The Panchen Lamas

The portrait of the 10th Panchen Lama(L) and 11th Panchen Lama(R)

The 10th Panchen Lama, Lobsang Trinley Lhundrup Choekyi Gyaltsen, was born in 1938 and was recognised as the re-incarnation of the 9th Panchen Lama in 1951. Traditionally, the Panchen Lama is considered to be one of the most revered religious leaders of Tibet after the Dalai Lama.


On May 18, 1962, the Panchen Lama submitted a critical report, which later became known as ‘70,000 Character Petition’, to Chinese Premeir Zhou En-lai, detailing the sufferings, torture and inhuman treatments inflicted on Tibetans in the name of “Clampdown on Social Unrest” and “Democratic Reforms”. The Chinese government responded by accusing him of revolting against the party and purged him from his position. Later in 1964, he was subjected to struggle sessions. In 1968, the Chinese government imprisoned him and he was released only as late as in October 1977.

In 1980, the Panchen Lama was appointed the vice-chairman of the National People’s Congress. On his return, the Panchen Lama devoted all of his energies to the revival of Tibetan religion and culture, which were devastated during the Cultural Revolution. Unfortunately, these efforts were short-lived. In January 1989, when he returned to Shigatse after a long absence, he was welcomed home by 30,000 jubilant Tibetans. At that time, he delivered a speech in which he said that Tibet had lost more than it had gained under Chinese rule. Five days later he suffered a massive heart attack and passed away under mysterious circumstances in Tibet in 1989. He was only 51 years old.

His reincarnation, the 11th Panchen Lama, Gedun Choekyi Nyima was born on April 25, 1989 in Lhari County. He was recognised by His Holiness the Dalai Lama as the re-incarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama on May 14, 1995. Within three days (May 17, 1995) Gedun Choekyi Nyima and his parents were abducted from their home by the Chinese government and have not since been seen in public, despite repeated appeals by western governments to Beijing to reveal his whereabouts. Instead Beijing appointed its own Panchen Lama, Gyaltsen Norbu and has been forcing Tibetans to revere and recognize him as the 11th Panchen Lama.