Panchen Lama (1883-1 December 1937), earthly manifestation of the buddha Amitabha. When the thirteenth Dalai Lama (q.v.) was in exile (1904-9, 1910-12), the ninth Panchen was de facto ruler of Tibet. The Panchen was forced into exile by the Dalai in November 1923. The eighth Panchen Rimpoche [precious sage], the earthly manifestation of the buddha Amitabha, died late in 1882, and the search for his infant successor, the new incarnation of Amitabha, began immediately under the direction of high ecclesiastical dignitaries. Among the candidates was Erdeni Chuyi-Geltseng, a child born in the province ofTak-po about whom rumors of miraculous signs and gifts were circulating. A committee of high lamas investigated the child when he was three. In 1888 his name was selected from a golden urn in a traditional ceremony at Lhasa, and on 1 February 1892 he took his seat on the holy couch at Tashi Lhunpo as the ninth Panchen Lama.
The Panchen Lama's youth was devoted to studying the Buddhist doctrines traditionally expounded at the Tashi Lhunpo monastery and to mastering the administration of the monastery's extensive land holdings. The Tashi Lhunpo monastery was second only to the Dalai Lama's capital of Lhasa in territorial and political importance. The thirteenth Dalai Lama helped guide the Panchen Lama's academic and spiritual education, and in 1902 the Panchen Lama made a pilgrimage to Lhasa to take the most solemn religious vows at an ordination ceremony presided over by the Dalai Lama. This event, which occasioned several weeks of celebration throughout Tibet, marked the Panchen's coming to spiritual maturity and to full control of the secular affairs of the Tashi Lhunpo monastery. In 1903 a British expedition led by Colonel Francis Younghusband, bent on forcing Tibetan compliance with the provisions of a Sino-British treaty, made camp at Khamba, which was within the jurisdiction of the Tashi Lhunpo monastery. Although the Panchen Lama sent an emissary to demand the immediate withdrawal of the expedition from his territory, Younghusband remained. The following year, he continued his advance on Gyantse and at Geru inflicted an overwhelming defeat on the motley Tibetan troops which had been assembled to bar his passage. As a result of the Younghusband expedition's advance, the Dalai Lama fled the country, leaving the Panchen Lama as the highest ranking authority in Tibet. The years of the Dalai Lama's absence were trying ones for the Panchen Lama, for he was caught between foreign (Chinese and British) ambitions and the jealous intrigues of both the Lhasa monks and his own followers. On the recommendation of the Chinese amban [imperial resident], Yü-t'ai, the Peking government invited the Panchen Lama to act as regent during the Dalai Lama's absence. Because such an action would have violated Tibetan hierarchical practice and because the Panchen Lama stood in a student-teacher relationship to the Dalai Lama, he declined this invitation.
Soon afterwards, in September 1904, the Tibetan kashag [grand council] was obliged by the Younghusband expedition to sign a convention that, in effect, established a British protectorate. Although this agreement settled the dispute between Tibet and the British government of India, it did not lead to the immediate return of the Dalai Lama. In his continued absence, the Panchen enjoyed increased power and prestige, buoyed up by the successful settlement of the international dispute. His position rose higher still in the winter of 1905 when he visited India at British invitation to meet the Prince of Wales. The Panchen Lama and the British viewed the trip as voluntary, but the Peking government interpreted it as a bow to the dictates of foreign imperialists with designs on Tibet. Accordingly, the Peking government requested that the British minister at Peking inform the British authorities in India that the Chinese would refuse to recognize any agreement that the Panchen Lama might make in the course of his visit. The Panchen, however, was not importuned in any way by the British. He returned to Tibet early in 1906. Charles A. Bell, the British official in charge of the relations of the government of India with Sikkim, Bhutan, and Tibet, visited the Panchen in 1906 and found him eager to be independent of Lhasa and to deal with the British government as the ruler of an independent state.
Unfortunately for the Panchen Lama, he did not have sufficient room or power to maneuver in Tibet even with the Dalai Lama out of the country. The secular power of the Tashi Lhunpo monastery was limited to its own holdings. The Dalai Lama controlled even Shigatse, which was no more than a mile from the Panchen Lama's seat of power. Even though he was the incarnation of the buddha Amitabha, the Panchen wielded less ecclesiastical power than the Dalai, the incarnation of a mere bodhisattva. The Dalai Lama's line had been established before that of the Panchen Lama, and he was the earthly manifestation of Chen-re-zi, the patron deity of Tibet. In sum, the Panchen was in no position to challenge the Dalai's power. Nevertheless, there existed areas of potential disagreement between the two holy men, especially in the realm of politics. The monks of the great lamaseries traditionally were much given to jealousy and intrigue, and the respective followers of the Panchen Lama and the Dalai Lama contributed substantially, by their scheming, to the development of a rift between the two. There was no time for either deterioration or improvement of relations between them after the Dalai's return to Tibet in December 1909, for the Dalai was forced to flee Lhasa again in February 1910. The new Chinese amban, Lien-yü, asked the Panchen Lama to come to Lhasa and administer Tibet in the Dalai's absence. The Panchen went to the capital as requested, but he asked the Dalai, then in India, for instructions. At the Dalai's behest, he left Lhasa and returned to Tashi Lhunpo.
At the time of the Chinese revolution of 1911, the Dalai Lama, still in India, ordered that strong action be taken against the Chinese garrison troops occupying Lhasa. The Panchen Lama's followers and the disgruntled monks of the Ten-gye-ling lamasery in Lhasa paid little attention to these orders, and it was only through British intervention at Peking that the Chinese forces were repatriated. The Panchen courteously met the Dalai ten days' journey from Lhasa at the end of 1912 to accompany the Dalai back to his capital, but the Panchen's association with the Chinese amban and his inaction in face of virtual Chinese occupation in 1910-11 brought him sharp criticism from the Dalai. The Dalai's supporters charged that the Panchen had hoped to assume power in Tibet, citing the traditional rules which he had broken in establishing a political relationship with Lien-yü. Other incidents may have contributed to the estrangement. For one thing, the Panchen had erred in permitting his retinue to continue beating the drums when passing the Potala during the Panchen's 1902 visit to Lhasa. The Dalai fined his coreligionist 150 taels for this offense.
In 1914 the Panchen Lama sent a message to Lhasa requesting that the Dalai Lama receive him at Lhasa and give him benediction. The Dalai replied in September 1915 that the visit should be postponed because he was busy with affairs of state and because the Panchen Lama was overseeing the construction of an image of the buddha Maitreya. For various reasons, it was not until December 1919 that the Panchen finally was able to go to Lhasa and receive the Dalai's benediction. By that time, the Dalai had decided to divorce Tibet from its traditional relationship with China, to build up a modern army, and to centralize control over domestic affairs. He therefore began to apply increasing political and economic pressure on the Panchen Lama's domain, especially by attaching his revenues. In November 1923 the Dalai demanded that the Panchen pay him 5 million taels and a large quantity of grain, provide men and animals for official use, and appear in Lhasa for consultation. The Panchen responded by fleeing Tibet. Little is known about the Panchen Lama's activities in the year following his flight. Having barely escaped a cavalry force sent after him by the Dalai Lama, he apparently spent the first several months of 1924 in Outer Mongolia. About June 1924 he went to Lanchow. After sending two representatives to Peking, presumably for negotiations concerning his future, he went to Taiyuan, Shansi, arriving there early in January 1925. He received a representative of Tuan Ch'i-jui (q.v.), the chief executive at Peking, and left Shansi for Peking. On arrival at the capital, he was accorded a state welcome by the Peking government and was provided with a residence, a modest subsidy, and the title "Propagator of Sincerity and Savior of the World." He remained in Peking for over a year, departing when the Peking government came under the challenge of the Northern Expedition. Then he undertook a religious pilgrimage into Manchuria and Eastern Inner Mongolia. In 1928-30, at the invitation of various banner leaders, he held four Shih-lun chin-kang fa-hui [great Buddhist convocations].
During his religious exercises the Panchen Lama had learned by divination that "chairman Chiang [Kai-shek] can unify China and bring forth happiness and benefit for the people," and the National Government at Nanking evidently had divined that the Panchen Lama could prove very useful in connection with its aim of reestablishing Chinese control over Tibet. Accordingly, in January 1929 the Panchen Lama was made a member (in absentia) of the Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission. A month later his lieutenant Lo-sang Chien-tsan was appointed director of Tibetan affairs in the commission and director of the Nanking office of the Panchen Lama.
In February 1931 Chiang Kai-shek invited the Panchen Lama to Nanking for the nominal purpose of making inquiries regarding conditions in the borderlands. The Panchen left Liaoning by special train for Nanking, where he was warmly welcomed by high officials. He vowed adamant support for the National Government and reputedly declared that "the Three People's Principles are one with the spirit of Buddhism." The National Government responded in June 1931 by endowing the Panchen Lama with a respectable subsidy and the title of Hu-kuo hsuan-hua kuang-hui ta-shih [great teacher, protector of the country, and propagator of universal enlightenment]. A month later, in response to the joint invitation of leaders of the Mongol banners in the Hulun Buir region, the Panchen returned to Eastern Inner Mongolia to "propagate reform" (hsuan-hua) and to proclaim the National Government's "virtuous intent" (te-i). With the beginning of Japanese aggression in Manchuria in September, he left Hulun Buir and took up residence in the palace of Te Wang (Demchukdonggrub, q.v.). In April 1932 the Panchen went to Pailingmiao, Suiyuan, to prepare for his fifth Buddhist congress, held there in July 1932. On such occasions, the faithful were called upon to make rich gifts to the Tibetan religious potentate, and his visitations tended to impoverish the regions in which they took place. The form of his religious progress was fixed, however, and in October 1933 he held his sixth congress in the T'ai-tsu-tien at Peiping, with an estimated 100,000 Buddhists in attendance.
On 1 September 1932 Kung-chueh Chung-ni, the Dalai Lama's representative at Nanking, transmitted to Chiang Kai-shek a strong protest from the three leading Tibetan monasteries and the Tibetan consultative assembly demanding withdrawal of the titles and honors accorded the Panchen Lama. This action merely served to strengthen the National Government's support of the Panchen. When he visited Nanking in December 1932 he was appointed Hsi-ch'ü hsuan-hua shih [propagator of reform for the western regions]. His mission was to mollify the Mongols of Western Inner Mongolia so that they would remain loyal to Nanking. Te Wang and his supporters were pressing for autonomy with Japanese support. In January 1933 the Panchen Lama made his way to Pailingmiao for discussions with Te Wang, who then was appointed defense commissioner at P'angchiang and was given some responsibility for training Mongolian military forces. Throughout the first half of 1933 the Panchen Lama exercised a restraining influence on the ruling princes of Western Inner Mongolia, but on 14 August 1933 they sent a telegram to Nanking announcing their intention to establish an autonomous government.
The death of the Dalai Lama on 1 7 December 1933 set the stage for the Panchen Lama's final attempt to win power in Tibet. As the senior lama at Nanking, he presided over the National Government's memorial service for the Dalai, and he dispatched his deputies to various parts of China "bearing heavy gold" for holding memorial services in monasteries. Moreover, he requested the National Government to award posthumous honors to his old antagonist. In January 1934 the Panchen Lama was elected to the State Council at Nanking, and on 20 February 1934 he was sworn in. He held his seventh Buddhist congress at Hangchow in April, visited Shanghai in June, returned to Nanking, and then flew to Peiping. Before long, he moved to the Paotow area, where he resided with the Ikechao League for about two months. At the invitation of Da Wang, the ruling prince of the Alashan Special Banner, he then proceeded to Ninghsia. In February 1935 he set up office as Hsi-ch'ü hsuan-hua shih at the headquarters of Da Wang. Three months later, he flew to Sining, Tsinghai, where he established residence in the T'a-erh monastery. In due course he held his eighth Buddhist congress, again taking the occasion to proclaim the National Government's "virtuous intent." After a year's residence at Sining, he went on to the famous Labrang monastery; he held his ninth Buddhist congress at Labrang. The Panchen Lama throughout this period was moving slowly but steadily toward the borders of Tibet, and the issue of his return to Tibet assumed increasing significance in the 1930's. In probing for the conditions under which Tibet might accept the restoration of its earlier suzerain-vassal relationship with China, the National Government had asked questions bearing on the Panchen Lama and his acceptability in Tibet. The Dalai Lama had replied that it would be difficult to welcome the Panchen Lama and his followers "unless they can give a satisfactory explanation for taking flight [in 1923]." Two of the proposals carried by the National Government's 1931 mission to Lhasa were that the thirteenth Dalai Lama should welcome the Panchen Lama back to Tibet and that the secular and religious authority of the Dalai and the Panchen "should be maintained as before." Nanking's envoy, Hsieh Kuo-liang, died only one day's march from Lhasa, but the National Government proposals presumably reached Lhasa. In any event, the Panchen Lama was informed soon afterwards by a representative from Lhasa that the Dalai Lama was willing to invite him back to Tibet and to restore all his privileges. The Panchen then sent two representatives to Lhasa, but they were informed on arrival at Lhasa that the Dalai would have to consult the Tibetan assembly about the Panchen's return. At the meeting called to consider the issue, two men who were hostile to the Panchen Lama dominated the proceedings, and the assembly ruled against his return. The Panchen Lama sent the An-ch'in Hutukhtu to Lhasa for further negotiations, but the death of the thirteenth Dalai Lama put an end to this attempt. In January 1934 the National Government appointed Huang Musung (q.v.) Chinese high commissioner in Tibet. He held negotiations with the Ka-dreng Hutukhtu, who had become regent at Lhasa; the regent finally decided that the Panchen Lama would be allowed to return to Tibet if he did not bring a large Chinese escort with him and if he would not attempt to exercise any political authority at Lhasa.
On his return to Nanking in October 1934 Huang Mu-sung proposed that the Panchen Lama be provided with a military force for his return to China. In February 1935 the Panchen was assigned a military escort of some 500 troops. Huang Mu-sung became head of the Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission a month later, and plans for the Panchen's return to his homeland began to take shape. In May 1936, about the time the Panchen moved to Labrang, the National Government dispatched a special envoy, Chao Shou-yu, to accompany the Panchen on his journey. With an enormous amount of treasure, the Panchen Lama's aide Nong-yong made his way to Tachienlu in Sikang, with orders to proceed to a point of rendezvous. The time for the fulfillment of the Panchen Lama's destiny seemed to have come. In September, he left Labrang. Proceeding by way of various monasteries, he finally arrived at Jyekundo in southern Tsinghai.
The Panchen Lama's movements were of particular interest to the British and Tibetan authorities. In 1935 and 1936 the British had protested the Panchen's planned return; in 1937, as the return party stood poised at the Tibetan border, they protested again. In the meantime, the Lhasa authorities had decided to offer armed resistance to the Panchen's return, for they viewed it as a threat to Tibetan autonomy. The outbreak of the Sino-Japanese war in July 1937 overshadowed this issue, but in mid-August the Panchen and his party moved to the La-hsiu monastery on the Tsinghai- Tibetan border. On 24 August, a message reached Jyekundo from Nanking, stating that the National Government, in view of the national emergency, urged the temporary postponement of the Panchen's return to Tibet. Chao Shou-yü dispatched the message to the La-hsiu monastery, and it reached the Panchen on 28 August. Discussions and deliberations followed. In early October, during a snowstorm, the Panchen Lama and his party made their way back to Jyekundo. As a result of this journey, the Panchen developed a serious respiratory ailment. On 1 December 1937 he died.
On 24 December 1937 the National Government accorded the Panchen Lama the posthumous title Hu-kuo-hsuan-hua kuang-hui yuan-chueh ta-shih [all-perspicacious great teacher, protector of the country, and propagator of the universal enlightenment]. His spiritcoffin was kept at Jyekundo until February 1941, when officials from Lhasa finally came to accompany the Panchen Lama back to Tashi Lhunpo.