Choekyi Gyaltsen, 10th Panchen Lama of Tibet

Choekyi Gyaltsen (February 19, 1938 -January 28, 1989) was the 10th Panchen Lama of Gelug School of Tibetan Buddhism. He was often referred to simply as Choekyi Gyaltsen, although this is also the name of several other notable figures in Tibetan history.

He was born on February 19, 1938 in today's Xunhua Salar Autonomous County of Qinghai, to Gonpo Tseten and Sonam Drolma and given the name Gonpo Tseten. On June 3, 1949, officials of the Ninth Panchen Lama recognized Gonpo Tseten as the tenth incarnation of the Panchen Lama. He was enthroned on June 11, 1949 in Amdo (Qinghai) under the auspice of Chinese officials after the Kuomintang administration approved the selection. (He was not recognized by the Dalai Lama, because the Panchen's retinue refused to bring him to Lhasa and submit him to traditional tests.) At this time, he supported China's claim of sovereignty over Tibet, and China's reform policies for Tibet. In 1951, he was invited to Beijing at the time of the arrival a Tibetan delegation which was finally forced to sign the 17-Point Agreement and was forced to send a telegram requesting the Dalai Lama, to implement the Agreement. He was recognized by the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso when they met in 1952. In 1844, the Palden Tenpai Nyima, had had a summer palace for the Panchen Lamas built about 1 km south of Tashilhunpo Monastery containing 2 chapels in walled gardens. Choekyi Gyaltsen, the 10th Panchen Lama, added sumptuous sitting rooms and audience room to this summer palace. It is now a popular picnic spot described in a touristic guide. 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. 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 decided to stay. After a tour through Tibet, in May 1962, he met Zhou Enlai to discuss a petition he had written, criticizing the situation in Tibet. The petition was a 70,000 character document that dealt with the brutal suppression of the Tibetan people during and after the Chinese invasion of Tibet. 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." 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, and then imprisoned. He was 24 years old at the time. 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 inhuman conditions of the Chinese Qincheng Prison where the 10th Panchen Lama was imprisoned. 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. In 1979, he married a Han Chinese woman and in 1983 they had a daughter, Yabshi Pan Rinzinwangmo, which was considered controversial for a Gelug lama. In 1989, the 10th Panchen Lama returned to Tibet for the first time in nearly three decades to reinter 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. [10] After the dedication, he died "under mysterious circumstances" from an alleged heart attack in Shigatse at the age of 51, 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.".