenient way to stay in shape, which is to hit the new gyms in their monasteries, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

The sports administration of southwest China`s Tibet Autonomous Region today sent new gym equipment worth a total of 1.2 million yuan (USD 192,000) to 20 Tibetan monasteries across the region.

Each monastery will receive a full set of 14 pieces of equipment, including a treadmill, an elliptical trainer and a rowing machine.

The equipment is common in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, but definitely a novelty for Buddhist monasteries in Tibet, some of which are still housed in centuries-old mud-and-brick compounds on the Himalayan plateau region.

"We want to improve the exercise conditions in the monasteries in order to enrich the cultural and athletic life of monks and nuns," said Yang Zhanqi, deputy head of the regional sports bureau.

The government hopes the gyms would provide a new avocation for the young monks, who officials believe are increasingly getting radicalised.

About 30 Tibetans, mostly monks and nuns, had attempted self immolations in the recent months calling for return the Dalai Lama as well as to protest stifling restrictions against them.

The government has already floated a new pension and health insurances systems for the Tibetans monks whose numbers were stated to be around 50,000 in different monasteries.

The gyms are part of a new government package to improve the welfare of monks in Tibet`s monasteries, the Xinhua report said.

In 2011, the government helped build 480 monastery libraries in Tibet and ramped up efforts to improve water and power supplies as well as television, radio and telecommunication networks for the monasteries.