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Himalaya

Day 64: Shigatse to Lhasa

Michael Palin - HimalayaShigatse, with a population of some 60,000, is the second city of Tibet, and boasts the second largest monastery in the country, the Tashilunpo, which is the seat of the second highest incarnation in Tibet, the Panchen Lama. In many ways, his recent history has been more interesting than that of his more illustrious superior, the Dalai Lama. In 1952, three years after the Chinese invaded Tibet, they brought the Panchen Lama to Shigatse and set him up, with his connivance, as their official choice of spiritual leader. After the Chinese had raided the Tashilunpo monastery in 1961, the Panchen Lama became increasingly critical. He sent a report to Chairman Mao calling for freedom of religion to be restored. Mao called the document a poisoned arrow and kept it secret. After a speech in Lhasa demanding Tibetan independence, the Chinese lost patience with their man and he was imprisoned for ten years in Beijing. His death, in Shigatse, at the early age of 50, created further confusion. The Dalai Lama and his advisers in Dharamsala found his reincarnation, a six-year-old boy from northern Tibet, and the Chinese promptly arrested him.

Tashilunpo once again became the centre of a power struggle, when, in 1995, Tibetan monks favourable to China came up with another candidate for Panchen Lama, and he was duly enthroned at the monastery.

No-one seems to know where the Dalai Lama's choice is at the moment. He's been kidnapped, and the Chinese-nominated Panchen Lama is rarely seen in Shigatse.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 64: Shigatse to Lhasa
  • Country/sea: Tibet
  • Place: Shigatse
  • Book page no: 153

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