WASHINGTON D.C. -- VOA’s Tibetan Service marked the occasion of the Dalai Lama’s upcoming 80th birthday with a historic four-hour live TV program covering the special celebration in His honor in Dharamsala, India.
It was the first time since the Chinese takeover in 1959, that the elaborate tradition of the so-called “Long Life Ceremony” (Tenshung) was televised for millions to see inside and outside Tibet. Thousands of faithful gathered around Tsuklakhang, the Dalai Lama’s monastery in Dharamsala, to celebrate the life of the Tibetan spiritual leader. The milestone celebration was marked by elaborate Buddhist sacred rituals and performances.
VOA’s exclusive live program, distributed by two satellite channels, shortwave radio and web-streaming, offered millions of viewers and listeners a rare glimpse of this unique ceremony. For the first time the Tibetan diaspora around the world had the opportunity to experience the convening of all the leading Tibetan religious figures outside of Tibet today.
The VOA Tibetan service special included two co-hosts, one on-location and one in the Washington studio, along with multiple guests who explained to the viewers the symbolism and meaning of the different parts of this rarely performed sacred ceremony. Throughout the TV special viewers were very engaged in social media. Wechat (the most popular Chinese social media platform) groups posted short videos of their TVs showing VOA’s live broadcast. Prominent among them was Tibetan writer Tsering Woeser, who posted screenshots of the VOA program.
VOA Tibetan reaches its target audience on television, radio and the Internet with uncensored news that is unavailable to Tibetans through state-controlled Chinese media. VOA offers critical discussions on important issues and provides valuable information and expertise that help support the development of civil society. VOA Tibetan audiences are located in Tibet, in the ethnic Tibetan regions of China in Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu, and Yunnan, and in Bhutan, Nepal, and India—where Tibetan speakers live.