Tashi Lhunpo is one of Tibet’s most important monasteries. Located in Shigatse, Tibet, It was founded in 1447 by the First Dalai Lama whose remains are interred at the site. The monastery serves as the seat of the Paṇchen Lamas, who rank second only to the Dalai Lama in Tibetan Buddhism.
Tashi Lhunpo is the largest functioning religious institution in Tibet. It is now home to around 950 monks and the 26m golden statue of Jampa, the Future Buddha, is said to be the largest gilded statue in the world.
The regrettable part of the story is China’s interference in Tibet and its Buddhist culture. As background information, when a Dalai Lama dies, the Panchen Lamas helps to select the next Dalai Lama. Similarly, when a Panchen Lama passes, Dalai Lamas are very involved in the selection of a successor. A Panchen Lama must be recognized by the Dalai Lama to be considered legitimate.
Because of his opposition to Chinese control of Tibet, the current Dalai Lama (the 14th) fled Tibet after China forcefully defeated a Tibet rebellion in 1959. His continued popularity with the Tibetan people has been an obstacle to Tibet accepting rule by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Accordingly, China would very much like to control who eventually succeeds the 14th Dalai Lama. Having the Panchen Lama in their pocket would make it a lot easier to control the Dalai Lama selection process and have a Dalai Lama that went along with Beijing’s wishes.
After the 10th Panchen Lama passed in 1989, negotiations over the selection process for naming the 11th Panchen Lama broke down in 1995, China set up its own system. Controlling the outcome by controlling the process is CCP S.O.P. It is how Beijing has ensured that the leaders of Hong Kong will do its bidding while ostensibly being independent.
Before the CCP endorsed system produced a name, on May 14, 1995, the Dalai Lama thwarted the Chinese plan by publicly recognizing six-year-old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the official 11th Panchen Lama. For China, however, this problem was easily solved with a tried and true CCP tactic.
Three days after he was recognized by the Dalai Lama, China kidnapped Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his family and later named a different boy, Gyaincain Norbu, as its 11th Panchen Lama. Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his family are held in an undisclosed location. No independent observer has seen any of them since the day they were abducted. China says he is leading a happy private life and wishes to be left alone. Yeah, sure.
The Beijing Winter Olympics begins in a few days. It will be a grand spectacle designed to show off to the world and distract from the fact that, in spite of its success with capitalism, China is a totalitarian society run by the Chinese Communist Party. There’s no protection for human rights, little regard for our environment, and no rule of law. I will enjoy some of the competition but won’t be glued to the tube.
For me, the games will be a reminder of Tibet, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his family, Peng Shuai, the professional tennis player who disappeared in 2021 after accusing a CCP official of sexual assault, Uyghur concentration camps, the Hong Kong umbrella movement, and Tiananmen Square. Sadly, the International Olympic Committee and Western companies will have no trouble sponsoring the games because China is a place where they want to make money. Companies are generally willing to overlook human-rights abuses as long as it helps, or at least doesn’t hurt, profits.