Lobsang Trinley Lhündrub Chökyi Gyaltsen
The 10th Panchen Lama
The Panchen Lama c. 1955
10th Panchen Lama
Reign3 June 1949 – 28 January 1989
PredecessorThubten Choekyi Nyima
Successor11th Panchen Lama:
Gedhun Choekyi Nyima (Selected by the 14th Dalai Lama)
Gyaincain Norbu (Selected by the Chinese leadership)
Director of the Preparatory Committee for the Tibet Autonomous Region
In office1959 – 1964
Predecessor14th Dalai Lama
SuccessorNgapoi Ngawang Jigme (acting)
2nd, 5th, 6th, 7th Vice Chairman of the National People's Congress
In office15 September 1954 – 18 April 1959
In office10 September 1980 – 28 January 1989
2nd, 3rd, 5th Vice Chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference
In office15 September 1954 – 21 December 1964
In officeFebruary 1979 – 6 June 1983
BornGönbo Cêdän
(1938-02-19)19 February 1938
Bido, Xunhua County, Qinghai, Republic of China, known as Amdo
Died28 January 1989(1989-01-28) (aged 50)
Shigatse, Tibet Autonomous Region, People's Republic of China, known as Ü-Tsang
BurialTashi Lhunpo Monastery, Shigatse
SpouseLi Jie
IssueYabshi Pan Rinzinwangmo
FatherGonpo Tseten
MotherSonam Drolma
ReligionTibetan Buddhism
Official title: 10th Panchen Erdeni
Traditional Chinese第十世班禪額爾德尼
Simplified Chinese第十世班禅额尔德尼
Literal meaningNumber-10-lifetime
Pandita-Chenpo (Sanskrit-Tibetan Buddhist title, meaning "Great Scholar")
Erdeni (Manchu loanword from Mongolian, meaning "treasure")
Dharma name: Lobsang Trinley Lhündrub Chökyi Gyaltsen
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese羅桑赤列倫珠確吉堅贊
Simplified Chinese罗桑赤列伦珠确吉坚赞
Literal meaning善慧事業運成法幢
Tibetan name
Original name: Gönbo Cêdän
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese貢布慈丹
Simplified Chinese贡布慈丹
Tibetan name

Lobsang Trinley Lhündrub Chökyi Gyaltsen (born Gönbo Cêdän; 19 February 1938 – 28 January 1989) was the tenth Panchen Lama, officially the 10th Panchen Erdeni (Chinese: 第十世班禅额尔德尼; lit. 'Number-10-lifetime Great Scholar the Treasure'), of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism. According to Tibetan Buddhism, Panchen Lamas are living emanations of the buddha Amitabha. He was often referred to simply as Choekyi Gyaltsen.


The Paṇchen Lama incarnation line began in the seventeenth century after the 5th Dalai Lama gave Chokyi Gyeltsen the title, and declared him to be an emanation of Buddha Amitaba. Officially, he became the first Panchen Lama in the lineage, while he had also been the sixteenth abbot of Tashilhunpo Monastery.[1]

The 10th Panchen Lama was born as Gonpo Tseten on 19 February 1938, in Bido, today's Xunhua Salar Autonomous County of Qinghai, known as Amdo. His father was also called Gonpo Tseten and his mother was Sonam Drolma. After the Ninth Panchen Lama died in 1937, two simultaneous searches for the tenth Panchen Lama produced different boys, with the government in Lhasa preferring a boy from Xikang, and the Ninth Panchen Lama's khenpos and associates choosing Gonpo Tseten.[2] On 3 June 1949, the Republic of China (ROC) government declared its support for Gonpo Tseten.

On 11 June 1949, at twelve years of age in the Tibetan counting system, Gonpo Tseten was enthroned at the major Gelugpa monastery in Amdo, Kumbum Jampa Ling monastery as the 10th Panchen Lama and given the name Lobsang Trinley Lhündrub Chökyi Gyaltsen. Attending were also Guan Jiyu, the head of the Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission, and ROC Kuomintang Governor of Qinghai, Ma Bufang.[3] Still in Lhasa, the Dalai Lama recognized the Panchen Lama Choekyi Gyaltsen a few years later, after they met.[4]

Young Panchen Lama in 1947

Chinese Civil War

The ROC wanted to use Choekyi Gyaltsen to create a broad anti-Communist base in Southwest China.[2] The ROC's Kuomintang formulated a plan where three Tibetan Khampa divisions would be assisted by the Panchen Lama to oppose the Communists.[5]

When Lhasa denied Choekyi Gyaltsen the territory the Panchen Lama traditionally controlled, he asked Ma Bufang to help him lead an army against Tibet in September 1949.[6] 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.[7][8] Moreover, the Dalai Lama's regency was unstable, having suffered a civil war in 1947, and the Kuomintang took advantage of this to expand its influence in Lhasa.[9]

People's Republic of China

The Panchen Lama reportedly supported China's claim of sovereignty over Tibet, and supported China's reform policies for Tibet.[4] Radio Beijing broadcast the religious leader's call for Tibet to be "liberated" into China, which created pressure on the Lhasa government to negotiate with the People's Republic.[2][clarification needed]

At Kumbum Monastery, the Panchen Lama gave a Kalacakra initiation in 1951.[10] That year, 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.[11] 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.[12][13] 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.[14] 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.[15]

The young Panchen Lama at a Tibetan monastery

Petition and arrest

70,000 Character Petition

Main article: 70,000 Character Petition

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.[16][17] According to Isabel Hilton, it remains the "most detailed and informed attack on China's policies in Tibet that would ever be written."[18]

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.[19] 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.[20][21]


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,[22] and was then imprisoned. He was 26 years old at the time.[23] 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.[24][25] In October 1977 he was released, but held under house arrest in Beijing until 1982.[26]

The Tibetan Panchen Lama during a struggle session, 1964.

Later life

In 1978, after giving up his vows of an ordained monk, he travelled around China, looking for a wife to start a family.[27] He began courting Li Jie, uterine granddaughter of Dong Qiwu, a general in PLA who had commanded an Army in the Korean War. She was a 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.[28] 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 (Standard Tibetan: ཡབ་གཞིས་པན་རིག་འཛིན་དབང་མོ་).[29] Popularly known as the "Princess of Tibet",[30] 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.

Of her father's death, Rinzinwangmo reportedly refused to comment, allegedly attributing his early death to his generally poor health, extreme weight gain, and chronic sleep deprivation.[28][citation needed] The 10th Panchen Lama's death sparked a six-year dispute over his assets amounting to $US20 million between his wife and daughter and Tashilhunpo Monastery.[28]

Return to Tibet

The Panchen Lama made several journeys to Tibet from Beijing, during 1980 and afterwards.

While touring eastern Tibet in 1980, the Panchen Lama also visited the famous Nyingma school master Khenchen Jigme Phuntsok at Larung Gar.[31]

In 1987, the Panchen Lama met Khenchen Jigme Phuntsok again in Beijing, bestowed the teaching of the Thirty-Seven Practices of a Bodhisattva, and blessed as well as endorsed Larung Gar and conferred its name as Serta Larung Ngarik Nangten Lobling (gser rta bla rung lnga rig nang bstan blob gling), commonly translated as Serta Larung Five Science Buddhist Academy.[31]

With the Panchen Lama's invitation, Khenchen Jigme Phuntsok joined him in 1988 on a consecration ritual in central Tibet, which became a monumental pilgrimage of sacred Buddhist sites in Tibet, among them the Potala Palace, the Norbulinka, the Nechung Monastery, then to Sakya Monastery and Tashilhunpo Monastery, and also to Samye Monastery.[31][32]

Also in 1987, the Panchen Lama established a business called the Tibet Gang-gyen Development Corporation, envisioned for the future of Tibet whereby Tibetans could take the initiative to develop and join in their own modernization. Plans to rebuild sacred Buddhist sites destroyed in Tibet during 1959 and after were included. Gyara Tsering Samdrup worked with the business, but was arrested in May 1995 after the 11th Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was recognized.[33][34][35]

Early in 1989, the 10th Panchen Lama returned again to Tibet to rebury recovered bones from the graves of the previous Panchen Lamas, graves that had been destroyed at Tashilhunpo Monastery in 1959[22] by the Red Guards, and consecrated in a chorten built as the receptacle.

On 23 January 1989, the Panchen Lama delivered 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."[36][37] He criticized the excesses of the Cultural Revolution in Tibet and praised the reform and opening up of the 1980s.[38]


Five days later on 28 January, the Panchen Lama died in Shigatse at the age of 50.[39] Although the official cause of death was said to have been from a heart attack, some Tibetans suspect foul play.[36]

Many 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.[38] Other people, including the Dalai Lama,[28] 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.

On August 1993, his body was moved to Tashi Lhunpo Monastery where his body was first put in a sandalwood bier, which was then put into a specially made safety cabinet and finally moved into the Precious Bottle in the stupa of the monastery where it remains preserved.[40]

In 2011, the Chinese dissident Yuan Hongbing declared that Hu Jintao, then the Communist Party Secretary of Tibet and the Political Commissar of the PLA's Tibet units, had masterminded the death of the 10th Panchen Lama.[41]

According to the state-run People's Daily, 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. The Dalai Lama was unable to attend the funeral.[42][43][44]

The 10th Panchen Lama visited Tibet in August 1987, and thousands of Tibetans walked for days to line up and receive a blessing.

See also



  1. ^ Panchen Lama, Treasury of Lives, https://treasuryoflives.org/incarnation/Panchen-Lama
  2. ^ a b c Lin, Hsiao-ting (2010). Modern China's Ethnic Frontiers: A Journey to the West. Taylor & Francis. pp. 116–118.
  3. ^ 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. Archived from the original on 25 February 2012. Retrieved 9 April 2011.
  4. ^ a b Melvyn C. Goldstein, in McKay 2003, p. 222.
  5. ^ Hsiao-ting Lin (2010). Modern China's ethnic frontiers: a journey to the west. Vol. 67 of Routledge studies in the modern history of Asia (illustrated ed.). Taylor & Francis. p. 117. ISBN 978-0-415-58264-3. Retrieved 27 December 2011. 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.
  6. ^ "Exiled Lama, 12, Wants to Lead Army on Tibet". Los Angeles Times. 6 September 1949. Archived from the original on 4 November 2012.
  7. ^ Goldstein, Melvyn C. (2009). A History of Modern Tibet: The Calm Before the Storm: 1951–1955, Volume 2. University of California Press. pp. 272, 273. ISBN 978-0-520-25995-9.
  8. ^ Hilton, Isabel (2001). The Search for the Panchen Lama. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 110. ISBN 0-393-32167-3.
  9. ^ Hilton, Isabel (2001). The Search for the Panchen Lama. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 112. ISBN 0-393-32167-3. There was neither peace nor happiness in Lhasa, nor had there been for some time. The regency of a Dalai Lama was often a period riddled with conspiracy and instability, and that of the minority of the fourteenth Dalai Lama had been no exception. Things had become so chaotic and corrupt that there had even been a brief civil war in 1947. While the government mismanaged, the Guomindang (Kuomintang, or K MT), who had an ever larger representative office in Lhasa, had been quietly peddling influence in the capital.
  10. ^ Nicole Willock, The Sixth Tseten Zhabdrung, Jigme Rigpai Lodro, Treasury of Lives, https://treasuryoflives.org/biographies/view/Jigme-Rigpai-Lodro/P1646
  11. ^ "The Tenth Panchen Lama" Archived 10 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "Ngapoi recalls the founding of the TAR" Archived 13 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine, Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme, China View, 30 August 2005.
  13. ^ "Selected Foreign Dignitaries Met From Year 1954 to 1989" Archived 9 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ Goldstein, M.C., A History of Modern Tibet, Volume 2 – The Calm before the Storm: 1951–1955, p. 496
  15. ^ Feigon 1996, p. 163
  16. ^ "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 4 March 2016. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  17. ^ "World Tibet Network News: Secret Report on 1960s Tibet Published". Tibet.ca. Canada Tibet Committee. 12 February 1998. Archived from the original on 25 May 2015. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  18. ^ 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. Archived from the original on 20 February 2017. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  19. ^ Kurtenbach, Elaine (11 February 1998). "1962 report by Tibetan leader tells of mass beatings, starvation". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 21 July 2001. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  20. ^ Secret Report on 1960s Tibet Published (TIN).
  21. ^ The Secret Report Of Tibet's 10th Panchen Lama Available Online For The First Time (TIN).
  22. ^ a b Hilton 2000
  23. ^ "Exploring Chinese History :: East Asian Region :: Tibet" Archived 1 July 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ "Excerpts from Qincheng: A Twentieth Century Bastille" Archived 2 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine, published in Exploration, March 1979
  25. ^ "An Unusual Glimpse into China's Gulag". The New York Times. 13 May 1979. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 5 December 2023.
  26. ^ tibetanreview (15 February 2018). "China seeks new contributions from its Panchen Lama to strengthen its rule in Tibet". Tibetan Review. Retrieved 5 December 2023.
  27. ^ Hilton, Isabel (21 March 2004). "The Buddha's Daughter". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 5 December 2023.
  28. ^ 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.
  29. ^ "Buddha's Daughter: a Young Tibetan-Chinese Woman" Archived 8 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  30. ^ McDonald, Hamish (12 November 2005). "Bridging the gap". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 19 August 2011. Retrieved 13 August 2011.
  31. ^ a b c Antonio Terrone, (October 2013). Khenpo Jigme Puntsok. The Treasury of Lives. https://treasuryoflives.org/biographies/view/Khenpo-Jigme-Puntsok/10457 , In the early 1980s, in the mountain retreat that Khenpo Jigme Puntsok developed in the mountains south of Serta named Larung Gar (bla rung sgar), he dedicated most of his time to practicing and teaching Dzogchen while his fame as a virtuous practitioner and dedicated teacher attracted more and more monastics. He particularly emphasized the importance of Buddhist ethics and the Vinaya code of monastic discipline. His fame was such that he was visited by the Tenth Paṇchen Lama Chokyi Gyeltsen's (paN chen 10 chos kyi rgyal mtshan, 1949-1989), during the latter's tour of eastern Tibet in 1980.
  32. ^ David Germano, Re-membering the dismembered body of Tibet: Contemporary Tibetan visionary movements in the People's Republic of China. Editors Melvyn Goldstein and Matthew Kapstein. "Buddhism in Contemporary Tibet: Religious revival and cultural identity", UC Press, 1998.
  33. ^ Senior Tibetan monk given jail term by China, (8 May 1997), https://www.nytimes.com/1997/05/08/world/senior-tibetan-monk-given-jail-term-by-china.html Senior Tibetan Monk Given Jail Term by China
  34. ^ Dawa Norbu, Tibet : the road ahead, Rider & Co, 1998 ISBN 978-0712671965, p.320-321.
  35. ^ Patrick French, Tibet: A personal history of a lost country, 2005, ISBN 978-2-226-15964-9, p. 73
  36. ^ a b Laird 2006, p. 355
  37. ^ "Panchen Lama Poisoned arrow". BBC h2g2 – an encyclopaedic project contributed to by people from all over the world. 14 October 2001. Archived from the original on 20 October 2007. Retrieved 29 April 2007.
  38. ^ a b Hilton 2000, pp. 192–194
  39. ^ Hilton 2000, p. 1
  40. ^ "Tashilhungpo Monastery: Residence of Panchen Lama". China Culture. Retrieved 19 February 2024.
  41. ^ Kalsang Rinchen, "Hu killed Panchen: Chinese dissident" Archived 13 September 2017 at the Wayback Machine, Phayul.com, 16 March 2011
  42. ^ "Negotiations between Dalai Lama, central government revealed". People's Daily. 4 February 2002. Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
  43. ^ "An Overview of Sino-Tibetan Dialogue - the Official Website of the Central Tibetan Administration". Archived from the original on 11 June 2010. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  44. ^ Kapstein 2006, p. 295


  • 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.
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  • 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.
Government offices Preceded byTenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lamaas Director(fled to India during the 1959 rebellion) Director of the Preparatory Committee for the Tibet Autonomous RegionActing 1959–1964 Succeeded byNgapoi Ngawang Jigmeas Acting Director Religious titles Preceded byThubten Choekyi Nyima, 9th Panchen Lama Reincarnation of the Panchen Lama10th 1949–1989 Succeeded byGedhun Choekyi Nyima(Government of Tibet in Exile interpretation)Gyaltsen Norbu(People's Republic of China interpretation)