At Kumbum Monastery, traditionally one of the greatest Gelugpa monasteries, regular police in green and People’s Armed Police in black prepare for the beginning of the festival. The PAP wear body armor and helmets, and are armed with clubs and guns.
Kumbum was founded more than 400 years ago, near the site where Tsongkhapa was born in 1357. Although it was traditionally home to thousands of monks, Chinese policies have reduced that number to the low hundreds. Arjia Rinpoche, the abbot of Kumbum, fled Tibet in 1998 and has lived in the United States since then.