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13:18 Apr 09 2009

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English>>Tibet Online
Sitting-in-the-bed of the 11th Panchen Erdeni
10:11, April 09, 2009  

Chapter one The reincarnated soul boy of the 10th Panchen Lama was determined through drawing lots from a gold urn in the Jokhang Monastery

I. On the morning of November 29, 1995, in the Jokhang Monastery

At around 2 a.m. on November 29, 1995, when the whole city of Lhasa was still in silence, holding hanging banners and playing Buddhism music,a team of lamas walked out of Sholing Dorje Phodrang, Panchen's residence in Lhasa, guided by an incense-pot.

Two handsome young lamas walked in front of the honor guard, holding in their hands the gold urn, which was granted by Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty to Tibet 200 years ago to decide the reincarnated soul boys of Living Buddhas. Usually, the gold urn could only be seen on cultural relics exhibition. Seven days ago, the urn was escorted to Sholing Dorje Phodrang and enshrined in a small hall where the 10th Panchen Lama used to perform religious practice.

At that time, a group of Tibetan monks and lamas wearing yellow hats and holding lit incense led by Living Buddha Bumi Qambalozhub, a 77-year-old eminent monk in Tibet, lined up the most grand religious honor guard in front of the Jokhang Monastery.

I parked my car off the pavement and walked toward the square in front of the Jokhang Monastery. Normally, there should have been Buddhism believers prostrating in prayer, worshippers turning prayer wheels in the Barkhor Street, and diligent storekeepers cleaning the street. But now, there were few pedestrians except for more policemen on duty. The whole block was full of the air of mystery. The residents who guessed what was happening heard the news on the radio that the lots-drawing ceremony for the reincarnated soul boy of the 10th Panchen Lama was successfully held in the Jokhang Monastery.

The main gate to the Jokhang Monastery was closed after the gold urn was taken into the monastery by lamas, and people had to enter from the side door, inside which was the office of the Lhasa City Bureau of Religious Affairs. Through the corridor on the second floor, people could also get into the Jokhang Monastery.

In 1985, when the 10th Panchen Lama came to the Jokhang Monastery, I entered from the side yard to stay ahead of others. When I entered the yard, the Panchen Lama and his followers were coming from the main gate. To mark the 20th anniversary of the establishment of Tibet Autonomous Region, the central government sent a high-level delegation to Tibet. Also coming were Hu Qili, Li Peng, and Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme. Thousands of Buddhists crowded on the square and tried to flock into the monastery, but were headed off by several young and strong lamas in red robes. Then, the side door was closed too.

As early as half a month before, the mayor of Lhasa Losang Gyaltsen began to make preparations in the Jokhang Monastery together with other workers. Lamas cleaned the monastery thoroughly and replaced all the ornamental hangings. Later when I saw Losang again, I found he shed a lot of weight due to busy work those days. Losang Gyaltsen was one of the four persons who were very hard to find by reporters at that time in Lhasa. The other three were Living Buddha Shengqin who was in charge of the team searching for the reincarnated soul boys, prestigious Living Buddha Bumi, who would draw lots from the gold urn and was now in meditation, and Lhagpa Phuntshogs, vice chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Regional Government and chief organizer of the lots-drawing and enthronement ceremony.

The lots-drawing ceremony was held in front of the principal nave, which covered about ten square meters only. Therefore, a wooden platform was extended out from the smooth platform in front of the gate for the sake of convenience and protection of the construction and cultural relics inside the monastery. Placed in the center near the principal nave's door was a table, on which the gold urn would be put on. Only leading Party officials and representatives of eminent monks could sit on the two sides of the principal nave, and other representatives from all walks of life would sit in the grand hall. Statues of Padmasambhava and Byams-pa were enshrined in the grand hall, blocking the principal nave where the statue of Sakyamuni was worshipped. In order to enable all these attendees to clearly observe the whole process of the lots-drawing ceremony, an outside broadcast car from Tibet TV was deployed and two TV sets were placed in the front two corners of the grand hall. In this way, guests and reporters in the grand hall could watch the lots-drawing process clearly via TV broadcasting.

We made preparations for news coverage in the evening prior to the ceremony. People's Daily sent Xuan Yucai, Zhang Zhong, and me to report this grand Buddhist ceremony. I was up all the night, sitting in front of the computer and typing into the news story titled How to decide the reincarnated soul boy of the 10th Panchen. At around 2 a.m., I called Xuan Yucai, who was also awake for the whole night, and then we drove to the Jokhang Monastery in a hurry. Along the streets, policemen on duty could be seen in each block.

We entered the grand hall aglow with lights where people moved back and forth. Workers with Tibet TV were busy adjusting the angle of video cameras. Tupden and Chogo, two Tibetan photographers from the Xinhua News Agency Tibet Branch, were walking around the grand hall with different kinds of cameras on their necks. Lhasa Mayor Losang Gyaltsen spoke to the mobile phone with a very serious look on his face. We shook hands when he passed by me. We had known each other for a long time.

Losang was the secretary of the Communist Youth League Committee when I was learning Chinese at Tibet Institute for Nationalities from 1979 to 1983. He worked for the college upon graduation for his excellent academic performance. We made contacts with each other when I worked as a reporter at the Tibet Radio Station. At that time, he was the secretary of the Tibet Autonomous Regional Communist Youth League Committee. Two years before, Losang was transferred to North Tibet to serve as the administrative commissioner of Nagqu Prefecture. Nagqu Prefecture, the largest grassland on the Tibet Plateau, covered an area of 420,000 square kilometers with 7 million head of livestock. I planned to interview Losang on the development of modern animal husbandry in Tibet and to publish an influential news story on the People's Daily. But out of my expectation, he was elected as the mayor of Lhasa when he was in his late 30s. Now, he was dressed like a herder in North Tibet. I kept greeting reporters reclining against the pillar in the hall or dozing off in their chairs. Gou Tianlin, a member of Tibet Autonomous Regional Standing Committee of the CPC, had his eyes blurred and reddened. Many people seemed to stay awake the whole night, waiting in the Jokhang Monastery for the event.

Lamas leading the sutra chanting were from the Tashilhunpo Monastery in Xigaze Prefecture. Later, I learned from some Tibetan friends that those lamas were chanting Ode to the Gold Urn.

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