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   Position :Tibet Online > History & Truth > The Historical Truth
Origin of the titles Dalai and Panchen
    Date:10-10-2011 Source:tibet.cn Author:    

The Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama were two disciples of Tsongkhapa (1357-1419), the founder of the Yellow Sect of Tibetan Buddhism. They formulated two hereditary systems. The two titles were granted by China's emperors.

The word "Dalai" first appeared in the Ming Dynasty. In 1578, the Mongolian leader Altan Khan invited Sonam Gyatso, leader of the Yellow Sect, to preach in Qinghai. The two leaders enjoyed mutual respect, and exchanged honorific titles. Altan Khan named Sonam Gyatso "Dalai Lama," meaning "omniscience and great authority." After the founding of the Qing Dynasty, the fifth Dalai Lama was invited to Beijing by the Qing emperor in 1652. In 1653, Emperor Shunzhi formally conferred on him the title "Dalai Lama," and granted him a gold seal and gold album. In 1751, the Dalai Lama was put in charge of the region's administration.

The title "Panchen" first appeared in 1645 when the Mongolian chieftain Gushri Khan bestowed it upon the fourth Panchen. In 1713, Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty bestowed upon the fifth Panchen the title "Panchen Erdini", and granted him a gold seal and gold ablum. The central government also bestowed on him the right to rule parts of the Rear Tibet.

Since the conferring of these titles by the Qing emperors, the reincarnation of the Dalai and Panchen has been under the supervision of the central government.

After "drawing lots from a golden urn," the soul boys reincarnation must be approved by the central government before their official investiture. Their tonsure, religious names, and choice of teachers must be reported to the central government for ratification, and the central government sends envoys to supervise the enthronement ceremonies of the Dalai and Panchen.

Before 1959, Tibet preacticed a theocratic system whereby political power was integrated with religion. The Dalai and Panchen were therefore both the religious and political leaders of Tibet. The central government's ratification of "soul boys" reincarnation was significant in two aspects: it granted them political power as the highest leaders in Tibet and recognized their leading religious roles. Ratification and conferment procedures were an important exercise of the administrative authority of Chinese central government.

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