13 February 1990 |
Lhari County, Tibet Autonomous Region, China
Chökyi Gyalpo, also referred to by secular name Gyaincain Norbu, is the 11th Panchen Lama selected by the government of People's Republic of China. He is also the vice president of the Buddhist Association of China. 
Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the Panchen Lama recognized by the 14th Dalai Lama, and Chadrel Rinpoche, the then-incumbent abbott of Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, have been detained in a series of unknown locations by the Chinese Government since the exile government selected him. Neither the Chinese nor the Tibetan exile governments recognize each other's selection for the Panchen Lama.
Gyaincain Norbu's full religious name is Jêzün Lobsang Qamba Lhünzhub Qögyi'gyäbo Bäsangbo, although he is generally called Qoigyijabu (Tibetan: ཆོས་ཀྱི་རྒྱལ་པོ་་, Wylie: Chos-kyi Rgyal-po, ZYPY: Qögyi Gyäbo). Meaning "Dharma king", this name can also be written Qögyi'gyäbo, Qögyi Gyäbo, Qoigyi'gyaibo, Qoigyi Gyaibo, Chökyi Gyalpo, Choekyi Gyalpo, or, in Wylie transliteration, Chos-kyi Rgyal-po. The Chinese equivalent is Quèjí Jiébù (确吉杰布).
Gyaincain Norbu was born on 13 February, 1990 in Lhari County in northern Tibet Autonomous Region. He is the son of two Communist Party members. He had been living in Beijing during his early childhood to be educated in a Chinese way, and moved back to Tashilhunpo Monastery for his enthronement, in Shigatse, the official seat of the Panchen Lamas. He developed altitude sickness when he first moved back, but overcame it quickly. Since his selection as Panchen Lama, he has studied Tibetan Buddhism, to his studies he added Tibetan language, sutra, and logic at ten; he is bilingual in both Tibetan and Chinese. He spent most of his later childhood studying Buddhism in Beijing. In a rare appearance for his adolescent age, Norbu delivered a speech in Tibetan for the opening ceremony of the 2006 World Buddhist Forum about Buddhism and national unity. Reportedly, it received a cold reception among delegates, with fellow Buddhists making no attempt to greet Gyaltsen Norbu during greeting ceremonies ahead of the conference on Wednesday. Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama had not been invited, because he is viewed by China as "a long-time stubborn secessionist who has tried to split his Chinese motherland and break the unity among different ethnic groups."
Two years later, in 2008, he denounced anti-Han riots in Lhasa, saying "We resolutely oppose all activities to split the country and undermine ethnic unity". China promotes him as "the public face of Tibetan Buddhism".
On 3 February, 2010, Norbu was elected vice president of the Buddhist Association of China. Later that month, at 20 years old, Norbu became the youngest member of the advisory body National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). Vice chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region Hao Peng praised his appointment, in particular for Norbu's "demonstrating the role of the living Buddhas in Tibetan Buddhism and encouraging more believers to participate in state affairs". He was not, however, made vice chairman of the CPPCC, as Choekyi Gyaltsen, 10th Panchen Lama was and was widely expected of Norbu. Still, the Tibetan government in exile expressed concern that his appointment could prejudice his position on the next Dalai Lama, who normally requires approval from the Panchen Lama.
On May 2010, he reported to the ethnically Tibetan earthquake zone of the 2010 Yushu earthquake and held prayer services for victims. In June, he gave speeches at Tibet University and Tibet University of Traditional Tibetan Medicine in Lhasa promoting the value of education. In response to the 2010 Gansu mudslide, in which Zhugqu County, a third of which is populated by Tibetans, was hit, he donated ¥50,000 to relief efforts and prayed for the victims. He pays visits to the Tashilhunpo Monastery, the traditional seat of the Panchen Lama, although he does not live there. The Asia Times describes him as "A slight man who wears thick glasses and traditional crimson robes".
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Following the death of the Choekyi Gyaltsen, 10th Panchen Lama in 1989, both the Tibetan government in exile and the Chinese government started parallel processes in the six-year-long search for the 11th Panchen Lama.
The head of the Chinese government's Panchen Lama search committee at the time, Chadrel Rinpoche, was able to secretly communicate with the Dalai Lama. He planned to submit the Dalai Lama's favored choice to the government. When the government learned of this conspiracy, they arrested Chadrel in May 1995. The Dalai Lama moved to pre-empt China's choice, and proclaimed his own preferred candidate, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, as the 11th incarnation of the Panchen Lama. Four days later, Chinese security forces escorted him from his home in Lhari County, stating that he "was at risk of being kidnapped by Tibetan separatists". China rejects Nyima as being "arbitrarily" chosen, while the Tibetan government in exile similarly insists on its candidate's legitimacy.
Chadrel was replaced on the search committee by Sengchen Lobsang Gyaltsen. The new committee decided to choose the Panchen Lama from a list of finalists by drawing lots from a Golden Urn. The Chinese custom of using the Golden Urn had been introduced in the year 1792 by the Qianlong Emperor and used to select the 10th, 11th, and 12th Dalai Lamas. Four days before his death, the China Tibet Information Center reports, the 10th Panchen Lama requested that the Golden Urn process be used to select his successor. According to Arjia Rinpoche, an important lama who attended the ceremony, Ye Xiaowen, the central government official in charge of the Panchen Lama issue, stated privately that the selection had been rigged in favor of Gyaincain Norbu.
Six-year-old Gyaincain Norbu was selected on 8 December, 1995 with the religious name Qoigyijabu. Exiled Tibetan abbot Arjia Rinpoche, alleges that an official told him that the ceremony, which he attended, was rigged in favor of Norbu. Gyaincain Norbu was enthroned at Tashilhunpo Monastery and has since assumed the full functions of Panchen Lama.In attendance at the enthronement was the 8th Arjia Rinpoche, who in his book says, "We had to prostrate to the so-called Panchen Lama...we had neither the respect for nor faith in this chosen child... I felt soiled by this gesture."
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...When we made our selection we left nothing to chance. In the silk pouches of the ivory pieces we put a bit of cotton at the bottom of one of them, so it would be a little higher than the others and the right candidate would be chosen.
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