YUSHU, Qinghai - The 11th Panchen Lama, one of the most revered figures in Tibetan Buddhism, on Saturday led more than 700 Tibetan monks at Taer Monastery, Qinghai province, in prayer for victims of a devastating earthquake in the province's Yushu region last month.
The 11th Panchen Lama Gyaincain Norbu prays on Saturday at Taer Monastery in Qinghai province for victims and survivors of the devastating earthquake that struck Yushu last month. [Photo / Xinhua]
At the Taer Monastery, he prayed to guide the souls of those who died in the earthquake and to encourage the survivors to overcome hardships caused by the disaster and to rebuild their hometown.
At least 2,200 people died after the 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck the Yushu region on April 14. More than 100,000 homeless survivors in Gyegu town near the epicenter are living in tents as reconstruction begins.
The Taer Monastery is one of the six biggest temples of the Gelug Sect in Tibetan Buddhism. It was built by the Guru Tson-Khapa, founder of the Gelug Sect and the teacher of the first Panchen Lama and the first Dalai Lama.
The mass prayer in Taer Monastery followed the 11th Panchen Lama's visit on Friday to Yushu, a predominantly Tibetan region, in which he visited the quake-damaged Gyegu Monastery and led hundreds of Tibetan monks to pray in a tent - a makeshift monastery hall.
The Gyegu Monastery was severely damaged in the quake. Its buildings were rendered too dangerous for habitation.
After the service in the tent, the 11th Panchen Lama walked out and chanted prayers, facing the site where the dead were cremated.
The 11th Panchen Lama on Friday also visited the ruins of Thrangu Monastery, which was totally destroyed, and consoled thousands of monks and believers who welcomed him there. Many received the long-expected head-touching blessing in tears.
Another service was held at the monastery's temporary site - grassland nestled in the hills. Rows of tents and prefab houses were set up on the field. A banner flying at the entrance indicated this was the 700-year-old Thrangu Monastery.
During his visit to Gyegu, the 11th Panchen Lama received a warm welcome from local residents, most of whom are Tibetan Buddhists.
At the town's main plaza, crowds of residents waited from dawn for the arrival of the Panchen Lama.
"I really want to receive a head-touching blessing from him," said 12-year-old Tsegaomtzi, who came to Gesar plaza with his father from a nearby village.
Tsegaomtzi took off his cap when the Panchen Lama's convoy approached.
Around him, devout believers waved at the vehicle with tears in their eyes. They threw hadas, traditional white scarves, and ran after the convoy.
"Finally, I saw him!" said Kungalondzom, a storeowner. "I feel happy and honored. I had only seen him on the television."
Another survivor, Tashitesring, who lost his wife and 3-year-old son in the quake, said the appearance of the Panchen Lama at this time was comforting.
"I won't forget this moment all my life," he said.
The 11th Panchen Lama, whose secular name is Gyaincain Norbu, was born in February 1990 in Tibet.
He was approved by the central government as the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama in November 1995 after a lot-drawing ritual among three candidates in the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa.
Xinhua - China Daily