Renji's father had a tragic life. Born in 1938 to a poor Tibetan farming family in Qinghai , Qoigyi Gyaincain was chosen as the 10th Panchen Lama on June 2, 1949, and officially enthroned on August 10 that year. After the flight of the Dalai Lama to India in 1959, he became the most important political and religious figure in Tibet. After spending a year visiting Tibetan areas, he wrote in 1962 a 70,000-word petition that attacked the central government for mass jailings, starvation and efforts to wipe out Buddhism in his homeland. He sent the petition to the authorities in Beijing. Chairman Mao Zedong dismissed the petition as 'a poisoned arrow shot at the Communist Party by reactionary feudal overlords'. The Panchen Lama was dismissed from all his official posts and brought from Lhasa to live in Beijing, where premier Zhou Enlai gave him a courtyard house. In 1966, he was subject to mass criticism sessions at the Beijing Minorities College and in 1968 sent to prison. He lived in a room of 9 square metres, with a bed, table and chair and a small window: he could not see the outside and was not allowed to see even his own family. He used the time to recite Buddhist scriptures, learn Chinese characters, write a Tibetan-Chinese dictionary and read books on Marxism. Released in 1977, he was taken on a two-month tour of China in 1978 with other 'minority' leaders. The time in prison had worn him down physically and psychologically and he craved the comforts of family life. He asked one of the bodyguards of his group to help him find a wife and was introduced to Li Jie, a doctor in the Chinese army, granddaughter of Dong Qiwu, a general in the Nationalist Army who defected to the communists and was awarded the title of general in the People's Liberation Army in 1955. Her family opposed the marriage, citing the 21-year age difference and the fact that he had not been fully rehabilitated. Notwithstanding, they married in January 1979: Miss Li was only 19. He was the first Panchen Lama in history to marry and have a child. Renji said her parents had a very happy marriage and never quarrelled. 'My mother often said that she had been a Tibetan in a previous life.' The Panchen Lama died on January 28, 1989, at the age of 51, at his home temple of Tashilhunpo in Shigatse, Tibet, after completing one of his most solemn duties, consecrating the stupas of the fifth to ninth Panchen Lamas that had been seriously damaged in the Cultural Revolution. He also made a speech, saying that Chinese rule since 1950 had done Tibet more harm than good. The official version is that, being very overweight, he died of a heart attack because of exhaustion after a week of gruelling ceremonies and meetings. Some exiles, without apparent evidence, believe that the government poisoned him, and others that he chose the moment of his own departure, in his home temple and next to his predecessors. His wife had opposed his going to Shigatse. 'Before he left Beijing, he told me stories of Shambhala, a paradise where there was no suffering and you can have whatever you want,' Renji said. 'He told me that we would meet again in Shambhala.'