Golden Urn

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Golden Urn
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 金瓶掣籤
Simplified Chinese 金瓶掣签
Literal meaning Drawing Lots From a Golden Vase Ceremony
Tibetan name
Tibetan གསེར་བུམ་སྐྲུག་པ

The Golden Urn refers to a method introduced since the 18th century to select Tibetan lamas, the Urn's real purpose was to allow the Qing Empire of China to control the selection process.[1] In Tibet, on several occasions, children believed to be the reincarnations of the Dalai Lama or the Panchen Lama have been identified by a lottery method, in which names of competing candidates are written on folded slips of paper placed in a golden urn (thus having the name).

This method originated in a decree issued by the Qianlong Emperor in 1792, and was used in the selection of Dalai Lamas, Panchen Lamas and Hutuktus. [2] After defeating the Gurkha invasion in 1792, the Qianlong Emperor issued The 29-Article Imperial Decree for Better Governing in Tibet, in which Article One ordered the new protocol for deciding the reincarnations of the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama.[3]

The names and dates of birth of each candidate were to be written in the Manchu, Han, and Tibetan languages on metal slips and placed in the golden urn. After prayers before the statue of the Jowo in the Jokhang temple in Lhasa, a slip was drawn.

There are two Golden Urns issued by the Qianlong Emperor. One is enshrined in Jokhang Temple in Lhasa for choosing Dalai and Panchen Lama reincarnations, the other is in Yonghe Temple in Beijing for choosing Mongolian Jebtsundamba Khutughtu reincarnations.[4] The 7th Panchen Lama, Palden Tenpai Nyima, used the Golden Urn for the first time in 1822 to choose the 10th Dalai Lama, Tsultrim Gyatso.

Most recently, in November 1995 the Golden Urn was controversially used to name Qoigyijabu (Gyancain Norbu) as the 11th Panchen Lama. This action was approved by the Chinese government, but opposed by the Government of Tibet in Exile. In May of the same year, the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso had named Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the 11th Panchen Lama.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Murder in Tibet’s High Places". Smithsonian. April 10, 2012. Retrieved December 15, 2015. 
  2. ^ "Reincarnation". 14th Dalai Lama. September 24, 2011. Retrieved December 17, 2015. 
  3. ^ Smith 1997, pg. 135
  4. ^ Foster 2008, pg. 171
  5. ^ Goldstein 1997, pp. 102-9


  • 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
  • Smith, Warren W., Jr. Tibetan Nation: A History Of Tibetan Nationalism And Sino-Tibetan Relations (1997) Westview press. ISBN 978-0-8133-3280-2
  • Foster, Simon. Adventure Guide China (2008) Hunter. ISBN 1-58843-641-1