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Any of the line of reincarnated lamas who head the Tashilhunpo Monastery in Tibet, traditionally second only to the Dalai Lama in spiritual authority in the dominant sect of Tibetan Buddhism. A Panchen Lama installed by the Chinese Nationalist government in 1949 later became an official under the Chinese communists. He remained in Tibet after the 14th Dalai Lama fled into exile in 1959 but was imprisoned in 1964 after criticizing the government. He was released in the late 1970s and died in 1989. The Dalai Lama and government subsequently chose different successors.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Panchen Lama, visit Britannica.com.