Fire at Lhasa Temple Amid New Year Holiday

Fire at Lhasa Temple Amid New Year Holiday

Barnett said he received calls from distraught Tibetans mourning the apparent destruction of one of their most sacred sites.

A fire broke out on Saturday at Lhasa's Jokhang Monastery, one of the holiest sites for Tibetan Buddhism. The oldest part of the temple was built more than 1,300 years ago and the whole structure was added to UNESCO�??s World Heritage list in 2000 as part of the Potala Palace, the official home of successive Dalai Lamas.

"No matter where they are in the world, Tibetans all wish to come to Lhasa to pray at Jokhang; it's the wish of a lifetime".

Beijing maintains tight control of news reports from Tibet, where Buddhist sites have been a focal point for separatist unrest in the past.

But on Twitter, which is blocked in China, some said photos and posts about the fire were being censored.

Beijing has also made a great show of the amount of money it has spent to preserve and protect traditional Tibetan culture, including the many temples and monasteries that dot Tibet.

Many Tibetans are celebrating Losar, the New Year festival that began Friday.

The temple had been closed to the public yesterday, Xinhua cited a schedule put forth by local authorities as saying before the holiday began.

Tibet has been ruled by China since the 1950s. The cause of the fire is unknown or has not yet been revealed.

Foreign journalists are banned from visiting Tibet except on state-sponsored tours.

In 2008, demonstrations by Tibetan monks in Lhasa degenerated into deadly violence targeting Han and the Hui, China's Muslim minority.

More than 150 Tibetans have self-immolated in protest against Beijing since 2009, according to the International Campaign for Tibet, headquartered in Washington.

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