TENZIN THUTHOB TSARONG (Adult Dalai Lama) attended the Lawrence
School at Sanawar, India, where he was a school basketball captain and an
excellent all-round sportsman.
He completed the first year of an English Honors degree at Delhi University
before joining the cast of "Kundun." He hopes to continue his
studies in the United States.
Thuthob, who is now eighteen, is a committed golfer and his goal is to compete
on the international golf circuit.
His father, Tsewang Jigme Tsarong, plays Taktra, the Dalai Lama's tutor.
Ten-year-old GYURME TETHONG (Dalai Lama, age 12) was born in New
He lived in India for five years when his father was elected to the Tibetan
cabinet in exile and recently moved to California.
Gyurme speaks Tibetan and English. He is a good student and during filming
wrote and illustrated his own account of working on "Kundun."
Seven-year-old TULKU JAMYANG KUNGA TENZIN (Dalai Lama, age 5), known
as Kunga ( the name means "joy giver") was born in India, where
he attends a Christian school. He speaks Tibetan, Hindi and English. His
favorite subject is math.
Kunga's father is a field officer for the Save The Children Fund and his
mother runs a small takeout restaurant. Kunga and his younger brother both
love animals and look after the neighborhood dogs.
TENZIN YESHI PAICHANG (Dalai Lama, age 2) Two-year-old Tenzin Yeshi
Paichang proved to be a delightful challenge to the filmmakers, who had
to both divert a naturally playful toddler and capture a performance on
film in which the child passes the tests that designate him as the Dalai
Lama. As Tenzin Chodon Gyalpo, who plays the boy's mother recalls, "It
was good, because the first two days were working with him, we were so occupied
trying to play with him, we forgot all about the camera. It was a blessing
that we had him there!"
TENCHO GYALPO (The Dalai Lama's Mother) plays her real-life grandmother
Since 1991 when she was elected to the Tibetan parliament in exile, Tenzin
has represented the province of Amdo, where His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Tencho was born in India and grew up in Dharamsala. When she was a child,
she was very close to her grandmother, as her mother, Jetsun Pema, was busy
running the Tibetan Children's Village, an organization set up to look after
Tibet's many refugee children.
After attending the Tibetan Children's Village school, Tencho went on to
obtain a degree in psychology and economics. In 1987 she took over the restaurant
started by her late father. She has since opened two more restaurants, one
with a business partner and the most recent with her younger brother. She
manages a staff of a hundred people.
TSEWANG MIGYUR KHANGSAR (The Dalai Lama's Father) taught at Tibetan
schools in India for twenty years, becoming a head master and school principal.
In 1990 he won a Fulbright scholarship and spent two years at the University
of Massachusetts, studying for a master's degree in education. He now lives
in the United States.
GESHI YESHI GYATSO (The Lama of Sera) was born in India and for the
past thirteen years has been a monk at the re-established Sera monastery.
He holds a degree equivalent to a doctorate.
Throughout 1996 Geshi and a group of eleven monks toured the United States
with a video presentation of archival footage, showing the customs and history
of Tibet and performing the Cham dance, a masked dance which illustrates
various aspects of Buddhist philosophy.
For the past six years SONAM PHUNTSOK (Reting Rinpoche) has worked
as an instructor at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts, the company
he joined as a boy twenty years ago.
He toured the United States with TIPA in 1991 for the International Year
of Tibet and has performed with them in sixteen countries.
In 1993 he won a Fulbright scholarship and spent a year at Middlebury College
in Vermont as an exchange student, learning about stage production, lighting
design and modern dance.
Sonam was born in India, of mixed race parents and comes from a poor background.
When he was twelve, TIPA offered to take him in and give him schooling.
He had never thought of singing or dancing in his life. He now sings
leading opera roles.
In 1991 Sonam and seven friends formed a band, Akama, which plays modern
Tibetan songs, mixing western guitars and Tibetan instruments.
LOBSANG SAMTEN (The Master of the Kitchen) teaches the Tibetan language
and Buddhism at the University of Pennsylvania and Tibetan Studies at the
Tibetan Buddhist Center in Philadelphia.
In addition to playing The Master of the Kitchen, Samten was also the production's
Samten became a refugee as a child in 1959. After attending a Tibetan Children's
Village school, he became a novice monk and at twenty one was ordained by
His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala. He remained a fully ordained
monk for more than twenty years.
The Namgyal Monastery sent him to New York to create a sand painting at
the Natural History Museum in 1988 and since then Samten has spent most
of his time teaching in the United States.
For sixteen years GYATSO LUKHANG (Lord Chamberlain) worked on high
profile accounts as an art director in New York advertising agencies. He
was also an active member of Tibetan cultural and human rights organizations.
He recently opened a fledgling Tibetan restaurant.
Gyatso was born in Tibet. His grandfather was one of the prime ministers
appointed by the Dalai Lama, when the Chinese first invaded. In 1958 his
family embarked on a year long pilgrimage to the Buddhist shrines of India.
The situation in Tibet deteriorated in the meantime and they remained in
Gyatso's schooldays began at the height of the Tibetan refugee crisis.
When he was ten, he was among a group of children chosen to be educated
in Britain and spent ten years at high school in the south of England.
He then returned to India and volunteered as an English teacher at a Tibetan
monastery school, where he also studied traditional Tibetan painting. In
1974 he moved to the United States and went to art school, which led to
his career in advertising.
For eight years TSEWANG JIGME TSARONG (Taktra Rinpoche) was director
of the Dalai Lama's Tibetan Medical Center in Dharamsala, developing, propagating
and preserving ancient Tibetan medicine. He was also the center's director
of research for two years. He now writes about Tibetan medicine and has
published three books on the subject.
After attending a Jesuit school and college in Darjeeling, Tsarong went
to the United States. With the help of broadcaster Lowell Thomas, who had
visited his family in Tibet, he obtained a scholarship to Valparaiso University
in Indiana, where he studied international relations and English.
After graduation he lived in New York for a year working on portfolio management
on Wall Street.
He lives in India, in the foothills of the Himalayas and is the father of
Tenzin Thuthob Tsarong, who plays the adult Dalai Lama.
TENZIN TRINLEY (Ling Rinpoche) first met the venerated Buddhist scholar,
Ling Rinpoche, at the age of six. He later attended his teachings and interpreted
for him. He is currently working on an English translation of Ling Rinpoche's
biography, "The Jewel Garland," by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Trinley is himself a Rinpoche, or reincarnation of a spiritual teacher and
was a fully ordained monk until he was twenty six. He is a former member
of the Dalai Lama's private office, was translator on His Holiness's first
visit to the West in 1973 and has translated many Tibetan Buddhist texts.
He has associate produced and directed two documentaries about Buddhism,
"Cycles of Interdependence" and "Preserving the Monastic
Trinley was educated at monasteries in Tibet (until 1959), India and the
United States and at an American high school. He received a fellowship
from the Colgate University Fund to study the great religions, towards the
degree of geshe, the equivalent to a doctorate.
He became an American citizen in 1979 and now works in the field of health
Chinese American actor ROBERT LIN (Chairman Mao) has a master's degree
in performing arts from New York University and works in theatre, film and
television in New York.
"Kundun" provides Lin with his first leading role in a motion
picture. He has appeared in "Flirting with Disaster" and "Eraser"
and several episodes of "New York Undercover" for Universal TV.
On stage his performance in "The Preacher and the Rapper" was
noted by the New York Times and in collaboration with an American playwright
he has written a one person show about Chairman and Madam Mao.
NGAWANG DORJEE (Kashag/Nobleman #1) was the first Tibetan to do a
Masters degree at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
He is the education director at the Tibetan Children's Village, a school
system for Tibetan children in India. He joined the staff of the T.C.V.
in 1976, straight from teacher's training. He was head master and then
principal, before becoming the education director six years ago.
Dorjee himself was educated in India at a Catholic school and a Jesuit college.
PHINTSO THONDEN (Kashag/Nobleman #2) now works for an investment
company in New York.
After graduating with an honors degree in economics, Thonden joined the
Tibetan Service in Dharamsala in 1964. Soon after he was transferred to
New York. Between 1973-1976 he was the representative of His Holiness The
Dalai Lama in New Delhi, where he worked with government ministries and
foreign aid agencies to raise funding for almost every aspect of Tibetan
After leaving public service in 1976, Thonden did a stockbroking course.
KIM CHAN (Second Chinese General) recently completed his fourth season
as the character known as The Ancient, in the syndicated television series,
"Kung Fu: The Legend Continues."
Chan made his motion picture debut in "The Owl and the Pussycat."
He played the announcer in Elia Kazan's "A Face In the Crowd"
and appeared in a small role in Martin Scorsese's "The King of Comedy."