State Religious Affairs Bureau Order No. 5 is an order from the State Administration for Religious Affairs, the People's Republic of China's agency charged with keeping religion under state control. Order No. 5 states that a Reincarnation Application must be filed by all Buddhist temples in that country before they are allowed to recognize individuals as tulkus (reincarnated teachers).

Tibetan Buddhist believe lamas and other religious figures can consciously influence how they are reborn, and often are reborn many times so they can continue their religious pursuits. These tulkus are referred to in sources translated from Chinese as living Buddhas. In 2007, the Chinese government passed a decree, to take effect September 1, that each of these people who plan to be reborn must complete an application and submit it to several government agencies for approval. It is not clear how the Chinese plan to enforce these regulations against beings who, even according to Chinese interpretations, demonstrate authority and transcendence beyond death itself.


On August 3, 2007, China's State Administration for Religious Affairs issued a decree that all the reincarnations of tulkus of Tibetan Buddhism must get government approval, otherwise they are "illegal or invalid". The decree states, "It is an important move to institutionalize management on reincarnation of living Buddhas. The selection of reincarnates must preserve national unity and solidarity of all ethnic groups and the selection process cannot be influenced by any group or individual from outside the country." It also requires that temples which apply for reincarnation of a living Buddha must be "legally-registered venues for Tibetan Buddhism activities and are capable of fostering and offering proper means of support for the living Buddha."[1]

Reincarnation Applications have to be submitted to four governmental bodies for approval, specifically the religious affairs department of the provincial-level government, the provincial-level government, State Administration for Religious Affairs, and the State Council.[1][2]

The official Xinhua news agency said the new rules are "an important move to institutionalise management of reincarnation of living Buddhas".[2]


The regulations are composed of 14 articles, including the principle, conditions, approval procedures, the duties and responsibilities of religious groups for reincarnation as well as punishment for those violating the regulations. They allegedly guarantee normal religious activities of Tibetan Buddhism and protect the religious belief of Tibetan Buddhism followers according to law.[1]

The State Administration for Religious Affairs said, "The government only administrate religious affairs related to state and the public interests and will not interfere in the pure internal religious affairs".[1]


Tulkus are an important element in Tibetan Buddhism, forming a clergy of influential religious figures. It is believed they are continuously reincarnated to take up their positions anew. Often there is more than one candidate competing to be recognised as the actual reincarnation, and the authority to decide who is the true claimant carries significant power.[2]

In 1951, the Peoples Liberation Army occupied Tibet. Since then, the Chinese government has maintained strict control over Tibetan Buddhism.[2]

Since the 1960s, the Dalai Lama, the most influential figure in Tibetan Buddhism, has been leading a Tibetan government in exile in Dharamsala, India. Historically speaking, the second most influential figure has been the Panchen Lama. This importance may degrade in the future as the negative ramifications of a state-appointed spiritual leader become more evident. In 1995, the Chinese authorities detained the Dalai Lama's choice of Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, who was six years old at the time and has not been seen in public since. The Chinese Government chose a different candidate, Qoigyijabu, a Tibetan who is the son of two members of China's communist party[3], as the new Panchen Lama. He has since been touring around the country to promote China's ownership of his homeland.[2]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Reincarnation of living Buddha needs gov't approval". China Daily. 4 August 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-09. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 "Buddhas' reincarnation red tape". Melbourne Herald. August 4, 2007.,21985,22185282-663,00.html. Retrieved 2007-08-09. 
  3. 'A Year In Tibet' Broadcasted on BBC Four on Thursday, 6 March, 2008 at 2100GMT

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