Thubten Choekyi Nyima, 9th Panchen Lama

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Thubten Choekyi Nyima
Thubten Choekyi Nyima, the 9th Panchen Lama
Title9th Panchen Lama
Born(1883-02-19)19 February 1883
Dagpo, Tibet
Died1 December 1937(1937-12-01) (aged 54)
Gyêgu, Amdo Provence, Tibet
Resting placeTashi Lhunpo Monastery, Shigatse Tibet
ReligionTibetan Buddhism
Senior posting
PredecessorTenpai Wangchuk
SuccessorChoekyi Gyaltsen
Thubten Choekyi Nyima
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese圖丹曲吉尼瑪
Simplified Chinese图丹曲吉尼玛
Tibetan name
The Republic of China awarded Panchen Lama the Guarding the National Master
Panchen Lama during his final stay in China 1934

Thubten Choekyi Nyima (Tibetan: ཐུབ་བསྟན་ཆོས་ཀྱི་ཉི་མ་, Wylie: Thub-bstan Chos-kyi Nyi-ma, ZYPY: Tubdain Qoigyi Nyima) (1883–1937), often referred to as Choekyi Nyima, was the ninth Panchen Lama of Tibet.

Thubten Choekyi Nyima is the 9th in his lineage, as recognized by Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, the traditional seat of Panchen Lamas.[1] To call Choekyi Nyima the 9th Panchen Lama is a misnomer, while in exile in China he signed pictures the 16th[2] Panchen Lama and the Tibetans regarded him as the 6th Panchen Lama[3] Hugh Richardson[4] "It is the habit of Chinese writers to describe the late Panchen Lama as the IXth. To the mass of Tibetans it is beyond question that he was the VIth in succession from Lobzang Chokyi Gyaltsen, the teacher whom the Vth Dalai Lama created Ist Panchen Lama." In the Historical Introduction of "The secret report of the 10th Panchen Lama" [5] Professor Dawa Norbu writes "The 10th Panchen Lama (actually the 7th of his line)". Charles Bell, on page 35 [6] "The young fifth Dalai Lama made his old teacher, named 'The banner of Religion's Victory,' who was abbot first at Ta-shi Lhun-po..." Jagou[7] "Thus the incarnation the Tibetans refer to as the Sixth Panchen Lama is known as the ninth Panchen Lama by the Chinese." When the Chinese Government forced the Tibetans to sign the 17 Point Agreement, they insisted on calling Choekyi Nyima the 9th Panchen Lama and this numbering was brought back to the west in the late 1980s until which time no such numbering had been used, outside of Tashi Lhunpo Monastery and Peking.[note 1]

In 1901, Choekyi Nyima was visited by the Mongolian Lama, Agvan Dorzhiev. Although he only stayed for two days at Tashilhunpo, Dorzhiev received some secret teachings from the Panchen Lama, as well as readings of the Prayer of Shambhala, written by Lobsang Palden Yeshe, the sixth (or third) Panchen Lama, concerning the Buddhist kingdom of Shambhala, which were of great importance to Dorzhiev's developing understanding of the Kalachakra ('Wheel of Time') tantric teachings. Choekyi Nyima also gave Dorzhiev gifts including some golden statues.[8]

In 1906, Sir Charles Alfred Bell, was invited to visit the 9th Panchen Lama at Tashilhunpo, where they had friendly discussions on the political situation.[9]

He fled to Inner Mongolia, China in 1924 after a dispute with the thirteenth Dalai Lama when he sensed that he might face threat after his own monastery’s monks were prohibited from holding any office in the Central Tibetan government and his officials were locked up in Lhasa.[10][11] Among the Mongols, the 9th Panchen Lama became a well liked figure.[12] At the same time, study of documents did not confirm widespread claims that rebellions in the 1930s Mongolia were inspired or supported by the 9th Panchen Lama.[13] The Dalai Lama was attempting to collect revenue from the Panchen Lama's estate to cover a fourth of Tibet's military expenses, and to reduce the power of the Panchen Lama, who at the time enjoyed rule over an effectively autonomous region around Shigatse.[14]

In China, the ninth Panchen Lama worked on plans to develop Tibet along modern lines.[15] He also held a position in the Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission.

The Panchen Lama was considered extremely "pro-Chinese", according to official Chinese sources.[16][17][18]

Choekyi adopted the ideas of Sun Yatsen like the Kham revolutionary Pandatsang Rapga.[19] It has been suggested he read the works of Sun Yatsen which were translated by Rapga.[20]

In 1936, a team of monks from Lhasa were on the way to north-eastern Tibet to search for the new reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama, who had died in 1933. First, because of the historical close relationship between the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama, they visited the Panchen Lama in Kham, eastern Tibet, to seek his advice. He was staying in Jyekundo, a district of eastern Kham that had been annexed from Tibetan government control by the Chinese "during their invasion".[21] The Panchen Lama, being under Chinese power, was being held up there in his attempt to return to Central Tibet due to Chinese interference and insistence that he must be accompanied by a force of 500 armed Chinese soldiers;[22] naturally this condition was not at all acceptable to the Tibetan Government in Lhasa. While negotiations were going on between the Lhasa Government, the Panchen Lama and the Chinese authorities about this escort issue, he was stuck in Jyekundo.[23] He had therefore been busy investigating reports of unusual children born in the area, who might be the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama; the deep spiritual link between the two Lamas had never wavered despite apparent political difficulties and attempted Chinese interference.[24]

In fact, when the search team arrived to see him, the Panchen Lama had already identified three potential candidates.[21] He gave their details to the search party leader, Kewtsang Rinpoche, who then investigated further. One of these three candidates was already dead and another ran away crying when shown the objects belonging to the late Dalai Lama.[21] The third candidate, who lived in Taktser, was characterised as "fearless" and he was indeed found to be the true incarnation. Thus, it was this Panchen Lama Thubten Choekyi Nyima who first discovered and identified the 14th Dalai Lama.[25][24]

In 1937, the Panchen Lama died in Gyêgu (Tibetan: Jyekundo; Chinese: Yushu) in Qinghai Province without being able to return to Tsang.[24][26][27][28]

The tombs of the fifth through the ninth Panchen Lamas were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution and have been rebuilt by the tenth Panchen Lama with a huge tomb at Tashilhunpo Monastery in Shigatse, known as the Tashi Langyar.[29]

Panchen Lama and entourage in Calcutta, 1906

See also[edit]

  • Yangsanjab, Mongol prince who hosted Lama's Ceremony


  1. ^ In 1997 TIN released "A Poisoned Arrow" which was written by someone calling himself the 10th Panchen as explained above Professor Dawa Norbhu corrected this. However, the numbering seems to have changed due to this misunderstanding. In Melvyn Goldstein's otherwise excellent book he refers to Chokyi Nyima as the 9th Panchen. This is the first reference to him as such in the west(?) FACT the 5th Dalai Lama made his teacher the 1st Panchen.



  1. ^ "Who is Panchen Rinpoche?". Tashilhunpo Monastery. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  2. ^ Surkhang Case Western Reserve University Tibet Blog July 1st 2013
  3. ^ Gelek Surkhang Wangchen (Tibet Journal Vol. 8 No. 1 Spring 1983 Tibet: The Critical Years (part 2) "The 6th Panchen Lama"
  4. ^ Tibet & its History" 1st edition page 55
  5. ^ TIN London 1997 page xxv
  6. ^ Portrait of the Dalai Lama 1st edition
  7. ^ The Ninth Panchen Lama, Fabienne Jagou English edition, p. 14.
  8. ^ Snelling 1993, p. 77.
  9. ^ Chapman 1940, p. 141
  10. ^ Tuttle 2006
  11. ^ China Tibetology. Office for the Journal China Tibetology. 2006. p. 16.
  12. ^ Znamenski, Andrei (2011). Red Shambhala: Magic, Prophecy, and Geopolitics in the Heart of Asia (illustrated ed.). Quest Books. p. 35. ISBN 0835608913. Retrieved 24 April 2014.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  13. ^ Kuzmin S. The Activity of the 9th Panchen Lama in Inner Mongolia and Manchuria. – Far Eastern Affairs, no 1, 2014, pp. 123-137
  14. ^ Powers 2004, p. 99.
  15. ^ Jagou, pp. 156-159, 206-208.
  16. ^ Chinese Materials Center (1982). Who's who in China, 1918-1950: 1931-1950. Volume 3 of Who's who in China, 1918-1950: With an Index, Jerome Cavanaugh. Chinese Materials Center. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
  17. ^ The China weekly review, Volume 54. Millard Publishing House. 1930. p. 406. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
  18. ^ China monthly review, Volume 56. Millard Publishing Co., Inc. 1931. p. 306. Retrieved 2011-06-05.
  19. ^ Gray Tuttle (2007). Tibetan Buddhists in the Making of Modern China (illustrated ed.). Columbia University Press. p. 153. ISBN 0-231-13447-9.
  20. ^ Gray Tuttle (2007). Tibetan Buddhists in the Making of Modern China (illustrated ed.). Columbia University Press. p. 152. ISBN 0-231-13447-9. Retrieved 2011-12-27.
  21. ^ a b c Bell 1946, p. 397.
  22. ^ Shakabpa 1984, pp. 280-283.
  23. ^ Richardson 1984, pp. 143-146.
  24. ^ a b c Laird 2006, p. 265.
  25. ^ Bell 1946, p. 398.
  26. ^ Shakabpa 1984, p. 283.
  27. ^ Bell 1946, p. 365.
  28. ^ Richardson 1984, p. 146 Surkhang Wangchen (Tibet Journal Vol. 8 No. 1 Spring 1983 Tibet: The Critical Years (part 2) "The 6th Panchen Lama")
  29. ^ Mayhew 2005, p. 175.


  • Bell, Sir Charles. Portrait of the Dalai Lama (1946) Wm. Collins, London, 1st edition. (1987) Wisdom Publications, London. ISBN 086171055X.
  • Chapman, Spencer. Lhasa: The Holy City (1940) Readers Union Ltd., London.
  • Jagou, Fabienne. Le 9e Panchen Lama (1883–1937): Enjeu des relations Sino-Tibetaines.
  • Laird, Thomas (2006). The Story of Tibet : Conversations with the Dalai Lama (1st ed.). New York: Grove Press. ISBN 978-0-8021-1827-1.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Goldstein "A History of Modern Tibet 1913–1951" University of California Press 1989.
  • Mayhew, Bradley and Kohn, Michael. Tibet 6th Edition (2005) Lonely Planet Publications. ISBN 1-74059-523-8.
  • Powers, John. History as Propaganda: Tibetan Exiles versus the People's Republic of China (2004) Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-517426-7.
  • Richardson, Hugh E. (1984). Tibet and its history (2nd ed., rev. and updated. ed.). Boston: Shambhala. ISBN 978-0877733768.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Shakabpa, Tsepon W.D. (1984), Tibet: A Political History. Singapore: Potala Publications. ISBN 0961147415.
  • Snelling, John. Buddhism in Russia: The Story of Agvan Dorzhiev: Lhasa's Emissary to the Tsar (1993) Element Books. ISBN 1-85230-332-8.
  • Tuttle, Gray. Review of Le 9e Panchen Lama (1883–1937): Enjeu des relations Sino-Tibetaines, JIATS, no. 2 (August 2006) Columbia University. THDL #T2726.
Preceded by
Tenpe Wangchuk
Reincarnation of the Panchen Lama Succeeded by
Choekyi Gyaltsen