Tibetan Buddhism refers to Tibetan-language Buddhism, also known as
In the early 7th century, Songtsan Gambo wed Tang Dynasty (618-907)
Princess Wencheng from the Central Plains and Nepalese Princess Bhributi.
Each princess brought to Tubo a statue of Buddha, and the Jokhang
and Rampoche Monasteries were built to house the two statues. Artisans
who accompanied the princesses had monasteries built, while accompanying
Buddhist monks set about translating the Buddhist scriptures. As a
result, Buddhism made its way into Tubo life, and Buddhist tenets
gradually infiltrated its politics, economics, culture, education,
customs and habits. Tibetan Buddhism that emerged was widely worshipped
by the Tubo residents.
Through a prolonged period of cultural exchanges, Tibetan Buddhism
has spread to other ethnic groups in China, such as the Mongolian,
Tu, Yugu, Lhoba, Moinba, Naxi and Pumi ethnic groups. It has worshippers
not only in China's Tibet, Sichuan, Yunnan, Gansu, Qinghai,
Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia, but also in Sikkim, Bhutan, Nepal, Mongolia
During the heyday of Tibetan Buddhism, each Tibetan family was required
to provide at least one member to become a monk or nun. This is why
Tibetan monks and nuns made up 25 percent of the Tibetan population
in the 16th century and thereafter. In 1950, there were 100,000 monks
and nuns, or over 10 percent of the Tibetan population in Tibet in
1951. Following the peaceful liberation of Tibet, the Central Government
followed a policy of freedom of religious belief in Tibet. After the
Democratic Reform in 1960, various monasteries conducted reform according
to suggestions by the 10th Panchen Erdeni. Tibetan people have since
enjoyed freedom to be lamas or resume secular life. Nowadays, there
are 1,787 religious activity centers, and 46,000 monks and nuns or
2 percent of the Tibetan population in the Tibet Autonomous Region.
By the mid-11th century, Nyingma, Gedang, Sagya, Gagyu, Gelug, Shigyia,
Joryu, Jorxiang, Gozha, and Shalhu Buddhist sects had emerged. The
first five were powerful enough to last for a long time, while the
others fell into historical oblivion.
Reincarnation of Living Buddhas
The reincarnation of Living Buddhas constitutes the most important
difference between Tibetan Buddhism and other schools of Buddhism.
In 1283, when Garma BaxiÑwho had been bestowed with the title
of Imperial Tutor by the Mongol Khan Mongo, and granted a gold-rimmed
black hat as the badge of officeÑwas on his deathbed, he expressed
a wish to find a boy as his incarnation to inherit the black hat.
This was the beginning of the black-hat Living Buddha reincarnation
system. Various other Buddhist sects followed suit. Statistics show
148 Living Buddhas were registered with the Council for the Mongolian
and Tibetan Affairs during the reign of Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) Emperor
Qianlong; and the number went up to 160 at the end of the Qing Dynasty.
The Dalai Lama incarnation system was introduced in the 17th century,
and that for the Panchen Erdeni in 1713.
When the Gelug Sect took over power in Tibet, the Living Buddha incarnation
system became a means employed by those in power in Tibet to seek
prerogatives. To turn the tide, the Qing Dynasty court promulgated
the 29-article Ordinance for More Effective Governing of Tibet in
1793. Article 1 of the Ordinance prescribed the introduction of the
system of drawing a lot from the golden urn to determine the reincarnated
soul boy of a deceased Living Buddha. For this purpose, the Qing court
had two golden urns made: one for the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Erdeni,
which is still kept in the Potala Palace in Lhasa; and one for Grand
Living Buddhas and Hutogtu Living Buddhas in Mongolia and Tibet, which
is still kept in the Yonghegong Lamasery in Beijing.
Freedom of Religious Belief
7 of the 17-article Agreement of the Central People's Government and
the Local Government of Tibet on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation
of Tibet, signed on May 23, 1951 in Beijing, stipulated: "The
religious beliefs, customs and habits of the Tibetan people shall
be respected, and lama monasteries shall be protected.?The Central
Government has since followed the policy of respecting the religious
beliefs, customs and habits of the Tibetan people, and protecting
lamaseries and cultural relics.
1960, the 10th Panchen Erdeni Qoigyai Gyamcain put forth five methods
for the reform of monasteries in Tibet: (1) Giving up exploitation;
(2) conducting demo-cratic management; (3) following Government decrees
and the Chinese Constitution in mona-steries; (4) lamas taking part
in production; and (5) the Government covering the lives of old and
emaciated lamas and lamas charged with reciting Buddhist scriptures
exclusively. Through the reform, Tibetans began enjoying the freedom
to be lamas and lamas finally began to enjoy the freedom to resume
secular life if they chose; various Buddhist sects were equal; mona-stery
monks elected a democratic management committee or democratic management
group to manage their own religious affairs and conduct Buddhist activities.
Since 1980, the Central Government has allocated some 200 million
Yuan to finance the repair of monasteries, holy stupas and religious
activities, although there is financial difficulty. In 1985, the Central
Government earmarked 6.7 million Yuan, plus 108.85 kg of gold, 1,000
kg of silver and 665 kg of mercury, to repair the holy stupa for the
5th-9th Panchen Erdenis.
When the 10th Panchen Erdeni died on January 28, 1989, in Tibet, the
Central Government decided two days later that efforts should be made
to look for and determine the reincarnated soul boy of the late master
in accordance with the set historical precedence and traditional Tibetan
Buddhist rituals, and the soul boy candidates be reported to the State
Council for approval. On November 29, 1995, a ceremony was held to
draw a lot from among three from the golden urn in the Jokhang Monastery
in accordance with the set historical precedence and traditional Tibetan
Buddhist rituals. Gyaincain Norbu, 6, from Jiali County in northern
Tibet, was determined as the reincarnated soul boy of the late 10th
Panchen Erdeni. With the approval of the Central Government, he succeeded
as the 11th Panchen Erdeni. The enthronement ceremony was held on
December 8 in the Tashilhungpo Monastery, Xigaze; and the representative
of the Central Government issued him with the golden sheet of appointment
and the golden seal of authority.
In June 1990, the Central Government approved the construction of
the golden stupa and memorial hall for the late 10th Panchen Erdeni.
For this purpose, it allocated some 64 million Yuan, plus over 600
kg of gold, some 500 kg of silver and other kinds of needed materials.
In 1993, the stupa and memorial hall were commissioned and a grand
consecration ceremony was held on September 4, showing the careful
treatment the Central Government gives to an outstanding religious
In October 1988, the Central Government decided to finance the repair
of the Potala Palace. The repair project, which lasted five years,
involved a total investment amounting to 53 million Yuan; it turned
out to be one consuming more funds than any other cultural relics
units in China at large. In 1994, the Central Government decided to
allocate 20 million Yuan to finance the repair of the Gandain Monastery.
In 1984, the government of the Tibet Autonomous Region allocated 500,000
Yuan to finance the opening of the Lhasa Sutra Printing House. Over
the years, the printing house has printed more than 1,000 volumes
of Gangyur in Tibetan. In 1990, the government of the Tibet Autonomous
Region allocated 500,000 Yuan to finance the creation of woodblocks
for the printing of the Lhasa edition of Dangyur in Tibetan in the
Moru Monastery, which the late 13th Dalai Lama intended but failed
year 1983 saw the Buddhist Association of the Tibet Autonomous Region
open the Tibet Buddhism College. On September 1, 1987, the China Tibetan
Language Higher Institute of Buddhism was set up in Beijing in accordance
with the proposal of the late 10th Panchen Erdeni and Zhao Puchu,
President of the Buddhist Association of China, and with the approval
of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council. Students of the
institute are reincarnated Living Buddhas (some being monk students)
of Tibetan Buddhism hailing from the Tibet Autonomous Region, the
Tibetan-inhabited areas in the four provinces of Qinghai, Sichuan,
Gansu and Yunnan, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Liaoning Province,
and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
The eighth college-level class of the Beijing China Higher Tibetan
Language Institute of Buddhism graduated on June 1, 2001. Graduates
hailed from Tibet, Yunnan, Sichuan, Gangu, Qinghai and Inner Mongolia.
They are 33 Living Buddhas of the six sects of Tibetan Buddhism including
Gelug, Sagya, Nyingma and Gagyu.
On September 11, 2001, the ninth college-level class opened school.
Students, totaling 34 in number, came from the same regions mentioned
above. They are scheduled to study and practice mediation in the Institute
of Buddhism for two years.
The Institute has since its founding in 1987 trained nine groups of
students, totaling over 320 in number. Upon graduation, they return
to where they came, working hard to defend unification of the motherland,
national unity, social stability and local economic construction.