At the eastern end of the vast Tibetan Plateau lies a sprawling monastery named Larung Gar, which is the largest Tibetan Buddhist institute in the world and a monumental landmark to Tibetan culture, religion, and history.
It is home to anywhere between 10,000 and 40,000 residents, including monks, nuns, visiting students and because Larung Gar sits at an elevation of over 13,000 feet (3,962m), it has become known as a “city in the sky.”
But in June 2016, the Chinese government in Beijing issued an order that stated the site had become overcrowded and its population had to be reduced to a maximum of 5,000 by October 2017.
Within weeks, work teams descended on the peaceful community and began tearing down people’s homes, reducing cabins to nothing more than splintered wood and shattered glass.
The owners were forced to sign documents agreeing not to return to the area again and to “uphold the unity of the nation.”
As pictures began to emerge of the destruction, human rights groups and international organizations called it a crackdown on religious freedoms and an attempt by the Chinese government to destroy an icon of Tibetan culture.