The Panchen Lama is the second-ranking lama after the Dalai Lama in Gelugpa Tibetan Buddhism. "Panchen" is a contraction of pandita ("scholar" in Sanskrit) and chenpo ("great" in Tibetan), so the Panchen Lama is the Great Scholar.
The current Panchen Lama incarnation, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, was arrested at age 5 by Chinese authorities in 1995; he has not been seen since.
Beijing has named a pretender to the post of Panchen Lama, Gyancain Norbu, but he is not accepted as a true incarnation by most Tibetan Buddhists.
The tenth Panchen Lama, Choekyi Gyaltsen, died suddenly at age 51 after giving a pro-Tibetan independence speech in 1989.