Gendun Chopel was born in 1903 as Rigdzin Namgyel. He was believed to be a reincarnation of a Dorje Drak Monastery lama, Rigdzin Jigme Sonam Namgyel. As a result, Gendun Chopel spent the first ten years of his life in hermitage with a yogin-poet named Zhabkar Tsokdruk Rangdrol.
After years of study in various monasteries, Gendun Chopel took to exploring the world outside Tibet. He traveled throughout the Indian subcontinent and took an interest in multiple languages, including Sansktri and English. Gendun Chopel began to publish writings that questioned Tibetan views on history and translated parts of the Tang Annals into Tibetan from Chinese. One of his most ambitious products was a plan to introduce Tibet to the United Sates and the rest of the West. The outbreak of World War II, however, prevented him from making it to New York where he was set to meet with Theos Bernard of Columbia University. He was able, nevertheless, to assist with the translation of one of Tibet’s major historical works, the “Blue Annals,” into English. Gendun Chopel also helped assemble the materials for an encyclopedia of Indian classical civilization and drew a map showing the historic boundaries of Tibet. He began writing the “White Annals,” a popular history of Tibet that caught the attention of the British representative in Lhasa, but Gendun Chopel was never able to finish the work. He died in 1951, not long after his map of Tibet was used by the Chinese to begin their conquest of Tibet.