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340th meeting : The 11th Panchen Lama: a Chinese political recognition of a Tibetan spiritual master
Tuesday, November 15th 2011

A talk by Fabienne Jagou, École française d’Extrême-Orient

The Talk: When the 10th Panchen Lama died in 1989, the question of the search for his reincarnation emerged in China, in Tibet and in India. The Panchen Lama belongs to a prestigious Tibetan Buddhist masters lineage. He had a master-disciple relationship with the Dalai Lama since the first Panchen Lama (1570-1662) became the master of the 4th (1589-1616) and 5th Dalai Lamas (1617-1682). Because of this particular relationship, the Manchu Emperors of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) had tried to manipulate the Panchen Lama from the beginning of the XVIIIth century. This Manchu policy had been inherited by the Chinese Republicans (1911-1949), then by the Communists (1949 to the present).

But at the time of the recognition of the 11th Panchen Lama three countries were concerned: China, Tibet and India. China, which has held authority over Tibet since 1950. Tibet, as the Panchen Lama is a Tibetan reincarnated master whose main monastery, Tashilhunpo, is located in Shigatse, the second town after Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. India, where the Dalai Lama and a large number of the Tibetans in exile live. As a matter of fact, the search for the 11th Panchen Lama became the challenge of the Sino-Tibetan relations between 1989 (year of the death of the 10th Panchen Lama) and 1995 (year of the recognition of the 11th Panchen Lama). These five years became the theatre of debates and fights about tradition and modernity. Through facts and arguments, we will analyze the importance of the reincarnated masters within the Sino-Tibetan relationship and ask the question of the survival of a spiritual recognition ritual within today’s world.


The Speaker: Fabienne Jagou, historian, is associate professor at the French Asian Studies Institute (École française d’Extrême-Orient, EFEO). Her researches focus on the Sino-Tibetan political relations during the first half of the twentieth century. She is now turning to a more contemporary field with the analysis of the development of Tibetan Buddhism in Taiwan and in Thailand. She has published Le 9e Panchen Lama (1883-1937), enjeu des relations sino-tibétaines, Paris, EFEO/De Boccard, 2004 and edited « Conception et circulation des textes tibétains », Les Cahiers d’Extrême-Asie, 15, 2005 and with Paola Calanca, Les fonctionnaires des frontières chinoises (in Chinese), EFEO/Zhonghua shuju, Peking, 2007. An English version of her book on the 9th Panchen Lama will be published very soon by Silkworm Books.

See also: http://www.efeo.fr/biographies/cadrechine.htm

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