Gendun Choephel was born 1903 in a small village in eastern Tibet, near the silk road, at the Chinese border, in a remote region populated by nomads. This region was inhabited by Muslims, Chinese, and Tibetans who were constantly fighting each other. The villages were often attacked and looted by warlords. In this explosive and mixed cultural climate Gendun Choephel started to be interested in his Tibetan identity early on. He received a traditional education as a monk in the most important monastery of the region, where he developed a friendship with an American missionary that the other monks and his family resented. In 1927 he left the monastery and moved to Lhasa with a caravan of merchants.