Join our Mailing List

"For a happier, more stable and civilized future, each of us must develop a sincere, warm-hearted feeling of brotherhood and sisterhood."

Thousands in China pay tribute to late Tibetan lama

February 13, 2008

XUNHUA COUNTY, China, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Thousands of monks and
villagers lit yak butter candles and chanted mantras as they packed
monasteries in northwest China this weekend to commemorate the
birthday of the second highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism.

The 10th Panchen Lama who died in 1989 was a giant in modern Tibet,
the most senior religious figure after the Himalayan region's
god-king, the 14th Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in India in 1959
after a failed uprising against Communist rule.

The Panchen Lama stayed on and was initially seen as a collaborator,
but it emerged decades later that he was purged for standing up to the
Communists and speaking up for his people.

Nearly 20 years after his death, with Beijing and Tibetans at odds
over his successor, the big show of public affection suggested he
remains a potent symbol of Tibetan aspirations.

"The 10th Panchen Lama was the most skillful user of that little space
that exists in China's Tibet policy for moderation, for real
negotiation," Robbie Barnett, a Tibetologist at Columbia University in
New York, said in a telephone interview.

"He was the ultimate achiever in finding ways to encourage the Chinese
state to compromise with Tibetan collective interests, particularly
about culture, religion and the economy."

Hundreds of monks prayed while villagers spun prayer wheels and
prostrated at Kumbum monastery -- known in Chinese as Ta'er -- in
Qinghai province on Sunday to commemorate the 70th birth anniversary
of the 10th Panchen Lama.

On Saturday, thousands of villagers, many clutching plastic flowers,
and monks lined the roads from the 10th Panchen Lama's birthplace to
the local temple in Wendu village to catch a glimpse of his daughter,
Yabshi Pan Rinzinwangmo.


"These prayers demonstrate that my father still lives in the people's
hearts," Yabshi Pan Rinzinwangmo, wearing a bright yellow traditional
Tibetan dress, or chupa, told Reuters. "Time has not dimmed his

The 10th Panchen Lama launched the first Tibetan charity dedicated to
helping his people and a company which served as an economic model to
generate income via traditional arts.

After the Dalai Lama fled, the Panchen Lama spent more than a decade
either in prison or under house arrest for attacking Beijing in a 1962
petition over mass jailings, starvation and efforts to wipe out
Buddhism in his pious homeland.

It was revealed in the late 1990s that Chairman Mao Zedong dismissed
the 70,000-word petition as a "poisoned arrow shot at the (Communist)
Party by reactionary feudal overlords".

The Panchen Lama was freed in 1977, one year after Mao's death and
politically rehabilitated the following year.

He was tasked with resurrecting Buddhism, which had been struck a
devastating blow during the chaotic 1966-76 Cultural Revolution when
monasteries were closed and monks defrocked.

Physically and psychologically worn down after years of solitary
confinement during which time even his parents were not allowed to
visit him, the Panchen Lama married a Han Chinese woman in 1979. Their
daughter, now 24, was their only child.

The Dalai Lama and China's atheist Communist rulers chose rival
reincarnations of the 10th Panchen Lama in 1995. The 6-year-old boy
anointed by the Dalai Lama swiftly disappeared from public view,
leading human rights groups to dub him the world's youngest political

Tibetans widely disdain Beijing's choice for the 11th Panchen Lama,
and in a sign of their continued affection for the 10th Panchen Lama,
his daughter was received like royalty.

Residents greeted Yabshi Pan Rinzinwangmo as "princess", and more than
500 motorcycles measuring a km (mile) long escorted her to her
father's home village.

Braving sub-zero temperatures, villagers queued up to present her with
white silk scarves traditionally used to greet honoured guests. Police
were mobilised to maintain order.

The government prefers to encourage loyalty to the 11th Panchen Lama
to prop up his legitimacy, but it tolerates the memory of the 10th.

Khedroob Thondup, a member of Tibet's parliament-in-exile who took
part in dialogue with Beijing from 1979 to 1994, remembers the 10th
Panchen Lama as a "true patriot".

"The Panchen in our numerous conversations stressed repeatedly he was
foremost a Tibetan with his responsibilities towards the Tibetan
people and his commited support to the Dalai Lama in his efforts for a
peaceful settlement with Beijing over Tibet," said Khedroob Thondup, a
nephew of the Dalai Lama.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
Developed by plank