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Lhakpa Recounts His Rescue of Kyidong Jowo Statue 53 Years Ago


Lhakpa la

The Kyirong Jowo is one of the three most ancient sacred Buddha images brought to Tibet in the 8th century from Nepal. The highly venerated sandalwood sculpture has a long history in legends of Tibet as a self-formed image of the Tibetan emperor Songtsen Gampo's protective deity. In 1959, the Kyirong Jowo escaped the mass destruction and pillaging of religious statues and paintings that took place in Tibet at the time. The holy Buddha statue was later presented to the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama in 1967 and currently remains at his residence in Dharamsala.

During the mid-1950's, word of the Chinese army’s destruction of religious artifacts and imprisonment of religious leaders in eastern Tibet reached areas of Kyidong. Concerned about the safety of Kyidong Jowo Wati Sangpo, one of Tibet's most sacred ancient statue, the attendant of Dzonga Choede Monastery devised a plan to smuggle the statue into safety in India.

In 1959, Lhakpa, who was a close friend of the attendant, was asked to accompany the Kyirong Jowo statue into India. Then 29-year-old Lhakpa and some companions embarked upon a mission to rescue the highly venerated ancient Buddha statue, from certain destruction at the hands of pillaging Chinese forces.

Lhakpa, who is now 81 years old, recounts his journey of smuggling the statue from Kyidong into Nepal fifty-three years ago. Lhakapa shares details of an extensive plan of Kyirong Jowo’s rescue operation and how a fake statue was installed at the monastery while he and his companions crossed many mountains carrying the statue.

“When we arrived in Nepal, we received a huge reception by Tibetans at Tsum Vallye,” said Lhakpa. “My chupa was torn into bits by Tibetans who came to receive blessings of Kyirong Jowo.”

After passing on the statue to the Dzongkar Choede Monastery in India, Lhakpa circumambulated around the monastery and returned home to Kyidong where he lived in hiding for a year, before finally escaping into exile.

In 1967, the holy Buddhist Kyirong Jowo was presented to the Dalai Lama and is presently with him at his residence.

Listen to Reconstructing the 1950's full report

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