110 00 Nové Město
Katia Buffetrille (EPHE/CRCAO, Paris)
As is well-known pilgrimages are one of the main religious activities in the Tibetan world. As soon as the Chinese government relaxed its policies on religion in the 1980s, pilgrimages that had been banned during several decades resumed on a massive scale. During many fieldworks conducted along these years, I was able to observe the evolution of several pilgrimages, focusing my research on circumambulations of sacred mountains.
Nowadays, this tradition is undergoing several processes: modernization, sinization, buddhicization, folklorization, which have a very strong impact on the pilgrim’s beliefs and behavior as well as on the religious landscape and ultimately question the fate of the pilgrimages themselves.
The traditional circumambulation around Amnye Machen mountain, in Amdo, is one of the pilgrimages under threat. In comparison with my previous observations in 1990 and 1992, I could already witness in 2002 the beginning of such mutations. With the completion of a road some years ago, the pilgrimage that I did in the Summer 2018 turned out to be so different from the previous ones that the very question of “do we have to rethink Tibetan pilgrimage?” is raised.
In this communication based on textual sources and observations, I will describe the recent developments affecting this essential religious practice among Tibetans.