Chinese official media say the Beijing-appointed 11th Panchen Lama has held a Buddhist ritual in Tibet to bless his followers.
Xinhua reports that a head-touching ritual took place Sunday for thousands of followers in the teenage religious leader's residence in Xigaze 270 kilometers from the regional capital, Lhasa, and could continue into Tuesday if crowds warrant.
The Chinese government appointed the young boy Gyaltsen Norbu in 1995, although he is not recognized as the Panchen Lama by most Tibetans. The Panchen Lama is Tibetan Buddhism's second-most prominent figure.
Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, chose a different boy Gendun Choekyi Nyima as the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama. He and his family were detained by Chinese authorities in 1995 and have not been seen since.
Some information for this story provided by Xinhua and AFP.