The first Jamyang Zhépa, Ngawang Tsöndrü (1648–1721), was a native of Amdo and, after studying at Drepung Monastery near Lhasa, was invited by the local Mongol king to return and teach Buddhism there. There, Ngawang Tsöndrü later founded Labrang, one of the two great monasteries of Amdo. As the first Jamyang Zhépa was educated at Drepung, the lineage has subsequently belonged the Gelug.
The current Jamyang Zhépa is the 6th, Lobsang Jigme Thubten Chökyi Nyima (born 1948). During the Cultural Revolution, he became a layman and married. Tibetan Buddhist teachers may be either laypersons or monks, but the Jamyang Zhépas are traditionally monks. He currently lives in Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu.