Tibetan groups say Chinese officials have begun dismantling buildings at Larung Gar, one of the world's largest centers of Tibetan Buddhist learning.

The London-based Free Tibet group says government workers began removing residential buildings and evicting residents Thursday morning. Several exile Tibetan groups say local authorities in Sichuan Province distributed an order in June to reduce the number of monks and nuns living there by half to 5,000, citing overcrowding concerns.

Founded in 1980, the mountainside academy attracts thousands of Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns for short- and long-term study in the religion's esoteric aspects. They typically stay in a sprawling mountainside settlement made of thousands of log cabins.

Government teams previously evicted thousands of monks in 2001, but the site has continued to swell significantly in the years since.