Choekyi Gyaltsen, 10th Panchen Lama

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. He was often referred to simply as Choekyi Gyaltsen (which can be Choekyi Gyaltse, Choskyi Gyantsen, etc.), although this is also the name of several other notable figures in Tibetan history.

Choekyi Gyaltsen
The 10th Panchen Lama
10th Panchen Lama by Claude-Max Lochu
10th Panchen Lama
Reign3 June 1949 – 28 January 1989
PredecessorThubten Choekyi Nyima
Successor11th Panchen Lama controversy:
Gedhun Choekyi Nyima (Recognized by the 14th Dalai Lama)
Gyaltsen Norbu (Chinese selection)
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
Xunhua County, Qinghai, Republic of China
Died28 January 1989(1989-01-28) (aged 50)
Shigatse, Tibet Autonomous Region, People's Republic of China
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

Early life and selectionEdit

Young Panchen Lama in 1947

The 10th Panchen Lama was born Gonpo Tseten on 19 February 1938 in today's Xunhua Salar Autonomous County of Qinghai, to Gonpo Tseten and Sonam Drolma. When the Ninth Panchen Lama died in 1937, two simultaneous searches for the tenth Panchen Lama produced two competing candidates, with the government in Lhasa (who had selected a boy from Xikang) and the Ninth Panchen Lama's officials (who picked Tseten) in conflict.[1] The Republic of China government, then embroiled in the Chinese Civil War, declared its support for Tseten on 3 June 1949. Guan Jiyu, the head of the Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission, joined Kuomintang Governor of Qinghai Ma Bufang in presiding over Tseten's enthronement on 11 June as Choekyi Gyaltsen at Kumbum Monastery.[2] The Dalai Lama's government in Lhasa still refused to recognize Gyaltsen.[3]

The Kuomintang wanted to use Gyaltsen to create a broad anti-Communist base in Southwest China.[1] The Kuomintang formulated a plan where 3 Khampa divisions would be assisted by the Panchen Lama to oppose the Communists.[4]

When Lhasa denied Gyaltsen the territory the Panchen Lama traditionally controlled, he asked Ma Bufang to help him lead an army against Tibet in September 1949.[5] 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. The Panchen Lama, unlike the Dalai Lama, sought to exert control in decision making.[6][7] In addition, the Dalai Lama regime was tottering, and his government displayed negligence in affairs, the Kuomintang using this to their advantage to expand into the Lhasa regime of the Dalai Lama.[8][clarification needed]

Early politicsEdit

The Panchen Lama supported China's claim of sovereignty over Tibet, and China's reform policies for Tibet.[3] Radio Beijing broadcast the religious leader's call for Tibet to be "liberated" into Tibet, which created pressure on the Lhasa government to negotiate with the People's Republic.[1] In 1951, 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.[9] 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.[10][11] 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.[12] 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.[13]

Alienation and rehabilitationEdit

70,000 Character PetitionEdit

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.[14][15] According to Isabel Hilton, it remains the "most detailed and informed attack on China's policies in Tibet that would ever be written."[16]

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.[17] 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.[18][19]

Opposition and humiliationEdit

Tibetan Panchen Lama during the struggle session (1964).
August 1987. The 10th Panchen Lama was visiting Tibet. Thousands of Tibetans walked for days to line up and receive a blessing in this rare photo taken 2 years before his death.

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,[20] and was then imprisoned. He was 26 years old at the time.[21] 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.[22] In October 1977 he was released, but held under house arrest in Beijing until 1982. After his release, he was considered by the PRC authorities to be politically rehabilitated and he then rose to important positions. He served as Vice Chairman of the National People's Congress.

Later life and deathEdit

In 1978, after giving up his vows of an ordained monk, he travelled around China, looking for a wife to start a family. He began courting Li Jie, daughter 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.[23] 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.


The young Panchen Lama at a Tibetan Monastery

Li Jie bore a daughter in 1983, named Yabshi Pan Rinzinwangmo.[24] Popularly known as the "Princess of Tibet",[25] 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. Rinzinwangmo was schooled in the United States for 10 years where her legal guardian was American actor Steven Seagal,[26] prior to returning to China in 2005. That same year, Rinzinwangmo began her PhD in Finance at the Tsinghua University in Beijing. In June 2010, Rinzinwangmo finished her doctoral thesis and graduated. As both a Chinese/Tibetan and a global youth leader, Rinzinwangmo dedicates much of her time and energy to her ongoing roles with numerous global charities and organizations: namely the All-China Youth Federation, Tibet Red Cross, Snowland Great Rivers Environmental Protection Association, and several orphanages and eye camps in the Tibetan ethnic regions. Rinzinwangmo is fluent in several Tibetan dialects, Mandarin Chinese and English.

Return to Tibet and deathEdit

Early in 1989, the 10th Panchen Lama returned to Tibet to rebury some of the recovered bones from the graves of the previous Panchen Lamas, graves that had been destroyed during the destruction of Tashilhunpo in 1959.[20] He died from a heart attack in Shigatse at the age of 50, on 28 January,[27] just five days after delivering 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."[28][29] Although the official cause of death was said to have been from a heart attack, some Tibetans suspect foul play.[28] In 2011, the Chinese dissident Yuan Hongbing declared that Hu Jintao had masterminded the death of the 10th Panchen Lama.[30] The 10th Panchen Lama's death sparked an unprecedented six-year dispute over his assets amounting to $20 million between his wife and daughter and Tashilhunpo Monastery.[23] 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. Because of the short notice, the Dalai Lama was unable to attend the invitation.[31][32] and new disputes materialized between the Chinese government and supporters of the Dalai Lama.[33]

Many legends and conspiracy 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.[34] Some people, including the Dalai Lama,[23] 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. The message criticized the excesses of the Cultural Revolution in Tibet and praised the reform and opening up of the 1980s.[34] His daughter Rinzinwangmo reportedly refused to comment, allegedly attributing his early death to his generally poor health, extreme weight gain, and chronic sleep deprivation.[23]

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ a b c Lin, Hsiao-ting (2010). Modern China's Ethnic Frontiers: A Journey to the West. Taylor & Francis. pp. 116–118.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ a b Melvyn C. Goldstein, in McKay 2003, p. 222.
  4. ^ Hsiao-ting Lin (2010). Modern China's ethnic frontiers: a journey to the west. Volume 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.
  5. ^ "Exiled Lama, 12, Wants to Lead Army on Tibet". Los Angeles Times. 6 September 1949. Archived from the original on 4 November 2012.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Hilton, Isabel (2001). The Search for the Panchen Lama. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 110. ISBN 0-393-32167-3.
  8. ^ Hilton, Isabel (2001). The Search for the Panchen Lama. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 112. ISBN 0-393-32167-3.
  9. ^ "The Tenth Panchen Lama" Archived 10 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "Ngapoi recalls the founding of the TAR" Archived 13 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine, Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme, China View, 30 August 2005.
  11. ^ "Selected Foreign Dignitaries Met From Year 1954 to 1989" Archived 9 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Goldstein, M.C., A History of Modern Tibet, Volume 2 – The Calm before the Storm: 1951–1955, p. 496
  13. ^ Feigon 1996, p. 163
  14. ^ "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.
  15. ^ "World Tibet Network News: Secret Report on 1960s Tibet Published". Canada Tibet Committee. 12 February 1998. Archived from the original on 25 May 2015. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ Secret Report on 1960s Tibet Published (TIN).
  19. ^ The Secret Report Of Tibet's 10th Panchen Lama Available Online For The First Time (TIN).
  20. ^ a b Hilton 2000
  21. ^ "Exploring Chinese History :: East Asian Region :: Tibet" Archived 1 July 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ "Excerpts from Qincheng: A Twentieth Century Bastille" Archived 2016-03-02 at the Wayback Machine, published in Exploration, March 1979
  23. ^ 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.
  24. ^ "Buddha's Daughter: a Young Tibetan-Chinese Woman" Archived 8 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ McDonald, Hamish (12 November 2005). "Bridging the gap". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 19 August 2011. Retrieved 13 August 2011.
  26. ^ Charles Carreon. "Steven Seagal Comes Out of the Buddhist Closet". American Buddha Online Library. Archived from the original on 21 June 2007. Retrieved 24 May 2007.
  27. ^ Hilton 2000, pg. 1
  28. ^ a b Laird 2006, p. 355
  29. ^ "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.
  30. ^ Kalsang Rinchen, "Hu killed Panchen: Chinese dissident" Archived 13 September 2017 at the Wayback Machine,, 16 March 2011
  31. ^ "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.
  32. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 11 June 2010. Retrieved 19 January 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  33. ^ Kapstein 2006, p. 295
  34. ^ a b Hilton 2000, pp. 192–194


  • 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.
  • Hilton, Elizabeth. The Search for the Panchen Lama (2000) W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-04969-8.
  • 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.

External linksEdit

Government offices
Preceded by
Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama
as Director
(fled to India during the 1959 rebellion)
Director of the Preparatory Committee for the Tibet Autonomous Region

Succeeded by
Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme
as Acting Director
Religious titles
Preceded by
Thubten Choekyi Nyima, 9th Panchen Lama
Reincarnation of the Panchen Lama

Succeeded by
Gedhun Choekyi Nyima
(Government of Tibet in Exile interpretation)
Gyaltsen Norbu
(People's Republic of China interpretation)