Tenzin Gyatso

Tenzin Gyatzo, 14th Dalai Lama

Tenzin Gyatzo, 14th Dalai Lama

When the 13th Dalai Lama died on 17 December 1933 a regent was appointed to assume the authority of head of state in Tibet. The main task of the regent was to identify the new Dalai Lama, who by Tibetan Buddhist beliefs would be a reincarnation of all previous Dalai Lamas, then educate him until he assumed control at around the age of 20.

The child identified by one of the regent’s search parties was a boy named Lhamo Dondrup, the son of a farmer, who had been born on 6 July 1935. He and his family were brought to the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, and he was enthroned as the 14th Dalai Lama 70 years ago today. He was ordained as a Buddhist monk and given the name Tenzin Gyatso.

When the Chinese entered Tibet in 1950, in what they saw as reintegrating Tibet into China and what others saw as an invasion, the Dalai Lama was persuaded to assume the role of head of state at the age of only 15. Tibet was officially ceded to China on 23 May 1951 and the Dalai Lama spent the rest of the decade trying to secure the interests of the Tibetans.

An uprising in Lhasa on 10 March 1959 followed rumours that the Dalai Lama was about to be kidnapped by the Chinese. In the confusion the Dalai Lama fled the capital on 17 March disguised as a soldier, crossed the Himalayas and arrived in India 14 days later where he was given asylum.

During his period of exile the Dalai Lama has promoted Buddhism across the world and brought the situation in Tibet to the attention of governments and the public. His stated aims are to make Tibet an autonomous region of China, but the Chinese government maintains that he is campaigning for full independence. The Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1989 in recognition of his work on behalf of the Tibetan people.

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