While government regulation of reincarnation might sound tricky, China’s Communist Party has gone ahead and given it a go. Earlier this year, they published an official list of 870 “living Buddhas” who, in Tibetan Buddhism, are believed to be the reincarnations of prominent lamas or religious leaders. The list is available to anyone online, and includes each lama’s name, photo, monastic title, date of birth, certification, and resident monastery.
The number of "living Buddhas" has been increasing at a rapid clip since autumn. In September 2015, China’s State Council released a white paper enumerating 358 “living Buddhas.” By the end of last year, there were 360. Now, the count in the database is 870, which makes one wonder how so many were added so quickly. But then there’s the most salient question: how can reincarnation— a purely religious concept with no scientific criterion—be “verified” in the first place?
Lucy Hornby, China correspondent for the Financial Times, believes the Chinese government likely just chose "living Buddhas" dwelling in the country's most important monasteries for its list. "No doubt there is some politics around who got left out, but many expect this to just be a preliminary list that could ultimately be expanded," Hornby says.