Surviving the Dragon

Interview with Arjia Rinpoche

Wisdom Collection

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From sheltered youth to forced laborer to government official, Arjia Rinpoche tells the story of his extraordinary life in Chinese-occupied Tibet, including an eyewitness account of one of the most infamous events in recent Tibetan history.


Arjia Rinpoche was born in 1950, the same year Mao Zedong’s People’s Liberation Army invaded Tibet. His early years were ones of geographical and political isolation. His nomadic family herded their yaks across the high plains of the Tibetan-Mongolian border, their camp never far from the vast blue waters of Lake Kokonor. At the age of two, he was recognized by the Tenth Panchen Lama (the second-ranking figure in Tibet after the Dalai Lama) as the reincarnation of the father of Tsongkhapa (the founder of the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism). At the age of seven, he was sent to live in Kumbum Monastery, one of Tibet’s six great monastic universities.

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