Panchen Lama attends Buddha Festival at Tibetan monastery

XIGAZE, Tibet, June 25 (Xinhua) -- The Panchen Lama, Bainqen Erdini Qoigyijabu, joined crowds of monks and pilgrims at a monastery in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region Friday to mark the annual Buddha Festival.

A huge thangka with the portrait of Buddha Dipamkara -- also known as the "Buddha of the Past" -- was unveiled Friday morning on a mountainside stone platform outside the Zhaxi Lhunbo Lamasery in Xigaze Prefecture.

From the roof of the monastery's main hall, the Panchen Lama and a group of monks paid their respect to the Buddha with prayers and sutra chanting.

Thousands of pilgrims gathered on a square outside the lamasery to bow, pray and present hadas to the Buddha.

The portrait was carefully put away at midday, to be displayed again next year.

Portraits of two other Buddhas -- Sakyamuni the Buddha of the Present, Maitreya the Buddha of the Future -- will be displayed on Saturday and Sunday respectively.

Friday is the 13th day of the fifth Tibetan month, the first day of the annual Buddha Festival which has a history of more than 500 years. The celebrations last for three days.

The Zhaxi Lhunbo Lamasery, built in 1447, was the traditional residence of Panchen Lamas. It is one of the six major monasteries of Tibetan Buddhism and a major place for Tibetan Buddhists to perform their observances.

The lamasery houses the world's largest bronze Buddha statue, which is 26.7 meters tall.

The Panchen Lama arrived in Tibet three weeks ago for a series of Buddhist activities, which have become his annual routine in recent years.

He spends most of the time studying Buddhism in Beijing and also visits areas inhabited by Tibetans for religious services.

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