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Thubten Jigme Norbu, 1922 - 2008

Tibetan scholar, symbol of independence struggle

September 11, 2008|Elaine Woo | Times Staff Writer

Norbu returned to Tibet only once, in 1980, at the invitation of the Chinese government. He found the Chinese presence stifling and said he regretted the visit. "Tibet doesn't exist," he told an interviewer later. He built a two-story Tibetan-style residence in Bloomington that housed a Tibetan culture library, meditation room and guest rooms. He raised a temple and a 35-foot-tall memorial to the Tibetans who died under Chinese rule. The memorial contains Tibetan Buddhist writings and other sacred relics.

He regarded the center as the outpost of a disappearing culture. "If Tibetans don't work hard at preserving their culture and religion," he once said, "there won't be a Tibet. It will be all Chinese. . . . I want everybody to know there was a Tibet."

Today hundreds of Tibetans from around the world are expected to converge on his wooded sanctuary in Bloomington, where his remains will be cremated. In accordance with Tibetan tradition, his ashes will be distributed among his relatives.

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elaine.woo@latimes.com

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