Kundun: About The Cast

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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 York.

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 in "Kundun."

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 was born.

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 religious adviser.

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 India.

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 Tradition."

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 care.

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 resettlement.

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."

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