The favorite toy of the 15-year- old 11th Panchen Lama, one of Tibet's top religious leaders, was a model of "Shenzhou-5", China's first manned spacecraft sent into orbit in October 2003.
He was immediately attracted by the model when he first saw it at the national museum of science and technology in Beijing, and showed a strong interest in how the spaceship was designed and how it worked.
"I am happy about the latest scientific achievements of our country," said the young Panchen Lama, who was confirmed as the reincarnation of the previous Panchen and enthroned 10 years ago with a religious name Bainqen Erdini Qoigyijabu.
In an exclusive interview with China Central Television (CCTV) broadcast nationwide on Monday, the Panchen Lama, who called himself "an earnest viewer of prime time news programs of CCTV", told the audience of his life over the past decade.
"I AM NOT A KID, NOR AN ADULT, BUT A YOUTH"
In Tibetan Buddhism, the honorary title of Panchen Lama was conferred on an erudite person believed to be the reincarnation of "Amitabha," the highest-ranking Buddha. So the successive Panchen Lamas have enjoyed extremely high prestige among the religious believers in Tibet.
Bainqen Erdini Qoigyijabu was confirmed and approved by the State Council, China's cabinet, as the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama on Nov. 29, 1995 after a ceremony of drawing lots from a sacred gold urn, conducted in strict compliance with religious rituals and historical conventions.
He ascended the holy throne as the 11th Panchen Lama at a formal solemn ceremony held at the Zhaxi Lhunbo Lamasery, the seat of successive Panchen Lamas, on Dec. 8, 1995.
He has been leading a routine daily life since he was five years old: getting up at 6:30 a.m., prostrating to kowtow three times to the statue of Sakyamuni in his bedroom, and then spending the whole day studying various subjects.
The study of Buddhist sutras and religious rituals constitutes a main part of the young Panchen Lama's daily life, and it will take him at least 22 years to complete the study of all sutra lessons.
But his greatest hobby is to practice calligraphy, on which he spent nearly one hour each day. He now has an excellent handwriting in both Tibetan and Chinese languages, as well as in Sanskrit, the ancient Indic language now most often found in the classical religious and literary works.
He also takes much interest in modern appliances such as a notebook computer, which he often uses to help himself do homework assigned by his tutors.
Despite the marked progress he has made in his learning over the past decade, the young Panchen Lama said that he believes there is no end for his study throughout his life.
While asked to comment on himself at the present stage, the young religious leader said: "I am not a kid, nor an adult, but a youth."
Though being a living buddha, the 11th Panchen Lama also loves all members of his secular family. "I shall never forget it was my parents who brought me to this world, and I am also much concerned about my elderly brother, who often consulted me on some difficulties he met in his study," he said.
"I CAN FEEL THE GREAT HISTORIC MISSION ON MY SHOULDERS"
Still having a fresh memory of the moment when he was confirmed as the 10th Panchen Lama's reincarnation, Bainqen Erdini Qoigyijabu said: "I can feel the great historic mission on my shoulders."
"I shall work hard for the unification of the motherland, for ethnic unity, for the well-being of the people, and for the healthy development of Tibetan Buddhism along a path compatible with the socialist society," he said. "This is the mission I must fulfill."
"The most fundamental point is that I must inherit and carry forward the glorious tradition of the successive Panchen Lamas to love the country and love the religion," he added.
In 10 years' time, the boy has grown into a beloved religious leader who enjoys high esteem among the Tibetan Buddhists.
When he first performed the Buddhist rituals in 1999 at the Zhaxi Lhunbo Lamasery in the city of Xigaze, tens of thousands of worshippers swarmed in from all parts of Tibet and the neighboring provinces, forming a two-kilometer-long queue to seek his blessings through the head-touching ritual.
The young Panchen Lama said that he owed his religious attainments to his tutors, especially four masters of Buddhist sutras who taught him in the past 10 years.
"I was greatly saddened when two of them passed away," he said. "I shall never forget their teachings and study even harder to live up to their expectations."