Choekyi Gyaltsen, 10th Panchen Lama

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Choekyi Gyaltsen
10th Panchen Lama
Xth Panchen Lama by Claude-Max Lochu
Reign 3 June 1949 – 28 January 1989
Coronation 11 June 1949
Predecessor Thubten Chökyi Nyima, 9th Panchen Lama
Successor Gedhun Choekyi Nyima or Gyaltsen Norbu
Born 19 February 1938 (1938-02-19)
Xunhua County, Qinghai Province, Republic of China
Died 28 January 1989 (1989-01-29) (age 51)
Shigatse, Tibet Autonomous Region, People's Republic of China
Burial 30 August 1993
Tashilhunpo Monastery, Shigatse
Spouse Li Jie
Issue Yabshi Pan Rinzinwangmo
Full name
Lobsang Trinley Lhündrub Chökyi Gyaltsen
Tibetan བློ་བཟང་ཕྲིན
Wylie translit. blo bzang phrin las lhun grub chos kyi rgyal mtshan
transcription (PRC) Lobsang Chinlai Lhünzhub Qoigyi Gyaincain
THDL Lozang Trinlé Lhündrup Chökyi Gyeltsen
House Panchen Lama
Father Gonpo Tseten
Mother Sonam Drolma
Choekyi Gyaltsen, 10th Panchen Lama
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 第十世班禪額爾德尼
Simplified Chinese 第十世班禅额尔德尼
Tibetan name
Tibetan བློ་བཟང་ཕྲིན་ལས་ལྷུན་གྲུབ་ཆོས་ཀྱི་རྒྱལ་མཚན་་

Lobsang Trinley Lhündrub Chökyi Gyaltsen (19 February 1938 – 28 January 1989) was the tenth Panchen Lama of the Gelug School of Tibetan Buddhism. He was often referred to simply as Choekyi Gyaltsen (which can be Choekyi Gyaltse, Choskyi Gyantsen, etc.), although this is also the name of several other notable figures in Tibetan history.

Early life and selection[edit]

The 10th Panchen Lama was born Gonpo Tseten on 19 February 1938 in today's Xunhua Salar Autonomous County of Qinghai, to Gonpo Tseten and Sonam Drolma. When the Ninth Panchen Lama died in 1937, two simultaneous searches for the tenth Panchen Lama produced two competing candidates, with the government in Lhasa (who had selected a boy from Xikang) and the Ninth Panchen Lama's officials (who picked Tseten) in conflict.[1] The Republic of China government, then embroiled in the Chinese Civil War, declared its support for Tseten on 3 June 1949. Guan Jiyu, the head of the Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission, joined Kuomintang Governor of Qinghai Ma Bufang in presiding over Tseten's enthronement on 11 June as Choekyi Gyaltsen at Kumbum Monastery.[2] The Dalai Lama's government in Lhasa still refused to recognize Gyaltsen.[3]

The Kuomintang wanted to use Gyaltsen to create a broad anti-Communist base in Southwest China.[1] The Kuomintang formulated a plan where 3 Khampa divisions would be assisted by the Panchen Lama to oppose the Communists.[4]

When Lhasa denied Gyaltsen the territory the Panchen Lama traditionally controlled, he asked Ma Bufang to help him lead an army against Tibet in September 1949.[5] Ma tried to persuade the Panchen Lama to come with the Kuomintang government to Taiwan when the Communist victory approached, but the Panchen Lama declared his support for the Communist People's Republic of China instead. The Panchen Lama, unlike the Dalai Lama, sought to exert control in decision making.[6][7] In addition, the Dalai Lama regime was tottering, and his government displayed negligence in affairs, the Kuomintang using this to their advantage to expand into the Lhasa regime of the Dalai Lama.[8][clarification needed]

Early politics[edit]

The Panchen Lama supported China's claim of sovereignty over Tibet, and China's reform policies for Tibet.[3] Radio Beijing broadcast the religious leader's call for Tibet to be "liberated" into Tibet, which created pressure on the Lhasa government to negotiate with the People's Republic.[1] In 1951, the Panchen Lama was invited to Beijing as the Tibetan delegation was signing the 17-Point Agreement and telegramming the Dalai Lama to implement the Agreement.[9] He was recognized by the 14th Dalai Lama when they met in 1952.

In September 1954, the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama went to Beijing to attend the first session of the first National People's Congress, meeting Mao Zedong and other leaders.[10][11] The Panchen Lama was soon elected a member of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress and in December 1954 he became the deputy chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.[12] In 1956, the Panchen Lama went to India on a pilgrimage together with the Dalai Lama. When the Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959, the Panchen Lama publicly supported the Chinese government, and the Chinese brought him to Lhasa and made him chairman of the Preparatory Committee for the Tibet Autonomous Region.[13]

Alienation and rehabilitation[edit]

70,000 Character Petition[edit]

After a tour through Tibet in 1962, the Panchen Lama wrote a document addressed to Prime Minister Zhou Enlai denouncing the abusive policies and actions of the People's Republic of China in Tibet. This became known as the 70,000 Character Petition.[14][15] According to Isabel Hilton, it remains the "most detailed and informed attack on China's policies in Tibet that would ever be written."[16]

The Panchen Lama met with Zhou Enlai to discuss the petition he had written. The initial reaction was positive, but in October 1962, the PRC authorities dealing with the population criticized the petition. Chairman Mao called the petition "... a poisoned arrow shot at the Party by reactionary feudal overlords."

For decades, the content of this report remained hidden from all but the very highest levels of the Chinese leadership, until one copy surfaced in 1996.[17] In January 1998 upon the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the birth of the Tenth Panchen Lama, an English translation by Tibet expert Robert Barnett entitled A Poisoned Arrow: The Secret Report of the 10th Panchen Lama, was published.[18][19]

Opposition and humiliation[edit]

Tibetan Panchen Lama during the struggle session (1964).

In 1964, he was publicly humiliated at Politburo meetings, dismissed from all posts of authority, declared 'an enemy of the Tibetan people', had his dream journal confiscated and used against him,[20] and then imprisoned. He was 26 years old at the time.[21] The Panchen's situation worsened when the Cultural Revolution began. The Chinese dissident and former Red Guard Wei Jingsheng published in March 1979 a letter under his name but written by another anonymous author, denouncing the conditions at Qincheng Prison where the 10th Panchen Lama was imprisoned.[22] In October 1977, he was released but held under house arrest in Beijing until 1982. After his release, he was considered by the PRC authorities to be politically rehabilitated and he then rose to important positions. He served as Vice Chairman of the National People's Congress.

Later life and death[edit]

In 1978, after giving up his vows of an ordained monk, he traveled around China, looking for a wife to start a family. He began courting Li Jie, a soldier and medical student at Fourth Military Medical University in Xi'an. At the time, the Lama had no money and was still blacklisted by the party, but the wife of Deng Xiaoping and widow of Zhou Enlai saw the symbolic value of a marriage between a Tibetan Lama and a Han woman. They personally intervened to wed the couple in a large ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in 1979.[23] One year later, the Panchen Lama was given the Vice Chairmanship of the National People's Congress and other political posts, and he was fully politically rehabilitated by 1982.


Li Jie bore a daughter in 1983, named Yabshi Pan Rinzinwangmo.[24] Popularly known as the "Princess of Tibet",[25] she is considered important in Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan-Chinese politics, as she is the only known offspring in the over 620-year history of either the Panchen Lama or Dalai Lama reincarnation lineages. Rinzinwangmo was schooled in the United States for 10 years where her legal guardian was American actor Steven Seagal,[26] prior to returning to China in 2005. That same year, Rinzinwangmo began her PhD in Finance at the Tsinghua University in Beijing. In June 2010, Rinzinwangmo finished her doctoral thesis and graduated. As both a Chinese/Tibetan and a global youth leader, Rinzinwangmo dedicates much of her time and energy to her ongoing roles with numerous global charities and organizations: namely the All-China Youth Federation, Tibet Red Cross, Snowland Great Rivers Environmental Protection Association, and several orphanages and eye camps in the Tibetan ethnic regions. Rinzinwangmo is fluent in several Tibetan dialects, Mandarin Chinese and English.

Li Jie's father is Dong Qiwu, a general in PLA who commanded an Army in the Korean War.

Return to Tibet and death[edit]

Early in 1989, the 10th Panchen Lama returned to Tibet to rebury some of the recovered bones from the graves of the previous Panchen Lamas, graves that had been destroyed during the destruction of Tashilhunpo in 1959.[20] He died from a heart attack in Shigatse at the age of 51, on 28 January,[27] just five days after delivering a speech in Tibet in which he said: "Since liberation, there has certainly been development, but the price paid for this development has been greater than the gains."[28][29] Although the official cause of death was said to have been from a heart attack, some Tibetans suspect foul play.[28] In 2011, the Chinese dissident Yuan Hongbing declared that Hu Jintao had masterminded the death of the 10th Panchen Lama.[30] The 10th Panchen Lama's death sparked an unprecedented six-year dispute over his assets amounting to $20 million between his wife and daughter and Tashilhunpo Monastery.[23] The Dalai Lama was invited by the Buddhist Association of China to attend the Panchen Lama's funeral and to take the opportunity to contact Tibet's religious communities. Because of the short notice, The Dalai Lama was unable to attend the invitation.[31][32] and new disputes materialized between the Chinese government and supporters of the Dalai Lama.[33]

Many legends and conspiracy theories spread among Tibetans about the Panchen Lama's death. According to one story, he foresaw his own death in a message to his wife on their last meeting. In another, a rainbow appeared in the sky before his death.[34] Some people, including the Dalai Lama,[23] believe that he was poisoned by his own medical staff. Supporters of this theory cite remarks the Panchen Lama made on 23 January to high-ranking officials and that were published in the People's Daily and the China Daily. The message criticized the excesses of the Cultural Revolution in Tibet and praised the reform and opening up of the 1980s.[34] His daughter Rinzinwangmo refused to comment on the conspiracy theories, attributing his early death to his generally poor health, extreme weight gain, and chronic sleep deprivation.[23]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c Lin, Hsiao-ting (2010). Modern China's Ethnic Frontiers: A Journey to the West. Taylor & Francis. pp. 116–118. 
  2. ^ Parshotam Mehra (2004). From conflict to conciliation: Tibetan polity revisited : a brief historical conspectus of the Dalai Lama-Panchen Lama Standoff, ca. 1904–1989. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. p. 87. ISBN 3-447-04914-6. Retrieved 9 April 2011. 
  3. ^ a b Melvyn C. Goldstein, in McKay 2003, p. 222
  4. ^ Hsiao-ting Lin (2010). Modern China's ethnic frontiers: a journey to the west. Volume 67 of Routledge studies in the modern history of Asia (illustrated ed.). Taylor & Franci s. p. 117. ISBN 0-415-58264-4. Retrieved 2011-12-27. China's far northwest.23 A simultaneous proposal suggested that, with the support of the new Panchen Lama and his entourage, at least three army divisions of the anti-Communist Khampa Tibetans could be mustered in southwest China. 
  5. ^ "Exiled Lama, 12, Wants to Lead Army on Tibet". Los Angeles Times. 6 Sep 1949. 
  6. ^ Melvyn C. Goldstein (2009). A History of Modern Tibet: The Calm Before the Storm: 1951–1955, Volume 2. University of California Press. pp. 272, 273. ISBN 0-520-25995-5. Retrieved 28 June 2010. 
  7. ^ Isabel Hilton (2001). The Search for the Panchen Lama. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 110. ISBN 0-393-32167-3. Retrieved 28 June 2010. 
  8. ^ Isabel Hilton (2001). The Search for the Panchen Lama. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 112. ISBN 0-393-32167-3. Retrieved 28 June 2010. 
  9. ^ "The Tenth Panchen Lama"
  10. ^ "Ngapoi recalls the founding of the TAR", Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme, China View, 30 August 2005.
  11. ^ "Selected Foreign Dignitaries Met From Year 1954 to 1989"
  12. ^ Goldstein, M.C., A History of Modern Tibet, Volume 2 – The Calm before the Storm: 1951–1955, p. 496
  13. ^ Feigon 1996, p. 163
  14. ^ "News Updates: Information and analysis of developments in Tibet - extract from Reports From Tibet, November 1990-February 1991 TIN News Update" (PDF). Columbia University. London: Tibet Information Network. 20 February 1991. p. 2. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2016-04-18. 
  15. ^ "World Tibet Network News: Secret Report on 1960s Tibet Published". Canada Tibet Committee. February 12, 1998. Archived from the original on 2015-05-25. Retrieved 2016-04-18. 
  16. ^ Hilton, Isabel (2001) [1st pub. Norton:2000]. The Search for the Panchen Lama (1st American ed.). New York: W.W. Norton. p. 156. ISBN 978-0-393-32167-8. OCLC 48420207. Retrieved 18 April 2016. 
  17. ^ Kurtenbach, Elaine (February 11, 1998). "1962 report by Tibetan leader tells of mass beatings, starvation". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 2001-07-21. Retrieved 2016-04-18. 
  18. ^ Secret Report on 1960s Tibet Published (TIN).
  19. ^ The Secret Report Of Tibet's 10th Panchen Lama Available Online For The First Time (TIN).
  20. ^ a b Hilton 2000
  21. ^ "Exploring Chinese History :: East Asian Region :: Tibet"
  22. ^ "Excerpts from Qincheng: A Twentieth Century Bastille", published in Exploration, March 1979
  23. ^ a b c d Johnson, Tim (2011). Tragedy in Crimson: How the Dalai Lama Conquered the World But Lost the Battle with China. Nation Books. pp. 170–172. 
  24. ^ "Buddha's Daughter: a Young Tibetan-Chinese Woman" Archived 8 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  25. ^ McDonald, Hamish (12 November 2005). "Bridging the gap". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 13 August 2011. 
  26. ^ Charles Carreon. "Steven Seagal Comes Out of the Buddhist Closet". American Buddha Online Library. Retrieved 2007-05-24. 
  27. ^ Hilton 2000, pg. 1
  28. ^ a b Laird 2006, p. 355
  29. ^ "Panchen Lama Poisoned arrow". BBC h2g2 – an encyclopaedic project contributed to by people from all over the world. 14 October 2001. Retrieved 29 April 2007. 
  30. ^ Kalsang Rinchen, "Hu killed Panchen: Chinese dissident",, 16 March 2011
  31. ^ "Negotiations between Dalai Lama, central government revealed". People's Daily. 4 February 2002. Retrieved 5 November 2010. 
  32. ^
  33. ^ Kapstein 2006, p. 295
  34. ^ a b Hilton 2000, pp. 192–194


  • Feigon, Lee. Demystifying Tibet: Unlocking the Secrets of the Land of the Snows (1996) Ivan R. Dee, Publisher. ISBN 1-56663-089-4
  • Goldstein, Melvyn C. The Snow Lion and the Dragon: China, Tibet, and the Dalai Lama (1997) University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-21951-1
  • Hilton, Elizabeth. The Search for the Panchen Lama (2000) W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-04969-8
  • Kapstein, Matthew T. The Tibetans (2006) Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 978-0-631-22574-4.
  • Laird, Thomas. (2006). The Story of Tibet: Conversations with the Dalai Lama. Grove Press, New York. ISBN 978-0-8021-1827-1.
  • McKay, Alex (ed.). Tibet and Her Neighbours: A History (2003) Walther Konig. ISBN 3-88375-718-7

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Thubten Chökyi Nyima
Reincarnation of the Panchen Lama
Succeeded by
Gedhun Choekyi Nyima
(Government of Tibet in Exile interpretation)
Gyaltsen Norbu
(People's Republic of China interpretation)
Preceded by
Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama
Chief of Tibet Autonomous Region
Succeeded by
Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme