Photos: The Dalai Lama

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  1. Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, as a young child. He was born into a prosperous farming family in Tibet in 1935. He was enthroned as the leader of Tibet in 1950 at the age of 15 and also assumed the role of Tibetan Buddhism's spiritual leader. After the collapse of the Tibetan resistance movement in 1959, he fled to India. (Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. The Dalai Lama and Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in New Delhi in 1961, where they discussed the plight of Tibetans who crossed the border into India during the Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule. When the Tibetan resistance collapsed in 1959, the Dalai Lama fled into exile in India. China has ruled Tibet since then. (Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Pope John Paul II meets with the Dalai Lama at Vatican City in November 2003. He has met with many religious leaders over the years to promote religious dialogue. In 1989, he won the Nobel Peace Prize. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. The Dalai Lama poses with his wax image at Madame Tussaud's in 1993 in London. He brought a pair of his own glasses for the statue. (Gerry Penny / AFP-Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. The Dalai Lama jokes with New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani before an audience of 3,000 at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York in 1997. (Adam Nadel / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. The Dalai Lama speaks to an audience 40,000-strong at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington in July 2000. (Khue Bui / AFP-Getty Images ) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. President George W. Bush welcomes the Dalai Lama to the White House in 2001. (The White House via AFP - Getty) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. The Dalai Lama pats a koala held by Bindi Irwin at the Australia Zoo during a tour titled "Open Arms -- Embracing Kindness" in Beerwah in June 2007. (Greg White / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. A monk stands in front of Potala Palace in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, in 2004. Before his exile, the palace was the winter home of the Dalai Lama. (Peter Parks / AFP-Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. The Dalai Lama presents actor Richard Gere with a traditional Tibetan ceremonial scarf during the International Campaign for Tibet 2009 Light of Truth Award in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 7, 2009. (Susan Walsh / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Framed by the Tibetan flag, the Dalai Lama speaks to members of the Tibetan community on Oct. 11, 2007, in New York City. (Mary Altaffer / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. The Dalai Lama speaks with spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar during the launch ceremony of Global Foundation for Civilizational Harmony in New Delhi on Jan. 22, 2008. The organization aims to build a global civilization of peace, harmony and mutual enrichment. (Vijay Mathur / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. The Dalai Lama addresses a press conference in New Delhi, on March 29, 2008. He discussed the Chinese government policy of "demographic aggression." (Manish Swarup / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Pro-Tibetan protesters hold candles as they stand next to a poster of the Dalai Lama during a rally in San Francisco on April 8, 2008. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. The exiled spiritual leader playfully touches fists with musician Dave Matthews after a panel discussion at Seattle's Key Arena on April 11, 2008. (Marcus Donner / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Devotees watch the Tibetan spiritual leader give religious teachings at the Tsuglakhang temple in Dharmsala, India, on Sept. 30, 2008. (Ashwini Bhatia / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama gives a speech at the EU Parliament in Brussels on December 4, 2008. China warned that day that multi-billion-dollar trade ties with France could be affected by President Nicolas Sarkozy's planned meeting with the Dalai Lama. (Eric Vidal / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Nobel Peace Prize winner and former Polish President Lech Walesa, right, and fellow laureates the Dalai Lama, left, and Adolfo Perez Esquivel, center, are seen in Gdansk, Poland, on Dec. 5, 2008. Walesa was marking the 25th anniversary of his Nobel Peace Prize win. (Czarek Sokolowski / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. The Dalai Lama receives an honorary doctorate at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, on December 8, 2008. He expressed admiration for the nation's 1980s non-violent struggle against its now defunct communist regime. (Pawel Ulatowski / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. The Dalai Lama prays before inaugurating the installation of a hand-carved 2.5 meter-high stone statue of Lord Buddha in the compound of the Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies in the northern Indian city of Sarnath on Jan. 9, 2009. (Abhishek Madhukar / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. The Dalai Lama smiles as he is flanked by Rome's Mayor Gianni Alemanno, left, and his wife Isabella, right, after being made an honorary citizen of the Italian city on Feb. 9, 2009. (Alessandro Bianchi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. The Dalai Lama greets reporters as he arrives for a press conference at the main temple in Dharamsala, India, on March 10, 2009. In a speech marking the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising, the Dalai Lama said he would continue to pursue the "middle path" approach despite China's crackdown on Tibetans. (Harish Tyagi / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. The Dalai Lama speaks to reporters outside the White House in Washington on Feb. 18, 2010, following a meeting with President Barack Obama. Every U.S. president for the last two decades has met with the Dailai Lama, including George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. (J. Scott Applewhite / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. The Dalai Lama announced that he will pass the reins of political power to the elected prime minister of the self-proclaimed on Thursday, March 10, 2011. Tibetan government in exile hoping to prevent a political vacuum after his death and ensure an effective response to Chinese crackdowns and Beijing's increasingly effective use of diplomatic pressure. Dalai Lama made a point of saying he wasn't retiring, and his global status and reputation ensure that he will continue to play a major role in Tibetan affairs. (David Stephenson / Zuma Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. The Dalai Lama holds a forty-nine days memorial service for victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami at the Gokokuji temple in Tokyo on Friday, April 29, 2011. The 75-year-old monk, on his way to the US, offered prayers and messages to a nation in deep sorrow after the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami on March 11 that has plunged Japan into its worst post-War crisis. (Kim Kyung-hoon / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
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msnbc.com news services
updated 8/27/2009 9:42:41 AM ET 2009-08-27T13:42:41

China promptly denounced a proposed trip to Taiwan by the Dalai Lama on Thursday, saying any such visit by a man Beijing brands a separatist threatened to "sabotage" improving relations.

Taiwan, a self-ruled island claimed by Beijing, approved the visit by the Nobel Peace laureate to comfort victims of a deadly typhoon at a time of burgeoning trade and investment between the rivals. 

Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou's move was unexpected because he has made a priority of seeking better relations with China, and just last December nixed plans for a visit by the Buddhist spiritual leader in what was deemed a move to placate Beijing.

But his government has come under fire over its slow response to Typhoon Morakot , which claimed 670 lives when it hit Aug. 8-9, and opposition politicians in the storm zone pointedly invited the Tibetan spiritual leader to the island to console survivors.

'Souls of the dead'
Ma announced his decision while visiting a school in Nantou County that was destroyed in mudslides triggered by the storm.

"The Dalai Lama could come to Taiwan to help rest the souls of the dead and also pray for the well-being of the survivors," he said.

Beijing considers the Dalai Lama a "splittist" for promoting autonomy in the Chinese region of Tibet, and opposes visits to foreign countries that raise his profile.

"No matter under what form or identity Dalai uses to enter Taiwan, we resolutely oppose this," China's Taiwan Affairs Bureau said in a statement carried by Xinhua news agency.

China claims self-governing Taiwan as part of its territory, though they split amid civil war in 1949.

Taiwan, home to a large exiled Tibetan community and millions of Buddhists, allowed visits by the Dalai Lama in 1997 and 2001.

On Wednesday, leaders of seven municipalities hit by Morakot issued a joint statement inviting the Dalai Lama to visit storm victims from Aug. 31 to Sept. 4. The invitation from the leaders — all from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party — came as Ma faced criticism that he botched the government's response to the island's deadliest storm in 50 years.

The Dalai Lama — who has made three visits to the island over the past 12 years — has accepted the invitation "in principle," his spokesman Tenzin Takhla said Wednesday from Dharmsala, India, home to the Tibetan government-in-exile.

Video: Dalai Lama condemns China

Strictly religious
Since becoming president 15 months ago, Ma has reversed many of his predecessor's anti-China policies, tightening economic links across the 100-mile-wide Taiwan Strait and even speaking of a peace treaty with Beijing.

Presidential spokesman Wang Yu-chi said the Dalai Lama's upcoming visit would be strictly religious, with no political overtones.

"We welcome the Dalai Lama to come to Taiwan to take part in mass prayers," Wang told reporters. He said the visit was approved "for humanitarian and religious considerations ... and we believe it will not harm cross-Strait relations."

Wang declined to say if Ma would meet the Dalai Lama during his stay in Taiwan.

Ma's policy of seeking better relations with China contrasts sharply with the opposition DPP's strong support for formal independence for the island of 23 million people.

That stance infuriates Beijing, which has repeatedly warned that any move to make the Taiwan-China split permanent would lead to war.

Taiwan and Tibet share similar histories. Both are territories that Beijing believes should be under its rule. Despite a failed 1959 uprising that sent the Dalai Lama into exile, China controls Tibet and has refused the Tibetan religious leader's request for greater autonomy.

More on: Dalai Lama | Taiwan

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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