Bainqen Erdini Qoigyi Gyaincain (the Panchen Lama), Vice-Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress and a top Tibetan religious leader, died of sudden heart attack in Xigaze, Tibet on the evening of January 28 at the age of 51.
Bainqen had been in Tibet to attend the opening ceremony of the Great Stupa. He left Beijing on January 9.
His death came at 8:16 pm at his new residence. It was attributed to fatigue resulting from recent activities, according to an obituary issued by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC). The Bainqen presided over the opening of the newly rebuilt Great Stupa, which houses the remains of five previous Bainqen Lamas.
The obituary praised Bainqen as a great patriot, noted statesman, devoted friend of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and outstanding leader of Tibetan Buddhism. It also called upon the Tibetan people as well as people of all nationalities to carry forward the Bainqen's spirit of loving the CPC and the socialist motherland.
Many people paid their respects to the remains of Bainqen. Senior Party and government leaders of Tibet region did so on January 29.Monks in the Zhaixi Lhunbo Lamasery chanted scriptures, mourning their beloved leader. Meanwhile, the lamasery issued prayers praising the Panchen Lama for his outstanding achievements and wishing him an early incarnation.
After Bainqen was struck by the heart attack, Zhao Ziyang, General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee, and other Party leaders immediately decided to send a team of cardiologists to Xigaze by a special plane. But all the rescue measures proved ineffectual.
Bainqen's personal doctor said that Bainqen had complained about a pain in the back and that the pain had spread to his two arms at 4:30 am. Medical experts from Xigaze and Lhasa were summoned to hold group consultations and organize rescue work.
At 6:30 pm, a group of medical experts from Beijing headed by the central health bureau director Wang Minqing arrived. Further rescue efforts by the group were ineffectual. The Panchen Lama's heart stopped beating, at 16 minutes past 8 pm.
The final diagnosis was that the acute inferior myocardial infarction and the extensive anterior myocardial infarction had led to sudden cardiac arrest.
Bainqen was born in Xunhua County, Qinghai Province, in February 1938. One of the two most influential leaders of the Yellow Sect of Tibetan Lamaism, he was chosen in 1941 as the reincarnation of the ninth Panchen Lama who died in 1937, and became the 10th Panchen Lama in 1949.
On October 1, 1949, Bainqen cabled Chairman Mao Zedong and Commander-in-Chief Zhu De his congratulations on the founding of the People's Republic of China, pledging his support to the Central People's Government and expressing his wish for the early liberation of Tibet.
He served as a member of the first NPC Standing Committee, vice-chairman of the second, fifth and sixth NPC Standing Committees, and standing member of the third and fourth National Committees of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
He was honorary chairman of the Chinese Buddhists Association.
The funeral arrangements and other issues concerned will be handled according to Buddhist traditions in Tibet.
The unexpected death of the 10th Panchen Lama has brought deep grief to people in Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region.
"Now it is the most heartbreaking moment for me," said Lhamin Soinam Lhunzhub, vice-chairman of the Tibet Regional Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
Lhamin Soinam Lhunzhub, who was just back from Xigaze after attending the burial ceremony of the remains of the fifth through ninth Panchen lamas, said, "Panchen Lama's death is a loss for the country as well as an irretrievable loss for all Tibetan people and Buddhism."
(This article appears on page 5, No. 6, 1989)