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The Panchen Lama is the second highest ranking lama after the Dalai Lama in the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism, the sect which historically controlled Tibet since the 11th century CE when it was founded by Atisha as the Kadampa sect. The Panchen Lama bears part of the responsibility for finding the incarnation of the Dalai Lama and vice versa. The current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, named Gedhun Choekyi Nyima the 11th reincarnation of the Panchen Lama on May 14, 1995 but was not officially recognised by the People's Republic of China. The government of the People's Republic of China named another child, Gyancain Norbu. As such, the whereabouts of the initial Panchen Lama are unknown, with differing claims from both sides.
The previous Panchen Lama, the 10th, named Chosgyi Gyantsen, was an important political figure in Tibet following the Dalai Lama's escape to India in 1959. However, in 1968 he was imprisoned; in 1977, he was released but held under house arrest in Beijing until 1982. In 1983, he married a Chinese woman and had a daughter, which was considered highly controversial behavior for a Gelug lama. In 1989, the 10th Panchen Lama died suddenly in Shigatse, Tibet at the age of 51. His daughter, now a young woman, is Yabshi Pan Rinzinwangmo, better known as "Renji".
List of Panchen Lamas
- Khedup Gelek Pelsang (Khedrup Gelek Pal Sangpo) , 1385-1438
- Sonam Choklang , 1439-1504
- Wensa Lobsang Dhondup , 1505-1564
- Lobsang Chokyi Gyaltsen , 1570-1662
- Lobsang Yeshi (Lobsang Yeshe) , 1663-1737
- Palden Yeshi (Palden Yeshe) , 1738-1780
- Lobzang Tenpai Nyima (Tenpe Nyima) , 1781/1782-1854
- Tenpe Wangchuk , 1855-1882
- Erdeni Choskyi Nyima (Choekyi Nyima), 1883-1937
- Lobsang Trinley Choekyi Gyaltsen (Choekyi Gyaltse), 1938-1989
- Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, 1989 - present (Current whereabouts unknown)
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