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Printing the Ancient Way Keeps Buddhist Texts Alive in Tibet

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Chanting emanated from loudspeakers. In hills to the east of the monastery stood clusters of red three-story wooden homes, a traditional design around religious centers in Kham.

Even if the scene around the monastery evoked ancient customs, the town did not. Modern five-story buildings lined the valley walls along the river. Yellow construction cranes loomed above the skyline, a sight typical of cities big and small across China. At night, neon signs glowed.

Katia Buffetrille, a scholar of Tibet at the École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris, said the sprawl of the town had surprised her when she visited last year. She had last come here three decades earlier.

The monastery was in bad shape in 1985, she said. But the printing press was functioning back then, years after the end of the destructive Cultural Revolution.

“The operations of the printing press are today similar to what they were in 1985,” Ms. Buffetrille said. “It’s amazing how many pages they print every day.”

“That can explain the bad quality of the printing sometimes,” she added.

But the traditions endure. On the afternoon I visited, in a monastic building uphill from the printing press, monks held a dharma ceremony, which they do every few weeks. One monk walked around a crowded courtyard sprinkling drops of water on worshipers. Others sat on a dais at the front, reading aloud from scriptures that had been printed by hand next door.

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Crouching Junta, Hidden Abbot

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Members of the royal family appear to have sponsored the sect, and are thought to have helped pay for buildings at its main compound. But the movement is better known for its suspected ties to the former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was overthrown in a military coup in 2006, and to his sister Yingluck, who was ousted by the current junta, in 2014, after she, too, became prime minister.

Phra Dhammachayo was charged with embezzlement in the late 1990s and removed from his position. But he was cleared of the charges and reinstated as abbot after Mr. Thaksin became prime minister. Many Shinawatra supporters, better known as the red shirts, are hardcore loyalists of Phra Dhammachayo.

Much like Mr. Thaksin challenged the political domination of the traditional Thai elites — namely royalists, the military and big business — Dhammakaya’s brash form of Buddhism threatens the belief system of Thai conservatives. Together the Shinawatras and this sect seem to erode traditional forms of authority, and so in the junta’s view, must be quieted.

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Phra Dhammachayo, center, arriving for a ceremony at the Dhammakaya temple in 2015.

Credit
Damir Sagolj/Reuters

Buddhism is one prong of the holy trinity that makes Thai identity, alongside the nation and the monarchy. It is the state religion, and a compulsory subject of study in public schools. The king is considered to be Buddhism’s ultimate patron and the gatekeeper of the Sangha, the Buddhist monastic order.

Tensions between Dhammakaya and the Prayuth government were bound to come to a head after the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej in October. Bhumibol had ruled for seven decades, partly by forging strong ties with the military and Bangkok-based elites. But in recent years the Shinawatras defied those traditional networks, tacitly challenging the king’s moral authority, by appealing to rural voters with populist projects. The military arguably staged the 2014 coup in the hope of steering the impending royal succession in ways that would safeguard the interests of the establishment. Now it is trying to control the Buddhist establishment as well.

It so happened that as Bhumibol’s health was faltering last year and the question of his succession became a pressing concern, the conservative elites had to worry about another passing of the guard: The Supreme Patriarch, the head of the monks’ order, died in 2013 and had yet to be replaced.

Traditionally, the country’s top religious position goes to the most senior monk designated by the Sangha Supreme Council, the Buddhist order’s governing body. In this instance, the presumptive heir was Somdet Phra Maha Ratchamangalacharn, better known as Somdet Chuang. But the Prayuth government blocked his nomination by invoking a tax evasion scandal involving vintage cars. More to the point perhaps, Somdet Chuang was a mentor to Phra Dhammachayo and he enjoys massive support among Thaksin supporters.

In January, the government amended the Sangha succession law to give the king sole power to appoint the Supreme Patriarch. In February, Maha Vajiralongkorn, the new king, chose Somdet Phra Maha Muniwong, the abbot of a competing sect, circumventing the Sangha Council.

Then on March 5, the government issued a royal command, signed by the king, stripping Phra Dhammachayo of his religious titles.

Are the new king and the military working in tandem? Who knows. Almost three years after the coup, Thai politics remains precarious and very opaque. Vajiralongkorn has asked for revisions to a junta-drafted constitution that was approved by referendum last year; a form of horse-trading may be underway. The controversial constitution has yet to come into force, and pending that, the date of the next election, already many times delayed, remains uncertain.

One major question is how long the Thai people will stand for this, especially if the Prayuth government starts cracking down on religious leaders. At the height of the recent siege at the Dhammakaya complex, several thousand monks and supporters stayed in the compound to protest the raid. The standoff was the most high-profile mass demonstration against the junta since the 2014 coup.

The generals’ tough stance hardly is surprising given their insistence on quashing critics in the past. But their failure to eradicate Mr. Thaksin’s influence has probably made him stronger, and if their attack on Dhammakaya, and meddling in religious affairs, was an attempt to tighten their grip on power, they may well come out the weaker for it.

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U.N. Human Rights Experts Unite to Condemn China Over Expulsions of Tibetans

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Buddhist monks at Larung Gar last year. A half-dozen United Nations experts have condemned the expulsions of monks and nuns from two Tibetan religious enclaves, Larung Gar and Yachen Gar.

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Gilles Sabrie for The New York Times

A half-dozen United Nations experts who investigate human rights abuses have taken the rare step of banding together to condemn China for expulsions of monks and nuns from major religious enclaves in a Tibetan region.

In a sharply worded statement, the experts expressed alarm about “severe restrictions of religious freedom” in the area.

Most of the expulsions mentioned by the experts have taken place at Larung Gar, the world’s largest Buddhist institute and one of the most influential centers of learning in the Tibetan world. Officials have been demolishing some of the homes of the 20,000 monks and nuns living around the institute, in a high valley in Sichuan Province.

The statement also cited accusations of evictions at Yachen Gar, sometimes known as Yarchen Gar, an enclave largely of nuns that is also in Sichuan and has a population of about 10,000.

“While we do not wish to prejudge the accuracy of these allegations, grave concern is expressed over the serious repression of the Buddhist Tibetans’ cultural and religious practices and learning in Larung Gar and Yachen Gar,” the statement said.

It was signed by six of the United Nations experts, or special rapporteurs, who come from various countries. They each specialize in a single aspect of human rights, including cultural rights, sustainable environment and peaceful assembly. It is unusual for so many of them to collaborate in this manner.

The statement was sent to the Chinese government in November, but was made public only in recent days, before the start of this year’s session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. The session began Monday and is scheduled to end on March 24.

The United Nations experts have asked Beijing to address the reports of evictions and demolitions. The release of the statement before the session in Geneva puts more pressure on China to explain the actions taking place at the two Tibetan Buddhist institutions. China says matters related to Tibet are internal affairs, but Chinese officials in Beijing have privately expressed some concern over outside perceptions of the demolitions and evictions at Larung Gar and related Western news coverage.

Over the summer, Chinese officials began deporting monks and nuns living at Larung Gar who were not registered residents of Garze, the prefecture where the institution is. Since then, hundreds of clergy members have been forced out, and workers have demolished small homes clustered along the valley walls. One day last fall, I watched workers tearing and cutting apart wooden homes, sometimes using a chain saw.

Official reports have said the demolition is part of a project to improve safety in the area because people live in such tight quarters there. In 2014, a fire destroyed about 100 homes.

Residents said the government planned to bring the population down to 5,000 from 20,000 by next year. The government evicted many clergy members once before, in 2001, but people returned. The encampment was founded in 1980 near the town of Sertar by Jigme Phuntsok, a charismatic lama, and is now run by two abbots. Those abbots have not protested the demolitions or evictions.

The United Nations experts said in the statement that while they awaited China’s response, they “urge that all necessary interim measures be taken to halt the alleged violations and prevent their reoccurrence.”

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South Korea Can Keep Buddhist Statue Stolen From Japan, Court Says

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Sekko Tanaka, a Buddhist monk on the Japanese island of Tsushima, in 2013, holding a photograph of a Buddhist statue that was stolen the year before.

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Ko Sasaki for The New York Times

SEOUL, South Korea — A court ruled Thursday that a South Korean temple can have a Buddhist statue that was stolen from a Japanese temple in 2012, on the grounds that it had been taken from Korea centuries earlier by Japanese pirates.

Japan called the ruling “regrettable” and urged the statue’s return. The dispute is being closely watched by both governments, whose relations are often roiled by historical disputes.

The 20-inch gilded bronze statue, of a bodhisattva known as Kanzeon in Japan and Gwaneum in South Korea, was taken from a Buddhist temple on Tsushima, a Japanese island halfway between the two countries, by South Koreans who also stole another statue from a Shinto shrine there. The thieves were caught while trying to sell the artifacts in South Korea, and the statue from the Shinto shrine was eventually returned to Japan.

But a South Korean temple, Buseoksa, which says the bodhisattva statue was made there in the 14th century, won a court injunction in 2013 preventing its return until it could be determined whether it had originally been brought to Tsushima legitimately.

The statue shows the bodhisattva, a being on the path to enlightenment, in the lotus position. It has been in the government’s custody since 2013, and on Thursday a district court in Daejeon, a city south of Seoul, ruled that it should be given to Buseoksa. The government, which was the defendant in the civil suit, did not say whether it would appeal.

Upbeat monks at Buseoksa, in the west coast city of Seosan, prepared for the statue’s homecoming. The temple’s chief monk, the Venerable Wonwoo, hailed the ruling as a milestone that should inspire South Koreans to try to bring home what he claimed were 70,000 ancient Korean artifacts that had been looted and brought to Japan. Buddhists and other South Koreans have rallied behind Buseoksa’s campaign.

The Japanese temple, Kannonji, was not a direct party to the lawsuit, but it argued at the trial that the statue had not been removed from Korea illicitly, noting that there had been legitimate trade in goods, including Buddhist statues, between Korea and Tsushima in ancient times. The statue has been designated an important cultural asset in Japan.

After an investigation, South Korea’s Cultural Heritage Administration said in 2014 that the statue had probably been taken to Japan by plunderers, though it could not reach a definitive conclusion.

Scholars supporting Buseoksa’s cause cited a document found inside the statue’s belly in 1951, which they said showed that the statue was manufactured in Seosan in the 14th century. They said it did not record a transfer of ownership to the Japanese temple, although such a document normally would.

They also presented the court with historical documents showing that parts of Korea’s west coast near Seosan had been visited by pirates from Japan during the 14th century. And they said the statue had burn damage, which they said could be a sign it had been plundered by pirates.

“There is enough reason to think that the statue belongs to Buseoksa,” the presiding judge, Moon Bo-gyeong, ruled Thursday.

In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga called the ruling “very regrettable.” He urged South Korea to take “appropriate” action to ensure the statue’s swift return to Japan.

“The Japanese government has appealed to the Korean government through various diplomatic channels to request the return of this statue to Japan as soon as possible,” he said at a news conference.

A spokesman for the South Korean Foreign Ministry, Cho June-hyuck, said the ministry would try to resolve the matter with Japan “based on mutual trust.”

Correction: January 28, 2017

An earlier version of this article, along with the headline and a picture caption, misidentified the subject of the statue. It represents a bodhisattva known as Kanzeon in Japan and Gwaneum in South Korea, not Buddha.

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South Korea Can Keep Buddha Statue Stolen From Japan, Court Says

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Sekko Tanaka, a Buddhist monk on the Japanese island of Tsushima, in 2013, holding a photograph of a Buddha statue that was stolen the year before.

Credit
Ko Sasaki for The New York Times

SEOUL, South Korea — A court ruled Thursday that a South Korean temple can have a Buddha statue that was stolen from a Japanese temple in 2012, on the grounds that it had been taken from Korea centuries earlier by Japanese pirates.

Japan called the ruling “regrettable” and urged the statue’s return. The dispute is being closely watched by both governments, whose relations are often roiled by historical disputes.

The 20-inch gilded bronze statue was taken from a Buddhist temple on Tsushima, a Japanese island halfway between the two countries, by South Koreans who also stole another statue from a Shinto shrine there. The thieves were caught while trying to sell the artifacts in South Korea, and the statue from the Shinto shrine was eventually returned to Japan.

But a South Korean temple, Buseoksa, which says the Buddha statue was made there in the 14th century, won a court injunction in 2013 preventing its return until it could be determined whether it had originally been brought to Tsushima legitimately.

The statue, of the Buddha in the lotus position, has been in the government’s custody since then, and on Thursday a district court in Daejeon, a city south of Seoul, ruled that it should be given to Buseoksa. The government, which was the defendant in the civil suit, did not say whether it would appeal.

Upbeat monks at Buseoksa, in the west coast city of Seosan, prepared for the statue’s homecoming. The temple’s chief monk, the Venerable Wonwoo, hailed the ruling as a milestone that should inspire South Koreans to try to bring home what he claimed were 70,000 ancient Korean artifacts that had been looted and brought to Japan. Buddhists and other South Koreans have rallied behind Buseoksa’s campaign.

The Japanese temple, Kannonji, was not a direct party to the lawsuit, but it argued at the trial that the statue had not been removed from Korea illicitly, noting that there had been legitimate trade in goods, including Buddha statues, between Korea and Tsushima in ancient times. The statue has been designated an important cultural asset in Japan.

After an investigation, South Korea’s Cultural Heritage Administration said in 2014 that it was “probable” that the statue had been taken to Japan by plunderers, though it could not reach a definitive conclusion.

Scholars supporting Buseoksa’s cause cited a document found inside the statue’s belly in 1951, which they said showed that the statue was manufactured in Seosan in the 14th century. They said it did not record a transfer of ownership to the Japanese temple, although such a document normally would.

They also presented the court with historical documents showing that parts of Korea’s west coast near Seosan had been visited by pirates from Japan during the 14th century. And they said that the statue had burn damage, which they said could be a sign that it had been plundered by pirates.

“There is enough reason to think that the statue belongs to Buseoksa,” the presiding judge, Moon Bo-gyeong, ruled Thursday.

In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga called the ruling “very regrettable.” He urged South Korea to take “appropriate” action to ensure the statue’s swift return to Japan.

“The Japanese government has appealed to the Korean government through various diplomatic channels to request the return of this statue to Japan as soon as possible,” he said at a news conference.

A spokesman for the South Korean Foreign Ministry, Cho June-hyuck, said the ministry would try to resolve the matter with Japan “based on mutual trust.”

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Mongolia, With Deep Ties to Dalai Lama, Turns From Him Toward China

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The Chinese government had objected to the visit by the Dalai Lama, which began on Nov. 18 and took place over four days, even though it was not made at the invitation of the Mongolian government and was religious in nature. China canceled meetings with senior Mongolian officials in response.

China has long pressured countries, including Western ones, to ban visits from the Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India. Chinese Communist Party leaders consider him to be an enemy who advocates Tibetan independence from China, although the Dalai Lama has said he seeks only greater autonomy for Tibetans.

In one sense, Mongolia’s reaction to China, a neighbor that has the world’s second-largest economy, was predictable. Mongolia is dealing with financial problems and is seeking a large loan from Beijing. Until a recent crash, the Mongolian economy had been growing fast, fueled by mineral extraction.

But, at the same time, Mongolia has tried to distance itself from China and Russia, and has become a United States military partner. It is also a

traditionally Buddhist country with ancient ties to Tibetan Buddhism and to the history of the Dalai Lamas, and the foreign minister’s remarks alarmed some historians and Tibet advocates.

“This is part of a near-global collapse in diplomatic capacity to handle certain kinds of pressure from China, which is, of course, far more acute for small, landlocked neighbors than major powers,” Robert J. Barnett, a historian of modern Tibet at Columbia University, said in an email.

John Delury, a China historian at Yonsei University in Seoul, posted on Twitter last week that Mongolia’s reaction was “ironic given that it was a Mongolian Khan who invented Dalai Lamaness.”

The Dalai Lamas arose from the actions of Altan Khan, a 16th-century Mongolian leader who controlled a region next to northern China, which was ruled by the ethnic Han emperors of the Ming dynasty.

Three centuries earlier, Kublai Khan, the founding emperor of the Yuan dynasty, an era when Mongolians ruled China, had become interested in Tibetan Buddhism and had taken on a Tibetan teacher.

But it was Altan Khan who made Tibetan Buddhism an official religion among Mongols. He did this when the head of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, also known as the Yellow Hat school, visited him in 1577. On that occasion, Altan Khan gave the spiritual leader the title of Dalai Lama. With Dalai meaning “ocean” in Mongolian and Lama being a Tibetan spiritual teacher, the title translates as “ocean of wisdom.”

This bound the Mongols and Tibetans and established a relationship between Mongolian rulers and the Gelug school. Since then, the position of the Dalai Lama has been tied to complex politics in Asia. The two heads of the Gelug school preceding the one who visited Altan Khan were also given the Dalai Lama title retroactively.

The Third Dalai Lama, Sonam Gyatso, the one who had received his title from Altan Khan, died in 1588 in the Mongolian region. A great-grandson of Altan Khan, Yonten Gyatso, was then named by senior Tibetan lamas as the Fourth Dalai Lama and the reincarnation of Sonam Gyatso. (Each Dalai Lama is considered a reincarnation of the previous one.) Yonten Gyatso has been the only Mongolian to be chosen as a Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama’s Mongolia visit has raised another question. Many people have begun speculating over when and where the reincarnation of the current Dalai Lama, the 14th, will appear after he dies. The Dalai Lama, who is 81, has said that he may be the last of the Dalai Lamas, while holding open the possibility of a reincarnation — including one outside Tibetan regions, where Communist leaders would no doubt try to control any designated reincarnation.

Some people have said that the next Dalai Lama could be found in the Tawang region of northeastern India, home of the Sixth Dalai Lama. Tawang also happens to be a disputed region in the Himalayas that China claims as its territory.

But the Dalai Lama’s recent visit suggests to some scholars that Mongolia could be the place to watch, especially given the history of the Third and Fourth Dalai Lamas.

“The interesting thing about the Dalai Lama visit was that it may be a signal that his reincarnation could appear there,” Mr. Barnett said. He added that given China’s hostility, this is “something that would be potentially disastrous for Mongolia.”

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Where Buddhism’s Eight-Fold Path Can Be Followed With a Six-Figure Salary

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The temple is the spiritual embodiment of the social and economic dislocations that have shaken Thailand. The economic boom of the 1980s created a well-to-do middle class for whom moneymaking rivaled Buddhist tradition as a core value. They needed something that brought the two together.

Cash machines are placed conveniently near a meditation hall with screens that declare, “Shortcut to making merit,” the important virtue of doing good deeds. As a merit-making bonus, credit card points earned by the transaction can go directly to the temple.

“Buddha never taught us to live in hardship,” said the temple spokesman, Phra Pasura Dantamano. He added: “Buddha teaches moderation, but there are different levels of society. If I were a businessman or a farmer I would define moderation in a different way.”

This perspective is a departure from traditional Thai Buddhism, in which there is less acceptance of wealth, said Suwanna Satha-Anand, a professor of philosophy at Chulalongkorn University.

“They crafted a possibility of a new form of Buddhism which is friendly to capitalism or wealth,” she said. “This is the voice of the urban middle or upper class who are looking for a more modern image of what a Buddhist can be.”

Well-designed websites promise a form of meditation that is “simple, easy and effective.” The temple itself manifests cleanliness and efficiency alongside tech-savvy sophistication. Its huge boxy buildings are aggressively plain, finished with unpainted gray concrete. It has no spire, few bells and little incense.

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Phra Dhammachayo, the temple’s leader, last year. For the past month the police have threatened to arrest him on a charge of embezzlement, while the top body of Buddhism has accused him of heresy.

Credit
Damir Sagolj/Reuters

But it does not lack grandeur. Its centerpiece is a huge, flat dome more than 2,000 feet in diameter that even the temple concedes looks like a flying saucer. It radiates wealth. The dome’s surface consists of 300,000 small Buddha statues made of silicon gold, each as tall as an open hand and engraved with the name of a donor — suggested donation 10,000 baht, or about $300.

On special occasions, the vast plaza around the dome is the scene of spectacular gatherings — tens of thousands of monks in orange and worshipers in white — that rival an Olympics opening ceremony. The monks circle the dome as if the little statues had come to life, and they sit in perfect, ordered rows that seem to stretch to the horizon. At night, they march with glowing lights, and thousands of lighter-than-air lanterns float into the sky.

In keeping with the stark design of the temple, even these extravagant displays are marked by almost militaristic order and precision.

The same rapid rise to prosperity that inspired the popularity of Wat Dhammakaya also underlies the political divisions and outbreaks of violence that have shaken Thailand in recent years.

Those divisions are being held in check by a military junta that seized power in 2014. “When you have hundreds of thousands of devotees, some people with power would be scared of that,” Phra Pasura said.

He compared the Dhammakaya movement to the populist rise of Thaksin Shinawatra, a prime minister who was ousted in another coup, in 2006, and now lives in exile.

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Brand to Know: A Designer Quietly Inspired by Buddhism

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Slide Show

A Look at Renli Su’s Fall Collection

CreditCourtesy of Renli Su Workshop Ltd.


In a crowded corner of London’s Dover Street Market, the Chinese designer Renli Su is standing in front of her eponymous collection: one rail carrying embroidered dresses, jackets and skirts in a creamy, warm beige. “I heard they sell very quick this season,” she confides, quietly.

Su grew up in Fujian Province, “near the seaside,” and studied at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing; she arrived at the London College of Fashion’s MA program in 2010, and founded her label after graduation (fall/winter 2016 is the seventh collection). Her aesthetic is informed by her fascination with fashion history — something that she had only limited access to in China, where many garments were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. In London, at the city’s vintage fairs and markets, she has been able to get up close for the first time with 19th- and early 20th-century textiles. “After I came here, I found so many clothes from the Victorian era,” she says. She’s intrigued by what old clothing can reveal about social history, and she observes the pieces with an academic eye for detail.

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Renli Su

Credit
Courtesy of Renli Su Workshop Ltd.

The influence of the past is evident in Su’s separates and dresses for fall/winter, which are mostly monochrome: cream cottons and linens hand-embroidered with tiny cream flowers and branches. They have a roomy elegance; their distinctive shape, she says, comes from an ancient Chinese method of pattern cutting, in which fabrics are cut flat, on a table, rather than on a three-dimensional model. The pieces reward those who look closely: they are immaculately finished and lined, with neatly gathered waists, slashed sleeves and velvet-ribbon hems. They also have a reassuring weight — some pieces have three layers.

Su thinks carefully about her customers, who are young people largely based in the UK, Japan and New York. “I’m 30 now, but my biggest customer base is 18 to 25, so we don’t want to make them look old — they still need to be very active and very bright,” she says. She believes they’re “independent” people — gallery staff and students. “They’re happy to wear something with more character, and show their characters, and they’re happy to have a lot of fabric, so the silhouette is very big.” On this weekday morning, she herself is dressed discreetly, in a Breton-striped T-shirt and navy cardigan.

For a line that has amassed numerous stockists (including Dover Street Market New York, Opening Ceremony and LN-CC), Su has kept a relatively low profile in the fashion world so far. But the designer is ready to take things up a level, she says: She intends to expand the collection, add men’s wear pieces and eventually offer shoes. For now, she’s concentrating on new accessories — her spring/summer ’17 collection will introduce bags.

These plans are outlined in the measured tone of a designer who seems to have very little ego; in fact, one of the key inspirations for the brand is Su’s own practice of Tibetan Buddhism. “I like humble, quiet, subtle things,” she explains. “I like to transfer it to the collection: I believe people can feel it.”

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Christians in U.S. Are Less Educated Than Religious Minorities, Report Says

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There were 267 million Christians in the United States when the data was collected, but only 36 percent of them had a postsecondary education.

Credit
Luke Sharrett for The New York Times

Religious minorities in the United States are far more likely to have attended college or a vocational school than members of the Christian majority, according to a review of census and survey data from 151 countries released on Tuesday that found wide gaps in education among followers of the world’s major religions.

The review was based on data from 2010 and was conducted by the Pew Research Center, which also found an education gap between men and women within religious groups. The researchers said the educational differences among the faiths were rooted in immigration policies that favor the educated, as well as in political, economic and historical factors.

There were 267 million Christians in the United States when the data was collected, but only 36 percent of them had a postsecondary education, including college or a vocational school, the researchers said. That made them the least-educated religious group in the country.

Jews in the United States were more than twice as likely as Christians to have a postsecondary degree, and Hindus were almost three times as likely, Pew said. Buddhists, Muslims and those who said they were religiously unaffiliated were also more likely to have a college degree than those who identified themselves as Christians.

Conrad Hackett, the lead researcher, said that Christians in the United States were among the best-educated Christians on the planet but that only 20 percent of Christians worldwide had a postsecondary degree. Those in North America had 12.7 years of schooling on average, higher than the average of 9.3 years among Christians globally.

“There are other countries where Christians are more likely to have a postsecondary degree, but the United States stacks up quite well in that regard,” Mr. Hackett said. “It’s just that these minority populations are really quite exceptional.”

That is largely a byproduct of immigration policies that favor highly educated and highly skilled applicants who have the financial means to set up life in a new country, he said. Eighty-seven percent of Hindus in the United States and 64 percent of Muslims were born overseas, compared with 14 percent of Christians, according to the report.

The opposite was true in most European countries, however, where Muslim communities have grown in recent years largely as a result of the arrival of refugees or low-skilled migrants. The largest gap was in Germany, where Muslims had, on average, 4.2 years less education than non-Muslims.

In some smaller European countries — including the Czech Republic, Hungary, Ireland, Portugal and Slovakia — Muslims were more highly educated than non-Muslims, partly as a result of immigration systems that favored highly skilled applicants, the report said.

The study also found a connection between education levels and the number of people who described themselves as having no religious faith, Mr. Hackett said. In the United States, the religious tended to be less educated than the nonreligious, he said.

“The higher the level of education in a country, the larger the share of people with no religion tends to be,” he said. “Atheists and agnostics, or people with no religion in particular, have higher education levels than the religiously affiliated do in the U.S.”

Worldwide, Jews were the most highly educated major religious group, with an average of 13.4 years of schooling, while Hindus and Muslims were the least educated, with an average of 5.6 years each, according to the report.

The report said that Buddhists attended school for an average of 7.9 years, Christians for an average of 9.3 years, and the religiously unaffiliated for an average of 8.8 years.

The gender gap was widest among Hindus, with women receiving 2.7 years less education on average than men, and Muslims, whose women received 1.5 years less education. Buddhist women received 1.1 years less education than men, Christian women received 0.4 years less, and unaffiliated women received 0.8 years less. There was no educational gender gap among Jews, the researchers said.

Geography is a major factor in determining the level of educational attainment for all religious groups and helps explain the wide gap between Hindus and Jews, Pew said.

Most Jews live in two wealthy countries with generally high education levels: the United States and Israel. The vast majority of Hindus — 98 percent — live in three developing countries with weak education systems: India, Nepal and Bangladesh. Hindus living outside those three countries enjoy high rates of educational attainment; 87 percent of Hindus living in North America have college degrees.

Geography also explains differences in educational attainment within religious groups. For example, Muslims in the wealthy countries of Europe and North America have more years of schooling than Muslims in the Middle East, Asia or Africa, the report said.

The same holds true for Christians, the world’s most widely dispersed faith, with 2.2 billion adherents spread across every inhabited continent. Christians in Europe and North America had higher education levels than those in poorer countries, but the group also had high education levels as a whole. The study found that 67 percent of them had some secondary or postsecondary education in 2010, and 91 percent had received a formal education at some level.

The study includes data from 151 countries, which Pew said represented 95 percent of the 3.6 billion people in the world who were over the age of 25 in 2010. It did not measure the quality of people’s education, focusing instead on the number of years they were enrolled in school.

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Muslim Separatist Militants in Thailand Kill 6 Civilians

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BANGKOK — In the latest violence in a vicious low-intensity war in southern Thailand, Muslim separatist militants shot dead six civilians over the last 24 hours, the Thai military said on Wednesday.

The dead, killed in six separate episodes, included two village chiefs, two Muslim civilians and a civilian militia member who was gunned down on his motorcycle with his wife in the southern provinces of Pattani and Narathiwat.

The Pattani police commissioner, Maj. Gen. Thanongsak Wangsupa, told Agence France-Presse that he believed the attacks were in retaliation for a series of arrests of militants in recent days. He said eight more people had been arrested after the killings.

“This is the pattern that we have observed for many years,” said Srisompob Jitpiromsri, director of the Center for Conflict Studies and Cultural Diversity at Prince of Songkla University.

A cycle of retaliation begins, he said, as militants attack so-called soft targets like markets.

More than 6,000 people have died on both sides of the conflict between ethnic Malay Muslims and ethnic Thai Buddhists since the killings began to escalate in 2004. Analysts like Professor Srisompob say they see “no solution to the tit-for-tat killings.”

With peace talks leading nowhere, he said, “They remain in the same pattern.”

The conflict grows out of Thailand’s annexation of heavily Muslim Malay provinces in the deep south of the country more than a century ago.

About six million of Thailand’s 67 million people are Muslim, most of them living in the five southernmost provinces.

They say that they have suffered discrimination in jobs and education, that they receive inadequate government assistance, and that their language and culture are being stifled and neglected.

The latest insurgency broke out in 2004 after the government of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra militarized the southern zone, taking a hard line that was met by stubborn resistance.

Targeted killings by insurgents like those this week, along with more deadly bomb attacks in crowded places, have increased the death toll.

According to the rights group Human Rights Watch, separatists have killed at least 175 teachers in 11 years of insurgency, claiming they were representatives of the central government and Buddhist culture. They have continued to assault civilians in bomb attacks, roadside ambushes, drive-by shootings and assassinations.

In a strong statement after a series of bombings in August, Human Rights Watch said, “Such attacks are war crimes, but the apparent planning behind them suggests crimes against humanity.”

Thai security forces, for their part, have committed numerous illegal killings, torture and other abuses for which they have not been prosecuted.

As many as 90 percent of those killed have been civilians, both Muslim and Buddhist, the group said.

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