A tall, historic figure, and golden charm once electrified every corner of the Tibetan plateau, he was Tibet’s “Moon”– the 10th Panchan Lama (པཎ་ཆེན་རེན་པོ་ཆེ།, Pictures of him seen here).
Tibetans refer to the Dalai Lama and Panchan Lama as the “Sun” and the “Moon”. They are ranked the highest and second highest in Tibetan Buddhism, and are also historically very important individuals in the social and political makeup of Tibet for centuries.
Calling the same place, Amdo, my home as these two most respected people in Tibet and at global level is truly a blessing. And I have recently visited the homes where the current Dalai Lama and 10th Panchan Lama (also spelled as Panchen Lama) were born. Because both houses are open to the public, and the close proximity of their homes from my village, and the city, Silung (Xining officially) I called home for five years, it was easy to pay a visit on a whim.
Today, I’m sharing a piece of my experience revisiting the 10th Panchan Lama’s birth home in Wendu, Xunhua County of Qinghai province (Amdo).
The Panchan Lama is perhaps lesser known in the Western world; however, he championed and fought continuously for Tibet’s age-old traditions, the language, and, of course, Buddhist’s practices during his short yet glorious life.
The Panchan Lama tragically passed away in 1989, at the age of 51. He left behind his aged parents, family, and the plateau people. And the sad news shook the whole mountain range of the Tibetan highlands, emptying out the hearts of the old and the young. My grandmother cried. Millions of people across the three regions were driven to tears.
Twenty-five years after his passing, this prominent family still receives visitors daily from near and far, like us from the valley across the hills taking only about a 40-minute drive, and others from as far as the U-Tsang (Lhasa) and Kham regions.
All my mother and I had to do was pay a personal driver 300 RMB (about $50 US dollar) to take us on a tour, traveling from our village, Gling-rgyal (Langjia officially) valley, up the hill, over the mountain, and down a soft rolling hill to a lush valley. The compound is in Wendu town, which surrounds families from the same clan and other Tibetan families. But it was the well-known, huge, tall tree of the Panchan Lama family that gave us the signal we have reached our destination.
A monk, who is a cousin to the wife of the Panchan Lama’s brother, gave us an exclusive tour and allowed me to take pictures. This was my first time having the privilege of seeing the Lama’s bedroom and meeting room, in addition to the original home that he was born in and the newer house built next to it. It was a one-of-a-kind experience.
This was a day where I remembered again my mother taking me to visit Mayum Sonam Drolma, the mother of the 10th Panchan Lama, and her younger son and his family at their Siling residence. Aged 97, she sadly passed away two years ago. Sipping milk tea with the family and receiving gifts from Mayum Sonam are still vivid memories, but that’s for another day.
What do you think? Has anyone heard the Panchan Lama or the family before?
Your blog is beautiful! …the images, the memories, the apparent gentleness all around. It is awesome to visit Tibet with you as our guide! Loved the wheat fields and it drying in the sun on the road, and the flaxseed being harvested. It is a special place, and your blog make it more special.
Thank very much, AJ. I’m delighted you enjoy my culture and traditions.
Hi Jolma. Yes, I’ve heard about the Panchen Lama but I don’t know any details. It is really cool that you were able to visit his home. Thanks for the lovely pictures and descriptions of the role of this important figure in the lives of the people who live in Tibet.
Thank you, Doug. With such a rich heritage, I feel very lucky to have born in this majestic land, the Tibetan plateau.
Jolma you really do write beautifully and paint a picture just with your words. I had not heard of Panchen Lama before so thanks for educating me. I had only ever known about Dalai Lama. Reading about it makes me wonder if the Kundalini yoga class I’ve been taking has roots in Tibet. I bet it does.
Kris, you made my day with this comment, “You really do write beautifully and paint a picture just with your words”. This is what I’m trying to do.
As for the Kundalini Yoga, I think it was influenced by the tantra and shakta schools of Hinduism. Thank you so much for being a reader.
Ah, I love Tibet. It is so beautiful. I was in Lhasa last year and I will be in Amdo this year. I am so excited to spend days upon days looking at all its beauty,.
Fantastic. Amdo is a cultural hub. You can visit many historic attractions such as this one and famous monasteries (Kumbum, Rongwo (Tongren), Labrang), lakes (Mengda in Qinghai) and countless mountains. You can also experience the grasslands and nomadic life, Rebgong /Rebkong art, folk culture, the food and so forth… Enjoy your travels on the Tibetan plateau, Jennifer!
“You really do write beautifully and paint a picture just with your words”. It’s really amazing your writing. I really wanna say as what Kris says. So I just copied it down.
You are so sweet, khabum. I’m thrilled. Thank you.