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Title: Three Years in Tibet

Author: Ekai Kawaguchi

Release date: July 17, 2016 [eBook #52594]

Language: English

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Three Years
with the original Japanese illustrations

Late Rector of Gohyakurakan Monastery, Japan.



(Registered Copyright.)




I was lately reading the Holy Text of the Saḍḍharma-Puṇdarīka (the Aphorisms of the White Lotus of the Wonderful or True Law) in a Samskṛṭ manuscript under a Boḍhi-tree near Mṛga-Ḍāva (Sāranāṭh), Benares. Here our Blessed Lord Buḍḍha Shākya-Muni taught His Holy Ḍharma just after the accomplishment of His Buḍḍhahood at Buḍḍhagayā. Whilst doing so, I was reminded of the time, eighteen years ago, when I had read the same text in Chinese at a great Monastery named Ohbakusang at Kyoto in Japan, a reading which determined me to undertake a visit to Tibet.

It was in March, 1891, that I gave up the Rectorship of the Monastery of Gohyakurakan in Tokyo, and left for Kyoto, where I remained living as a hermit for about three years, totally absorbed in the study of a large collection of Buḍḍhist books in the Chinese language. My object in doing so was to fulfil a long-felt desire to translate the texts into Japanese in an easy style from the difficult and unintelligible Chinese.

But I afterwards found that it was not a wise thing to rely upon the Chinese texts alone, without comparing them with Tibetan translations as well as with the original Samskṛṭ texts which are contained in Mahāyāna Buḍḍhism. The Buḍḍhist Samskṛṭ texts were to be found in Tibet and Nepāl. Of course, many of them had been discovered by European Orientalists in Nepāl and a few in other parts of India and Japan. But those texts had not yet been found which included the most important manuscripts of which Buḍḍhist scholars were in great want. Then again, the Tibetan texts were famous for being[vi] more accurate translations than the Chinese. Now I do not say that the Tibetan translations are superior to the Chinese. As literal translations, I think that they are superior; but, for their general meaning, the Chinese are far better than the Tibetan. Anyhow, it was my idea that I should study the Tibetan language and Tibetan Buḍḍhism, and should try to discover Samskṛṭ manuscripts in Tibet, if any were there available.

With these objects in view, I made up my mind to go to Tibet, though the country was closed not only by the Local Government but also by the surrounding lofty mountains. After making my preparations for some time, I left Japan for Tibet in June, 1897, and returned to my country in May, 1903. Then in October, 1904, I again left Japan for India and Nepāl, with the object of studying Samskṛṭ, hoping, if possible, again to penetrate into Tibet, in search of more manuscripts.

On my return to Japan, my countrymen received me with great enthusiasm, as the first explorer of Tibet from Japan. The Jiji, a daily newspaper in Tokyo, the most well-known, influential and widely read paper in Japan, and also a famous paper in Ōsaka, called the Maimichi, published my articles every day during 156 issues. After this, I collected all these articles and gave them for publication in two volumes to Hakubunkwan, a famous publisher in Tokyo. Afterwards some well-known gentlemen in Japan, Mr. Sutejiro Fukuzawa, Mr. Sensuke Hayakawa and Mr. Eiji Asabuki, proposed to me to get them translated into English. They also helped me substantially in this translation, and I take this opportunity of expressing my grateful thanks to them for the favor thus conferred upon me.

When my translation was finished, the British expedition to Tibet had been successful, and reports regarding it were soon afterwards published. I therefore stopped the[vii] publication of my English translation, for I thought that my book would not be of any use to the English-reading public.

Recently, the President of the Theosophical Society, my esteemed friend Mrs. Annie Besant, asked me to show her the translation. On reading it she advised me to publish it quickly. I then told her that it would be useless for me to publish such a book, as there were already Government reports of the Tibetan expedition, and as Dr. Sven Hedin of Sweden would soon publish an excellent book of his travels in Tibet. But she was of opinion that such books would treat of the country from a western point of view, whilst my book would prove interesting to the reader from the point of view of an Asiatic, intimately acquainted with the manners, the customs, and the inner life of the people. She also pointed out to me that the book would prove attractive to the general reader for its stirring incidents and adventures, and the dangers I had had to pass through during my travels.

Thus then I lay this book before the English-knowing public. I take this opportunity of expressing my grateful thanks to Mrs. Besant for her continued kindness to me in looking over the translation, and for rendering me help in the publication. Were it not for her, this book would not have seen the light of day.

Here also I must not fail to express my sincere thanks to my intimate friend Professor Jamshedji N. Unwalla, M.A., of the Central Hinḍū College, Benares; for he composed all the verses of the book from my free English prose translation, and looked over all the proof-sheets carefully with me with heartiest kindness.

I must equally thank those people who helped me in my travels in a substantial manner, as well as those who rendered me useful assistance in my studies; nay, even those who threw obstacles in my way, for they, after all,[viii] unconsciously rewarded me with the gift of the power to accomplish the objects I had in view, by surmounting all the difficulties I had to go through during my travels.

With reference to this publication, whilst reading the Aphorisms of the White Lotus of the Wonderful Law this day, I cannot but feel extremely sorry in my heart when I am reminded of those people who suffered a great deal for my sake, some being even imprisoned for their connexion with me when I was in Tibet. But on the other hand, it is really gratifying to me, as well as to them, to know that, after all, their sufferings for my sake will be amply compensated by the good karma they have certainly acquired for themselves through their acts of charity and benevolence, that have enabled me to read and carefully study with greater knowledge, accuracy and enthusiasm, the most sacred texts of our Holy Religion, than was possible for me before my travels in Tibet. I assert this with implicit faith in the fact that good deeds, according to the Sacred Canon, have indubitably the power to purify Humanity, sunk in the illusions of this world, often compared in our Holy Scriptures to a muddy and dirty pond; at the same time I believe that that power to purify rests with the Glorious Lotus of the Awe-inspiring Law, suffusing all with its brilliant effulgence; and with sweet odor, itself, amidst its muddy surroundings, remaining for ever stainless and unsullied.

Central Hindu College,
Staff Quarters,
Benares City, 1909.



I.Novel farewell Presents.1
II.A Year in Darjeeling.11
III.A foretaste of Tibetan barbarism.15
IV.Laying a false scent.21
V.Journey to Nepāl.25
VI.I befriend Beggars.35
VII.The Sublime Himālaya.40
VIII.Dangers ahead.44
IX.Beautiful Tsarang and Dirty Tsarangese.51
X.Fame and Temptation.60
XI.Tibet at Last.69
XII.The World of Snow.77
XIII.A kind old Dame.81
XIV.A holy Cave-Dweller.86
XV.In helpless Plight.90
XVI.A Foretaste of distressing Experiences.96
XVII.A Beautiful Rescuer.99
XVIII.The Lighter Side of the Experiences.104
XIX.The largest River of Tibet.108
XX.Dangers begin in Earnest.112
XXI.Overtaken by a Sand-Storm.116
XXII.22,650 Feet above Sea-level.123
XXIII.I survive a Sleep in the Snow.127
XXIV.‘Bon’ and ‘Kyang’.131
XXV.The Power of Buḍḍhism.135
XXVI.Sacred Mānasarovara and its Legends.139
XXVII.Bartering in Tibet.144
XXVIII.A Himālayan Romance.150
XXIX.On the Road to Nature’s Grand Maṇdala.162
XXX.Wonders of Nature’s Maṇdala.167
[x]XXXI.An Ominous Outlook.178
XXXII.A Cheerless Prospect.187
XXXIII.At Death’s Door.191
XXXIV.The Saint of the White Cave revisited.204
XXXV.Some easier Days.211
XXXVI.War Against Suspicion.218
XXXVII.Across the Steppes.227
XXXVIII.Holy Texts in a Slaughter-house.233
XXXIX.The Third Metropolis of Tibet.236
XL.The Sakya Monastery.241
XLII.A Supposed Miracle.257
XLIII.Manners and Customs.264
XLIV.On to Lhasa.280
XLV.Arrival in Lhasa.285
XLVI.The Warrior-Priests of Sera.291
XLVII.Tibet and North China.297
XLVIII.Admission into Sera College.304
XLIX.Meeting with the Incarnate Boḍhisaṭṭva.311
L.Life in the Sera Monastery.323
LI.My Tibetan Friends and Benefactors.329
LII.Japan in Lhasa.335
LIII.Scholastic Aspirants.345
LIV.Tibetan Weddings and Wedded Life.351
LV.Wedding Ceremonies.362
LVI.Tibetan Punishments.374
LVII.A grim Funeral and grimmer Medicine.388
LVIII.Foreign Explorers and the Policy of Seclusion.397
LIX.A Metropolis of Filth.407
LXI.The Tibetan Hierarchy.417
LXII.The Government.428
LXIII.Education and Castes.435
LXIV.Tibetan Trade and Industry.447
LXV.Currency and Printing-blocks.461
[xi]LXVI.The Festival of Lights.467
LXVII.Tibetan Women.472
LXVIII.Tibetan Boys and Girls.479
LXIX.The Care of the Sick.484
LXX.Outdoor Amusements.489
LXXI.Russia’s Tibetan Policy.493
LXXII.Tibet and British India.509
LXXIII.China, Nepāl and Tibet.519
LXXIV.The Future of Tibetan Diplomacy.526
LXXV.The “Monlam” Festival.531
LXXVI.The Tibetan Soldiery.549
LXXVII.Tibetan Finance.554
LXXVIII.Future of the Tibetan Religions.561
LXXIX.The Beginning of the Disclosure of the Secret.566
LXXX.The Secret Leaks Out.574
LXXXI.My Benefactor’s Noble Offer.584
LXXXII.Preparations for Departure.590
LXXXIII.A Tearful Departure from Lhasa.599
LXXXIV.Five Gates to Pass.618
LXXXV.The First Challenge Gate.623
LXXXVI.The Second and Third Challenge Gates.636
LXXXVII.The Fourth and Fifth Challenge Gates.642
LXXXVIII.The Final Gate passed.647
LXXXIX.Good-bye, Tibet!652
XC.The Labche Tribe.660
XCI.Visit to my Old Teacher.667
XCII.My Tibetan Friends in Trouble.671
XCIII.Among Friends.677
XCIV.The Two Kings of Nepāl.682
XCV.Audience of the Two Kings.685
XCVI.Second Audience.688
XCVII.Once more in Kātmāndu.692
XCVIII.Interview with the Acting Prime Minister.697
XCIX.Painful News from Lhasa.700
[xii]C.The King betrays his suspicion.703
CI.Third Audience.709
CII.Farewell to Nepāl and its Good Kings.714
CIII.All’s well that ends well.718


Illustrations in the Text.

1.Author’s departure from Japan.6
2.The Lama’s execution.18
3.On the banks of the Bichagori river.32
4.A horse in difficulties.49
5.Tsarangese village girls.57
6.Entering Tibet from Nepāl.75
7.To a tent of nomad Tibetans.79
8.A night in the open and a snow-leopard.92
9.Attacked by dogs and saved by a lady.100
10.Nearly dying of thirst.114
11.A sand-storm.117
12.Struggle in the river.121
13.Meditating in the face of death.125
14.A ludicrous race.132
15.Lake Mānasarovara.140
16.Religion v. Love.151
17.Near Mount Kailasa.169
18.Quarrel between brothers.181
19.Attacked by robbers.192
20.The cold moon reflected on the ice.202
21.Fallen into a muddy swamp.210
22.Meeting a furious wild yak.229
23.Outline of the monastery of Tashi Lhunpo.249
24.Reading the Texts.266
25.Priest fighting with hail.274
26.Outline of the residence of the Dalai Lama.287
27.A vehement philosophical discussion.306
28.An audience with the Dalai Lama.316
29.Inner room of the Dalai Lama’s country house.320
30.Room in the finance secretary’s house.335
[xiv]31.Unexpected meeting with friends.341
32.Girl weeping at being suddenly commanded to marry.356
33.At the bridegroom’s gate. Throwing an imitation sword at the bride.366, 367
34.The wife of an Ex-Minister punished in public.378, 379
35.Funeral ceremonies: cutting up the dead body.390, 391
36.Lobon Padma Chungne.411
37.Je Tsong-kha-pa.414
38.A soothsayer under mediumistic influence falling senseless.426
39.Flogging as a means of education.443
40.Priest-traders loading their yaks.459
41.New year’s reading of the Texts for the Japanese Emperor’s welfare.465
42.Naming ceremony of a baby.480
43.A picnic party in summer.491
44.Prime Minister.502
45.A corrupt Chief Justice of the monks.534
46.The final ceremony of the Monlam.538
47.A scene from the Monlam festival.541
48.Procession of the Panchen or Tashi Lama in Lhasa.568
49.Critical meeting with Tsa Rong-ba and his wife.580
50.Revealing the secret to the Ex-Minister.585
51.A mysterious Voice in the garden of Sera.596
52.A distant view of Lhasa.605
53.Farewell to Lhasa from the top of Genpala.606
54.Crossing a mountain at midnight.610
55.Night scene on the Chomo-Lhari and Lham Tso.616
56.Beautiful scenery in the Tibetan Himālayas.634
57.The fortress of Nyatong.649
58.On the way to the snowy Jela-peak.654
[xv]59.Accidental meeting with a friend and compatriot.679
60.Struggle with a Nepālese soldier.690
61.Meeting again with an old friend, Lama Buḍḍha Vajra.695
62.The author and his friend Buḍḍha Vajra enjoying the brilliant snow at Kātmāndu.704
63.Nāgārjuna’s cave of meditation in Nepāl.716


1.The Author in 1909.Frontispiece.
2.The Author just before leaving Japan.1
3.Rai Bahāḍur Saraṭ Chanḍra Ḍās.11
4.Lama Sengchen Dorjechan.15
5.The Author meditating under the Boḍhi-tree.25
6.Passport in Tibetan for the Author’s return to Tibet in the future.645
7.The Author as a Tibetan Lama at Darjeeling on his return.667
8.The Author performing ceremonies in Tibetan costume.669
9.The Prime Minister of Nepāl, H. H. Chanḍra Shamsīr.685
10.The Commander-in-Chief of Nepāl, H. E. Bhim Shamsīr.697
11.Mount Gaurīshaṅkara, the highest peak in the world.
(At the end of the volume).


1.Chart of the Route followed by the Author. (At the end of the volume.)



Novel farewell presents.

In the month of May, 1897, I was ready to embark on my journey, which promised nought but danger and uncertainty. I went about taking leave of my friends and relatives in Tokyo. Endless were the kind and heartfelt words poured on me, and many were the presents offered me to wish me farewell; but the latter I uniformly declined to accept, save in the form of sincerely given pledges. From those noted for excessive use of intoxicants, I exacted a promise of absolute abstinence from “the maddening water;” and from immoderate smokers I asked the immediate discontinuance of the habit that would end in nicotine poisoning. About forty persons willingly granted my appeal for this somewhat novel kind of farewell presents. Many of these are still remaining true to the word then given me, and others have apparently forgotten them since. At all events, I valued these “presents” most exceedingly. In Osaka, whither I went after leaving Tokyo, I also succeeded in securing a large number of them. Three of them I particularly prized, and should not fail to mention them here; for, as I think of them now, I cannot help fancying that they had transformed themselves into unseen powers that saved me from the otherwise certain death.

While still in Tokyo I called on Mr. Takabe Tona, a well-known manufacturer of asphalt. Mr. Takabe had been a born fisher, especially skilled in the use of the “shot-net,” and to catch fish had been the joy and pleasure of his life. On the occasion of the leave-taking[2] visit which I paid him, I found him in a very despondent mood. He volunteered to tell me that he had just lost a three-year old child of his, and the loss had left his wife the most distracted woman in the world, while he himself could not recover the peace of his mind, even fishing having become devoid of its former charms for him. I said to my host, who had always been a very intimate friend of mine and a member of my former flock: “Do you really find it so hard to bear the death of your child? What would you think of a person who dared to bind up and kill a beloved child of yours, and roast and eat its flesh?” “Oh! devilish! The devil only could do that; no man could,” answered he. I quickly rejoined: “You are a fiend then, at least, to the fishes of the deep”. Strong were the words I used then, but it was in the fulness of my heart that I spoke them, and Mr. Takabe finally yielded and promised me to fish no more. He was very obdurate at first; but when I pointed out to him that it was at the risk of my life that I was going to Tibet, and that for the sake of my religion, which was also his, he stood up with a look of determination. He excused himself from my presence for awhile, and then returned with some fishing-nets, which he forthwith handed over to me, saying that those were the weapons of murder with which he had caused the death of innumerable denizens of the brine, and that I might do with them as I liked, for he had no longer any use for them. I thereupon asked a daughter of the host’s to build a fire for me in the yard; and, when it was ready, I consigned the nets to flames in the presence of all—there were all the members of the family and some visitors, besides, to witness the scene. Among the visitors was Mr. Ogawa Katsutaro, a relative of the family. This gentleman had also been an excellent sportsman, with[3] both gun and nets. He had seen the dramatic scene before him and heard me pray for my host. As the nets went up in smoke, Mr. Ogawa rose and said impressively: “Let me too wish that you fare well in Tibet, by making to you the gift of a pledge: I pledge myself that I will never more take the lives of other creatures for amusement; should I prove false to these words let ‘Fudo Myo-oh’ visit me with death.” I had never before felt so honored and gratified as I felt when I heard this declaration. Then in Sakai, while taking leave of Mr. Ito Ichiro, an old and lifelong friend of mine, who, also, counted net-fishing among his favorite sports, I told him all about the burning of Mr. Takabe’s nets; and he, too, did me the favor of following the example set by my Tokyo friends. Then I called on Mr. Watanabe Ichibei at Osaka. He is, as he has always been, a very wealthy man, now dealing chiefly in stocks and trade with Korea. His former business was that of a poultry-man, not in the sense of one who raises fowls, etc., but of one who keeps an establishment where people go to have a poultry dinner. His business throve wonderfully; but I knew that his circumstances were such that he could well afford to forego such a sinful business as one which involved the lives of hundreds of fowls every day, especially as he had been a zealous believer of our religion. Several times previously I had written him, beseeching him to give up his brutal business, and I repeated the appeal on the occasion of my last visit to him before my departure for Tibet, when he promised, to my great gratification, that, as speedily as possible, he would change his business, though to do so immediately was impracticable. I was still more gratified when I learned that he had proved the genuineness of his promise about a year and a half after my departure. Ordinarily considered, my conduct in exacting these pledges might[4] appear somewhat presumptuous; but it ought to be remembered that the sick always need a medicine too strong for a person in normal health, and the two classes of people must always be treated differently in spiritual ministration as in corporeal pathology. Be that as it may, I cannot help thinking of these gifts of effective promises, as often as I recall my adventures in the Himālayas and in Tibet, which often brought me to death’s door. I know that the great love of the merciful Buḍḍha has always protected me in my dangers; yet, who knows but that the saving of the lives of hundreds and thousands of finny and feathered creatures, as the result of these promises, contributed largely toward my miraculous escapes.

Farewell visits over, I was ready to start, but for some money. I had had a small sum of one hundred yen of my own savings; but this amount was swelled to 530 yen, by the generosity of Messrs. Watanabe, Harukawa, and Kitamura of Osaka, Hige, Ito, Noda, and Yamanaka of Sakai, and others. Of this total, I spent about one hundred in fitting myself out for a peculiarly problematical journey, and the very modest sum of half a thousand was all I had with me on my departure.

It is curious how little people believe your words, until you actually begin to carry them out, especially when your attempt is a venturesome one, and how they protest, expostulate, and even ridicule you, often predicting failure behind your back, when they see that you are not to be dissuaded. And I had the pleasure of going through these curious experiences; for many indeed were those who came to me almost at the last moment to advise, to ask, to beg me to change my mind and give up my Tibetan trip, and I could see that they were all in earnest. For instance, on the very eve of my departure, while spending my last night at[5] Mr. Maki’s in Osaka, a certain judge of the Local Court of Wakayama came on purpose to tell me that I was bound to end my venture in making myself a laughing-stock of the world by meeting death out of fool-hardiness, and that I would do far better by staying at home and engaging in my ecclesiastical work, a work which, he said, I had full well qualified myself to undertake; to do the latter was especially advisable for me, because the Buḍḍhist circle of Japan was in great need of earnest and capable men, and so on. Seeing that I was not to be moved in my determination, the judge said: “Suppose you lose your life in the attempt? you will not be able to accomplish anything.” “But it is just as uncertain whether I die, or I survive my venture. If I die, well and good; it will be like the soldier’s death in a battle-field, and I should be gratified to think that I fell in the cause of my religion,” I answered. Then the judge gave me up for incorrigible and went away, after wishing me farewell in a substantial manner. That was on the night of June 24th, 1897. Early on the following morning I left Osaka, and on the next day I embarked on the Idzumi-maru at Kobe, seen off by my friends and well-wishers already mentioned. Among them was Mr. Noda Giichiro, who told me that he was very glad as well as very sorry for this departure of mine, and that his words could not give adequate expression to the feelings uppermost in his heart. I thought these touching words expressed the feelings shared by my other friends also.


Hats and handkerchiefs grew smaller and fainter until they went out of sight, as the good ship Idzumi steamed westward. Past Wada promontory, my old acquaintances, the peaks of Kongo, Shigi and Ikoma, in turn, disappeared in the rounding sea. In due time Moji was reached and then, out of the Strait of Genkai,[7] our ship headed direct for Hongkong. At Hongkong, Mr. Thompson, an Englishman, boarded our ship, and his advent proved to be a welcome change in the monotony of the voyage. He said he had lived eighteen years in Japan, and he spoke Japanese exceedingly well. I found in him an earnest and enthusiastic Christian; and, as may be imagined, he and I came to spend much of our time in religious controversies, which, as they were carried on, it may be needless to add, in a most friendly way, became a source of much pleasure and information, not only to ourselves, but also to all on board. Another interesting experience which I went through during the voyage was when I preached—and I preached quite a number of times—before the officers and men of the ship, who proved the most willing and interested audience I had ever come across.

On the 12th of July, the Idzumi entered the port of Singapore, and I put up at the Fusokwan Hotel there. On the 15th, I called at the Japanese Consulate in the port, and saw Mr. Fujita Toshiro, our then Consul there. Mr. Fujita had heard of me from the Idzumi’s captain, and he said to me: “I hear you are going to Tibet. I do not know how you have got your venture mapped out, but I know it is a very difficult thing to reach and enter that country. Even Col. Fukushima (now Lieutenant-General, of trans-Siberian fame) made a halt at Darjeeling, and had to retrace his steps thence, acknowledging practically the impossibility of a Tibetan exploration, and I cannot see how you can fare better. But if you must, I think there are only two ways of accomplishing your purpose: namely, to force your way by the sheer force of arms at the head of an expedition, for one; and to go as a beggar, for the other. May I ask you about your programme?” I answered Mr. Fujita to the effect that being a Buḍḍhist priest, as I was, the first[8] of the methods he had mentioned was out of the question for me, and that my idea at the time was to follow the second course; although I was far from having anything like a definite programme of my journey. I told him, further, that I intended to wander on as the course of events might lead me. I left the Consul in a very meditative mood.

I stayed a week in Fusokwan, and it was on the last day but one before leaving it that I narrowly escaped a serious, even mortal, accident. As a priest, I made it, as I make it now, my practice to do preaching whenever and wherever an opportunity presented itself, and my rigid adherence to this practice greatly pleased the proprietor of that Singapore establishment. In consequence of this, I was treated with special regard while there, and every day, when the bath was ready, I was the first to be asked to have the warm water ablution, which is always so welcome to a Japanese. On the 18th, the usual invitation was extended to me, but I was just at that moment engaged in reading the Text, and could not comply with it at once. The invitation was repeated a second time, but, somehow or other, I was not ready to take my bath, and remained in my room. Meanwhile, I heard a great noise, with a thud that shook the whole building. A few moments later, I ascertained that the sound and quaking were caused by the collapse and fall of the bath-room from the second floor, where it had been situated, to the ground below, with its bath, basin, and all the other contents, among which the most important and unfortunate was a Japanese lady, who, as I had been neglectful in accepting the invitation, was asked to have her bath first. The lady was, as I afterward learned, very dangerously hurt, buried, as she was, under débris of falling stones, bricks and timber, and she was taken to a local hospital, where she[9] lay with very little hope of recovery. I often shudder to think of what would have become of me and of my Tibetan adventure, had I been more prompt, as I had always been till then, in responding to all invitations of the kind. I felt exceedingly sorry for the lady, who met the awful accident practically in my stead; withal I look back to the incident as one that augured well for my Tibetan undertaking, which, indeed, ended in success.

The day after the accident, on the 19th of July, I took passage on an English steamer, the Lightning, which, after calling at Penang, brought me to Calcutta on the 25th of the month. Placing myself under the care of the Mahāboḍhi Society of Calcutta, I spent several days in that city, in the course of which I learned from Mr. Chanḍra Bose, a Secretary of the Society, that I could not do better for my purpose than to go to Darjeeling, and make myself a pupil of Rai Bahāḍur Saraṭ Chanḍra Ḍās, who, as I was told, had some time before spent several months in Tibet, and was then compiling a Tibetan-English dictionary at his country house in Darjeeling. Mr. Chanḍra Bose was good enough to write a letter of introduction to the scholar at Darjeeling in my favor, and, with it and also with kind parting wishes of my countrymen in the city and others, I left Calcutta on August 2nd, by rail. Heading north, the train in almost no time brought its passengers to the river Gaṅgā. We crossed the mighty stream in a steamer, and then boarded another train on the other side. Heading north still, the train now passed through cocoanut groves and green paddy-fields, over which, as night came on, giant fire-flies, the like of which in size are not to be found in Japan, flew about in immense swarms. The sight was especially interesting after the moon had disappeared. The following morning, that is, on the 3rd of August, the train pulled up at Siligree Station, and there its passengers, including myself, were transferred to[10] a train of small mountaineering cars, which, faring ever northward, forthwith began its tortuous ascent of the Himālayas, or rather, of the outer skirt of the mighty range. With its bends and turns and climbings, as the train labored onward and upward through the famous “ḍalai-jungle,” it looked like some amphibian monster on its war path, as I fancied, while the grind of the car wheels, with its sound echoed and re-echoed, seemed to spread quaking terror over peaks and dales. By 3 P. M., the train had made a climb of fifty miles and then landed us at Darjeeling, which place is 380 miles distant from Calcutta. At the station I hired a ḍanlee, which is a sort of mountaineering palanquin, and, borne in it, I soon afterward arrived at Rai Saraṭ’s retreat, Lhasa Villa, which I found to be a magnificent mansion.



A year in Darjeeling.

It was just after the great earthquake in Assam, India, that I arrived in Darjeeling, and, as I could see from a large number of entirely collapsed and partly destroyed houses, this latter place also had had its share of the seismic disturbances. As for the Saraṭ Villa, it too had suffered more or less, and repair was already in progress. For all that, I was received there with a whole-hearted welcome. An evening’s talk was sufficient, however, to make my intentions clear to my kind host, and, as my time was precious, Rai Saraṭ took me out, the very next day after my arrival, to a temple called Ghoompahl, where I was introduced to an aged Mongolian priest, who lived there and was renowned for his scholarly attainments and also as a teacher of the Tibetan language. The priest was then seventy-eight years of age, and his name, which was Serab Gyamtso (Ocean of Knowledge), happened by a curious coincidence to mean in the Tibetan tongue the same thing as my own name Ekai meant. This discovery, at our first meeting, greatly pleased my Tibetan tutor, as the old priest was thenceforth to be. Our talk naturally devolved upon Buḍḍhism, but the conversation proved to be a rather awkward affair, for though Rai Saraṭ kindly acted the part of an interpreter for us, it had to be carried on, on my part, in very rudimentary English. As it was, the first day of my tutelage ended in my making the acquaintance of the Tibetan alphabet, and from that time onward, I became a regular attendant at the temple, daily walking three miles from and back to the Saraṭ mansion. One day, about a month after this, Rai Saraṭ had me in his room and spoke to me thus: “Well, Mr. Kawaguchi, I would advise you to give[12] up your intention of going to Tibet. It is a very risky undertaking, which it would be worth risking if there were any chance of accomplishing it; but chances are almost entirely against you. You can acquire all the knowledge of the Tibetan language you want, here, and you can go back to Japan, where you will be respected as a Tibetan scholar.” I told my host that my purpose was not only to learn the Tibetan language, but that it was to complete my studies in Buḍḍhism. “That may be,” said my host, “and a very important thing it no doubt is with you; but what is the use of attempting a thing when there is no hope of accomplishing it? If you go into Tibet, the only thing you can count upon is that you will be killed!” I retorted: “Have you not been there yourself? I do not see why I cannot do the same thing.” Rai Saraṭ’s rejoinder was: “Ah! That is just where you are mistaken; you must know that the times are different, Mr. Kawaguchi. The ‘closed door’ policy is in full operation, and is being carried out with the most jealous strictness in Tibet to-day, and I know that I will never be able again to undertake another trip into that country. Besides, when I made my trip, I had with me an excellent pass, which I was fortunate to secure through certain means, but there is no means, nor even hope, any longer of procuring such a pass. Under the circumstances I should think it is to your own interest to go home from here, after you have completed the study of the Tibetan language.” I knew that my good host meant all that he said; but I could not allow myself to be prevailed upon. Instead, I utilised the occasion in telling him that further tutelage under Lama Serab was not to my mind, because the aged priest was more anxious to teach me the Tibetan Buḍḍhism than the Tibetan language. I asked Rai Saraṭ to kindly devise for me some way, by which I might acquire[13] the vernacular Tibetan language. Finding me resolute in my purpose, Rai Saraṭ, with his unswerving kindness, cheerfully agreed to my request, and arranged for me that I should have a new private teacher, besides a regular schooling. It was in this way. Just below Rai Saraṭ’s mansion was a residence which consisted of two small but pretty buildings. The residence belonged to a Lama called Shabdung, who just then happened not to live there, but in a house in the business quarters of Darjeeling. Rai Saraṭ sent for this Lama and asked him to teach the “Japan Lama” the Tibetan language, the Lama returning to his residence just mentioned with his entire household. Lama Shabdung was only too pleased to do as was requested, and I was forthwith installed a member of his household, that I might have ample opportunity of learning the popular Tibetan language. On the other hand, I at the same time matriculated into the Government School of Darjeeling, and was there given systematic lessons in the same language by Prof. Tumi Onden, the Head Teacher of the language department of Tibetans in that School. I should not forget to mention here that, while I paid out of my own pocket all the tuition fees and school expenses, as it was quite proper that I should, I was made a beneficiary of my friend Rai Saraṭ so far as my board was concerned, that good man insisting that to do a little kindness in favor of such a “pure and noble-hearted man as you are”—as he said—was to increase his own happiness. Not too well stocked with the wherewithal as I was, I gratefully allowed myself to be prevailed upon to accept his generosity. Indeed, I had only three hundred yen with me when I arrived at Darjeeling; but, as it was, that amount supported me for the seventeen months of my stay there. Had I had to pay my own board, I would have had to cut down my stay there to half the length of time.


At Lama Shabdung’s I lived as though back in my boyhood, attending the school in the morning, and doing my lessons at home in the company of the children of the family in the afternoon. It is a well known thing that the best way to learn a foreign language is to live among the people who speak it, but a discovery—as it was to me—that I made while at Shabdung’s was that the best teachers of everyday language are children. As a foreigner you ask them to teach you their language; and you find that, led on by their instinctive curiosity and kindness, not unmingled with a sense of pride, they are always the most anxious and untiring teachers, and also that in their innocence they are the most exacting and intolerant teachers, as they will brook no mis-pronunciation or mis-accent, even the slightest errors. Next to children, women are, I think, the best language teachers. At least such are the conclusions I arrived at from the experiences of my ‘schooling days’ in Darjeeling. For in six or seven months after my instalment in the Shabdung household, I had become able to carry on all ordinary conversation in the Tibetan tongue, with more ease than in my English of two years’ hard learning, and I regard Tibetan as a more difficult language than English. True, I made myself a most willing and zealous pupil all through the tutelage; withal, I consider the progress I made in that short space of time as quite remarkable, and that progress was the gift of my female and juvenile teachers in the Shabdung family. The more progress I made in my linguistic acquirement, the more eager student I became in things Tibetan, and I found in my host a truly charming conversationalist, himself fond of talking. Evening after evening I sat, an absorbed listener to Lama Shabdung’s flowing and inexhaustible store of narratives about Tibet.


A foretaste of Tibetan barbarism.

To give one of Lama Shabdung’s favourite recitals about Tibet: my host, while there, studied Buḍḍhism under a high Lama of great virtues and the most profound learning, called Sengchen Dorjechan (Great-Lion Diamond-Treasury), who had been the tutor of the Secondary or Deputy Pope, so to say, of Tibet. No man in Tibet was held in higher esteem and deeper reverence than this holy man. It was this holy man himself who taught my friend and benefactor Rai Saraṭ, when he was in Tibet. Though Rai Saraṭ’s pupilage under the high Lama lasted only for a short time, it had the most tragical consequences. For, after his return to India, the Tibetan Government discovered to its own mortification that Rai Saraṭ was an emissary of the British Government, and the parties who had become in any way connected with his visit, more particularly the man who had secretly furnished him with a pass, another in whose house he had lodged and boarded, and the high Lama, were all thrown into prison, the last named having afterward had to pay with his life for his innocent crime.


Many are the reminiscences of this holy Lama, which show that he was indeed a person very firm and enlightened in the Buḍḍhist faith, and to that degree was the most lovable and adorable of men. But more especially affecting, even sublimely beautiful, are the episodes immediately preceding and surrounding his death, for the truth of which I depend not on the narrative of Lama Shabdung alone, but largely also upon what I was able to learn from persons of unquestionable reliability, during my disguised stay in the capital of[16] Tibet. To mention a few of these: when an unpleasant rumor had just begun to be circulated, soon after Rai Saraṭ’s departure from Tibet, about his secret mission, the high Lama Sengchen knew at once that death was at his door, but was not afraid. For, when it was hinted at by his friends that he would become involved in a serious predicament, owing to his acquaintance with Rai Saraṭ, he replied that he had always considered it his heaven-ordained work to try to propagate and to perpetuate Buḍḍhism, not among his own countrymen only, but among the whole human race; that whether or not Saraṭ Chanḍra Ḍās was a man who had entered Tibet with the object of “stealing away Buḍḍhism,” or to play the part of a spy, was not his concern—the question had in any case never occurred to him—and that if he were to suffer death for having done what he had regarded it as his duty to do, he could not help it. That this holy Lama was an advocate of active propagandism may be gathered from the fact that, besides sending various Buḍḍhistic images and ritualistic utensils to India, he had caused several persons to go out there as missionaries, my teacher, the Manchurian Lama Serab Gyamtso, in the Ghoompahl Temple of Darjeeling, being one of these. Unfortunately, this undertaking did not prove a success, but none the less it shows the lofty aspirations which actuated the high Lama, who, as I was told, had deeply lamented the decadence, or rather the almost entire disappearance, of Buḍḍhism in the land of its origin, and was sincerely anxious to revive it there. It is nothing uncommon in Japan to meet with Buḍḍhist priests interested in the work or idea of foreign propagandism; but a person so minded is an extreme rarity in that hermit-country Tibet, and that Lama Sengchen was such a one indicates the greatness of his character, and that he was a man above sectarian differences and inter[17]national prejudices, solely given to the noble idea of universal brotherhood under Buḍḍhism. Being the man he was, he had many enemies among the high officials of the hierarchical Government, who were in constant watch for an opportunity to bring about his downfall. To these, his enemies, the rumor about Prof. Saraṭ was a welcome one, which they lost no time in turning to account. In all haste they despatched men to Darjeeling, and ascertained that, in truth, Rai Saraṭ had smuggled himself into and out of Tibet, and that, as the fact was, he had done so at the request of the British Government of India. Then followed the incarceration, already mentioned, of all those who had had anything to do with Rai Saraṭ, the final upshot of which was sentence of death upon the high Lama Sengchen Dorjechan, on the ground that the latter had harbored in his temple, and divulged national secrets to, a foreign emissary. The holy man’s execution was carried out on a certain day of June, 1887, and took the form of sinking him till he became drowned in the river Konbo, which is a local name given to the great Brahmapuṭra. As I recall the scene of that occasion, as I heard it described, I see before my eyes the tear-drenched face of my friend Lama Shabdung, who, struggling with emotion, would often tell me what he witnessed on that day. Surrounded by an immense crowd of sympathising and sobbing people, the noble Lama was found seated, and reading the sacred Text, on a large piece of rock overhanging a side of the river, as the hour of his execution approached. He was clothed in a coarse white fabric, and looked serenely calm and perfectly composed, as he gave an order to his executioners in these words: “When, in a little while, I have finished reading the holy Text, I will shake this my finger three times thus, and that[19] will be the signal for you to sink me in the river.” The instruction was in response to a question, if the high Lama wanted to say or have done anything ere his execution, asked by one of the executioners, who was already tying around the holy man’s body one end of a thick rope, with which he was to be lowered under the water. In the meantime, the suspense grew intense and the great multitude that had gathered around had become blind to everything but the mighty, cruel waters of the Brahmapuṭra, the executioners, and the holy priest, and deaf to all but their own sobbings and wailings. They saw before them a man of their hearts, of national esteem, profound in learning and saintly in behavior, who, as a priest of the highest order, should wear three layers of red and yellow silk, but who was wrapped in an unclean prison-suit of white, and was now to die a victim to his enemies’ malice. They knew all was not right, but they knew not how to undo the wrong, and they appealed to their own tears. As it happened, the day had been cloudy, and rain had even begun to come down in drops as the high Lama raised one of his hands, the purpose of which act was all too evident, and lamentation became loud and universal. Once, twice, and three times the noble prisoner had shaken his finger, but none of the executioners dared to come forward—they were in tears themselves. Then the high Lama said: “My time is come: what are ye doing? Speed me under water.” Thereupon, with heavy hands and heavier hearts the executioners, after having weighted the high Lama’s loins with a large stone, slowly lowered the whole burden into the rushing waters of the Brahmapuṭra. After a while they pulled up what they expected to have become the remains of the saintly man, but finding that life had not yet departed, they[20] again went through the drowning process. When for a second time they raised the body, they found life still lingering in it. The multitude, which saw how things went, became clamorous in their demand that the holy man be now saved; while the executioners themselves seemed unnerved and unable to go to their cruel duty a third time. As the moments of indecision sped by, the high Lama, most wonderful to tell, recovered sufficient strength to speak, and say: “Lament ye not my death. For my phase of activity having come to an end, I now depart with gratification, and that means that my evil past ceases, so that my good future may begin—it is not ye that kill me. All that I wish for, after my death, is a greater and ever-growing prosperity for Buḍḍhism in Tibet. Now make ye haste, and sink me under the water.” Thus urged, the executioners, sorrow-ridden, obeyed the order, and they saw that life, in sooth, had departed at the third raising of the body. Then, as the custom is in Tibet, they severed all the limbs from the high Lama’s remains, and threw the different parts separately into the stream, thus ending the grim business of execution. It will be admitted by all, especially by all Buḍḍhists, that there was something loftily admirable in the personality of a man who had done and given his all for his faith and religion, and yet uttered not a word of complaint against Providence or man, but, in serene, noble meekness, met his most unmerited and most agonising death. As for me, besides finding it most affecting, I felt a peculiarly direct interest in the story of this high Lama’s execution, from the moment when I was told of it for the first time. For, was I not on my way to Tibet? Should I succeed in my purpose? Who could tell but that there might be a repetition of that sad and cruel scene?



Laying a false scent.

I rose early on the New Year’s day of 1898, and spent the greater part of the morning, as was usual with me, in reading the sacred Text in honor of the day, and also in praying for the health and long life of their Majesties the Emperor and the Empress, and his Highness, the Crown Prince, and for the prosperity of Japan. The New Year’s uta[1] which I composed on the occasion was as follows:

In glory yonder, lo! the New Year’s Sun,
His coruscating grateful beams forthshoots,
Diffusing lucid roses on the snows
That flash in dazzling spangles bright and clear;
That Sun, the symbol on the Japan-flag
My fancy lights with patriotic thrills.

I spent the twelve months following in closely devoting myself to the study, and in efforts at the practical mastery, of the Tibetan tongue, with the result that, toward the close of the year, I had become fairly confident of my own proficiency in the use of the language both in its literary and vernacular forms; and I made up my mind to start for my destination with the coming of the year 1899. Then, it became a momentous question for me to decide upon the route to take in entering Tibet.

Besides the secret path, the Khambu-Rong, i. e., ‘Peach Valley’ pass, there are three highways which one may choose in reaching Tibet from Darjeeling. These are: first, the main road, which turns north-east directly after leaving Darjeeling and runs through Nyatong; second, that which traverses the western[22] slope of Kañcheñjunga, the second highest snow-capped peaks in the Range and brings the traveller to Warong, a village on the frontier of Tibet; and the third, which takes one direct from Sikkim through Khampa-Jong to Lhasa. As, however, each of these roads is jealously guarded either with a fortified gate or some sentinels, at its Tibetan terminus, it is a matter of practical impossibility for a foreigner to gain admittance into the hermit-country by going along any of them. Rai Saraṭ was of opinion that, if I were to present myself at the Nyatong gate, tell the guards there that I was a Japanese priest who wished to visit their country for the sole purpose of studying Buḍḍhism, I might possibly be allowed to pass in, provided that I was courteously persistent in my solicitations; but I had reasons for thinking little of this suggestion. At all events, what I had learned from my Tibetan tutors did not sustain my friend’s view; instead, however, my own information led me to a belief that a road to suit my purpose could be found by proceeding through either the Kingdom of Bhūṭan or of Nepāl. It appeared to me, further, that the route most advantageous to me would be by way of Nepāl; for Bhūṭan had never been visited by the Buḍḍha, and there was there little to learn for me in that connexion, though that country had at one time or another been travelled over by Tibetan priests of great renown; but the latter fact had nothing of importance for me. I had been told, however, that Nepāl abounded in the Buḍḍha’s footsteps, and that there was in existence there complete sets of the Buḍḍhist Texts in Samskṛṭ. These were inducements which I could turn to account, in the case of failure to enter Tibet. Moreover, no Japanese had ever been in Nepāl before me, though it had been visited by some Europeans and Americans. So I decided on a route viâ Nepāl.


The decision made, it would have been all I could wish for, if it were possible for me to journey to Nepāl direct from Darjeeling; there was on the way grand and picturesque scenery incidentally to enjoy, besides places sacred to Buḍḍhist pilgrims. But to do so was not possible for me, or at least implied serious dangers. For most of the Tibetans living in Darjeeling—and there were quite a number of them there—knew that I was learning their language with the intention of some day visiting their country; and it was perfectly manifest that the moment I left that town with my face towards Tibet, they, or some of them at the least, would come after me as far as some point where they might make short work of me, or follow me into Tibet and there betray me to the authorities, for they would be richly rewarded for so doing. To meet the necessity of the case, I gave it out that, owing to an unexpected occurrence, I was obliged to go home at once, and I left Darjeeling for Calcutta, which place I reached on the 5th of January, 1899. I, of course, let Rai Saraṭ into my secret, and he alone knew that the day I left Darjeeling I started on my Tibetan journey in real earnest, though back to Calcutta I took fare in sooth. On leaving Darjeeling, my good host Rai Saraṭ Chanḍra earnestly wished me complete success in my travels to Tibet, and gave vent to his hearty and sincere pleasure in finding in me one, who, as bold and adventurous as himself, was starting on a perilous but interesting expedition to that hitherto unknown country. Previous to my departure from Darjeeling, I received there 630 Rupees, which had been collected and forwarded to me through the kind and never-failing efforts of my friends at home, Messrs. Hige, Ito, Watanabe and others.


Now over trackless snowy range I wend
My lonely way to ‘Bhota,’[2] elsewhere named
Tibet, where Dharma’s glorious Sun pours forth
His Light and melts the cheerless snows of Doubt
And Pain and Sorrow, vexing mortal men.


Journey to Nepal.

During my second and short stay in Calcutta I had the good luck of being introduced to a Nepālese named Jibbahaḍur, who was then a Secretary of the Nepāl Government, but who is now the Minister Resident of that country in Tibet. He was kind enough to write two letters introducing me to a certain gentleman of influence in Nepāl.

On the 20th of January, 1899, I came to the famous Buḍḍhagayā, sacred to Holy Shākyamuni Buḍḍha, and there met Mr. Dharmapala of Ceylon, who happened to be there on a visit. I had a very interesting conversation with him. On learning that I was on my way to Tibet, he asked me to do him the favor of taking some presents for him to the Dalai Lama. The presents consisted of a small relic of the Buḍḍha, enclosed in a silver casket which was in the form of a miniature pagoda, and a volume of the sacred Text written on palm leaves. I, of course, willingly complied with the request of the Sinhalese gentleman, who expressed himself as being very anxious to visit Tibet, but thought it useless to attempt a trip thither, unless he were invited to do so. The night of that day I spent meditating on the ‘Diamond Seat’ under the Boḍhi-tree—the very tree under which, and the very stone on which, about two thousand five hundred years ago, the holy Buḍḍha sat and reached Buḍḍhahood. The feeling I then experienced is indescribable: all I can say is that I sat the night out in the most serene and peaceful extasy. I saw the tell-tale moon lodged, as it were, among the branches of the Boḍhi-tree, shedding its pale light on the ‘Diamond[26] Seat,’ and the scene was superbly picturesque, and also hallowing, when I thought of the days and nights the Buḍḍha spent in holy meditation at that very spot.

Whilst seated on the Diamond Seat, absorbed
In thoughtful meditation full and deep
The lunar orb, suspended o’er the tree—
The Sacred Bodhi tree—shines in the sky.
I wait with longing for the morning star
To rise, the witness of that moment high
When His Illumination gained the Lord
The Perfect Buddha, Perfect Teacher Great.


After a few days’ stay in Buḍḍhagayā, I took the railway-train for Nepāl, and a ride of a day and a night brought me to Sagauli, on the morning of January 23. Sagauli is a station at a distance of two days’ journey from the Nepālese border. Here one boundary of the linguistic territory of English was reached, and beyond neither that language nor the Tibetan tongue was of any use—one had to speak either Hinḍūsṭāni or Nepālese to be understood, and I knew neither. So it became a necessary part of my Tibetan adventure to stop a while at Sagauli, and make myself master of working Nepālese. It was like forging the chain after catching a criminal. But up to then, my time had been all taken up in learning Tibetan, and I had had no moment to spare for anything else. By good fortune, however, my stay there was not to be a long one. I found the postmaster of Sagauli, a Bengālī, to be proficient both in English and Nepālese. As the thing had to be done in the most expeditious way possible, I started my work by noting down every Nepālese word the postmaster would teach me. The next day after my arrival at Sagauli, while I was out on a walk near the station with my note-book in hand, I noticed, among those who got off a train, a company of three men, one of whom was a gentleman, apparently of forty[27] years of age and dressed in a Tibetan costume, another a priest about fifty years old, and the third unmistakably their servant. Thereupon a thought flashed on me that it would be a good thing for me if I could travel with these Tibetans, as I took them to be, and I immediately made bold to go up to them and ask whither they were going. I was told that their destination was Nepāl, that they had not just then come from Tibet, but that one of them was a Tibetan. It then became their turn to question me, their opening enquiry being as to what country I belonged. I replied that I was a Chinese. “Which direction did you come from then?—did you travel by land or by sea?” was the rejoinder sharply put to me next. That was a question I had to answer with caution. For the rule then in force in Tibet was to admit into that country no Chinaman coming by the sea. So I answered: “By land.” As we conversed, so we walked, and presently we came in front of where I was lodging. In that part of the world there is no such smart thing as a hotel or an inn; all the accommodation one can get in this respect is a shanty of a rather primitive type, with bamboo posts and a straw roof. There are a number of these simple structures there, standing on the roadside and intended only for travellers, who have, however, nothing to pay for lodging in them—they only pay the price of eatables and fuel, should they procure any. It was in one of these shanties that I was stopping, and when I excused myself from the company of my newly made acquaintances, the latter betook themselves into another on the opposite side of the street. After a while the gentleman and the priest came out of their shanty and called on me, evidently bent on finding out who, or rather what, I was. For the first question with which they challenged me was to what part of China I belonged.[28] “To Fooshee,” I replied, realising full well that I was to go through the ordeal of an inquisition. “You speak Chinese, of course?” then asked the gentleman. My reply in the affirmative caused him at once to talk to me in quite fluent Chinese, which put me in no little consternation in secret. Compelled by necessity, I ventured calmly: “You must be talking in the official Peking dialect, while I can talk only in the common Fooshee tongue, and I do not understand you at all.” He was not to let me off yet. Says he next: “You can write in Chinese, I suppose.” Yes, I could, and I wrote. Some of my characters were intelligible enough to my guests, and some not, and after all it was agreed that it was best to confine ourselves to Tibetan. As our conversation progressed, my principal guest came to the crucial part of the inquisition and asked: “You say you have come from the landward side: well, from what part of Tibet have you come?” “In sooth, from Lhasa, sir; I have been on a pilgrimage through Darjeeling to Buḍḍhagayā, and from thence here,” I replied. I was requested to say, then, in what part of the city of Lhasa I lived. Being informed that I was in the grand Sera monastery, he wanted to know if I was acquainted with an old priest who was the Tatsang Kenpo (grand teacher) of that institution. I was bold enough to say that I was not a perfect stranger to the priest in question, and made a right good use of what I had learned from Lama Shabdung at Darjeeling. So far I managed to keep up my disguise, but each moment that passed only added to my fear of being trapped, and compelled to give myself away. To avoid this danger, I felt it important to head off my inquisitorial visitors by dispelling their suspicion, if they entertained any, about me. I was remarkably successful in this, the information obtained from Lama Shabdung again doing me excellent service. For, when[29] I told my guests, in a most knowing way, all about Shabbe Shata’s intrigue against the Tangye-ling, which was designed to increase his own power, and the secret of which affair was not then generally known, the recital seemed to make a great impression on them, and to have had the effect of convincing them that I was the person I pretended to be. So my ordeal was at an end; but there was yet in store for me the most unexpected discovery I was to make about these men.

No longer curious as to my antecedents, my gentleman guest now asked me: “You say you are going to Nepāl: may I ask you who is the person you are directed to, and if you have ever been in that country?” I had never been there before, but I had a letter of introduction with me. From whom, to whom, could that be? The letters, I said—for I had had two given me—were written in favor of me by Mr. Jibbahaḍur, an official of the Nepālese Government, then residing in Calcutta, and addressed to the Lama of the Great Tower of Mahāboḍha in Nepāl, whose name, though I just happened to forget it, was on the letters. This piece of information seemed greatly to interest the gentleman, who could not help saying: “Why, that is strange! Mr. Jibbahaḍur is a friend of mine: I wonder who can be the person to whom the letters are addressed; will you permit me to look at them?” And the climax came when I, in all willingness, took out the letters and showed them to my guest, for he ejaculated: “Well, whoever would have thought it? These are for me!”

I may here observe that in Nepāl, as I found out afterwards, the word friend conveys a much deeper meaning, probably, than in any other country. To be a friend there means practically the same thing as being a brother, and the natives have a curious custom of observing a special ceremony when any two of them tie the knot of friendship between them. The ceremony[30] resembles very much that of marriage, and its celebration is made an occasion for a great festival, in which the relatives and connexions of the parties concerned take part. To be brief, the ceremony generally takes the form of exchanging glasses of the native drink between the mutually chosen two, and they each have to extend their liberalities even to their servants in honor of the occasion. It is only after the observance of these formalities—which signify a great deal to the natives—that any two Nepālese may each call themselves the friend of the other.

It so happened that my erstwhile inquisitor proved to be the official owner and Lama-Superior of the Great Tower above mentioned, who stood in the relationship of a ‘friend’ to Mr. Jibbahaḍur. It was most unexpected, but the discovery was none the less welcome to me, and I besought him to take me, henceforth, under his care and protection. Thus I came to be no longer a stranger and a solitary pilgrim, but a guest, a companion, to a high personage of Nepāl. My newly acquired friend, as I should call the Lama in our language, proposed that we should start for Nepāl the next morning. This proposal was agreeable to me, as was another that we should go afoot instead of on horse-back, so that we might the better enjoy each other’s company, and perchance, also, the grand scenery on the way. I say that all this was agreeable to me, because, in addition to the obvious benefit I was sure to derive from being in the company of these men, I entertained a secret hope that I might learn a great deal, which would help me in executing the main part of my adventures, yet to come.

While our talk was progressing in this fashion, two servants of the Lama’s came in, running and all pale, with the unwelcome piece of news that a thief had broken into their shed. This caused my callers to take[31] precipitate leave of me. I afterwards learned that the Lamas had had three hundred and fifty rupees in cash, and some books and clothes, stolen between them. I was in luck on that occasion, for the owner of my shed told me subsequently that the thief, who caused such a loss to the Lamas, had been on the look-out for a chance to loot my lodging, and, as it happened, he finally made my newly made friends suffer for me; I felt exceedingly sorry for them.

In the meantime I learned that the gentleman Lama’s name was Buḍḍha Vajra (Enlightened Diamond), and that the old priest, whose name was Mayar, and who was full of jokes, was a Doctor of Divinity of the Debon monastery in Lhasa.

Early on the 25th of January we started on our journey, and proceeded due north across the plain in which Sagauli stands. The next day we arrived at a place called Beelganji, where stood the first guarded gate of the Nepālese frontier. There I was given a pass, as for a Chinaman living in Tibet. We passed the night of the following day in a village situated a little way this side of the famous Dalai Jungle, which may be regarded as an entrance to the great Himālayas. On the 28th we proceeded past Simla, a village at the outer edge of the great jungle, and thence, straight across the jungle itself, which has a width of full eight miles, until we came to a village on the bank of a mountain stream called Bichagori, where we took up our lodgings for the night. About ten o’clock that night, while writing up my diary, I happened to look out of the window of my shanty. The moon in her pale splendor was shining brightly over the great jungle, and there was something indescribably weird in the scene, whose silence was broken only by a rushing stream. Suddenly I then heard a detonation, tremendous in its volume and depth, which, as I felt, almost shook[33] the ground. In reply to my query, I was told by our innkeeper that the sound came from a tiger, which evidently had just finished a fine repast on its victim, and, having come to have a draught of river-water, could not help giving vent to its sense of enjoyment. So an uta came to me:

The night sleeps still and calm,
the moon shines bright,
What ho!—so loud a roar
the stillness breaks,
Vibrating—ah! It is a tiger fierce!
In ripples rough his roar terrific throws
The surface even of the mountain stream.


For two days more the road lay now through a dale on the bank of a river, then across a deep forest, and over a mountain, until we reached a stage station called Binbit. So far the road was up a slow, gradual incline, and horse-carriages and bullock-carts could be driven over it; but now the ascent became so steep that it could be made only on foot, or in a mountain-palanquin. We went on foot, commencing our climb as early as four o’clock in the morning. After an ascent of something more than three and a half miles, we came to a guarded gate named Tispance. Here was a custom-house and a fortress, garrisoned by quite a number of soldiers, and we had to go through an examination. Thence we climbed a peak called Tisgari, from the top of which I, for the first time, beheld with wonder the sublime sight of the mighty Himālayas, shining majestically with their snow of ages. The grandeur of the scene was so utterly beyond imagination, that the memory of what I had seen at Darjeeling and Tiger Hill came back to me only as a faint vision. Down Tisgari we came to Marku station, where we took lodging for the night.

Early on the 1st of February, we climbed up the peak C̣hanḍra Giri, or Moon Peak, whose sides are covered[34] with the flowers of the rhododendron, the chief characteristic of the Himālayan Range. Thence I saw again the snow-covered range of Himālaya, ever grand and majestic. Just a little way down from the top of the peak, I saw, spread before me like a picture, Kātmāndu the capital of Nepāl and the country around. I saw also in that panorama two gilded towers rising conspicuously against the sky, and Lama Buḍḍha Vajra told me that one of them was the tomb of Kāṣyapa Buḍḍha, and the other that of Ṣikhī Buḍḍha. On coming down the steep slope of the hill, we were met by four or five men with two horses. They were men sent thither in advance to wait for the return of Buḍḍha Vajra, and I was given one of the horses, while my host took the other. We were met by about thirty more men on entering a village, not far from the foot of the hill. The distance from Sagauli railway station to this spot is roughly one hundred and twenty-five miles.


I befriend Beggars.

The village that surrounds the great Kāṣyapa tower is generally known by the name of Boḍḍha. Lama Buḍḍha Vajra, I found, was the Headman of that village as well as the Superior of that mausoleum tower, which in Tibetan is called Yambu Chorten Chenpo. Yambu is the general name by which Kātmāndu is known in Tibet; and Chorten Chenpo means great tower. The real name of the tower in full is, however, Ja Rung Kashol Chorten Chenpo, which may be translated into: “Have finished giving order to proceed with.” The tower has an interesting history of its own, which explains this strange name. It is said in this history that Kāṣyapa was a Buḍḍha that lived a long time before Shākyamuni Buḍḍha. After Kāṣyapa Buḍḍha’s demise, a certain old woman, with her four sons, interred this great sage’s remains at the spot over which the great mound now stands, the latter having been built by the woman herself. Before starting on the work of construction, she petitioned the King of the time, and obtained permission to “proceed with” building a tower. By the time that, as the result of great sacrifices on the part of the woman and her four sons, the groundwork of the structure had been finished, those who saw it were astonished at the greatness of the scale on which it was undertaken. Especially was this the case with the high officials of the government and the rich men of the country, who all said that if such a poor old dame were to be allowed to complete building such a stupendous tower, they themselves would have to dedicate a temple as great as a mountain, and so they decided to ask the King to disallow the further progress[36] of the work. When the King was approached on the matter his Majesty replied: “I have finished giving the order to the woman to proceed with the work. Kings must not eat their words, and I cannot undo my orders now.” So the tower was allowed to be finished, and hence its unique name, “Ja Rung Kashol Chorten Chenpo.” I rather think, however, that the tower must have been built after the days of Shākyamuni Buḍḍha, for the above description from Tibetan books is different from the records in Samskṛṭ, which are more reliable than the Tibetan.

Every year, between the middle of September and the middle of the following February of the lunar calendar, crowds of visitors from Tibet, Mongolia, China and Nepāl come to this place to pay their respects to the great temple. The reason why they choose the most apparently unfavorable season for their travel thither is because they are liable to catch malarial fever if they come through the Himālayan passes during the summer months. By far the greatest number of the visitors are Tibetans, of whom, however, only a few are nobles and grandees, the majority being impecunious pilgrims and beggars, who eke out their existence by a sort of nomadic life, passing their winter in the neighborhood of the tower and going back to Tibet in summer.

In Nepāl I had now arrived, and the reason of my presence there was, of course, to choose a route for my purpose, for there are many highways and pathways running between that country and Tibet. My purpose was such that I could take nobody there into my confidence, not even my kind and obliging host. For, to Lama Buḍḍha Vajra I was a well-qualified Chinaman, who was to go back to Lhasa by openly taking one of the public roads, and go on thence to China. Besides, I knew that the Lama was a Tibetan interpreter to His Highness[37] the King of Nepāl, and that were I to divulge to him my secret, he was in duty bound to tell it to his royal master, who, it was plain, would not only not lend himself to my venture, but would at once put an end to the further progress of my journey. I may note here that the Nepālese fondly call Lama Buḍḍha Vajra, Gya Lama, which means “Chinese Lama,” for he was a son born to a Chinese priest who married a Nepālese lady, after having become the Superior of the tower. My host’s father belonged to the old school, and enjoyed the privilege of marriage. It was thus that Lama Buḍḍha Vajra came to take a fancy, and show special favors, to me, considering me as a countryman of his. Be that as it may, there remained for me the necessity of discovering a secret path to Tibet. I was in luck again.

It occurred to me that the begging Tibetans, who go on pilgrimage in and out of their country, could not be in possession of the pass that gave them open passage through the numerous frontier gates. I remembered also that no unprivileged person—even the natives—could obtain permission to pass through these gates, either way, unless he would bribe the guards heavily, and it was plain that these homeless wanderers could not do this. Encouraged by these considerations, I took to befriending the Tibetan mendicants, of whom there was then a large number hanging about the Kāṣyapa Buḍḍha tower, and my liberality to them soon made me very popular among them. Demurring at first, they became quite communicative afterwards, when they had found out, as I presume, that there was nothing to dread in me. I learned of many secret passages, but none which I could consider safe for me. For instance, they spoke of the Nyallam bye-path. By taking this clandestine route one may avoid the Kirong gate, but one is in danger of being challenged at a gate further in the interior. The[38] Sharkongpo path, on the other hand, brings the traveller to the Tenri gate. So on with other paths, and it appeared an impossibility to discover a route which would enable a person to reach the capital of Tibet from that of Nepāl, without having to pass through some challenge gate. The pass and bribery being beyond them, the native beggars and pilgrims have one more resource left to them, and that is imploring a passage, with prayer and supplication, when they come upon a challenge post, and they generally succeed at the interior gates, I was told. It would be different with me: there was every danger of my disguise being detected while pleading with the guards. My persistent efforts finally brought me, however, their reward. I ascertained that by taking a somewhat roundabout way I might reach Lhasa without encountering the perils of these challenge gates. Ordinarily, one should take a north-east course after leaving the Nepālese capital, in order to make a direct journey to Lhasa; but the one I have just referred to lay in the opposite direction of north-west, through Lo, a border province of Nepāl, thence across Jangtang, the north plain (but really the west plain) of Tibet, and finally around the lake Mānasarovara. This bye-route I made up my mind to take.

So far so good. But it would be courting suspicion to say that I chose this particularly circuitous and dangerous route with no obvious reason for it. Fortunately a good pretext was at hand for me. For I happened to think of the identity of the lake Mānasarovara with the Anavatapta Lake that often occurs in the Buḍḍhist Texts. However divided the scholastic views are about this identity, it is popularly accepted, and that was enough for my purpose. The identity granted, it could be argued that Mount Kailāsa, by the side of the lake, was nature’s Maṇdala, sacred to the memory of the Buḍḍha, which formed an important station for Buḍḍhist pilgrims. So one day I said to my[39] host: “Having come thus far, I should always regret a rare opportunity lost, were I to make a stork’s journey from here to Lhasa, and thence to China. The Chinese Text speaks of Mount Kailāsa (Tib. Kang Rinpo Che) rising high on the shore of lake Mānasarovara (Tib. Maphamyumtsho). I want to visit that sacred mountain on my way home. So I should be very much obliged to you if you would kindly get men to carry my luggage for me.” The answer I got in reply was not encouraging, though sympathetic. Gya Lama, in short, bade me give up my purpose, because, as he said, the north-west plain was pathless and full of marauding robbers; it had been his long-entertained desire to visit the sacred mountain himself, but the difficulties mentioned had, so far, prevented him from carrying it out, and he would strongly advise me against my rash decision; to venture a trip through that region, with only one or two servants, was like seeking death. My retort was that, it being one of Buḍḍha’s teachings that “born into life, thou art destined to die,” I was not afraid of death; in fact, death might overtake me at any time, even while living comfortably under the Lama’s care; so that I should consider myself well repaid if I met death while on a pilgrimage to a holy place. Finding dissuasion useless with me, my host complimented me on the firmness of my resolution, and took it upon himself to secure for me reliable carriers. Then, after careful enquiries, he hired for me a pilgrim party, consisting of two men and an old woman, the latter of whom, in spite of her sixty years of age, was strong enough to brave the hardships of an exceptionally difficult road. These people were from Kham, a country noted for its robbers, but I was assured of the perfect honesty and good intentions of the particular three I was to engage. As a mark of his special kindness, Gya Lama promised to let a trustworthy man under him accompany me as far as a place called Tukje, to see that my two pilgrim servants served me faithfully.


The Sublime Himalaya.

It was in the beginning of the month of March, 1899, that, followed by a retinue of three men and one old dame, I bade farewell to my kind host and, seated on a snow-white pony, given me by my fatherly friend, left the Kāṣyapa Buḍḍha tower. I was not in good health that day, on account of fever and weakness, but I was obliged to start from Kātmāndu, for it was very dangerous for me to stay there any longer, as I was quite a stranger to the Nepālese, and they might find out my nationality, and stop me from proceeding further. So I took the assistance of the horse; and the good animal proved to be a splendid mountaineer, and carried me up steep ascents and down abrupt descents in perfect safety. We directed our course towards the north-west, through the British Residency, the most beautiful and clean quarter in Kātmāndu, and through Nagar-yon, a hill famous for a cave where Nāgārjuna, a great Boḍhi-Saṭṭva, used to meditate. We arrived at a village called Jittle-Pedee in the evening, and passed the night under the eaves of a shop-keeper’s house.


The present Ruler of Nepāl is a Hinḍū, and keeps the caste system as rigidly as it is kept in India, where the people belonging to that religion do not allow a foreigner to enter their rooms, or to eat with them. Therefore we were obliged to pass the night outside a house, or under a rock, or in the forests. Here I must not omit some interesting things about my travels among the Himālayan mountains from Kātmāndu to the lake Mānasarovara through Nepāl. The country being extra-territorial, I believe no bold European or American had trodden this precipitous path before me; hence I would like to mention[41] everything connected therewith, but as my object is Tibet, I cannot spend much space on the inner Himālayas of Nepāl. I shall only mention briefly what will be considered interesting by my readers in general.

On the third day of our departure from Kātmāndu, we travelled for more than forty miles, and arrived at a small trading town called Chunge, situated on the west bank of the Kirong river (Tirsuli Gandak). Just north of the town, on the bank of that river there is a pretty forest in which we slept well through the night, in a lonely spot, lulled by the rolling sounds of the mountain-rivers’ grand music. Early on the following morning we started on the north-western path leading to Pokhra, although there is a short way, only five days’ journey from the place to Kirong in Tibet; but there the officers of the frontier guard the passes against all strangers. In three days’ journey after this we made about forty miles, passed the villages Bareng-Bareng and Sareng, and, crossing the river Agu, we arrived at a famous town, Algata. I have not met with any maps which mention this name. The town is situated on the west bank of the river which the natives called Buri-Gaṅgā (Buria Gandak); this river is crossed by an iron hanging bridge. The town itself is important on account of its trade with Tibet; I saw more than fifty people from Tibet and from Nishang—a northern frontier province of Nepāl. During the nine days after leaving Algata we passed many valleys, rocky mountains, streams, hill pastures, forests full of rhododendrons, and deep forests of fir, oak and pine, with the peaks of the snowy range in view. We also passed several villages—Nimareshi, Daramhaje, Rutel, Manicheka and Sātmuni.

We made a distance of something less than one hundred miles, and then reached a town called Pokhra. Pokhra looked like a town of villas at home, the site being chosen[42] for the beauty of its natural scenery. Bamboo-covered ravines, flower-roofed heights, rich in green foliage, picturesque because of a rushing and winding stream, itself set in the midst of high mountains—such were the characteristic features of Pokhra. The stream I speak of has its source in the Machipusa (fish-tail) peak, and its waters are milky white, probably on account of their carrying in them particles of mountain clay. In all my travels in the Himālayas I saw no scenery so enchanting as that which enraptured me at Pokhra. Another thing notable about that place was that it was the cheapest spot in Nepāl for all kinds of commodities. Twenty-five sens bought, for instance, four sho of rice there; while, in other places, that amount would buy only two sho and a half at the most. At Pokhra I made a rather long stay of six days, as I had to have a tent made before I proceeded further, and twenty-five rupees bought for me one made to order, and large enough for cooking inside also.

After leaving Pokhra we turned due north, and the ascent became very steep, so steep at places that I had to get off my horse, send the animal by a round-about way through the valleys, and myself go afoot for half-a-day. On one occasion I was proceeding on horseback on a narrow path that ran along a very high precipice, when, deeply engrossed as I was in thought about the near future, I found myself all of a sudden thrown down to the ground, before I had had time to free myself from a branch of a tree, which had caught me by the neck and caused the disaster, assisted by the horse’s movement onward. Very fortunately my horse came to a halt just then, and as I never let go my hold of the bridle, I narrowly escaped from rolling a thousand fathoms down a craggy precipice, to reach the bottom a mangled carcass! Realising the danger I was in, I hastily tried to pick myself up, but in vain; for evidently I had[43] struck my hip very hard in my fall, and could not raise myself up. Consequently I had to requisition the backs of my two servants in turn, thus making an ascent of about a mile to the top of the mountains we were crossing over. On reaching the top, I found the pain too great to permit the continuance of my journey, and I camped there for two days, during which time my diligent application of some camphor tincture, which I had with me, to the injured parts, gradually relieved me of my suffering. On resuming our journey, now down the mountain, I could not help being profoundly impressed with the power of impenetrable solitude, for the path lay through a valley where nature, in her wildest seclusion, reigned supreme. My sense of loneliness was heightened by the note of the cuckoo, which now and then broke the oppressive silence, and an uta then came to me thus:

In tortuous paths my lonely way now lies
Among rough mountain tracks and scenes all wild;
The rocks and giant trees in silence stand,
With naught to break the silent depths around
Except the solitary cuckoo’s notes,
That makes the awful silence more profound.


Dangers Ahead.

So the days passed and with these days I came to know more or less of the different characteristics of my two servants; I found one to be a rather impatient fellow, but prompt of decision, and the other a quiet man with some education, of which he was not a little proud. The latter seemed occasionally to hurt the feelings of the impatient one, and more than once collisions had already occurred between the two. As for the old woman pilgrim, she was a good honest soul, and that was all there was about her, except that she seemed to know all about the two men. I took pains to be strictly impartial in all my dealings with the three, though her age entitled the old dame to special consideration on my part, and she had it in full when I thought fit. It came to pass that, apparently because of this treatment, the old woman came to think a great deal of me. I had noticed in her manner something indicating that she wished to speak to me, but was afraid to do so in the presence of her two companions; so one morning I caused her to go a considerable way ahead of us, and I started with my servants afterwards. Burdened with my luggage as the men were, and riding on a horse as I was, it was only natural that I should soon leave them lagging far behind, and overtake the old woman. The good soul turned furtively back, and asked if the two men were a long distance behind. I told her that they must be at least five miles behind. Then she made a revelation to me, and it was not of a very reassuring kind; for according to her I was doomed to be killed. In short she told me that the impatient fellow was a robber and murderer,[45] having committed many crimes while at home in Kham, and that, though the quiet one was not so bad a man, he had yet killed a fellow-creature in a quarrel. At all events neither would think twice before taking a man’s life. The old dame thought it certain that they, or at least the impatient one, would pounce upon me as soon as we reached the north-west plains of Tibet, and rob me of all my money and effects, as well as of my life! Thereupon I said: “That could not be; for they are both men of great honesty and uprightness.” She returned: “Konjogsum (Holy Trinity)! send to me death, if I tell a lie!” These are words of adjuration to which Tibetans attach great importance, and I could not persuade myself to regard my informant’s warning as a mere string of falsehoods. So another trouble ahead was added to my burdened mind.

After travelling twelve days more and only making a distance of about one hundred miles, we reached a Himālayan village called Tukje, where then lived the local Governor, named Harkaman Suppa. Through Gya Lama’s introduction I enjoyed the privilege of being received as a guest by this Governor. Two days after my arrival there the special man whom Gya Lama through his thoughtful kindness, as already told, had sent to accompany me so far, took leave of me, apparently well satisfied that my two servants were and would be all right. But they were far from being all right, and I felt that I would never be able to accomplish my journey unless I got rid of them. While I was worrying myself with these thoughts, I came across information about the route that lay before me that proved to me another source of discouragement. In effect, it was that three months before the Tibetan Government had detailed five soldiers to guard, against all foreigners and any strange person, the road in my route which lay through the State of[46] Lo; the same precaution had been taken on all the other bye-ways and pathways leading into Tibet, however secluded and narrow, even though narrow enough for just one person to pass. And I had reason to believe that this information was well founded; so that it became inevitable that I should give up my idea of entering Tibet by smuggling myself into its north-western plain. But there is ebb and flow even in troubles.

One evening, while still staying at the Governor’s, my servants, having regaled themselves with the local drinks even to boisterousness, began a-quarrelling, which largely consisted of exposing each other. In brief, each accused the other of a somewhat cheerless intention of making short work of me when opportunity should arrive, with the upshot that they both came to me, each with a demand that he would like to be discharged if the other were to continue in my service. I could not have had a better opportunity, and I there and then dismissed both of them, after having paid them off rather liberally. I also gave some money with some little present in kind to the old woman, and bade her go with the men. And thus I got rid of an imminent danger to my life. But there remained the greater problem of what to do next, to retrace my steps back to Kātmāndu being out of the question, while the route I had chosen for myself had become unavailable.

It happened that, enjoying the Governor’s hospitality like myself, was a Mongolian scholar named Serab Gyaltsan, who was acting as a doctor of medicine, besides giving lessons in religious Texts to the local priests. I had not been long at Governor Harkaman’s before I became acquainted with this person, and soon found him to be a man possessed of profound knowledge of not only Buḍḍhism but also of literary subjects. Whatever were the reasons on my part, he and I after a while[47] came to an agreement for the exchange of knowledge, he instructing me in Tibetan Buḍḍhism and literature and I teaching him Chinese Buḍḍhism. This understanding arrived at, we took leave of Tukje and set out for Tsarang in the province of Lo, where the Mongolian scholar had his home. On our way thither, we visited the famous Chumik Gyatsa. Chumik Gyatsa means a hundred fountains, and is the Mukuṭināṭh of Samskṛṭ, which Hinḍūs as well as Buḍḍhists regard as a place of great sanctity. The place apparently obtained the name it bears from the numberless springs abounding thereabout, and a spot of particular fame there was called Sala Mebar, Chula Mebar, Dola Mebar, which means burning in earth, burning in water, burning in rock. On seeing the spot I found this mystery to be nothing more than the fancy of the ignorant natives, who saw a burning jet of natural gas escaping from a crevice in a slab of rock, that formed a lid, so to say, over and close to the surface of a beautiful crystal-like fountain, which was about one by two feet in size, so that its prolonged flame looked, at the first glance, as if it were crawling over the water. I noticed, however, that the mountains round about bore ample evidences of old volcanic eruptions, at one time or another, an extinct crater now changed to a pond, lava-rocks, and so on, being all present. We passed a night encamped on the bank of the river Kālīgaṅgā, that flows at the foot of the mountain which we had just descended, after leaving the ‘hundred fountains’ behind us. The following morning we had a disastrous time for three hours in trying to cross a stream. In the first place I made a blunder in attempting to wade across the stream on my horse, which, with my weight on his back and treacherous mud-beds under his feet, found himself in a perilous condition as soon as he had walked a few steps into the stream. I, of course, got[48] off him at once and climbed upon the bank behind me. I then set about throwing into the river, near where the horse was, stones, rocks, and broken branches of trees that I found lying about, in order to improvise there a passable footway for myself as well as for the Mongolian scholar and his animal. Stones flying and muddy water splashing around him scared my horse, and, with a wild effort, he struggled out and landed himself on the opposite bank; but my friend’s pony remained immovable till we had managed to build a way across for ourselves and pulled him after us. That day we stopped in a village called Samar (red clay). On the next we again climbed half-way up a mountain, and proceeded due north along a path that lay midway between the top and bottom of its slope, that is to say, toward the north of Dhavalagiri.


In the mountains below Tukje I found common pines and cedars growing in fair abundance, but now these became very rare, the obtusa species of pine taking their place, and even these attaining a height of not more than twenty feet at the most, the ground being otherwise covered with shrubby growths. Riding on the snow, which was still on the mountain, we had made a distance of about fifteen miles before we reached a hamlet named Kirung, where I found willow trees growing luxuriantly. The inhabitants hereabout were all Tibetans, and I saw fluttering on every house-top a white flag with certain religious texts printed on it. These flags are to be seen everywhere in the interior of Tibet, as I afterwards found, and that even where the people are living in tents. Leaving the village, we rode on northwards, over snow, through an obtusa-pine forest, till the night fell and the moon rose, when I again heard a cuckoo. Then I had an uta:


While marching onwards now the night o’ertakes
The pilgrim bold, the snowy floor his bed;
The moon-lit sky his canopy will be,
His lullaby, the cuckoo’s notes.

That night we put up in an inn in a hamlet called Kimiyi (fountain of fortune), that nestles in the snow-covered mountains. Ten miles on the following day brought us within sight of Tsarang, which, on reaching, I found to be a little town built on a plain which was about eleven miles from east to west, and three miles or more from north to south, enclosed by walls of snow-covered mountains. More accurately, the plain has to its west a snow-capped mountain, whence it extends in a very slow incline towards the east, until it breaks off into a valley. From Tsarang to the north-west plain of Tibet is a day’s trip, and the physical features of these regions are practically of the same character, devoid of large trees and desolate in the extreme. It was in the middle of May that I arrived in Tsarang, and I was told that the farmers had just finished sowing wheat. Skirting the town of Tsarang runs a stream, which has its rise in the mountain that forms the western wall of the plain, and on an elevated part of the town stands a castled palace, in which lives the King of the Lo State. Before the Gūrkha tribe had subjugated Nepāl, Lo was an independent State. At a little distance, opposite to the royal castle, is a temple of considerable size, belonging to the Kargyu-pa sect of the old school of Tibetan Buḍḍhism. The temple is a square structure of Tibetan style, built of stone and painted red, and adjoining it is a stone building painted white, which forms a dormitory for the priests of the temple. On a piece of level land to the west of the palace and the temple a group of about sixty large and small houses constitutes the town of Tsarang.


Beautiful Tsarang and Dirty Tsarangese.

At the foot of the mountain out of which we had emerged, and where the plain began, we came upon a stone-turreted gate about twenty-four feet in height. Standing by itself and entirely unprotected, the gate was not intended, as I was told, for any military purpose; but it was used for housing Buḍḍhas and other deities that would keep guard against the invasion of the locality by evil genii. About a mile and a half to the rear of the gate stood the town of Tsarang, at the entrance of which we were met by fourteen or fifteen men, who, as it appeared, anticipated our arrival. Serab Gyaltsan led me to the house of the Chief of the town, which was of considerable size. As in Tibet so in Tsarang, all well-to-do people generally have a separate chapel in their residence. When they have a visitor of rank and social position, they, out of respect, put him up in their chapel, and a person entitled to such distinction in these localities is generally a Lama. So it was that, as a Chinese Lama, I was given that privilege in the Chief’s chapel, which I found to be a typical one of its kind, with its image-crowned altar, a special depository for religious Texts, etc., and altogether much superior in its general finish and furnishings to the family dwelling. I may remark that these folk generally keep a good store of the Texts, not because they make use of them themselves, but more as a matter of form, the form showing their deep reverence for their religion; but it is apparently beyond their ken that volumes of Texts are but so many sheets of waste paper, if their possessors do not understand and live by them.


By the side of the chapel in which I was installed there was another small building, in which lived Serab Gyaltsan. My host was a widower, quiet and amiable, and living with two grown-up daughters, about twenty-three and eighteen years of age respectively, who between them managed the household and the family business, employing under them a number of servants, farm-hands and cattlemen. I could not but admire the two young women for the creditable manner in which they attended to their business. I also observed that the chief amusement of all the villagers consisted in spending evenings in dances and comic songs, except when they went to a sort of semi-religious meeting presided over by a Lama Maṇi, who would narrate the stories of ancient priests of great renown, or the biographies of the more famous monarchs of Buḍḍhist States, to the great delight of his audience.

The days I spent in Tsarang were, in a sense, the days of my tutelage in the art of living amidst filth and filthy habits. In point of uncleanliness, Tibetans stand very high among the inhabitants of the earth, but I think the natives of Tsarang go still higher in this respect. In Tibet people wash themselves occasionally, but they almost never do so in Tsarang. In the course of the twelve months that I lived there, I only twice saw a person wash himself, the washing being confined even then to the face and neck. Such being the case, the native’s skin all over the body has on it a peculiarly repulsive shine of polished dirt, so to say. I often noticed women, whose complexion would have appeared quite fair if only an occasional scrubbing were administered to the skin; but what can they do when it is a custom, as it is among them, to laugh at persons who wash their faces nice and clean, and to deride them as being very dirty in their habits? Not only in their appearance, but in all that they do, the natives[53] seem to have absolutely no idea of cleanliness. To say that they think nothing of making a cup of tea for you with the same fingers with which they have just blown their nose, is to give only a very mild instance of their filthiness, and I have no courage to dwell here on their many other doings, which are altogether beyond imagination for those who have not seen them done, and are too loathsome, even unto sickening, to recall to mind. As it was, my life among these slovenly people did one good thing for me, in that it thoroughly prepared me for what I had to endure in Tibet.

My work with Serab Gyaltsan consisted in this: a lecture on Buḍḍhism for three solid hours in the morning, which required much preparation, and exercises in Tibetan rhetoric and penmanship for another three hours in the afternoon, which was, however, of a very easy nature, and gave me occasion to engage in discussions with my teacher.

There is in existence to this day in Tibet a sect of Buḍḍhists which believes in a teaching originated by a priest whose name may be translated into “born of the lotus flower” (Padma Sambhava) or Padma Chungne in Tibetan, and whom they regard as their savior and as Buḍḍha incarnate. His teaching is a sort of parody on Buḍḍhism proper, and an attempt to sanctify the sexual relations of humankind, explaining and interpreting all the important passages and tenets in the sacred Text from a sensual standpoint. Indeed, Padma’s own life was simply his teachings translated into actual practice, for he lived with eight women whom he called his wives, drank intoxicants to his heart’s content, and fed freely on animal food. Now in the Tibetan rhetoric in which I took lessons under Serab Gyaltsan I found this lewd and detestable teaching largely incorporated, and it was on this account that hot disputes not unfrequently arose between my instructor[54] and myself. At times I felt sorry, as I feel sorry now, for my Serab, because, from what I was able to gather, he is one of those on whom (as the result of twenty years’ study, maintaining well the while his undefiled priesthood) was conferred the title of Doctor by the great monastery of Sera, but who, because of having afterwards yielded to feminine temptation, lost his qualification to go back to Mongolia as a respectable Lama, while out of shame it became impossible for him to continue to live in Lhasa, so that he was compelled to pass his life in obscure seclusion. I felt sorry for him all the more, because I found him to be a profound and widely-read scholar, who could have risen in life but for his carnal weakness. Another thing I noticed about him to my pain was that he very easily became angry, like all the Mongols I came across, but, like them also, he was very quick in becoming reconciled.

I said I had disputes with my Serab. It was on one of these occasions that I differed from him with regard to the real merits of a certain Buḍḍhist saint. Thereupon, flying into a terrible rage, he caught hold of my clothes near my throat with one hand, and, with the other picking up a bar belonging to a table that stood between us, was about to visit me with a blow. The situation was very humorous, and I broke out into loud laughter, saying the next moment that I had always thought a little better of him than to suppose that he was capable of such an exhibition as he was thus making of himself, in defiance of the teachings of the saint he revered so much. This took him aback, but he did not let go his grasp. I saw him grind his teeth, and fire glared in his eyes; he then removed his grasp and withdrew as if too wroth to be near me. But reconciliation followed. So time passed on, I spending seven to nine hours a day in preparation, besides the six hours of[55] the regular daily lessons. Out of the twenty-four hours, thirteen to fifteen were thus taken up for purposes of study every day, with the exception of Sundays, my other occupation being to take one meal a day with some tea, and to go out for a walk. Sundays I invariably spent in mountaineering of a somewhat unusual character. I had an idea that I should never be able to compass the arduous journey before me, toiling on in a rare atmosphere through trackless wildernesses at great heights while burdened with heavy luggage on my back, unless I had a thorough training beforehand for the purpose. Guided by these thoughts, I made a point of carrying on my back a heavy load of stones when making my Sunday climb, and of making the ascents with all possible speed. I was in excellent health then, and I felt that the mountaineering made it still better, especially with regard to my lungs. Such was the life I led for awhile, and I shortly became quite a famous man in the locality. It was in this way.

The natives hereabouts are merely, it may be said, creatures of animal instincts. True, they engage in agricultural work to some extent, which keeps them occupied during the summer months, but at the other seasons they think of nothing but eating, drinking and sleeping, their minds being otherwise filled with thoughts pertaining to sensual love. They occasionally spend their evening in listening to a Lama Maṇi preaching or lecturing, but only occasionally. They change their clothing but once a year, casting off the old for the new; but if any of them is brave enough to wear the same suit for two years, that person is made an object of high praise. And as they never wash their wearing apparel, it is always shining with grease and dirt. Indifferent as they are to their appearance, they are very painstaking in preparing food, as also in making their sleep comfortable.[56] But their ruling passion is that of carnal love, and that applies to all ages, from the young to the very old. But as human beings they are subject to illness, and like all uncivilised people they are intensely superstitious. To them a Lama is omnipotent, for they believe that he can cure diseases and divine all future events. So it came to pass that the Chinese Lama—I myself—became an object of great esteem and reverence among them. For it was not long before my presence in Tsarang became known among the inhabitants, and my doings in the mountain on Sundays began to attract their attention. Especially my altercations with Serab Gyaltsan, which were often loud enough to be heard outside, furnished them with no end of material for gossip, while the fact that the medicines I gave away at their pressing request occasionally proved of good effect contributed greatly to my fame. I knew not of these things myself at first, but heard of them from my host’s daughters, who frequently called to favor me with tea and sweets, when they would inform me of what people were saying of me. The most ridiculous of all was their interpretation of the quarrels between Serab and myself; they made out that these disputes originated in Serab’s objecting to my giving away, to the poor, things sent to me as presents, instead of giving them to him, or to my giving some cash to beggars! Idle tales as these were, they seemed to find ready ears among the natives, who looked on me as a being of a higher order.


While treating of Tsarang, I may dwell a little on the natural beauties of that place. Tsarang has but two seasons, namely, summer and winter, and many are the natives that do not know even the names of the other seasons. In summer, simple as is the contrast between the verdant fields of luxuriant wheat, interspersed with patches of white and pink buck-wheat, and the majestic[58] peaks that keep guard over the plain and look ever grand in their pure white robes of perennial snow, the combination makes a striking picture. Throw into the picture a buoyant army of butterflies, that flutter up and down, keeping time, as it were, to the stirring melody of sky-larks, which is now and then softened by the clear notes of a cuckoo, while the fields below are resonant with the rustic melodies of joyous damsels, and the tout ensemble becomes at once as enchanting as it is archaic; and this is the picture of Tsarang in summer, when the day is bright and warm. But more sublimely spectacular is the view on its winter’s eve. The moment the sun begins to descend behind the snow-covered mountains that rise about ten miles to the west of the town, the equally snow-robed peaks that tower above the eastern range become luminous masses of coral-red, as the last rays of the sinking sun strike them. The ruby color gradually changes into a golden-yellow, but that only for a moment, and it fades away to reveal huge pillars of silver-white, shining out majestically against the cloudless clear blue sky. The scene once more changes as the dusk deepens, burying the peaks in faint uncertainty, and the moon in her glory rises slowly from behind them, to spread again an indescribable lustre of cold—if coldness has a color of its own—over the mountain tops, which now look like a vision of celestial seas hung in mid-air.

But Tsarang has its horrors as well as its charms, as when a snow storm rages. The wind is often so strong that it blows away the tilled surface of a farm, and in time changes it into a barren field of sand, while the snow comes down in such abundance that it drifts itself into huge mountains here and there on the plain. The cold is, of course, intense on such occasions and nobody dares to go out. But the scene on a moonlight night after a blizzard is worth seeing. The sky is filled with clouds of[59] dusty particles of snow, moving ever onward like phantom armies, now thickening into ominous darkness and then thinning into vapory transparency, through which one sees struggling, the lustre of the grey steely moon. No scene so weirdly harrowing can be seen anywhere else.


Fame and Temptation.

Since I had arrived in Tsarang early in May, 1899, nearly eight months had sped by, and I found myself on the threshold of a New Year, whose advent I observed with my usual ceremony of reading the Sacred Text, and praying for the health and prosperity of my Sovereign and his family, and the glory of Japan. The first day of the year 1900 filled me with more than usual emotion. For was I not then thousands of miles away from home, and was it not the second New Year’s Day which I had spent on the heights of the Himālayas? Yet I was hale and hearty, both in mind and body, and ready to resume my journey, the end of which the future alone could reveal.

In order to give vent to my feelings of gratitude, not unmixed with hope and fear, all deeply impressive, I ended the day by entertaining the villagers of Tsarang, having previously provided for them a full and liberal store of such viands and delicacies as were considered to be most rare and sumptuous. I have already described how I had been gaining fame and popularity among the villagers, my ascetic conduct in the midst of unbridled licentiousness causing them to respect me, and my generosity in the matter of medicines, of which I still had a fairly large stock with me, making me much sought after by them; and now, through my New Year’s treat, I seemed to have reached a pinnacle of glory. For from that time onward I gradually perceived that traps were being set for me, so that I might be tied down to Tsarang for life. The arch-spirit in this conspiracy was my own instructor Serab, who insisted that I should marry the youngest of my host’s daughters, or rather who brought all his[61] ingenuity to bear upon assisting her to make a captive of my heart and person. Fortunately my faith proved stronger than temptations, and enabled me to remain true to the teachings of the Blessed One. Had I yielded then, Tsarang would have had to-day one more dirt-covered and grease-shining priest among its apathetic inhabitants, and that would have been all.

But, things having come to the pass which I have described, it became urgent that I should make haste in discovering some secret passage into Tibet. But it was as dangerous for me in Tsarang as it had been in Kātmāndu to disclose my real intentions, and whatever discovery I might make for my own purposes, I had to make it in some indirect and roundabout way. After having once more racked my brains, I finally hit upon the plan of working upon the weaknesses of the local people. The Tibetan Government had began to levy customs duties even on personal valuables. It was a most outrageous act; supposing one wanted to do trade with the inhabitants of the north-west plain of Tibet, and to take thither a stock of coral ornaments, or some useful knick-knacks imported from Europe, how could one avoid being unjustly set upon and robbed of the best part of one’s would-be profit, on first setting foot upon Tibetan soil? Ah! there must be ways and bye-ways by which to accomplish this, and to be absolutely safe from guards and sentinels! Surely the plains might be reached, if one did not mind three days of hard trudging over the trackless snow of the Himālayan Range, to the north of the Dhavalagiri peak, and thence to Thorpo? Having once got the villagers into the right humor, in some such way, it was not necessarily a very hazardous job to keep on tapping them for information. On the other side of that mountain yonder, they would volunteer to tell me, there was a river which might be forded at such and such a point, but which was dangerously treacherous at others; or, that[62] if not very cautious, one might die a victim to the snow-leopard, while crossing over this or that mountain. All these bits of information, and hosts of others, were carefully noted down, and a synthetic study of these scraps finally convinced me that the route I should choose was the one viâ Thorpo; and so I decided. This meant that I had to retrace my steps almost as far back as Tukje, or more accurately to Malba, a village in the immediate neighborhood of Tukje. Nor was this retreat without some advantages in itself, for it would have only been to court suspicion and to run unnecessary risks for me to strike off into pathless wilds in full view of the Tsarang villagers, who were sure to come out in hordes to see me off on my departure, not only out of respect for my person, but also from curiosity to know whither I was bound after my lengthened stay amongst them. The route decided upon, I could not however yet start on my journey, because the season was then against me, the peaks and defiles on my way being passable only during the months of June, July and August. The mountains were not, of course, entirely free from snow even during those three months, but for those thirteen weeks or so the traverser would, as I was told, be secure as a rule from being frozen to death. And therefore I bided my time.

To go back a little in my story, there came to Tsarang one Adam Naring, the Chief of the village of Malba, whither I had to retrace my footsteps. That was in October, 1899. Naring owned a yak ranch on the north-west plains of Tibet, and he was openly privileged to have free access thereto over the “King’s highway”. It was on his way back from one of his periodic visits thither that he stopped at Tsarang, and, as he put up at my host’s, I was introduced to him. He had in his chapel, as he told me then, a set of Buḍḍhist Texts which he had brought home from Tibet, and he was very anxious that I should[63] go with him to his house and read them over for the benefit of himself and his family. The invitation was as unexpected as it was opportune, and I accepted it. That was in October, 1899, as I have just said, and if my acceptance of Naring’s invitation had no definite motive at the time, it stood me in good stead afterwards. In the meantime, however, Naring had gone to India on business, and it was not till March, 1900, that I had tidings of his return to Malba. On the 10th of that month I bade good-bye to Tsarang and its simple inhabitants.

My stay in Tsarang was not entirely devoid of results; for while there I succeeded in persuading about fifteen persons to give up the use of intoxicants, and some thirty others to abandon the habit of chewing tobacco. These were all persons who had at one time or another received medical treatment from me, and whom I persuaded to give pledges of abstinence as the price they were to pay for my medicine.

Nearly a year’s stay in Tsarang had made me acquainted practically with its entire population, and, on my departure, all these people favored me with farewell presents of buckwheat flour, bread, maru, butter, fried peaches—all in various quantities—while some gave me kata and silver coins. At three in the afternoon of that 10th of March I left my residence on horse-back, with my volumes of Buḍḍhist Texts and other baggage loaded on two pack-ponies. The books I have just referred to were given to me by one Nyendak, Lama-Superior of the principal Buḍḍhist temple of Tsarang, in exchange for my white horse, which had proved such a faithful animal on my journey from Nepāl, and to which the priest had taken a great fancy. The books were chiefly in manuscript, penned by a Sakya Paṇdiṭ, and altogether were worth at least 600 rupees.

On reaching the outskirts of the village, I found about one hundred persons waiting for me, and to each of these[64] I gave the ‘double-handed blessing’. The parting was not easy, and time sped on. It was now five o’clock, and I left my well-wishers in tears behind me. Reaching the village gate, by which I had come in some eleven months before, I turned round to take a last look at Tsarang, and prayed in silence for the safety of the villagers and their ever-increasing faith in Buḍḍhism. Before the darkness set in I arrived at Kimiyi, and there put up for the night. The next day’s journey brought me back to Tsuk, a village on the Kālīgaṅgā, where I spent the evening in preaching at the request of the inhabitants. At my departure the following morning about twenty people came forward and asked me to give them the ‘hand-blessing,’ which they obtained with perfect willingness on my part. My instructor, Serab Gyaltsan, had left Tsarang a little time previous to my departure, but I had the good fortune to come upon him at Tsuk, and to have an opportunity of thanking him for what I owed him as a pupil of nearly a year’s standing before I bade him a most heartfelt farewell.

The close of the third day after leaving Tsarang brought me to the mountain-village of Malba and to the residence of Adam Naring, who happened, however, to be away from his home just then. But the village Chief’s father, Sonam Norbu by name, who probably had heard of me from his son, was there to welcome me, and I was given the freedom of the family chapel, which consisted of two neatly furnished apartments, the innermost of which contained a fine set of Buḍḍha images, as well as the Tibetan edition of the Sacred Text and other volumes of ecclesiastical writings, while the windows of the front room commanded a charming view of a peach orchard. I may note here that the altitude of Malba being much lower than that of Tsarang, the soil in the former place yields two different crops in the year, wheat coming first and then[65] buckwheat. Adam Naring owned a fine tract of land for these crops. Five or six hundred yards beyond his residence was the Kālīgaṅgā river, gliding serenely along with a fresh green wall of small pine-trees to set off its waters. Towering behind and above the emerald grove stood a range of snow-capped peaks, the tout ensemble making a view delightful for its primitive joys and natural beauty.

My old friend expressed his desire that I should make my stay indefinitely long, so that he might have the benefit of my reading for him the whole of the Sacred Texts; but I could only encourage him with an ambiguous reply, as I had come to Malba only to wait for the time when the snow-covered mountains should become passable. In the meantime I spent my days in reading, and making extracts from the Sacred Texts, and in so doing I could not help often recalling, with a deep sense of gratitude, the six hours a day which for nearly one year I had devoted to my study of Tibetan, under the rigid instruction of Serab Gyaltsan at Tsarang.

About a fortnight after my arrival in Malba I received a letter from Rai Saraṭ Chanḍra Ḍās, through a trader of Tukje, with whom I had become acquainted while in Tsarang, and to whom I had entrusted a letter to my friend at Darjeeling, as well as others to my folks at home, on the occasion of his going down to Calcutta on business. Along with his letter Saraṭ Chanḍra Ḍās sent me a number of the Mahāboḍhi Society’s journal, which contained an account of an unsuccessful attempt by a Buḍḍhist of my nationality to enter Tibet, and a well-meant note of his in pencil to the effect that I must not lose my life by exposing myself to too much danger. So far so good; but next something which was not so good happened. The Tukje man, my whilom messenger, had[66] apparently formed an opinion of his own about my personality, and set the quiet village of Malba astir with rumors about myself. Chanḍra Ḍās was an official of the English Government, with a salary of 600 rupees a month, and, as such, a very rare personage among Bengālīs; and it was with this person that I corresponded; ergo, the Chinese Lama (myself) must be a British agent in disguise, with some secret mission to execute. So went the rumor, and the public opinion of Malba had almost come to the conclusion that it was undesirable to permit such a suspicious stranger in the village, when Adam Naring, who by that time had come home, sought to speak to me in secret, with indescribable fear written on his face. Poor honest soul! What he said to me, when by ourselves, was of course to the effect that if there were any truth in the rumor, he and his folks would be visited with what punishment heaven only knew. I had expected this for some time past, and had made up my mind how to act as soon as Naring approached me on the subject. I turned round and, looking him squarely in the face, said: “If you promise me, under oath, that you will not divulge for three full years to come what I may tell you, I will let you into my secret; but if you do not care to do so, we can only let the rumor take care of itself, and wait for the Nepāl Government to take any steps it may deem fit to take.” I knew Adam Naring was a man of conscience, who could be trusted with a secret: he signified his willingness to take an oath, and I placed before him a copy of the sacred Scripture and obtained from him the needed promise.

Producing next my passport, given me by the Foreign Office in Japan, which had on it an English as well as other translations of the Japanese text, I showed it to my host, who understood just enough English to follow out the spelling of some words in that language, and[67] explained to him the real object of my journey into Tibet. I did more. I said to him that now that he possessed my secret, he was welcome to make of it what use he liked; but that I believed him to be a true and devoted Buḍḍhist, and that it behoved him well to assist me in my enterprise by keeping silence, for by so acting he would be promoting the cause of his own religion. In all this, I told my host nothing but truth, and truth triumphed; for he believed every word I said and approved of my adventure. Then we talked over the route I was to take, and it was arranged at the same time that I should restart on my journey in June or July.

This taking of my host into my confidence seemed to have greatly appeased his mind; withal, I did not think it right for me to tax his hospitality by prolonging my stay at his residence, and immediately after the above incident I moved into the temple of the village, where, nevertheless, I remained the object of his unswerving friendship, in that he provided for me, while there, all travelling requisites, from wearing apparel to provisions, which altogether made luggage weighing about seventy-five pounds. At my request he also secured for me a guide and carrier, who was to convey my packages as far as Khambuthang, or the ‘land of Genii,’ in the valley of Dhavalagiri, while my part of the load was to consist only of my collection of religious works. Thus equipped, I left Malba on June 12th, 1900. By taking the direct route, the North-west Steppe of Tibet may be reached from Malba in ten days, but as I was to take in my way places sacred to Buḍḍhist pilgrims, besides making other observations, I set aside twenty-three days for the journey, which I began by traversing trackless wilds for three days. At my departure I made an uta:

My roof will be the sky; my bed, the earth;
The grass my downy pillow soft at night;
Thus like the hovering clouds and wandering streams,
These lonely wilds alone I must traverse.

Once on the road, I found, however, that the sentiment of this effusion applied more to what I had come through than to what followed, for there was for days nothing but snow for my bed and rock for my pillow.


Tibet at Last.

After leaving Malba my route lay north-west, up a gradual ascent along the banks of the river Kālīgaṅgā. We walked, however, only two and a half miles on the day of our departure, the rain preventing our further progress. Starting at about seven o’clock on the following morning, we made a climb of about five miles up a narrow path, the bed of which consisted of pointed stones and rocks of various degrees of sharpness, and then refreshed ourselves with a light repast. On resuming our ascent the incline became very steep and, the atmosphere growing rarer and rarer, we could proceed no more than six miles or so before fatigue overcame us, and at three in the afternoon we put up in a village called Dankar, where I was obliged to stay and recuperate myself during the whole of the next day. On the 15th we faced due north, and five miles of a sharp ascent brought us to a glacier valley which we crossed, and continued a climb of still steeper incline for about four miles, after which we emerged on a somewhat wide foot-path. At 11 A. M. we stopped for a rest. Not a drop of water was obtainable thereabouts, but espying some herbs growing from under a light layer of snow in a crevice of a rock, I pulled them up by the root, and, on chewing them, found that the root tasted quite sour. With the help of this herb-root we made a little lunch of buckwheat biscuits.

It was all ascent in the afternoon, and a very tortuous task it was; now picking our foot-hold from rock to rock up a craggy precipice—Mukhala Climb, where it made my head swim to look down into the cañon a thousand feet below—now trusting my dear life to my staff, when caught[70] in a sand avalanche, if I may be allowed that expression for the places where the thaw had caused the snow and rock to slide down, leaving bare a loose sandy surface, which gave way under one’s foot. As for my guide-carrier, he hopped, and skipped, and balanced, and leaped, with the agility and sureness of a monkey, his staff playing for him the part of a boat-hook in a most skilful hand, and, in spite of his seventy-five pounds’ burden, he was so much at home on the difficult ascent, that he was ever and anon at my side to help me out of dangerous plights into which I would frequently fall, with my staff stuck fast between two rocks, or while I involuntarily acted the rôle of a ball-dancer on a loosened boulder. To add to the misery, with each step upward the air grew rarer and my breath shorter, making me feel a scorching sensation in the brain, while burning thirst was fast overcoming me—a morsel of snow, now and then taken, being utterly insufficient to quench it. Many a time I had almost fallen into a faint, and then my chronic tormentor, rheumatism, began to assert itself. I could go no further; I wanted to lie down on the snow and sleep for a long rest. But as often as I wished to do so, I had a warning from my guide that a rest then would be sure death for me, because, as he said, the air thereabouts was charged with a poisonous gas, and I would soon succumb to its effect; he was innocent of the knowledge of atmospheric rarity. I knew full well the weight of this warning, and I struggled on with what was to me at that time a superhuman effort. By the time we had finished wading across the sharp slope of the treacherous sand, and landed upon a rock-paved flat, even that effort failed me; I came to a halt in spite of myself, and also of the guide, who said that water was obtainable a little distance below. Finding me really helpless, the man went down and fetched me some water, which I took with a restorative drug. In a little while I[71] felt better, and during the rest thus obtained I liberally applied camphor-tincture over the smarting parts of my hands, which had more or less suffered from the rigorous exercise they had had in the use of the mountaineering staff. In the meantime night fell and, picking our way by the uncertain star-light and the reflexion from the snow, we made a sharp descent of some four miles, at the bottom of which we came upon Sanda, a hamlet of about ten cottages, in one of which we lodged for the night.

Sanda is a literally snow-bound little village, open to communication from the rest of the world only during the three summer months, and that through the precarious mountain path I had come over. I was profoundly astonished to find any people making a permanent abode of such a lonely secluded place, where the vegetation is so poor that the inhabitants have no staple food but tahu, which is a cereal somewhat akin to buckwheat, but much inferior in its dietetic qualities. Nevertheless I must not omit to pay a tribute to the grandeur of the natural scenery, the ever present snow-clad peaks, the gigantic heaps upon heaps of rugged rocks, the serene quietude, all inspiring the mind with awe and soul-lifting thoughts.

My exhaustion had been so great, that I was not able to resume the journey until the 18th, on which day we had again to wade over a treacherous slope, which yearly claimed, as I was told, a pilgrim or two as victims to its ‘sand avalanche’. We headed north-west, and after passing by a grand ancient forest of fir-trees, and then descending along the bank of a shooting mountain stream, we reached Tashithang (dale of brilliant illumination) at about 11 A. M. In the afternoon we proceeded in the same direction along a path which overlooked now a dangerously abrupt precipice of great depth, then a beautiful valley overgrown with flowering plants and stately trees, the home of ferocious wild animals, the least[72] pugnacious of which are the musk-deer. We passed that night under an overhanging piece of rock. Throughout the 19th we kept on facing north-west, proceeding through many similar scenes of nature, which grew, however, more fascinating in their picturesque grandeur as we came nearer to the great peak of Dhavalagiri. We had just reached the head of a slope of the great snow-clad mountain called Tashila, when—not only affected by the cold atmosphere, but as the result of general exhaustion—I became so weak that only by transferring my share of the luggage to the shoulders of my guide-carrier, in addition to his own, was I able to proceed slowly. I was thoroughly fatigued, but the sublime beauty of the scenery was so inspiring that I could not help standing still, lost in extatic admiration, and fancying that I saw in the variously shaped elevations the forms of giant deities of the Buḍḍhist mythology, sitting in solemn mid-air conclave. I was only aroused from my reverie by the warning of my guide that any further delay would kill me—because of the atmospheric conditions—and, allowing him to help me on by taking hold of one of my hands, we thence made a descent of about ten miles, and once more spent the night under a sheltering rock.

On the 20th of June we began our journey with a climb up another steep mountain, and in the valleys below I saw a species of deer, locally called nah, ruminating in herds of two or three hundred. Further up the mountain I came upon a number of wild yaks at short distances, while on the far-off mountain sides I occasionally discerned animals which, my guide told me, were snow-leopards, or changku (mountain dogs), both ferocious beasts that feed on their fellow-creatures, including man. Scattered here and there on our way I frequently noticed whitened bones of animals, most likely victims of these brutes. At some places the thawing snow revealed the bleached remains of human beings, probably frozen to death. The curious thing[73] was that the skull and the leg-bones were missing from every one of the skeletons I came across. It was explained to me that the Tibetans manufactured certain utensils, used for ritualistic purposes, from these portions of human bones; and that it was their practice to appropriate them whenever they came upon the remains of luckless wanderers! The sight and the information could not but fill me with an extremely uncomfortable feeling, mixed with one of profound sympathy, and many a time I prayed in silence for the repose of the souls of the poor neglected brethren, as we went along our way.

In due course we arrived at a village called Thorpo, situated on the other side of the mountain we had crossed. Another name of the village is Tsaka, and its inhabitants are believers in Bon, the ancient religion of Tibet. Thence we travelled on until July 1st, making an occasional stop of one or two days for recuperating purposes. On the way we passed through much the same sort of scenery, abounding in picturesque views as well as in various interesting plants and animals.

We had now come to the outer edge of the skirts of Mount Dhavalagiri. My luggage had become considerably lessened in weight, owing to the absence of what we had consumed on our way, and I now felt equal to taking over the burdens on to my own back. I turned to my guide, and told him that he could now go back, as I intended to make a lonely pilgrimage to Khambuthang—the Sacred Peach Valley—by myself. Nothing could have given him more astonishment than this intimation, for he had all along been under the impression that he was to accompany me back to Malba. He stoutly opposed my venturing on such a perilous expedition, which nobody, he said, but a living Buḍḍha, or Boḍhisaṭṭva, would dare to undertake. From the most ancient time, he continued, there had been only one or two persons who had ever come out of the[74] valley alive, and it was absolutely certain that I should be torn to pieces and devoured by the dreadful monsters that guarded its entrance and exit. But I was not to be moved, and the man went back, with hot tears of farewell, thinking no doubt that he had seen the last of me. A solitary traveller, in one of the untrodden depths of the Himālayas, and loaded with a dead weight of about sixty-five pounds, my progress thenceforward was a succession of incidents and accidents of the most dangerous nature, made doubly trying by innumerable hardships and privations.

On that first day of July, 1900, early in the morning, after watching the form of my faithful guide on his return journey until he had disappeared behind a projecting rock, I then turned round and proceeded due north. To my joy I found the pathway not so difficult as I had expected, owing to the entire absence of rugged rocks. Still, there was always enough to weigh me down with anxiety, as I had to push my way over the trackless field of deep snow, with a solitary compass and a mountain peak as my only guides. One night I slept on the snow under the sky, and another I passed in the hollow of a cliff; three days’ jogging, after parting with my carrier, brought me across to the other side of the northern peak of the Dhavalagiri. It is here that the dominion of Nepāl ends and

The Frontier of Tibet Begins.

As I stood on that high point, which commanded on the south the snow-capped heads of the Dhavalagiri family, and on the north the undulating stretch of the North-east Steppes of Tibet, interspersed here and there with shining streams of water, which appeared to flow out of and then disappear into the clouds, I felt as if my whole being had turned into a fountain of welling emotions. Toward the south, far, far away, beyond the sky-reaching Dhavalagiri, I imagined that I saw[76] Buḍḍhagayā, sacred to our beloved Lord Buḍḍha, where I had vowed my vow, and prayed for protection and mercy. That reminded me of the parting words I left behind me, when bidding adieu to my folks and friends at home. I had then said that in three years I would be able to enter Tibet. That was on the 26th of June, 1897, and here I was stepping on the soil of Tibet on the 4th of July, 1900.


How could I prevent myself from being transported with mingled feelings of joy, gratitude and hope? But I was tired and hungry. I took my luggage from my back and gently set it on a piece of rock, after brushing off the snow, and then, taking out my store of provisions, made some dough out of baked flour, snow and butter. Morsel after morsel, the mixture, with a sprinkle of powdered pepper and salt, went down my throat with unearthly sweetness, and I fancied that the Gods in Paradise could not feast on dishes more exquisitely palatable. I made away with two bowlfuls of the preparation with the greatest relish; that ended my meal for the day.

I should observe here that I have always adhered, as I adhere now, to the rule of one full meal a day, besides taking some dried fruits or something of that kind for breakfast. I may also state that the bowl of which I speak here was of a fairly large size, and two of them constituted a full good repast, especially as the wheat produced in cold latitudes seems to be richer in nutrition than that of warmer countries.

Well, I had dined grandly. The ocean of snow stretched around me and below me, far away. I was still in an extatic mood and all was interesting. But in which direction was I to proceed in resuming my journey?


The World of Snow.

According to the stock of information I had gathered, I was always to head north until I came to Lake Mānasarovara, and the point I had now to decide was how I might make the shortest cut to that body of fresh water. There was nothing to guide me but my compass and a survey I took of the vast expanse of snow to a great distance before me. The best I could do was guess-work. Following the impulses of instinct more than anything else, except the general direction indicated by the compass, I decided on taking a north-westerly course in making the descent. So I restarted, with the luggage on my back.

So far my route had lain principally on the sunny side of the mountains and the snow, at the most, had not been more than five or six inches deep; but from now onward I had to proceed along the reverse side, covered over with an abundance of the crystal layers, the unguessable thickness of which furnished me with a constant source of anxiety. In some places my feet sank fourteen or fifteen inches in the snow, and in others they did not go down more than seven or eight inches. This wading in the snow was more fatiguing than I had imagined at first, and the staff again rendered me great service; once or twice I found it a difficult job to extricate myself, when my foot, after stamping through the layers of snow, wedged itself tightly between two large pieces of hard stone. This sort of trudging lasted for nearly three miles down a gradual descent, at the end of which I emerged on a snowless beach of loose pebbles and stones of different sizes. By that time my Tibetan boots had become so far worn out, that at places my feet came into direct contact with the hard[78] gravel, which tore the skin and caused blood to flow, leaving the crimson marks of my footsteps behind. During the descent I felt little of my luggage, but now it began to tell on me, as the foot-hold under me consisted of loose round pebbles, when it was not sharp angular slabs of broken rock. Five miles onward, I came upon a pair of ponds formed of melting snow, and respectively about five miles and two and a half miles in circumference. Both the ponds were thick with immense flocks of wild ducks of different sizes, brownish or reddish in color, or spotted black on a white ground. Otherwise the waters of the ponds were as clear as could be, and the scenery around was picturesque in the extreme, so much so that, though with lacerated feet and stark-stiff about my waist with rheumatic pains, I almost forgot all that discomfort as I stood gazing around. The prestige of the ponds, if they had any, was of little matter to me then, but, as I happened to chance upon them all by myself, I was destined to introduce them to the world; and I christened the larger pond, which was rectangular in shape, ‘Ekai,’ after my own name, and the smaller, which described nearly a perfect circle, ‘Jinkow,’ a name which I sometimes use for myself. A little conceit you may call it if you like, but it was only for memory’s sake that I did these things; and when a little way down I came upon a gourd-shaped pond, about a mile and a quarter in circumference, I gave it the name of ‘Hisago Ike’—calabash pond. Still holding to my north-westerly direction, after having gone some distance I saw, to the north-west of a snow-clad mountain that rose far in front of me, two or three tents pitched on the ground. The sight aroused in me a sense of intense curiosity mingled with anxiety. Suppose I went to them; what would their occupants think of a stranger, suddenly emerging upon them from pathless wilds? Once their suspicion was roused, I might in vain hope to allay it;[79] what was I to do then? I espied a declivity below me, which extended north-west in a gradual descent, far out of sight of the tents, and I saw that unless I took it, I should either come on those tents or have my progress barred by a succession of high mountains. With nothing else to help me to arrive at a decision, I then entered on what is termed ‘Danjikwan sanmai’ in Japanese-Buḍḍhist terminology, a meditative process of making up one’s mind, when neither logic nor accurate knowledge is present to draw upon for arriving at a conclusion. The process is, in short, one of abnegating self and then forming a judgment, a method which borders on divination, or an assertion of instinctive powers. The result was that I decided to take the[80] route that lay toward the tents, and by nightfall I came within hailing distance of them, when a pack of five or six ferocious-looking dogs caught sight of me and began barking furiously. They were formidable animals with long shaggy fur and very cruel looks. I had before then been told that when attacked by dogs of this kind I must not strike them, but that I should only ward them off, quietly waving a stick in front of their muzzles, and on this occasion I religiously followed that instruction, and found to my entire satisfaction that the dogs did not try to snap at me. Proceeding thus, and coming outside one of the tents, I called out to its occupants.



A kind old Dame.

My call was responded to by an old woman who, coming out of the tent and finding a tattered and tired wayfarer, said more to herself than to me: “Why, it is a pilgrim, poor, poor.” Seeing no reason to suppose that I appeared an object of suspicion to her, I ventured to inform her that I was from the direction of Lhasa, bound for Kang Rinpoche, Mount Kailāsa, and besought her to give me a night’s lodging in her tent, as it was unbearably cold to sleep in the open air. My request was cheerfully complied with and, inside the tent, the old dame expressed her curiosity to know how I happened to be there, as the locality was not one generally visited by pilgrims. She easily believed my explanation to the effect that I had lost my way while heading for the abode of Gelong Rinpoche, and then gave me a cup of tea out of a kettle that stood boiling over the fire; accepting it with thanks, I declined the baked flour offered immediately after. I may observe here that the tea offered me was not brewed in the same way as we take it in Japan, but it was more of the nature of a soup, the ingredients of which were powdered tea-leaves, butter and salt, forbiddingly offensive in smell, until one gets accustomed to it, when it is found to constitute a very agreeable beverage. The Tibetan custom is to serve a guest with a cup of this kind of tea first, and then to regale him with some baked flour. I excused myself for declining the hospitality of my kind hostess by informing her that I adhered strictly to the Buḍḍhist rule of fasting hours, which piece of information produced a very favorable impression on her[82] as to my personality, as she seemed to respect me all the more for it. Then, leading in the conversation that followed, she told me that Gelong Rinpoche’s abode was at a day’s distance, and that this Lama was the holiest of all the priests to be found throughout the whole Jangthang (Jangthang, as I explained, literally means ‘northern plain,’ but in Tibet itself the appellation is applied to its western steppes). Continuing, the old hostess said that a visit to the holy man always resulted in great spiritual benefit, and urged me by all means to call on him. There was a river, she said, in my way, the waters of which were too cold to be forded, and she offered me the use of one of her yaks. Her son was away just then, but she expected him back in the evening, and he could accompany me in the morning, as she wanted him too to pay a visit to the holy man. All this was very acceptable to me, but one thing that troubled me was the sorry condition to which my boots had become reduced; and I asked the dame if I could not mend them. Mending in this case meant, as I was told, patching the worn-out places with yak’s hide, which required, however, two days’ soaking in water before it became soft enough to be sewn. My hostess said that they—she and her son—were to stay only one more day in that particular spot where I had chanced upon them, and suggested that I might make a stay of two or three days at Gelong Rinpoche’s, so as to give myself the time to do some mending. She offered that I should, on the morrow, put on her son’s spare pair of boots and proceed to the holy Lama’s in them, saying that I might give them back to her son after reaching my destination. In the night, just as I was going to sleep, the son turned up, and more conversation ensued amongst us, chiefly concerning the saintly man, of whom the mother and the son knew no end of wonderful things, altogether superhuman in character.


Early the next morning, by order of the good old dame, the son busied himself in getting a yak ready for me. The yak is a bovine somewhat larger than our bull, though a little lower in height. Its hide is covered all over very thickly with long shaggy hair, and its tail terminates in a bushy tuft. The female yak is called bri in Tibetan. Its face looks very much like that of common cattle, but it has a pair of piercing eyes, which give you a rather uncomfortable feeling when turned full on you, while its horns are dangerously pointed and threateningly shaped. A better acquaintance, however, shows the animal to be a quiet and tractable one, even much more so than our cattle. I may yet have occasion to tell what an invaluable beast of burden the yak is for the Tibetan. My hostess’ son brought out three yaks, one for me to ride, another for himself, and the third to carry his presents, consisting of dried milk, butter and other things, to the holy man. As for the good old dame, she proved to be the very essence of kindness, and on my parting from her she loaded me with large quantities of baked wheat-flour, dried milk, and butter, besides a farewell cup of tea, a treatment which is considered great hospitality in Jangthang.

So equipped, we started on our trip in quest of the holy man of the plain. After a ride of about two and a half miles, involving ascent and descent of equal length towards the north-west, we were overtaken by a hail-storm, and had to make a halt of two hours until it had blown over. During the halt, we took down our luggage from the backs of the yaks, so that it might not get wet, and I utilised that interval quite profitably to myself by pumping the young man for information regarding the routes and geography of the regions I was to go through before I could reach my final destination. Resuming our ride, we soon came to a river which was sixty yards wide, and easy to ford for men riding on yaks, as we were. Crossing two more[84] rivers of the like width, and making an ascent of a little over six miles, we came in sight of a large white cliff, which, as my companion informed me, was the dwelling place of Gelong Rinpoche. Continuing the ascent and approaching nearer, I found out that what had appeared like a huge and solid piece of rock was really a hollow cliff forming a large cave, and that there was another concave cliff in front of it, which was not white but greyish in color, and was inhabited by one of Gelong Rinpoche’s disciples, as I came to discover afterwards. It was about three o’clock in the afternoon that we arrived at the entrance of the front cave, where my companion asked if he could see Gelong Rinpoche, though he knew that he was considerably behind the regular hour, setting forth the hail incident as an excuse for his delay. The answer he received was absolutely in the negative; so he took down the presents and entrusted them to the disciple, to be sent up to Gelong Rinpoche as from Pasang (his mother’s name), saying that he could not wait till the next day to see the Lama, as he was going to strike his tent and move away there and then.

Left alone with the occupant of the grey cliff, I found him to be an ordinary Lama of rather good parts. In the cave, put away in proper places, were articles of daily use for devotional practices, bedding, the kitchen utensils, etc. Having obtained the Lama’s permission to make a few days’ stay, I commenced my mending work by soaking in water a piece of yak’s hide which the kind dame Pasang had given me on parting. On my asking for information as to how I could reach Kang Rinpoche, the answer I got was very discouraging. It was to the effect that two or three days’ journey, after leaving the cave, would bring me to a region inhabited by nomads; for another two or three days I should be in the same region, and then, for the next fifteen or sixteen days, I should[85] have to go through a wilderness entirely destitute of human kind. I was very fortunate, said my host, in that I had chanced upon that ‘kind old dame,’ who was noted for her charity; otherwise I should have had little possibility of obtaining even lodging accommodation, still less of securing a companion to the cliff; and it was out of the question for me to secure anything like a guide for my onward journey; human beings were too scarce in those parts for such a luxury. Furthermore he assured me that I should be pounced upon by robbers as soon as I should reach the inhabited parts, as I seemed to be loaded with luggage worth taking. I had nothing to fear on that score, I told my host, because all I should do would be to hand over all I had. My host then told me that he had been to Kang Rinpoche two or three times himself, and gave me a minute description of the route I was to take for that destination. After a meditation exercise, in which my host joined, we both went to sleep at about midnight.

When I re-opened my eyes, I saw the Lama already making a fire outside the cave. It should be remembered that I passed myself off as a pilgrim from Lhasa, here as elsewhere, and I had to be ‘Lhasan’ in all I did. That morning, therefore, I got up and set about reading the Sacred Text without rinsing my mouth. How foul I felt in the mouth then! but then it was ‘Lhasan,’ you see! When the usual tea, butter, and salt soup was ready, my host gave me a bowlful of it, and then we breakfasted on the regulation diet of baked flour, salt and pepper, all with uncleansed mouths! After that, we whiled away the morning in religious talk until eleven o’clock, when the hour for being presented to Gelong Rinpoche had arrived.


A holy Cave-Dweller.

Gelong lobzang gonpo la kyabs su chio.” This is, as I was told and as I observed myself, what the followers of the dweller in the white cave—and that included natives living within a hundred-mile radius of the cliff—said three times, accompanied by as many bowings in the direction of the cave, every night before going to bed, and it means: “I take my refuge in the Gelong, named noble-minded Savior.” This shows in what high esteem the holy man to whom I was about to be introduced was held by the local people. There had now gathered about twenty people in front of the grey cave, waiting to be taken to the white one. During my stay I noticed that a similar scene took place every morning, the visitors passing the night before in their tents, pitched at the foot of the mountain, on the top of which the caves are situated. Outside the hours I mentioned before, the Lama was under no circumstance whatever to be seen.

Shortly before noon I walked up to the white cave, together with the waiting crowd. I found the entrance to the cave barred by a fence and a closed gate. Soon after, a grey-haired old priest, of seventy years of age, made his appearance, and, unlocking the gate, walked out to where were the expectant devotees, each of whom gave an offering or offerings, either of money or in kind, as his or her turn came to receive maṇi. The maṇi is a formula pronounced by the aged Lama, who spoke the sacred words: “Om maṇi padme hum,” the recipient repeating them. The maṇi came after a brief sermon. Then followed the imparting by the Lama of various instructive precepts to the audience; but just previous to that, each person individually went up to a table, on the[87] other side of which sat their venerable teacher. After three bows, they proceeded with bent body and the tongue stuck out—the mark of profound obeisance—and, stopping in front of the table, held their heads close to the Lama. The latter, with the palm of his right hand, gently touched their heads by way of blessing, in acknowledgment of their courtesy. In the case of an individual of social position, the Lama used both hands in administering the blessing. I may explain here the Tibetan mode of blessing. Tibetan Lamas use four kinds of blessing, according to the rank of the person to whom it is administered. These orders of blessing, which are at the same time those of greeting, which they call chakwang in Tibet, are first the ‘head to head blessing,’ which consists in touching the other’s head with one’s own forehead; second the ‘double-handed blessing;’ third, the ‘single-handed blessing;’ both of which are self-explanatory. The fourth is resorted to by a Lama of the highest order toward his inferiors and laymen, and consists in touching the head of the recipient with the tufted end of a stick, which constitutes a special article used in Buḍḍhist ritual. This last ceremony is performed only by the Dalai Lama in Lhasa, and Paṇchen Rinpoche in Shigatse. Gelong Rinpoche received me with the double-handed blessing. I found in him a stoutly built, strikingly-featured, grey-haired old man of noble bearing, who, because of his well-preserved physique, did not at first glance look like a person who had passed the best part of his life in religious meditation. But closer observation of what he did and said convinced me that he was a man of true charity, dearly loving his fellow-creatures, and I approached him with a feeling of profound respect. The first thing he said to me was that I was not a man to wander about in a dreary wilderness, and he asked me what had brought me to him. The dialogue that then followed[88] between Gelong Rinpoche and myself was substantially as below:

“I am a travelling priest making a pilgrimage through different countries in quest of Buḍḍhist truths. I have heard of your fame, and have come to be taught one thing.”

“What can that be, friend?”

“You are saving the souls of the multitude, and I wish to learn the grand secret which serves so well for your purpose.”

“Friend, you know that well enough yourself. All Buḍḍhism is in you, and you have nothing to learn from me.”

“True, all Buḍḍhism is in the Self, but in ancient days Jenzai Dōji travelled far and wide in search of fifty-three wise men, and we, the Buḍḍhists, are all taught to derive lessons from the great hardships then undergone by him. I am far from being a Jenzai Dōji, and yet I am privileged to imitate him: it is thus that I have called on you.”

“Good! I have but one means to guide me in saving souls, and the ‘Grand Gospel of Salvation’ is that guide of mine.”

“May I have the pleasure of seeing that Gospel?”

“Most certainly.” The Lama here went into his cave, and, fetching out a volume, kindly lent it to me. On asking what was the gist of the Gospel of Salvation, I was told that it resolved itself into teaching that the three yānas (vehicles) were but one yāna. I then withdrew and went back to the grey cave, taking with me the borrowed volume, and I spent the rest of the day in reading through the Gospel, which I found to be a compilation, resembling in its tenets the Hoke-kyo—the Sūṭra Saḍḍharma Puṇdarīka—and in some places it even read like extracts from the last mentioned Gospel. The next day I turned cobbler, and mended my boots. On the morning following, I revisited Gelong Rinpoche and returned the Gospel. In so doing, the Lama and I had quite an argument, which, in short, was an exchange of views, based[89] on the Tibetan school of Buḍḍhism on the part of the Lama, and on Japanese and Chinese schools on mine.

On the 7th of July I made a parting call on the holy dweller of the white cliff, when the good man presented me with considerable quantities of baked flour, butter, and raisins, saying that without a full and good supply of them I might die on the journey. This was all very nice, but it increased my load by twenty pounds, an addition which always counts a great deal to a solitary peddler, going a long distance over difficult roads, as I was to do. Back in the grey cave, I once more set myself to repairing my boots, but the work was new to me, and I was more successful in sticking the needle into my finger than in progressing with the job. The upshot was that the occupant of the cave, taking pity on me, kindly did the greater part of the work for me. Early on the 8th I bade good-bye to the kind-hearted disciple of Gelong Rinpoche, and relaunched myself on my journey, with eighty-five solid pounds on my back, which in no time began to ache under the weight.


In helpless Plight.

Some hours after leaving the grey cliff I reached a river about 180 yards wide. Before plunging into it to wade across, I took my noon-meal of baked flour: it was then about eleven o’clock. The river was the one of which I had been informed, and I knew it could be forded. After the repast I took off my boots and trousers, and having also tucked up the other portions of my dress, went down into the river. Oh! that plunge! it nearly killed me; the water was bitingly cold, and I saw at once that I could never survive the crossing of it. I at once turned round and crawled up the bank, but the contact with the water had already chilled me, and produced in me a sort of convulsion. What was to be done? I happened to think of ointment as a remedy, as well as a preventive, under the circumstances. I took out a bottle of clove oil I had with me, and smeared it in abundance all over my body. What with the sun shining and my giving myself a good rubbing all over, I felt better. Then, equipped as before, I made a second plunge. The water was cold, indeed cold enough to make my feet quite insensible before I had gone half-way across, and the rest of the fording I managed simply by the help of my two staves. The river was about hip-deep and the stream quite rapid, and when I reached the opposite bank I found myself almost a frigid body, stiff and numb in every part.

The next thing to be done was, of course, to recover the circulation of blood in the almost frozen limbs; but I discovered this to be no easy task, for my hands were too stiff to do anything, and it took full two hours to put myself in shape to resume the journey. As it was, when I[91] started out at about two o’clock, my legs were so flabby that I felt as if they were going to drop off. And my increased luggage weighed so heavily on my back, that I was now compelled to take it down and devise some new way of carrying it. This I did by dividing the baggage into two equal parts and, tying one to each end of my two staves (which I had tied together), I slung them across my shoulder. But two rough round sticks grinding against the untrained flesh of the shoulder, with eighty pounds of pressure, were not much of relief for a novice at this method of carrying burdens, and at every hundred or two hundred yards of my progress, which was tardy enough, I had to alter my mode of conveyance. In the two hours which followed, I made an ascent of half a mile and then a descent of about a mile, and when I had arrived at the bank of a river at about four o’clock, exhaustion made further progress impossible for me for the day.


Settled down for a bivouac, I set about making a fire to get tea ready. In Tibetan wilds the only kind of fuel accessible to travellers (except of course dead leaves of trees for kindling purposes) is the dry dung of the yak (these animals being set loose to graze for themselves) and the kyang, a species of native wild horse. I gathered some of these lumps, and built them up into a sort of partially hollow cone, with a broad base and low elevation, and then three pieces of nearly equal size placed tripod-like around this cone completed my arrangement for putting my tea-pot over the fire. But the fire was still to be made, and I may say that making a fire of this description is not a very easy performance until one acquires the knack of the thing; even a pair of hand-bellows is of little help, especially when the fuel is not sufficiently dry. Matches being unknown in those regions, I had to resort to the old-fashioned method of obtaining sparks of fire by striking a stone against a piece of iron, and it is again a matter of[93] art to make those sparks kindle the tinder. The tea-pot I carried with me then was one large enough to hold a quart and a half of water. In those high regions water boils very quickly, owing to the diminished atmospheric pressure, and as soon as it began to boil I would throw into it a handful of Chinese brick tea; but I had to let the mixture stand boiling for at least two hours before I could obtain a liquor of the right color and flavor. I should add that it is the usual practice with Tibetans, which I followed, to put some natural soda (which is found in Tibet) into the water when the tea is thrown in. When enough boiling had been done, I would put in some butter and salt, and after a little stirring all was ready to be served. It was this tedious process that I went through on that river bank. After that, I went about gathering all the dung I could find, and then, returning, piled it up all over the fire to make it last the whole night—a precaution which was necessary to keep off snow-leopards, which often prove to be dangerous nocturnal enemies of man in these parts.

To keep a fire burning brightly through the night was, however, to court a still greater danger, for it might attract marauding robbers, on the look out from far-off hill and mountain tops. Of the two dangers, that of robbers was the worst, for whereas a snow-leopard will sometimes leave a sleeping man alone, even with no fire, robbers will never leave him alone. Under these circumstances I left my fire smouldering, with a well-pressed layer of sandy soil over it, so that it would last till the morning, giving me at the same time enough warmth to keep me alive. When the moon rose that night I saw it was nearly full. Its pale light silvered the waters of the river before me. All was quiet, save for the occasional roars of wild animals. With all its dreary wildness, the scenery around was not without its charms that appealed to the soul.


When rising slow among the mountain heights,
The moon I see in those Tibetan wilds,
My fancy views that orb as Sovereign Lord
Of that Celestial Land, my country dear,
Those islands smiling in the far-off East.

The night was extremely cold, and I could not sleep. I sat up and fell to meditation; and while I was wandering over the borderland, half-awake and half-asleep, the morning came. With a start I got up, and on going to the river’s edge I found its waters frozen. I then stirred up the fire, and after due preparations made a hearty breakfast. When ready to start on the day’s journey, I could not recall the instruction given me before—whether to follow the river up its course, which would lead up to a high peak, or to proceed down stream. Here was a dilemma! but I felt sure of one thing, and that was that, weak and exhausted, I could not survive the ascent of the steep peak. By necessity, then, I proceeded down the stream, but I failed to come upon a rock upon which, as I had been informed, I should find an image of Buḍḍha carved. No wonder! for I took the wrong direction, as I afterwards found out. Proceeding above five miles, I emerged upon an extensive plain, which I judged must be seventeen or eighteen miles by eight or nine, with the river flowing through it.

On consulting the compass I found that, in order to proceed towards the north-west, I should have to cross the river, a prospect particularly unpleasant just then, as I thought of the chilling effects of the icy waters. As I stood taking a survey of the river in an undecided frame of mind, I noticed a bonze wading across the stream towards me. As he landed on the bank, I hailed him, and eventually found him to be a pilgrim from Kham, bound for Gelong Rinpoche’s cave. Then I negotiated with him to assist me across the river, after having astonished him with my generosity in giving him a comparatively large quantity of dried peaches and flour, articles particularly[95] precious for a lonely traveller through those regions. I made him understand that I was ill and weak, and not equal to the task of crossing the river, heavily burdened with luggage as I was. Whatever was the effect of this piece of information, my liberality soon won him over to my help, and, taking all my luggage on his back and leading me by the hand, he assisted me to ford the stream. Having landed me and my luggage safely on the other side, and having also told me that, following the course he pointed out, I should come to an inhabited place after two days’ journey, he bade me good-bye and once more crossed the river. I, for my part, started forthwith, heading in the direction prescribed for me.


A Foretaste of distressing Experiences.

After parting with the Kham bonze, I had not proceeded far before I began to feel a shortness of breath which increased in intensity as I went along, and was followed by nausea of an acute type. I made a halt, took down my luggage (which, by the way, had by this time produced very painful bruises on my back) and then took a dose of hotan—a soothing restorative. The result was that I brought up a good mouthful of blood. Not being subject to heart disease, I concluded that I had been affected by the rarity of the atmosphere. I think, as I thought then, that our lung-capacity is only about one-half of that of the native Tibetan. Be this as it may, I felt considerable alarm at this, my first experience of internal hemorrhage, and thought it would be ill-advised to continue my journey that day. I had made only eight miles, five up and three down, over undulating land; but I was so greatly fatigued that, without courage enough to go and search for yak-dung, I fell fast asleep the moment I laid me down for a rest. I do not know how long I had slept, when something pattering on my face awoke me. As soon as I realised that I was lying under a heavy shower of large-sized hail-stones, I tried to rise, but I could not; for my body literally cracked and ached all over, as if I had been prostrated with a severe attack of rheumatism. With a great effort I raised myself to a sitting posture and endeavored to calm myself. After a while my pulse became nearly normal and my breathing easier, and I knew that I was not yet to die. But the general aching of the body did not abate at all, and it was out of the question for me to resume the journey then, or to[97] go dung-gathering. Apparently there were some hours of night yet left, so I went into the ‘meditation exercise,’ sitting upon a piece of sheep’s hide and wrapped up in the tuk-tuk, a sort of native bed-quilt weighing about twenty-five pounds, and made of thick sail-cloth lined with sheep’s wool. Sleep was no more possible. As I looked up and around, I saw the bright moon high above me, the uncertain shapes of distant lofty peaks forming a most weird back-ground against the vast sea of undulating plain. Alone upon one of the highest places in the world, surrounded by mysterious uncertainty, made doubly so by the paleness of the moonlight, both the scene and the situation would have furnished me with enough matter for my soul’s musings, but, alas! for my bodily pains. Yet the wild weirdness of the view was not altogether lost on me, and I was gradually entering into the state of spiritual conquest over bodily ailment, when I recalled the celebrated uta of that ancient divine of Japan, Daito Kokushi:

On Shijyo Gojyo Bridge, a thoroughfare,
I sit in silence holy undisturbed,
The passing crowds of men and damsels fair,
I look upon as waving sylvan trees.

In reply to this I composed the following:

On grass among those lofty plains on earth,
I enter meditation deep and wide,
I choose, nor such secluded mountain-trees,
Nor passing crowds of men and damsels fair.

I was almost in an extatic state, forgetful of all my pain, when another uta rose to my mind:

O Mind! By Dharma’s genial light and warmth
The pain-inflicting snows are melted fast,
And flow in rushing streams that sweep away
Delusive Ego and Non-Ego both.

Thus in meditation I sat out the night, and when the morning came I breakfasted on some dried grapes. I felt much refreshed both in mind and body, and made good progress on my journey that morning.


Coming to a small clear stream, I went through the process of fire-making and tea-preparing, and then took a meal of baked flour. Crossing the stream and then mounting an elevation, I saw far in front of me one white and several black tents pitched in the plain. The sight of a white tent puzzled me a good deal. Tibetan tent-cloth is almost always dark in color, the natives weaving the stuff with yak’s hair, which they first take between their teeth, draw out and twist into a yarn between their fingers, putting it on to the loom when a sufficient quantity of coarse thread has thus been obtained. I could not solve the mystery; but it mattered little after all to me then; I only wanted to reach the tents as quickly as possible, and to be allowed a few days’ rest there. I had walked about five miles, and the last mile or so brought back on me the now chronic trouble, the pain of fatigue and shortness of breath. When, somehow, I had managed to drag myself along to the threshold of the largest of the tents, the welcome I received was in the shape of five or six ferocious-looking native dogs, and it was a right hot reception, to appreciate which I had to put all my remaining energy into the gentle warning of my staff.


A Beautiful Rescuer.

While I was engaged in the pleasant work of warding off the dogs, a woman, apparently roused by the loud barking of the animals, put her head out of the tent. Hers was a beautiful face, so beautiful that I was surprised to see it in such a wilderness. For a while the woman stood staring at me, and then, coming out of the tent, she scolded the dogs. One word from her was enough, and the beasts all ran away crest-fallen and with tails down, so that I could not help smiling at them. And, smiling, I asked the beauty of the wilderness for a night’s lodging. Her answer was that she must first obtain the permission of “her Lama,” and, so saying, she disappeared within the tent. At her second appearance I was admitted into the tent, and a very hospitable man “her Lama” proved to be. It was a great relief to me. That afternoon and evening I spent in pleasant conversation with my host and his wife. For two days more I was allowed to recuperate myself in their tent, and in the interval I learned a good deal about my future route. Among other things I was told that at half a day’s distance on horseback there was a river called Kyang-chu (wild horse river), a large tributary of the Brahmapuṭra, which I had to cross, but that it admitted of fording only by those well acquainted with its shallows. The necessity which thus arose of having a qualified companion compelled me to prolong my stay with my kind host till the 13th of July. It was on the night of the 12th that, at the invitation of my host, the occupants of the other tents, numbering about thirty men and women, came to his tent to hear my preaching, as they had been told by my host that I was a holy priest.[101] My sermon to the assembly procured for me various offerings in kind. Among the audience was a young girl who insisted on my accepting from her a neck ornament, consisting of seven coral beads and a gem. I took it from her hand for a moment, but with sincere thanks I returned it her, as I really had no use for it. But she, with the support of her companions, insisted on my accepting it, and I was finally persuaded to take the gem alone, which even now I keep, valuing it as a memento of a dear little girl of the Tibetan wilds. The next day the owner of the white tent came to my host and gave him some raisins, dried peaches and dates, taking in exchange sheep’s wool, butter and other local products. This man proved to be a trader from Ladak and spoke but little Tibetan. Apparently a devoted Buḍḍhist, he asked me a great many things about my religion, and seemed to be highly pleased with all my replies; so much so that he begged me to come to his tent and dine with him. So at noon I went to his tent, where he regaled me with delicacies considered to be costly in those parts. It was this Ladak trader who was to start on the day following, and to be my guide in crossing the Kyang-chu.


As for my host the Lama, I learned that he was really a man of the order belonging to the new sect of Tibetan Buḍḍhism, which by the way strictly enjoins celibacy and abstinence on all its priests, so I was considerably perplexed at seeing him living with a wife. He called himself Alchu Tulku, which means ‘incarnation of Alchu’—the name of a place on the plateau. His wife was exceedingly beautiful, as I have already hinted. But it was none of my business to pry into the matter any further. It was enough for me that, after all my distressing experiences, he received me with open arms, treated me with the utmost kindness, and behaved in a manner bespeaking a large heart and deeply charitable[102] mind. I noticed that he owned about sixty yaks in addition to two hundred sheep, and that he was very well circumstanced, though he might not perhaps be called a very rich man. Besides, his charming wife appeared to be thoroughly devoted to him, and he seemed in every respect the master of a very happy home. What more could I wish for them?

But I was much surprised at a discovery which I made on coming back to them from a visit to the white tent. When in the evening I approached the Lama’s tent, I heard noises inside which suggested a fearful quarrel at its height. On entering, I saw that a wonderful metamorphosis had come over the erstwhile beauty. Her face was burning red and undergoing the most disagreeable contortions I had ever seen, as she went on calling her husband names and otherwise insulting him in the vilest language imaginable. It was all about “another woman” and also about the husband’s partiality for his own relatives. A man of quiet disposition as the Lama was, he heroically maintained his self-composure and silence until she dared to call him “beast,” when he rose and feigned to beat her. He probably did so because he was irritated at my appearance on the scene just at that juncture. But that was a blundering move on his part, for the moment he raised his fist, the now thoroughly maddened termagant threw herself at his feet, and, with eyes shut, shouted, shrieked and howled, daring him to kill and eat her! What could I do? I played the part of a peace-maker, and it was lucky that I succeeded in the office. I got the woman to go to bed on the one hand, and persuaded the Lama to spend the night with the Ladak trader, to whose tent I accompanied him. And so the last night I spent with my kind host brought me a rude awakening, which caused me to shed tears of deep sympathy, not necessarily for Alchu Tulku only, but for all my brethren of the Order, whose moral[103] weakness had betrayed them into breaking their vows of celibacy, and who in consequence were forced to go through scenes as I have described.


The Lighter Side of the Experiences.

On the 14th of July I bade adieu to Alchu Lama, and, riding on a horse he lent to me and in the company of the Ladak trader, I resumed my journey, now heading due north. My luggage was taken care of by my companion, who had six men under him and some ponies. First, we went through an undulating land where snow remained here and there, and grasses were struggling to grow. A ride of about fourteen miles brought us to the river Kyang-chu, whence, about fifty miles to the north-west, I saw a great snow-covered mountain. It was in that mountain that the river had its rise, and, following its course with my eye, I saw it flow into and disappear in the upper part of another elevation on the south-east. The Kyang-chu was about four hundred and fifty yards wide at places, while it narrowed to sixty yards or so at others, where its waters shot between walls of huge rocks. Before crossing the river we took our noon-meal. I was now a guest of my companion, and the latter’s men went about gathering fuel and getting things ready, while I sat down and read the Scriptures, and I had altogether an easy time of it. Before our parting, Alchu Lama had given me about five go, or about the fiftieth part of a peck of rice. I had this cooked, and invited my companion and all his men to partake of it. It was a grand treat; I had not tasted rice for a long time. Rice, by the way, comes to these regions from Nepāl, and costs about seventy sen per sho, or ten go.

The river had a sandy bed of considerable depth, and it was judged dangerous to make the ponies wade across it laden. All the baggage was therefore taken from their[105] backs, and carried across the stream piece by piece by the men, who had stripped themselves naked. My companion and I also divested ourselves of all our clothing, and began to cross the icy stream. Where we forded it, the breadth must have been more than four hundred yards. The depth of the water was from three to four feet, and another danger was from the blocks of ice floating down from the upper reaches, which we had to take good care to escape, for fear of receiving serious cuts. After hard efforts we reached the opposite shore, where, in the warm sun, I had time enough to recover myself from the effects of the cold water while the men repacked the baggage on the ponies.

Once more in the saddle, we turned north-west along the river, and after a jog of about fifteen miles we came upon a nomad station, where seven or eight tents were visible. We were lodged in the largest tent, the owner of which was an elderly man named Karma. The intimation that I had come from Alchu Lama at once secured me most hospitable treatment from Karma. In the Karma family I observed a very singular type of married life, almost unique even in the wondrous land of Tibet, where (as I will tell more in detail later on) nothing is more common than three or five brothers with one communal wife. In Karma’s case it was quite the opposite, for he was about fifty years old and had three wives, all living. The eldest Mrs. Karma was about forty-seven years of age, and blind; the next about thirty-five, and the third about twenty-five. Mr. Karma had a single child by his youngest wife. Polygamy is only very rarely practised in Tibet, though there are instances of two or three sisters taking, or marrying, one common husband for economy’s sake. Karma’s was the only instance I came across in Tibet in which one man deliberately indulged in the luxury of three wives.


Mr. Karma asked me to read the Sacred Books for his family, and I readily consented, for a couple of days’ rest was not disagreeable to me. While staying with him I bought an extra pair of boots, a precaution which I had foolishly omitted to take before, to my great inconvenience. I also purchased a sheep, to make it a beast of burden for me.

On July 18th I left Karma’s, with about fifty pounds of luggage on my back and twenty-five more on that of the sheep. I led the sheep with a yak’s tail rope tied to its neck. The animal proved docile enough for a couple of hundred yards, but not further. It wanted to go home, and tried to assert its right to do so with tremendous force. For my part, I stood on my own right, and there ensued a tug of war between the sheep and its master, and a very lively one it was. I argued with the animal, adducing various proofs of my determination, among which I may mention a rather free use of one of my staves. But the sheep showed that he had a stronger determination than mine, and I began to be dragged backward. My severe exertions even threatened to cause me some serious injury, and I finally gave in and allowed myself to be led back to Karma’s, as I had a mind to find out the best way of managing the animal. On my second call on him, Karma expressed his opinion that my sheep was not yet broken sufficiently for travelling purposes, and that the purchase of a better-trained one as its companion might induce the refractory animal to obey my will. I followed the suggestion and paid one yen twenty-five sen for an additional sheep; seventy sen would have bought me a younger one, but I wanted a fully grown and fully broken one, and I was obliged to stay there that night, for all his sheep had gone to the plains. On that very evening I bought another, and tried putting on his back one half of my share of the burden[107] of the morning; this one proved to be a very good companion to my first sheep, and things went splendidly on the trial.


The largest River of Tibet.

On the day I left Karma’s, about three o’clock in the afternoon I was overtaken by a party of men, the leader of whom happened to be, as I afterwards found, the chief of the district of Hor-tosho, through which I was then travelling. They accosted me. I saw in the glint of the chief’s eyes something that told me that he had half a mind to suspect me. I perceived at once the danger I might be in, and managed to bring the conversation round to the subject of Gelong Rinpoche. As good luck would have it, the chief happened to be a great believer in Gelong Rinpoche. Had I met the holy man? Yes! And more—I had been taught to study the mysteries of Boḍhi-saṭṭva and Mahā-saṭṭva, besides having been given many valuable presents by the saintly Teacher. All these incidents, of which I gave full particulars, had the effect of completely melting away the suspicion which had almost formed in the chief’s mind. He then invited me to come to his house-tent the next day and read the Sacred Books for him. His name was Wangdak.

On the following day Wangdak lent me a horse and caused his men to look after my luggage. A ride of something over ten miles brought me to the chief’s habitation, where I found his worldly possessions quite equal to the weighty position he held as a district chief. All went well. The next day Wangdak caused one of his men and a horse to accompany me for a distance of about six miles, at the end of which the servant with the horse took leave of me, after informing me that one night’s bivouac and some walking on a comparatively easy road would bring me to another nomad station.


In due time I reached this station, where I found four tents, on approaching which I was, as usual, met by a welcome-party of dogs. I shall say no more of the canine welcome, which is an invariable thing on arriving at a nomad’s tent. At one day’s distance from the station I was to come to Tamchok Khanbab, which forms the upper course of the Brahmapuṭra, and is the greatest of Tibetan rivers, and I needed a guide, without whom I could not think of any attempt to cross it. Unfortunately I found no one willing to become my guide, although I made liberal offers of money and other things of value. I was almost on the verge of despair, when a sickly looking old woman came to me. She said that she was very ill and begged me to examine her, and to tell her when she would die; a pleasant request, indeed! But I took pity on her, for I could see that hers was a case of consumption in its advanced stage. I granted her request, to please her, and also gave her some harmless medicine to ease her mind, besides telling her how to take care of herself, and other things such as a good doctor would say when he knows his patient to be in a hopeless condition, but not likely to die immediately. The old dame was gratified beyond measure, and wished to give me something in return, and she implored me to say what that something should be. Here was my chance. I told her the plight I was in, and asked her to secure, if possible, a couple of men and some horses—say three—to take me to, and help me to cross, the river on the morrow. Nothing could be easier; she was only too glad to be able to oblige so holy a Lama. When the morrow came all was done as I had requested. It is a general thing for a Tibetan pack-horse to carry on its back its driver and thirty pounds more or less of baggage. In my case the horses had an easier time of it, because my luggage was distributed on three of them. We started at five o’clock in the morning, and having covered about[110] seventeen miles by eleven o’clock, we arrived on the banks of the Tamchok Khanbab. Here I prepared my noon-meal in the usual manner, and took it before crossing the river.

This river was a mountain stream of considerable breadth, with extensive sand-beaches on either side. The width of the beach alone on the eastern side was about two and a half miles, and that on the opposite side about half as much; the width of the stream itself, when I crossed it, was not more than a little over a mile. It was at the water’s edge that we took our meal. When all was ready for crossing, I once more felt the necessity of anointing my body, but at the same time I also felt the undesirability of letting my guides see what I was doing. Under a certain pretext, therefore, I walked away from them, and when out of their sight I quickly finished the operation. Then we plunged into the water. The condition of the stream with its cuttingly cold water was much the same as that of the Kyang-chu (except for the greater width to be forded) and the water in some places was not more than seven or eight inches deep; but the sand was so treacherous that we often sank in it right up to our hips. In this case, as in the other, my guides took my luggage on their backs, leaving the horses behind, and also helped my sheep to cross. Upon terra firma on the other side, my men pointed to a gorge between two mountains rising to the north-west, and told me that I was to go through the gorge, and thence to Lake Mānasarovara, after traversing an uninhabited region for fifteen or sixteen days; the road would take me to Mānasarovara first and then to Kang Rinpoche. I thanked my guides for their trouble and information, and gave them each a Kata. A kata is a small piece of thin white silk, which Tibetans present as a compliment. It generally accompanies a present, but is also given away by itself. The men, after[111] advising me to recite the Sacred Text from time to time, in order that I might not be set upon and devoured by snow-leopards, bowed their farewell and were gone, recrossing the river.


Dangers begin in Earnest.

After leaving the sandy beach of the Brahmapuṭra behind, about a quarter of a mile’s trudging brought me to the outer edge of another expanse of undulating plain, the elevations here and there assuming the height of hills. Following the upper course of the river to the north-west, I saw the titanic heights of the Himālayas, rising one above another. Here I had to pasture my sheep, and, while taking a rest myself, I drank deep and full of the grandeur of the scenery. The sight here obtainable of the mighty peaks covered with glittering snow from the top to the bottom was sublime in the extreme, incomparably more so than what one sees from Darjeeling or Nepāl. As for the Brahmapuṭra, it looked like a shining streamer hung out from the bosom of a great mountain, and waving down and across an immense plain, till the eyes could follow it no more. The sight gave me an uta:

The distant clouds about the snowy range
Pour forth the mighty Brahmaputra stream,
That darts into the farthest skies which meet
The far horizon of the distant lands.
The river in its pride majestic seems
The waving standard of the Buddha, named
Vairochana, all Nature’s Brilliant Lord.

Like all the others of my production, this may not be worth the name of uta. Call it a silly conceit of imagination, if you like; but when I made these lines, I was feeling so jubilant that I could not help giving vent to my emotion; for, conceit or no conceit, the imagination would have been impossible to me, had I not succeeded in penetrating into the untrodden wilderness of Tibet.


The sheep had now finished grazing, and dividing the burden of my luggage among the three—myself and the two sheep—I started making easy progress onward. I found the country around full of pools of water, varying in size all the way from a hundred yards to a mile or so in circumference, and I gave it the name of Chi-ike-ga Hara—Plain of a thousand Ponds. About four o’clock in the afternoon I finished the day’s journey by encamping near a good-sized pond. I then went about to collect the usual fuel, but found none, except the dung of the wild horse, and I concluded that the neighborhood was never visited even by yaks. The night was extremely cold, so much so that I could not sleep at all, and the following is an uta that occurred to me in the midst of shivering:

On these high plateaux here no sound is heard
Of man or beast, no crickets sing their tunes,
The moon above, and I, her friend, below.

The following day I made about twelve miles before noon, over a country much the same in topography. Proceeding north-west in the afternoon, I came to the base of a huge mountain of snow, which I could not think of crossing. For a while I went into meditation, and then wended my way in a direction which fortunately proved to be the right one for my purpose, as I found out afterwards. Right in the direction, but all wrong in other respects, as what I have to tell will show.

As I pushed onwards, I soon came upon a region which was quite the opposite of the country I had traversed in its entire absence of water supply; neither a pool nor a brook was to be seen within the eye’s range. I continued my progress until about seven o’clock in the evening—I had walked about twenty-seven miles, all told, that day—but not a drop of water could I find, and I felt as withered up as could be. As for my sheep, there was some green grass growing for them to graze on.[114] I had no tea—in fact could not have any—that evening before I went to sleep. It is wonderful how one gets accustomed even to hardships; I slept well that night.


Before sunrise the next morning, on resuming my journey, I thought I espied a stream of water coursing through a sandy country at a distance which I judged to be about seven miles in the direction of my progress. Not having had a drop of water, or anything whatever in liquid form, since the afternoon of the previous day, I was of course thirsty; but now I had prospect at least of obtaining some quenching draught, and allaying the thirst with a pinch of hotan, now and then, I made good headway. On reaching the supposed river, what was my disappointment and dismay! Instead of a stream of[115] water, I found there the dry bed of a river, strewn with white pebbles glittering in the sun! Then I could not help imagining myself to be a mere shadow, wandering in mad quest of a soothing draught in the hot region of the nether world, where all water turned into fire when brought to the mouth. Once more I stood me unto my full length, and looked round for water; but none could be seen, nothing but some blades of grass growing here and there to the height of about five or six inches. I could do nothing but endure the thirst, and wend my way on in the direction I had chosen—north-west. After proceeding for some distance, I once more thought that I perceived a body of water in the midst of another desert of sand, but on coming to the spot the glittering specks of sand once more disillusioned me only to intensify my thirst.


Overtaken by a Sand-Storm.

The tormenting thirst which I experienced after my second disappointment simply beggars description. To say that I felt as if my entire internal system were becoming parched is only to put it mildly. But, however excruciating the torture might be, there was no help for it after all but to move on in the hope of finding some water; even the hope itself was now almost deserting me. I really felt that I should die of thirst if I should fail to get some moisture during the rest of the day, and were to pass another night waterless. I had been constantly taking some hotan; but even that cooling fragrance seemed to increase the distressing dryness. Thank heaven! about eleven o’clock I came within sight of a declivity, and somehow I felt sure that I should find some water at its bottom. Buḍḍha be praised! I was right: there was some water. But alas! such water! To take the luggage off my back, get out a wooden bowl, and run down into the hollow was the work of an instant. But when I fetched out a bowlful of the water, lo and behold! it was vermilion red, thick and (what was worse) alive with myriads of little creatures! In short, it was a stagnant pool of water, which for all I knew might have been becoming putrid for years. Imagine how I then felt! I was dying with thirst, but the very look of the water was forbidding. Then my religious scruples disallowed my swallowing any water with living things in it. It was not long, however, before I remembered a teaching of the Blessed Buḍḍha, in which the Lord telleth that when water which is to be drunk contains living things, it should be strained through a piece of woven stuff. I went[118] through the process; but the water remained red. There were no more moving things in it, however, and I took a good long draught of the vermilion liquid. That quenching draught, how delicious it was! I imagine God’s nectar could not be sweeter. But a second bowlful—no, I could not take it. In the usual manner, then, I built a fire and went about boiling the filtered water. It was well-nigh twelve o’clock, however, before the kettle began to boil, and it being against my rule, as already told, to take any meal after noon, I prepared baked flour with the red lukewarm water. And the lunch I then took was one of the most enjoyable I ever had in Tibet.


I had proceeded over the sandy desert for about two and a half miles, after that memorable lunch, and it was now past three o’clock in the afternoon, when a terrific sand-storm arose. A sand-storm is something which one can never experience, or form any idea of, in Japan. As strong gust after gust of wind arose, the loose sand actually surged into big billows, tossing, dashing, tumbling, and sweeping, like the angry waves of the mighty ocean. The wind burrowed deep into the ground here and built high hills of sand there, filling the air with blinding particles, which rested in heaps on the luggage, penetrated down the neck, and made impossible any progress forward, while to stand still was to risk being buried alive. Not knowing what else to do, I kept moving just to shake off the sand, and to avoid being inhumed, while reciting in silence some passages of the Holy Text.

Fortunately the storm lasted for only about an hour, and it subsided with the same suddenness with which it arose. Then I resumed my advance, and by about five o’clock I reached a place grown over with creeping grass, and low thorny bush, the leaves of which were not green but dark to almost blackness, owing probably to the cold climate. There I bivouacked for the night, and I had an[119] abundance of fuel with which to make a fire, and afterwards thoroughly enjoyed my sleep, as I had not done for many a night.

The next morning, after traversing the bush-land, I came to the foot of a mountain which I had to climb. When half way up the slope I saw a mountain stream flowing across my road, and it presented a rather curious sight. For the river, at a very short distance, broadened into a lake, and almost described a right angle when flowing out of this and into another basin. Afterwards I ascertained the name of this river to be Chema-yungdung-gi-chu, and that its waters flowed into the Brahmapuṭra. I shuddered at the thought of having once more to cross an icy mountain stream, but there was no help.

It was only nine o’clock in the morning when I reached the Chema-yungdung-gi-chu, and I found ice quite thick still along its banks. I waited till the ice began to melt, and I finished the noon-meal before making a plunge into the water, not forgetting of course the anointing process. My intention was to make my sheep carry their shares of the luggage across the river; but to this proposal they strenuously objected, probably knowing instinctively the depth of the water. In the end I gave in, relieved the animals of their burden, and, leaving the luggage behind, I led them into the water by their ropes. I tucked up my clothes high, but the water proved to be much deeper than I had judged; it came up to my shoulders, and all the clothing I had on became wet through. The sheep proved good swimmers, and we managed to get to the other side without any accident; of course they might have been washed down and drowned, but for the assistance I gave them by means of the ropes. Once on the bank, I tied one end of the ropes to a large boulder, and after taking off all my clothing to get dry I, stark naked, made a second plunge and returned for my luggage. The second crossing was comparatively[120] easy. After a rest of about half an hour, and a thorough anointing for the second time, I made all my baggage into one bundle to be balanced on my head. With that acrobatic equipment, I entered the stream for a third time. All went well, until, in mid-stream, I lost my foothold, treading on a slippery stone in the bottom, and, what with the weight of the luggage on my head, and more or less exhaustion after the repeated wadings, I fell down into the water, while the bundle slid off my head. I had no time even to bring my staff into service; all I could do was to take firm hold of my luggage, and try to swim with one hand; for I was being fast carried down into deep waters. The thought then occurred to me that, if I tried to save my luggage, I might lose my life. But a second thought made it plain to me that to lose my luggage would mean surer death, because my route lay for ten days, at least, over an uninhabited tract of wilderness, and thus it was wiser to cling to it while life lasted. And cling to my luggage I did, but I was rapidly losing the power of moving my free swimming arm, and, in only one hundred yards down the swift stream, I should be washed into one of the lakes, whence I might never be able to get to dry land. I should have said that the river, at the point where I was crossing it, was a hundred and eighty yards wide, more or less. I had now had quite a course of ice and water—all involuntarily certainly—and a feeling of numbness was quickly coming over me. I began to think that it might be just as well to be drowned then as to die of starvation afterwards. In fact, I had spoken my last desire: “O ye! All the Buḍḍhas of the ten quarters, as well as the highest Teacher of this world, Buḍḍha Shākyamuni! I am not able to accomplish my desires and to return the kindness of my parents, friends, followers and specially the favors of all the Buḍḍhas, in this life; but I desire that I be born again, in order to requite the favors[121] which I have already received from all.” At that moment, with a thrill, I felt that the end of one of my staves had touched something hard. In an instant courage returned to me, and on trying to stand up I found that the water was only up to my breast. I was at that time about forty yards from the bank I had started for. Feeble as I was, with recovered strength I finally managed to reach the “shore of salvation”. As for the luggage, heavy with the soaking water, it was impossible for me to rebalance it on my head, and I pulled it along after me in the water; but when I at last got upon the bank, it taxed all my remaining energy to drag it out after me. Arrived on the bank, I found that I had been carried more than two hundred and fifty yards down the stream from the point whence I started to cross it, and I saw my sheep leisurely grazing, perfectly unconscious of their master’s sad plight. I had no strength, then, even to crawl up to where my sheep were. My fingers were stiff and immovable, and I rubbed the[122] regions over my heart and lungs with closed fists. After an hour’s exercise of this kind, I more or less recovered the circulation of blood in my limbs, and I was just able partially to undo my baggage and to take out hotan—hotan, my life-saving hotan, which Mrs. Ichibei Watanabe of Osaka gave me, when bidding me farewell. A dose of hotan sent me into a fit of convulsions, which lasted for nearly three hours. It was now past five o’clock, and the sun was going down. The convulsions had almost left me. I then made two bundles of my luggage, and in two crawling trips I carried them to where I had left my sheep grazing. It was then that I thought of an ancient method of torture, called Oi-ishi, which consisted in making a suspect carry on his back an extremely heavy load—so rackingly heavy I then felt to be the weight of my divided luggage. That evening I had neither courage nor energy to make any fire, and I passed the night wrapped up in my half-wet tuk-tuk. The luggage having been done up in hides and skins, the water had not penetrated much into it, and I was thus able to go to sleep dressed, and protected in partially dry apparel.



22,650 Feet above Sea-level.

The sun shone out brightly the next morning, and I dried my clothing and the collection I then had of the sacred Scriptures. The latter I still have in my possession, and every time I take them out, I cannot help wondering how my life was spared when those things got wet. By one o’clock in the afternoon I was ready to proceed, although I had not half recovered from the effect of my experience of the day before, and my things were far from being dry. Consequently even my own share of the luggage proved heavier than before, while circumstances compelled me to relieve my sheep of a part of theirs. To make things worse, I had managed to get a painful cut on one of my feet during my last effort to cross the Chema-yungdung-gi-chu, and altogether it was an inauspicious start which I made on that afternoon. After all, however, a step forward meant a step nearer to my destination, and with that philosophical reasoning I dragged myself onward. In that way I had proceeded for about five miles, when, to increase my difficulties, snow began to fall thick and fast. When I had arrived near a small pond and stopped to bivouac for the night, fire and tea were entirely out of the question, for the elements were now engaged in a fearful strife—the dazzling lightning, the deafening thunder, the shrieking wind and the blinding blizzard were at war all at once. That which I had managed to dry tolerably the day before became thoroughly wet again, and the whole of the following morning was spent in repeating the process of the preceding morning. No fire was obtainable even then, and consequently no tea; so I allayed my hunger with some raisins before resuming my journey[124] shortly after noon. And little I dreamt of the danger that was in store for me that afternoon and the day following.

I was still heading for the north-west, and in order to adhere to that course I must now climb a snow-clad peak towering into the sky; I saw no way of avoiding the task, and encouraged by an uncertain hope—still a hope—of emerging upon or near Kang Rinpoche, or in the neighborhood of Mount Kailāsa, I began the ascent of that great hill, which I afterward ascertained to be a peak called Kon Gyu-i Kangri, that rises twenty-two thousand six hundred and fifty feet above sea-level. By five o’clock in the afternoon I had made an ascent of about ten miles, and then it began to snow and to blow a gale. I thought it dangerous to continue my ascent under these conditions, and turning first north and then east, I essayed to make a rapid descent. The sun had now gone down, and snow was falling faster than ever. But I had not yet found a shelter and so continued my descent, having made up my mind to go on until I found a hospitable shelving cliff, or some such haven. It was, however, nothing but snow, snow, everywhere and all around—and presently there were twelve inches on the ground. By and by my sheep refused to proceed further, whether owing to hunger or not I could not tell, though it was plain that they had not fed the whole afternoon, because of the snow. At first I succeeded in getting them to move on a little as the result of some physical reasoning, but presently even that process of pleading failed. But the prospect of being frozen to death prevented me from yielding to their not unreasonable obstinacy, and putting all my strength into the ropes I dragged them onward. The poor animals reluctantly obeyed me and walked on for about a hundred yards, at the end of which, however, they came to a dead stop and began to breathe heavily. Thereupon I felt[126] no little alarm, thinking that the animals might die that night. But what could I do? I knew that I was many a days’ journey at least from the nearest human habitation. A few more miles either way would not make much difference: so let fate decide. Once in that frame of mind, I took out my night-coverings and wrapped myself up and, protecting my head with a water-proof coat, I sat myself down between my two sheep, with the determination to pass the night in religious meditation.


My poor sheep! They crept close to me and lay there in the snow, emitting occasionally their gentle cry, which I thought had never sounded sadder. Nor had I ever felt so lonely as I did then. Wrapped up in the clumsy manner that I have described, I still managed to smear over my body the clove-oil, which seemed to prevent to some extent the radiation of the heat of the body, and I began to feel considerably warmer than I had been before. For all that, the cold increased in intensity after midnight, and I began to feel that my power of sensation was gradually deserting me. I seemed to be in a trance, and vaguely thought that that must be the feeling of a man on the point of death.


I survive a Sleep in the Snow.

I was now wandering in a dream-land, if I may so describe the mental condition of a man half-way on the road of being frozen to death. Regret, resignation, and the hope of re-birth took turns in my mind, and then all became a blank. During that blankness I no doubt looked exactly like a dead person. Suddenly I awoke, fancying that somebody, something, was stirring about me or near me. I opened my eyes, and saw the two sheep shaking themselves; they were shaking snow off their bodies. That was strange, I dreamily thought. I saw the sheep finish shaking off the snow, and I wanted to shake it off too. But I could not. I was rigid all over. Mechanically I next endeavored to recover the use of my limbs. Presently I became more myself mentally, and I saw the skies still presenting a dismal and threatening appearance, the immense patches of black, black cloud still fleeing or pursuing, and the sun struggling to force his life-giving rays between the intervals of the hurrying vapors. On taking out my watch I found that it was then half past ten—of what morning I could not tell. Had I slept only one night, or two in the snow? The question was more than I could just then solve. Nor did I feel that there was any necessity for its instant solution. My immediate desire was for nourishment, and I took some baked flour, helping it down with snow. I gave some also to my sheep, which, by that time, had learnt to feed themselves on flour when green grass was lacking.

I felt that the condition of my health was not equal to the task of making a second attempt to climb over the[128] Kon Gyu-i Kangri, and I continued the descent when I resumed my journey, with the intention of taking a long rest at the foot of the mountain. After going down more than five miles I came to another mountain stream, and at the same time down again came the snow. I almost trembled at a prospect of spending another perilous night in the snow. Just at that juncture I heard some clear, ringing sounds, as of a bird’s cry. Turning round, I saw seven or eight cranes stalking along majestically in the shallow part of the river. Never before had I seen a sight so poetically picturesque, so representative of antique serenity. Some little time afterwards I composed an uta in memory of that enchanting scene:

Like feathers white the snows fall down and lie
There on the mountain-river’s sandy banks;
Ko-kow, Ko-kow! sounds strange—a melody
I hear—I search around for this strange cry.
In quiet majesty those mountain cranes
I find, are proudly strutting—singing thus.

The river was about one hundred and twenty yards wide, and crossing it, I still proceeded down the incline. I had now come to the bottom of a valley, and I saw at a distance what I took for a herd of yaks. But I had before been deceived quite often by exposed boulders and rocks which I had taken for yaks, and I was doubtful of my vision on that occasion. But presently I saw the dark objects moving about, and I was sure that they were yaks. The discovery, wholly unexpected as it was, was delightful, for their presence implied that of some fellow-creatures in the neighborhood. Coming up to the spot, I found that the herd consisted of about sixty yaks, attended by some herdsmen. On my questioning the men, they informed me that they had arrived at the spot the evening before, and that a little further on I should come upon a little camp of four tents. Towards these I forthwith directed my steps.


My arrival in front of one of the tents was, as usual, hailed by a pack of barking dogs. I begged the occupants of the first tent for a night’s lodging, but met with a flat refusal. Probably my appearance was against me: I had not shaved for two months, and my unkempt hair and beard no doubt made me look wild, while under-feeding and general exhaustion cannot have improved my features. Still I pleaded for charity, but in vain. Dejectedly I moved to a second tent, but there too I received no better treatment. In fact the treatment was worse: for my urgent pleading, with a detailed account of my sufferings during the previous eight days or so, only seemed to make the master of the tent turn colder, even to the extent of finally charging me with an intention to rob him. That was enough. I turned away, and a great sadness came over me as I stood in the snow. My sheep bleated pitifully, and I felt like crying myself. A third tent stood near, but I could not muster courage enough to repeat my request there. The sight of my sheep was melancholy in the extreme, and with an effort I made an appeal at the fourth and last tent. To my great joy, I met a ready welcome. I was utterly tired out, but a quiet rest near a comfortable fire made me imagine the joys of paradise, and this I was allowed to enjoy all that evening and through the next day. During that stay I occupied my time in writing down the twenty-six desires which I had formulated, with the hope of their accomplishment proving helpful to the spiritual need of others as well as myself.

At five o’clock on the second morning I thanked my host for his hospitality and left him. I now proceeded due north and, after trudging over snow for nearly ten miles, I came out upon a more or less grass-covered plain. By noon I had arrived near a pond, and there took my midday meal. A survey from that point showed me that I had[130] to cross a sandy desert, which appeared to be larger in extent than the one I had traversed after crossing the Chema Yungdung. The thought of another sand-storm gave me new energy, born of fear, and I made no halt until I had walked quite out of the desert.


‘Bon’ and ‘Kyang.’

I walked about five miles over the sand and then reached a piece of grass-land. Beyond this I came to a plain of stones of curious shapes, in the centre of which a solitary mountain rose to a considerable height. I subsequently learned that the mountain was the sacred abode of the deities of the Bon religion. Bonism is an ancient religion of Tibet, which commanded considerable influence before the introduction of Buḍḍhism into that country. It has still some adherents, but it continues to exist only for its name’s sake. Originally Bonism very much resembled Hinḍuism; but now, in theory, it is almost Buḍḍhism. This similarity is explained in this way. When it was superseded by Buḍḍhism, a certain Bon priest recast his religion after the pattern of Buḍḍhism, and called the revised product the New Bonism. Without attempting to give any special particulars of its doctrines, I may say that the New Bonism, when shorn of its sacrifices, its toleration of marriage and of the use of intoxicants, is only Buḍḍhism under another name. The Bon deities have no shrines or temples dedicated to them, and are believed to inhabit some particular mountain, or snowy peak, or pond, or lake. And it was upon one of these divine abodes that I had chanced, but lacking at the time all knowledge of Bonism, my attention was soon diverted by coming in sight of a couple of kyangs.


As I have already said, kyang is the name given by the Tibetans to the wild horse of their northern steppes. More accurately it is a species of ass, quite as large in size as a large Japanese horse. In color it is reddish brown, with black hair on the ridge of the back and black mane[133] and with the belly white. To all appearance it is an ordinary horse, except for its tufted tail. It is a powerful animal, and is extraordinarily fleet. It is never seen singly, but always in twos or threes, if not in a herd of sixty or seventy. Its scientific name is Equus hemionis, but it is for the most part called by its Tibetan name, which is usually spelt kyang in English. It has a curious habit of turning round and round, when it comes within seeing distance of a man. Even a mile and a quarter away, it will commence this turning round at every short stage of its approach, and after each turn it will stop for a while, to look at the man over its own back, like a fox. Ultimately it comes up quite close. When quite near it will look scared, and at the slightest thing will wheel round and dash away, but only to stop and look back. When one thinks that it has run far away, it will be found that it has circled back quite near, to take, as it were, a silent survey of the stranger from behind. Altogether it is an animal of very queer habits.

But to come back to my story: my two sheep, apparently frightened by the approach of the rotating horses, made a dash for freedom with such suddenness and simultaneity that I lost my hold of the two ropes; I then proceeded to run a race with them, in a frantic effort to recapture them. And a ludicrous race it was, in which I finally fell panting and giddy. While it lasted the horses seemed thoroughly to enjoy it, and getting into the spirit of the thing they galloped with me, but only to chase my sheep further away from me. When I lay prostrate, the sheep stopped running and began quietly to graze. The horses also stopped, and appeared quite astonished at the whole performance. I then perceived my blunder. On rising, I quietly walked up to my sheep, and without a movement they allowed me to regain their ropes.


All is well that ends well. But on that occasion one thing was not quite satisfactory, for I soon discovered that one of my sheep had lost a part of my luggage from its back, no doubt during that memorable race. I then set out to hunt after the lost bundle; but it was all useless, for we had not run the race over any regular course, and it was impossible to follow our footsteps. One may as well look for a parcel lost in the sea, as try to hunt up a small bundle, lying hidden under grass and leaves, somewhere in an immense plain. Besides, I argued with myself thus: the missing bundle contained some fifty rupees in cash, my watch and compass, and an assortment of western trinkets; it would have been better not to lose the money, certainly, but it was, after all, a small portion of what I had with me, and I could do well without it. It was hard to part with the watch and the compass, and the trinkets would have been of service in making friends with the simple natives; but, looked at from another point of view, the possession of these things might arouse the suspicion of the more intelligent Tibetans, and it was most likely that the Lord Buḍḍha, in His wisdom and mercy, had caused me to be rid of them. Arriving at this conclusion, I gave up my search in a spirit of meek resignation.


The Power of Buddhism.

I had now walked about six miles to the north-west after the singular proceedings which I described in the last chapter, and I emerged upon a well-trodden road, which on consulting my store of information I was able to identify as the path that, deviating from the Tibetan national high-way, led to lake Mānasarovara. The discovery was as unexpected as it was pleasing, for I was now within a pilgrim-frequented zone. A few more steps, indeed, brought me in sight of a dark tent, standing on the banks of a large river, named Gaṅgā by the Tibetans, where my appeal for a night’s lodging was cheerfully granted. I found the occupants of the tent to consist of three men and two women, the men being brothers, one of the women the wife of the eldest brother, and the other a daughter of another of the brothers. My first inclination on being received into the tent was to feel easy in mind, for I had been told that parties comprising women, even in Tibetan wilds, seldom commit murder. But when I was informed that these people were from Dam Gya-sho, I thought I was rather hasty in feeling so secure, for that country, like the neighboring one of Kham, is noted for its production of professional robbers and murderers. I had heard before that they had even such a saying in that country as: “No murder, no food; no pilgrimage, no absolution. On! onward on your pilgrimage, killing men and visiting temples, killing men and visiting temples!” Even women of that country, I had been told, think no more of committing homicide than of killing a sheep. These reflexions did not bring much cheer to my heart; but what could I do, since I was now[136] in their hands? I could only bide my time. Fortunately, they did not butcher me that night.

Early on August 3rd, that is to say, on the morning of the following day, I proceeded in a north-westerly direction along the great stream, with my newly-made companions, for such had the occupants of the tent become, as they were heading for the same temporary destination as myself. This river, I ascertained, had its rise in one of the snowy peaks that I saw to the south-east, and emptied its waters into Lake Mānasarovara. I judged it to be about two hundred and fifty yards wide and fairly deep. Following the stream for about three and three-quarters miles and then making an ascent, we came to a clear, bubbling spring, which went by the name of Chumik Gaṅgā or the source of the Gaṅgā, and we drank deep of the sacred water. Then we continued our climb, now facing north, and arrived at another spring, which was welling up in a most picturesque way from under an immense slab of white marble. The natives call it Chumik thong-ga Rangchung, or the fountain of joy, and it really made one’s heart glad to look at the crystal-like water gushing up in all its purity. Both these springs are regarded by the Hinḍūs, as by the Tibetans, as forming the sources of the sacred Gaṅgā, and are both looked up to with religious reverence.

After leaving the springs, we proceeded north-west again, and came once more to the river Gaṅgā, which we forded at the point where it was at its broadest in that vicinity, and passed the night on its banks. We had travelled only about nine miles that day. From the place of our bivouac I saw to the north-west a great snow-clad mountain: it was the Kang Rinpoche of Tibet, the Mount Kailāsa of the Hinḍū. Its ancient name was Kang Tise. As far as my knowledge goes, it is the most ideal of the snow-peaks of all the Himālayas. It inspired me with the profoundest[137] feelings of pure reverence, and I looked up to it as a ‘natural maṇdala,’ the mansion of a Buḍḍha and Boḍhisaṭṭvas. Filled with soul-stirring thoughts and fancies I addressed myself to this sacred pillar of nature, confessed my sins, and performed to it the obeisance of one hundred and eight bows. I also took out the manuscript of my ‘twenty-six desires,’ and pledged their accomplishment to the Buḍḍha. I then considered myself the luckiest of men, to have thus been enabled to worship such a holy emblem of Buḍḍha’s power, and to vow such vows in its sacred presence, and I mused:

Whate’er my sufferings here and dangers dire,
Whate’er befalls me on my onward march,
All, all, I feel, is for the common good
For others treading on Salvation’s path.

The sight of my performance of these devotional practices must have been a matter of wonder and mystery to my companions. They had been watching me like gaping and astonished children, and were all intensely curious to know why I had bowed so many times, and read out such strange Chinese sentences. I was glad to explain to them the general meaning of my conduct and they seemed to be deeply struck with its significance. They said that they had never known that the Chinese Lamas were men of such Boḍhisaṭṭvic mind! The upshot was that they asked me to preach to them that night, a request to which I was very glad to accede. The preaching which followed, which I purposely made as simple and as appealing to the heart as possible, seemed to affect them profoundly, and to make the best possible impression on them; so much so that they even shed tears of joy. The preaching over, they said in all sincerity that they were glad of my companionship, and even offered to regard me as their guest during the two months which they intended to spend in pilgrimage to and round the Kang Rinpoche. They thought that their[138] pilgrimage over such holy ground, while serving such a holy man as I now was to them, would absolve them completely from their sins. Imagine the state of my mind then! These were of the people who took other men’s lives with the same equanimity with which they cut their vegetables; yet, touched now by the light of Buḍḍhism, their minds had softened. I blessed the power of Buḍḍhism more than ever, and could not hold back my tears as my companions shed theirs.


Sacred Manasarovara and its Legends.

It was now August 4th. After proceeding about ten miles over an undulating range of mountains we came in sight of Man-ri, a peak of perpetual snow, which has an altitude of 25,600 feet above the sea-level. The view of Man-ri, rising majestically high above the surrounding mountains (themselves of great elevation) was sublimely grand. While standing absorbed in the severe magnificence of the scenery, I was treated to another experience, which was as soul-stirring as any earthly phenomenon could be. A magical change in the weather was heralded by a sudden flash of lightning, followed by another, yet another and another, new accompanied by rolling thunder. Heavy pelting hail-stones then joined in the war of elements, which literally shook the mighty mountains to their very foundations, and filled the air with the utmost confusion of terrific noises and lurid tongues of fire. Standing almost alone upon a great height, I saw black clouds with fearful suddenness envelope the world of vision in frightful darkness, made doubly dark by the contrasts produced by the momentary glare of pale, penetrating lightning, which, in the same instant, revealed the glittering snow on the grand peaks of the Himālayas, and the deepest chasms, thousands of fathoms below!

The awe-inspiring scene lasted for about an hour, and then, with equally wondrous suddenness, the sky became blue and the sun shone forth, serene and calm, with not a whisper of wind to remind one of the mighty commotions of the moment before. We did but little walking after this wonderful sight, and, coming to the edge of a marsh-like pond, we pitched[140] our tent there for the night. I was now the guest of my companions, and I was not sorry that I had nothing to do with gathering the yak dung, or fetching water, and building the fire. I was given the seat of honor in the tent, and nothing was exacted of me but to sit down like a good priest, read the Sacred Text and then preach in the evening.

On the 6th of August we had to go up a great slope of extremely sharp inclination, and I was offered a ride on one of my companions’ yaks, an offer which I readily accepted with entire satisfaction. Furthermore, all my share of the luggage, as well as part of the burdens of my sheep, was transferred to the back of one of my fellow-pilgrims, and both myself and my original companions had altogether an easy time of it, as was the case through the weeks that followed.


About thirteen miles onwards a view opened before us which I shall never forget, so exquisitely grand was the scenery. In short, we were now in the presence of the[141] sacred Lake Mānasarovara. A huge octagon in shape, with marvellously symmetrical indentations, Lake Mānasarovara, with its clear placid waters, and the mighty Mount Kailāsa guarding its north-western corner, form a picture which is at once unique and sublime, and well worthy of its dignified surroundings—calm, dustless and rugged. Mount Kailāsa itself towers so majestically above the peaks around, that I fancied I saw in it the image of our mighty Lord Buḍḍha, calmly addressing His five hundred disciples. Verily, verily, it was a natural maṇdala. The hunger and thirst, the perils of dashing stream and freezing blizzard, the pain of writhing under heavy burdens, the anxiety of wandering over trackless wilds, the exhaustion and the lacerations, all the troubles and sufferings I had just come through, seemed like dust, which was washed away and purified by the spiritual waters of the lake; and thus I attained to the spiritual plane of Non-Ego, together with this scenery showing Its-own-Reality.

Lake Mānasarovara is generally recognised as the highest body of fresh water in the world, its elevation above the sea-level being something over fifteen thousand five hundred feet. In Tibetan it is called Mapham Yum-tso. It is the Anavaṭapṭa of Samskṛṭ (the lake without heat or trouble) and in it centre many of the Buḍḍhistic legends. It is this Anavaṭapṭa which forms the subject of the famous poetical passage in the Gospel of Kegon, named in Japanese and in Samskṛṭ Ārya-Buḍḍha-Araṭan-saka-nāma Mahāvaipulya-Sūṭra. The passage gives the name of South Zenbu to a certain continent of the world. Zenbu is a deflection of jamb, a phonetic translation of the sound produced by anything of weight falling into placid water. Now the legend has it that in the centre of the Anavaṭapṭa is a tree which bears fruits that are omnipotent in healing all human ills, and are conse[142]quently much sought after both by Gods and men. When one of these fruits falls into the pond it produces the sound jamb. Further, it is said that the lake has four outlets for its waters, which are respectively called Mabcha Khanbab (flowing out of a peacock’s mouth), Langchen Khanbab (flowing out of a bull’s mouth), Tamchok Khanbab (flowing out of a horse’s mouth), and Senge Khanbab (flowing out of a lion’s mouth), which respectively form the sources of the four sacred rivers of India. It is from these notions that the sacredness of the Anavaṭapṭa is evolved, the name of Zenbu derived, and the religious relations between Tibet and India established. As regards these four rivers, the legend says: “The sands of silver are in the south river; the sands of gold are in the west river; the sands of diamond are in the north river, and the sands of emerald are in the east river.” These rivers are further said each to circle seven times round the lake and then to take the several directions indicated. It is said also that giant lotus flowers bloom in the lake, the size of which is as large as those of the paradise of the Buḍḍha Amitābha, and the Buḍḍha and Boḍhisaṭṭvas are seen there sitting on those flowers, while in the surrounding mountains are found the ‘hundred herbs,’ and also the birds of paradise singing their celestial melodies. In short, Anavaṭapṭa is described to be the only real paradise on earth, with a living Buḍḍha and five hundred saints inhabiting Mount Kailāsa on its north-west, and five hundred immortals making their home on Man-ri, that rises on its southern shore, all enjoying eternal beatitude.

Reading that magnificent description, I believe that anybody would desire to see the spot; but the things mentioned in the Scriptures cannot be seen with our mortal eyes. The real thing is the region in its wonderfully inspiring character, and an unutterably holy elevation is to be felt there. On that night the brilliant[143] moon was shining in the sky and was reflected on the lake, and Mount Kailāsa appeared dimly on the opposite bank. These impelled me to compose an uta:

Among these mountains high here sleeps the lake
Serene—“Devoid of seething cares”—so named
By native bards; its broad expanse appears
Like the octagonal mirror of Japan.
The grand Kailas’ majestic capped with snow,
The Moon o’erhanging from the skies above,
Bestow their grateful shadows on the lake.
Its watery brilliant sheen illumines me;
All pangs of pain and sorrow washed away.
With these my mind besoothed now wanders far
E’en to Akashi in Japan, my home,
A seashore known for moonlight splendors fair.


Bartering in Tibet.

The origin of the four rivers is given in the story just as I have related it; but in reality there is not one of them that actually flows directly out of the Lake. They have their sources in the mountains which surround it, and the stories about the so-called ‘Horse’s’ and ‘Lion’s’ mouths are only legends, incapable of verification. The head-waters of the Langchen Khanbab flow in a westerly direction; those of the Mabcha Khanbab to the south; the sources of the Senge Khanbab may be ascertained with tolerable accuracy; but those of the Tamchok Khanbab have hitherto defied investigation. In India, the river that flows from the Lake in an easterly direction is known as the Brahmapuṭra, while the one that issues towards the south is the Gaṅgā. The Sutlej flows away to the west, and the Siṭā, or Inḍus, towards the north. It is, of course, possible that actual surveys of Lake Mānasarovara have been made by European travellers, but in all the maps that I have seen it is represented as being far smaller than it actually is. It is, in truth, a very large body of fresh water, and has a circumference of some eighty ri, or about two hundred miles. The shape of the lake also, as it appears in the maps, is misleading. It is in reality a fairly regular octagon with various indentations, very much resembling a lotus-flower in shape. All the western maps, as far as I know, give the student an idea of the Lake which is in many respects misleading.

I arrived that night at a Buḍḍhist Temple known as Tse-ko-lo, on the shores of Lake Mānasarovara, and in the evening heard from my host, the superior of the[145] Temple, a story which surprised me greatly. This Lama, I should say, was a man of about fifty-five years of age; he was extremely ignorant, but did not seem to be a man who would lie for the mere pleasure of lying. He was very anxious to hear about the state of Buḍḍhism in China (the reader will remember that I was supposed to be a Chinese, Lama) and the readiness with which I answered his questions warmed his heart and encouraged him to treat me to the following story. He did not know, he said, how it might be with the priests in China, but for himself he could not help feeling at times thoroughly disgusted with his brethren in Tibet. In the immediate vicinity, for instance, an ordinary priest might, he said, indulge himself in all manner of excesses with impunity, and without attracting much attention, and from time to time cases would arise of extreme depravity in a Lama. For instance, there was the case of Alchu Tulku, a Lama supposed to be an incarnation of Alchu, who had at one time been in charge of a well-known temple in the vicinity of Lake Mānasarovara. This Lama became so infatuated with a beautiful woman whom he took to himself as his wife that he was betrayed into transferring the greater part of the temple property as a gift to her father; and not content with that crime he afterwards absconded from the temple, taking with him his wife, and everything that he could carry away that was left of value in the temple. He had heard rumors that this recreant priest was living openly with his wife at Hor-tosho, and he asked me if I had not heard anything about him when I was passing through the place.

The reader will be able to appreciate my astonishment when I tell him that this absconding, dishonest priest was none other than he who had induced the belle of the place to treat me with so much kindness! Truly men are not always what they seem to be.


I did not conceal my astonishment from my host, but related to him all the circumstances that had brought me within the reach of their kind hospitalities, but he only smiled at what I told him.

“Ah! to be sure,” he said, “that’s just like the man; gentle and lovable in outward demeanor, but at heart an arch-sinner, a very devil incarnate, destroyer of the faith.”

It was a sad revelation to me. I had had every reason to be grateful to the man and his wife for their hospitalities and I could have wept to think that hypocrites of so black a dye should be found amongst the followers of Buḍḍha. It was at least a comfort to think that things in Japan were brighter than this.

The next morning I took a walk along the Lake, lost in admiration of the magnificent mountain scenery that surrounded me on all sides, and presently came across some Hinḍūs and Nepālese, apparently Brāhmaṇa devotees, who had plunged into the Lake—it was about ten o’clock—and were engaged in the performance of their religious ceremonies. To the followers of the Hinḍū religion, Lake Mānasarovara is a sacred sheet of water, and they worship Mount Kailāsa, which rises sky-high above the lake, as being a material manifestation of the sacred Body of Mahā-Shiva, one of the deities of the Indian Trinity. When they saw me, they considered me to be a holy Buḍḍhist Lama, and pressed me to accept from them presents consisting of many kinds of dried fruits.

I spent the next night at the same temple, and on the following morning made my way to the range of mountains that stands like a great wall to the north-west of the Lake. A zigzag climb of ten miles or so brought me within view of Lake Lakgal-tso, in Tibetan, or, as it is more commonly called, Rakas-tal. It is in shape something like a long calabash, and in area smaller than Mānasarovara. Another[147] seven and a half miles brought me to a spot whence I could see the whole of its surface, and here I made a further discovery. A mountain, some two and a half miles round at the base, stands like a wall of partition between the two lakes, and where this mountain slopes into a ravine it looks, for all the world, as though there were a channel of communication for the water from one lake to the other. I found, however, that there was actually no such channel, but I discovered that the level of Lake Lakgal is higher than that of Mānasarovara, and I was subsequently told that, on rare occasions, every ten or fifteen years, after phenomenally heavy rains, the waters of the two lakes do actually become connected, and that at such times Lake Lakgal flows into Mānasarovara. Hence arises the Tibetan legend that every fifteen years or so Lakgal, the bridegroom, goes to visit Mānasarovara, the bride. This will account for the statements of the guide-books to Kang Tise and Mount Kailāsa that the relations between the two lakes are those of husband and wife.

Keeping Lake Lakgal in view, I now proceeded easily down hill for some thirteen miles or so, until I arrived at a plain through which I found a large river flowing. The river was over sixty feet wide, and was known as the Mabcha Khanbab, one of the tributary sources of the Gaṅgā. It is this river that, further south, flows through the city of Purang on the borders of India and Tibet, and then, after winding through many a defile and cañon of the Himālayas, eventually joins the main stream of the Gaṅgā flowing from Haldahal. Modern Hinḍūs revere the Haldahal branch as being the main stream of their sacred River, but in ancient times it was mostly this Mabcha Khanbab that was considered to be the principal source.

On the banks of this river we pitched our tent for the night. In the neighborhood I found four or five similar encampments, occupied by traders from Purang. Great[148] numbers of nomads and pilgrims come to this place in July and August of every year, and at these times, a very brisk trade takes place which presents many curious and interesting features.

Tibet is still in the barter stage, and very little money is used in trade. The people from the interior bring butter, marsh-salt, wool, sheep, goats, and yaks’ tails, which they exchange for corn, cotton, sugar and cloth, which are imported from India by Nepālese and Tibetans, living in the region of perennial snow on the Indian frontier. But sometimes, especially in selling wool and butter, they will take money, generally Indian currency, the reckoning of which is a great mystery to them. Ignorant of arithmetic and possessing no abacus to count with, they have to do all their reckoning with the beads of a rosary. In order to add five and two, they count first five and then two beads on the string, and then count the whole number thus produced to make sure that the total is really seven. It is a very tedious process, but they are incapable of anything better. They cannot do calculations without their beads, and they seem to be too dense to grasp the simplest sum in arithmetic. Thus business is always slow: when it comes to larger deals, involving several kinds of goods and varying prices, it is almost distractingly complicated.

For such calculations they arm themselves with all sorts of aids, black pebbles, white pebbles, bamboo sticks, and white shells. Each white pebble represents a unit of one; when they have counted ten of these they take them away, and substitute a black pebble, which means ten. Ten black pebbles are equivalent to one bamboo stick, ten bamboo sticks to one shell, ten shells to the Tibetan silver coin. But there is no multiplication or division; everything is done by the extremely slow process of adding one at a time, so that it will take a Tibetan three days to do what a Japanese could do in half an hour. This is no exaggera[149]tion. I stayed on the banks of this river for three whole days and watched the traders doing their business, and I saw the whole painful tediousness of the transaction.

These three days were memorable for another reason. The pilgrims who had come with me became such warm admirers of my supposed virtues and sang my praises with so much fervor that a pilgrim girl fell in love with me.


A Himalayan Romance.

I was still in the company of the party of pilgrims I have already referred to. It appeared that some of the party had come to form a rather high opinion of me as a person of reverend qualities. Among them was a young damsel who, it was not difficult to perceive, had conceived a passion for me. The moment the thought dawned on me, I said to myself: “It may be; it is nothing uncommon, rather is it quite usual for women to cherish vain thoughts. She must have heard her elders talking well of me, and have taken a fancy to me.” I at once set about raising a barrier between us, which was none other than the teaching of our common Buḍḍhism. When occasion allowed, I explained to her all about the vows with which all true priests bind themselves and why they do so. I depicted to her the horrors of hell that sinners create for themselves even in this world, and which follow them into eternity as the price they pay for momentary pleasures. These things I taught, not only to the girl but to the whole party. For all that, I could not help pitying the little innocent thing. A maiden of nineteen, with few or no restraints on her romantic fancies, she must have thought it a grand thing to be able to go back to her folk with a bride-groom of whom all spoke so well. She was not beautiful, and yet not ugly: a comely little thing was she. But I, though not old, had had my own experiences in these matters in my younger days, and I was able to conquer temptations.


Here I may stop to observe that the country through which we were travelling is called Ngari in Tibetan and Āri in Chinese. The region is an extensive one, and includes Ladak and Khunu.


Purang, of which mention has been made more than once, is its central mart and enjoys great prosperity, though located rather to the south. Purang also forms a mid-Himālayan post of great religious importance as a sacred spot for Buḍḍhist pilgrims. The town boasts, or rather boasted, of its possession of three Buḍḍhist images of great renown—those of the Boḍhisaṭṭva Mahāsaṭṭvas Manjushrī, Avalokiteshvara and Vajrapāni. According to tradition these were brought thither from Ceylon in olden times. Unfortunately about six months prior to my arrival in Ngari a big fire broke out and destroyed two of these idols, the image of Manjushrī alone being saved. Much as I wished to visit Purang, I was apprehensive of many dangers to my impersonation if I went thither,[152] as the Tibetan Government maintains there a challenge gate. My companions went there, however, leaving me behind, and I spent the days of their absence in religious meditation. Joining them again on their return, I continued my travels westwards, coming out in due time to the north of Lake Lakgal. We next took our way along the lake towards the north-west. Facing west and looking over the lake, I saw islands spread out on its surface like the legs of a gotoku, or tripod. So I gave them the name of Gotoku jimu, or Tripod islands. Several days afterwards we arrived at a barter port called Gya-nima; it was the 17th of August, 1900.

At Gya-nima barter is carried on only for two months in the year, that is to say from the 15th of July to the 15th of September. The traders chiefly come from the Indian part of the Himālaya mountains and meet their Tibetan customers there. I was just in good time to see brisk transactions going on. I saw no less than one hundred and fifty white tents covering the otherwise barren wilderness, and some five or six hundred people rushing about to sell and buy in their own fashion.

The Tibetan articles offered for sale here were wool, butter, yaks’ tails, and the like, while the purchases consisted of about the same category of goods as I gave when speaking of the Mabcha Khanbab mart. I stayed over night and spent the whole of the next day at the fair, making a few small purchases. On the day following we went back to Gya-karko, another barter port. Gya-nima was the most north-western point I reached in my Tibetan journey. So far as reaching my destination was concerned, I had hitherto been proceeding in an exactly opposite direction to it, steadily going north-west instead of towards Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. But from that point—Gya-nima—onwards, each step I walked brought me nearer to the main road into Tibet, as also to its capital. In Gya-karko[153] I stayed for three or four days. Here there were about one hundred and fifty tents, trade being carried on even more vigorously than at Gya-nima. Gya-karko is a trading port for people coming from the north-west plains of Tibet on the one hand and the Hinḍūs inhabiting the Indian Himālayas on the other, who are allowed by the Tibetan Government to come as far as this place.

Here I saw many merchants from the towns and villages of the Himālayas. Among them was one from Milum, who spoke English. This man invited me to dinner on the quiet, so to say. I accepted his invitation, but the moment I had entered his tent I at once saw that he took me for an English emissary. When left to ourselves he immediately addressed me thus: “As I live under the government of your country, I shall never make myself inconvenient to you. In return I wish you would do what you can to help my business when you go back to India.” I thought that these were very strange words to speak to me. On interrogating him, I found out that he had conjectured that I was engaged in exploring Tibet at the behest of the British Government. When I told him that I was a Chinaman, he said: “If you are Chinese, you can no doubt speak Chinese?” I answered him boldly in the affirmative. Then he brought in a man who claimed to understand Chinese. I was not a little embarrassed at this turn of affairs, but as I had had a similar experience with Gya Lama in Nepāl it took me no time to recover sufficient equanimity to answer him, and I felt much re-assured when I found that he could not speak Chinese so well as I had anticipated. Then I wrote a number of Chinese characters and wanted him to say if he knew them. The man looked at me and seemed to say: “There you have me.” Finally he broke into laughter and said: “I give up; let us talk in Tibetan.” Then my host was greatly astonished and said: “Then you are indeed a Chinaman! What can be better? China is a vast country.[154] My father, who is now living in my native country, was once in China. If there is any business to be done with China I wish you would kindly put me on the track;” and he gave me his address written in English. His manner showed that he was in earnest, and that he was a man to be trusted. So seeing that this man was going back to India, I thought it would be a good idea to ask him to take with him my letters and deliver them for me in India. It would have been imprudent for me to write things in detail, but I scribbled just a few lines to my friend and teacher, Rai Saraṭ Chanḍra Dās, informing him that I had penetrated the interior of Tibet as far as Gya-karko, besides asking him to post some letters for Japan which I enclosed, addressed to Mr. Hige Tokujuso and Ito Ichiso of Sakai. A few coins put into the hand of the Milum man secured a ready response to my request. The man proved the honest fellow I took him for; for after my return to Japan I found that my letters had been duly received by both Mr. Hige and Mr. Ito.

To return to my romance. We were still staying at Gya-karko, and I was much embarrassed to find that little Dawa—for that was my little maiden’s name—had by no means given up her affection for me. Dawa, I may perhaps mention here, though I shall have occasion to refer to the matter at greater length in another chapter, is a Tibetan name meaning moon, given to persons born on a Monday; those born on a Friday being named Pasang, and those on a Sunday, Nyima.

Well, my little Dawa proved herself to be an adept in the art of love-making. It is wonderful how a little spark of passion, when once kindled, burns up and fashions daring schemes and alluring pictures. The maiden was always at my side, and spoke only of the good things she would make mine, if I would only accompany her to her native country. She said her mother was a lady[155] of an exceedingly kind heart; that her father owned about one hundred and sixty yaks and four hundred sheep; that therefore her family was very rich and their life one perpetual chachang pemma or round of pleasures. She added that she was their only daughter, and that she had not yet come across a man to her heart, save one. I may perhaps explain that chachang pemma means drinking tea and intoxicants alternately, and that in Tibet one is considered to have attained the highest pinnacle of happiness when he is able to indulge in a perpetual symposium—drinking, in turns, tea with butter in it and then a spirit brewed from wheat. Only rich persons can enjoy the luxury: but the mass of Tibetans consider this to be the main object of life. Consequently chachang pemma is generally used in the sense of earthly beatitude. By the way, the method of manufacturing the butter-tea is very curious: butter, boiled juice of tea and salt are first thrown together into a nearly cylindrical tub of three feet in height; then a piston, if I may so call it, with a disc large enough to fit the cask exactly, is worked up and down, to obtain a thorough mixing of the ingredients. This pump-like action of the piston is carried on by sheer force of hands and arms, and, as may be imagined, requires a large amount of strength. The motion of the piston transforms the mixture into a new beverage which the Tibetans call solcha. It is said that these people can tell whether the solcha, or butter-tea, will prove good or bad by listening to the sound produced by the piston as it works up and down.

But to return to my story: Dawa never tired of telling me that her family was prosperous; that even Lamas were allowed to marry in her country; that it was really an excellent thing for every Lama to live happily with a wife in this world; that it would be wise for me to do so, and so on. Seeing that all her words were only wasted on me, she[156] seemed to imply that I was an incorrigible fool. Wiles of temptation now came thick and fast upon me: but in such moments I happily remembered the triumph of our Lord Shākyamuni at Buḍḍhagayā. The wise One was about to attain to the state of Absolute Perfection. The king of all that is evil was very much afraid of this, and sent his three daughters to tempt him. The women tried all manner of allurements to secure the fall of the Enlightened One, but in vain. When all had failed the daughters of the King of Devils sang thus:

How like a tender graceful flower am I,
With all the lovely fragrance of my mouth,
And its melodious music soft and sweet!
Am I not mistress of all mirth and joys?
Even Heav’nly bliss is naught to him who lives
In amorous dalliance, dearly loved, with me.
If thou rejectest me, there’s none so dull
And stupid in the world compared with thee.

So sang the Sirens, but even they were powerless to conquer the Lord. My Dawa could not of course approach the charms of the arch-devil’s daughters, but her plaintive pleadings were there. And I—a common mortal struggling on, but far from the gate of emancipation—I could not but pity the poor little creature, though I strengthened myself by saying: “Let it be so—a fool let me be.” I composed an uta then:

You call me stupid; that am I, I grant;
But yet in love-affairs being wiser grown,
’Tis safe for me to be more stupid still.

It is true that women never let their mouths be the doors to their mind; but they know a language unspoken, which is far more telling, appealing and enticing, than that which mere sound and articulation can convey. And my Dawa had never yet said in so many words what she yearned to say. It happened, however, that Dawa’s father and brothers were out shopping one day, and that the girl and I remained alone in the tent. She thought[157] probably that she could not get a better opportunity for her purposes and she tried to make the most of it. Just then I was mending my boots, and she almost frightened me with her boldness. I am neither a block of wood, nor a piece of stone, and I should have been supernatural if I had not felt the power of temptation. But to yield to such a folly would be against my own profession. Moreover I remembered with awe the omnipresence of our Lord Buḍḍha, and was thus enabled to keep my heart under control. I said to the maiden: “I have no doubt that all is excellent at your home; but do you know whether your mother is still living or dead?” The question was unexpected and almost stunned her, put as it was at a moment when she had allowed her mind to wander so far away from her dear mother. She was just able to say: “I do not know whether my mother is living or dead. I have been on a pilgrimage with my father for one year and perhaps more. My mother is a weak woman, and I parted with her in tears, asking her to take the best care of herself, so that she might be preserved. I do not know how she is faring now.” Here was my chance—a chance of diverting the girl’s attention from me. “H’m! you don’t know that?” said I; “only now you were telling me of the bliss of your home, and yet you don’t know how your mother is faring now?” Poor little maiden, her mind became disturbed. I almost scolded her, pleaded with her, warned her. She, who claimed to be a good daughter, to be so intent in the pursuit after ephemeral pleasures as to let her thoughts wander away from her dear, good mother; could it be possible? This somewhat highly colored statement of mine seemed to cool down her passion and change it into fear and apprehension. Nor was it extraordinary that she should have become so affected. For in Tibet nothing is supposed to be too great for the Lama; he possesses superhuman powers and can work miracles.[158] Instead of an object of love, I had now become an awe-inspiring Lama to my little Dawa. As such, I counselled her with a good deal of earnestness, and finally succeeded in subduing her passion and conquering the temptation.

We prolonged our stay at Gya-karko for several days more, and on the 26th of August I started again with the pilgrims. As we travelled on in a north-easterly direction we came to a marshy plain interspersed with pools of water. Farther on the marsh became deeper. I tried to probe its depth with my stick, but the solid bottom was beyond my reach. Knowing then that the marsh could not be forded, we retraced our steps for about three miles and proceeded thence due east. Further on we found that the waters flowing out of the marsh formed themselves into three streams. We waded across them, and about ten miles further on the marsh came to an end and we found ourselves among mountains, and encamped for the night. Here there were many merchants on their way to Gya-nima and Gya-karko, and many were the tents they had pitched all round. While there I went on a begging tour amongst the tent occupants—a practice which I put into execution whenever possible, in pursuance of the Buḍḍha’s teaching. A day’s round, besides, generally earned me enough to carry me through the next day. I may add that the evening, whether after a day of journeying or of begging, I used to spend in preaching among my travelling companions. I had my own reasons for being painstaking in these preachings. I knew that religious talks always softened the hearts of my companions, and this was very necessary, as I might otherwise have been killed by them. I do not mean to say that my life was in any immediate danger then, for there were numbers of people always about, and besides, the region we were going through was a country sacred to Buḍḍhism, and, once within the holy zone, even the most[159] wicked would not dare to commit either robbery or murder. But it was necessary for me to take precautions in anticipation of dangers that might befall me as soon as I should be out of this sacred region. Such were the reasons why I did so much preaching, and fortunately my sermons were well received by my companions.

On the 28th of August we travelled about twenty miles over an undulating country. Throughout that distance we could not get a drop of water, and I had nothing to drink except a cup of tea which I took in the morning just before starting. We were of course all terribly thirsty; yet to me the suffering was not half so great as that I had felt during the former distressing experiences already narrated. Towards the evening we came upon the upper course of the Langchen Khanbab. This is the river called Sutlej in English. It is the head-water of a river which flows westward into India, and, after meeting with the Sitā, forms the great Indus that empties itself into the Arabian Sea. My companions volunteered to tell me that this river started from Lake Mānasarovara. When I pointed out to them that the Lake Mānasarovara was surrounded by mountains on all sides and had no outlet, they replied: “True, but the river has its source in a spring to be found under a great rock, east of the monastery named Chugo Gonpa (the monastery of the source of the river), in a gorge on the north-western side of Mount Kailāsa. That spring is fed by the waters of Lake Mānasarovara that travel thither underground. Hence it may be said with equal truth that the river flows out of the lake.” This was indeed an ingenious way of accounting for the popular belief. But judging from the position of the river, it seemed to me that it must take its origin on a higher level than that of Lake Mānasarovara and I was not (nor am I now) ready to admit the correctness of the native contention. On arriving at the bank of the river we pitched our tents as[160] usual and passed the night. On the following day, we visited a sacred place of great fame in that neighborhood, called Reta-puri in Tibetan pronunciation, but originally in Samskṛṭ Preṭapurī. Having left our baggage, tents and other things with two men to take care of them, I went on the journey thither with Dawa, her father and another woman, four of us in all. As we proceeded westwards along the Langchen Khanbab, we saw large boulders of rock making a walled avenue for a distance of about 400 yards. Out of the rock region, we came upon a river flowing down from the north to the Langchen Khanbab. There were two others running parallel and at a short distance from one another. They are called Tokpo Rabsum, which in Tibetan means three friendly streams. We forded one of them and went up a hill for about a hundred and twenty yards, when an extensive plain lay spread before our view. I noticed that the plain was thickly covered with low bush-growths of some thorny family, and the sight reminded me of our tea-plantations of Uji. About a mile and a quarter further on we came to another stream, the name of which is identical with that of the one we had already crossed. Both these rivers were loin-deep and exceedingly cold, with small ice-blocks floating in them. In fording the river I was much benumbed, and on reaching the opposite banks I found that I had almost lost my power of locomotion. So I told my companions to go on while I rested a few minutes, and applied burning moxa to my benumbed limbs in order to recover their use. Off they went, after telling me that nothing could go wrong with me if I would only take the road in the direction they pointed out to me. Tibetans are strong and healthy, and extremely swift-footed into the bargain. I was no match for them in this respect, especially with half-frozen feet and that was why I told them not to wait for me. The smouldering moxa had its effect on my legs. I felt then more[161] alive, and after an hour’s rest I proceeded westwards for five miles to a place where the plain came to an end. Thence I walked down stream along a river until the temple for which I was heading rose into view. The sight was a grand one, with its maṇi-steps of stone which looked, at a distance, like a long train of railway cars. Nor was this the only place where the maṇi steps could be found. Many of them are to be seen in the Himālayas. I should add that in that mighty range of sky-reaching mountains there lives a species of strange birds, whose note is exactly like the whistle of a railway engine. The maṇi-steps looking like a train before me made me think of the whistle of those birds, and I felt as if I had arrived once more in a civilised country!


On the Road to Nature’s Grand Mandala.

Apart from these fancies, I really felt as if I had entered a civilised region, for beyond I espied a main building and priests’ quarters, and also what looked like a stone tower.

The whole sight was really impressive. The presence of stone buildings especially attracted my attention, for stones are very rare and costly on a Tibetan steppe.

The place was the town just mentioned, called Reta-puri (town of hungry devils), a name which Paldan Aṭīsha gave to the place when he arrived here from India on the work of evangelisation. The name is not inapplicable to the Tibetans.

The Tibetans may indeed be regarded as devils that live on dung, being the most filthy race of all the people I have ever seen or heard of.

They must have presented a similarly filthy appearance at the time of the visit of Aṭīsha, who therefore gave to the place the not inappropriate title of Preṭa-purī. The Tibetans, thanks to their ignorance of Samskṛṭ, are rather proud of the name, being under the belief that it has some holy meaning. After Aṭīsha had founded a temple, several high Lamas resided in this place, and a Lama called Gyalwa Gottsang Pa, of the Dugpa sect, founded a most imposing Lamaserai, which stands to this day.

It is, as I said, a very magnificent establishment, containing four or five priests’ residential quarters, in one of which I passed a night.

My companion took leave of me after having completed his visit to the holy places. I took a frugal lunch in my lodging and then, under the guidance of one of the priests[163] of the temple, sallied out to visit all the holy objects on the premises. The main building was of stone and measured about eight yards by ten. It was of one storey, and was in this unlike most other Tibetan Lamaserais, which are generally two or three storied. The most sacred relics in the temple were the images of Shākyamuni and Lobon Rinpoche (Padma Chungne), founder of the Old Sect of Tibet. To this Lobon are attached many strange legends and traditions, such as would startle even the most degenerate of Japanese priests; but I cannot here relate all those revolting stories. I already knew the strange history of the founder of this Tibetan sect, and so, when I noticed the two images worshipped side by side, a sensation of nausea came over me. It was really blasphemy against Buḍḍha, for Lobon was in practice a devil in the disguise of a priest, and behaved as if he had been born for the very purpose of corrupting and preventing the spread of the holy doctrines of Buḍḍha.

A curtain was hanging in front of the high altar, and one tanka, about sixpence, was the fee for the privilege of looking at the relic behind it. I paid the fee and found that the relic was nothing else than the image engraved on stone of that abominable Lobon. Tradition says that Lobon’s image was naturally inscribed on the rock when he came here and stood before it, and this fantastic story is fully believed in by the simple-minded folk of Tibet. They would not dare to look straight at the image, for fear that their eyes might become blind. I had no such superstition to deter me, and so I gazed with careful scrutiny at the engraved image, and convinced myself that some crafty priests must have drawn on a piece of rock a picture of some priest and that the picture must have been afterwards tricked out with suitable pigments. The engraving too was a clumsy piece of workmanship destitute of any merit whatever, and without even the[164] slightest technical charm, such as might persuade the credulous to regard the image as a natural impression on a rock.

I felt sorry for the sake of the Tibetan religion that such wicked impositions should be suffered to prevail, though the Tibetan priests may on their part reply that Japan is not much better in this respect than Tibet, and that such frauds are not unknown in Japan.

Of whatever impious deeds the Lamas may be guilty, the whole neighborhood was such as to inspire one with chaste thoughts and holy ideas. This seems to be widely accepted in Tibet, for the Tibetans have a saying to this effect: “Not to visit Reta-puri is not to visit the snow-capped Kang Rinpoche; not to go around Lake Kholgyal is not to perform the sacred circuit around Lake Mapham-yumtso.”

This saying means that the visit to Kang Rinpoche only completes one-half of the holy journey unless Reta-puri is visited at the same time, and that the visit to Lake Mapham-yumtso (Mānasarovara) will avail nothing unless Kholgyal is visited at the same time.

The place indeed deserves this high honor, and undoubtedly it constitutes one of nature’s best essays in landscape. Let me describe here a little of this enchanting sight. First there was the river Langchen Khanbab, flowing towards the west, with the opposite bank steep and precipitous, and with rocks piled up here and there, some yellow, some crimson, others blue, still others green, and some others purple. The chequered coloring was beautiful, and looked like a rainbow or a tinted fog, if such a thing could exist. It was a splendid sight. And the rocks were highly fantastic, for some were sharp and angular, and others protruded over the river. The nearer bank was equally abrupt and was full of queerly shaped rocks, and each of those rocks bore a name given to it by the priests of the temple. There was a rock which[165] was known by the name of the “Devil Surrender Rock;” another was called the “Twin Images of the saintly Prince and his Lady;” a third bore the name of “Tise Rock;” a fourth “Goddess of Mercy Rock;” and a fifth “Kāṣyapa Buḍḍha Tower.” All these rocks were objects of veneration to the common people.

I should have been deeply impressed by this unique grandeur of nature, had it not been that I was scandalised by the sight of the misguided veneration, if not worse, paid to the memory of Lobon Rinpoche. As it was, even the kind explanations of my cicerone jarred on my ears.

About two hundred and fifty yards down the bank, from a cavern known as the Divine Grotto, several hot springs were gushing out from between the rocks. Three of them were rather large, while the other three were smaller. The water of all the springs was warm, indeed some was so hot that I could hardly dip the tip of my finger into it. The temperature of that particular spring must have far exceeded 100° Fahrenheit. The water of the springs was quite transparent, and all about them there were many hard incrustations, some white, others red, still others green or blue. The visitors to the place are said to carry away pieces of this incrustation, which are believed to possess a high medicinal value, and so they must have, if properly used.

After having visited all the places of interest, I returned to my quarters and passed the night in meditation. The next morning I left the place, and resumed my journey toward the tent.

Somehow I lost my way in the plain, and when I had already walked five hours I had not reached the river which I ought to have reached in about three hours. I looked round and noticed to my surprise that I had been travelling towards the north, instead of towards the north-east.


Proceeding briskly onward in the right direction I at last reached a river, which I crossed. By that time the sun had begun to decline, and I had had nothing to eat all that day. I afterwards heard that the people of the tent began to be alarmed at my non-appearance, and feared that I must have been carried away by the river and drowned. When I arrived at the tent, weary with the walk and with hunger, I saw the daughter of the family coming out of the tent with some sheep. She was highly delighted to see me, and I was told that she was about to go out in search for me.

On the following day we proceeded eastward and arrived at the steppe lying to the north-east of Lake Rakgal and north-west of Lake Mānasarovara. It was a slope formed by the gradual descent of the spurs of Tise toward Mānasarovara. That night we pitched our tent on that plain, and then our journey towards the sacred mountains began.


Wonders of Nature’s Mandala.

That evening it transpired that the pilgrims could not perform the pilgrimage in company, for every one of them declared his or her intention of performing as many circuits as possible during a stay of four or five days. Now the ordinary circuit—for there were three different routes—measures about fifty miles, which was more than I could perform in a day, even if I had wished to do as my companions had resolved, and they intended to undertake three circuits during the short stay; even the women wished to go round twice.

The pilgrims had to get up at midnight and to return to the tent at about eight in the evening, after having performed the arduous journey. I myself made rather elaborate preparations, and started on the holy journey carrying four or five days’ food on my back. The route I selected for my circuit was what was called the outermost circuit, and led me round a snowy peak resembling in shape a human image, believed here to be that of Shākyamuni, and around the lesser elevations rising about that peak. Those elevations were compared to the principal disciples of the Founder of Buḍḍhism. The route was indicated by a narrow track, but it was really a breakneck journey, for in several places the track went up to the summit of the central peak or to those of some of the elevations round it.

The middle route is more difficult of accomplishment, and the innermost route considerably more so. The last is therefore regarded as fit only for supernatural beings, and he who accomplishes twenty-one circuits round the outermost route obtains permission from the Lamas of the four[168] temples, to go round the middle route. This circuit is to a large extent indicated by a more or less beaten track, but is so steep and dangerous that ordinary persons hardly ever dare to try it. Not unfrequently pilgrims who boldly attempt this most perilous journey are killed by snow-slips, while huge boulders obstruct their passage in several places. Since therefore this route is very rarely attempted by pilgrims, quite marvellous tales are told about it.


The outermost route, round which I undertook my circuit, has at each of its four quarters a temple. These four temples are called the “Four temples of Kang Rinpoche”. I first visited Nyenbo Rizon, which is the name of the temple standing at the western corner. The temple is dedicated to the Buḍḍha Amitābha and I heard that it is a very good investment in a worldly sense, the donations from pious folk amounting to as much as ten thousand yen during the three months of the summer season. This coincidence between Japan and Tibet, concerning the receipts of temples, is exceedingly interesting, for even in Japan temples dedicated to the Buḍḍha Amitābha are the most popular and enjoy the largest share of donations. At any rate such an income must be regarded as extraordinary for a temple situated in a remote part of Tibet. The income, I was told, all goes to the Treasury of the Court of Bhūṭān, in whose jurisdiction are placed all the religious establishments at Tise. This anomaly seems to have originated from the fact that the priests of the Dugpa sect of Bhūṭān formerly reigned supreme at this seat of religion.

The image of the Buḍḍha Amitābha, as enshrined in the temple, is made of a white lustrous stone, and it struck me as a work of high technical merit for Tibet. The features are of the Tibetan type, and looked mild and affable, awaking in me pious thoughts.

In front of the image are erected two ivory tusks about five feet high and very thick, and behind them I saw[170] a hundred volumes of Tibetan Buḍḍhist works arranged on shelves. These books were not there for reading, but in order to receive as sacred objects the offering of the burning lamp.

This use of Buḍḍhist books is peculiar, though it is preferable to the outrageous treatment to which these books are sometimes subjected by impious priests, who do not scruple to tear out leaves and use them for various improper purposes.

After worship, I took from the pile a book that related to the Buḍḍha Amitābha, read it, and then left the temple. Then began my journey through Nature’s Tabernacles, the first object in which was the ‘Golden Valley’.

The adjective ‘golden’ should not be taken in a literal sense, for gold is not found near this place. Rhetorically, however, the valley deserves this distinction, the scenery all round being really magnificent. There are several fantastic rocks of great size towering far into the sky, while beyond them peeps the snow-clad summit of the peak of Tise. And from the crevices and narrow grooves between those towering rocks shoot down several cascades as much as a thousand feet in height. There are quite a number of them, but only seven are really large. Those seven waterfalls have each a distinct individuality. Some shoot down with great force and look not unlike the fabulous dragon descending the rock, while others look milder and may be compared to a white sheet suspended over the rock. I sat down in rapture at the sight, and felt as if I had been transported to some heavenly place. There are to the left several falls and also a range of snow-capped peaks, but they are not to be compared in grandeur with those on the right, at which I had been gazing with extasy. This one sight alone, I thought, well repaid the labor of the journey. I wished to embody my sentiments in a few[171] verses, but the inspiration would not come, and so I proceeded on my way, and soon emerged on the northern section of the Tise group. There I found another Lama monastery, which bore the quaint name of ‘Ri Ra Puri’ (meaning, ‘The place of the female yak’s horn’). It originated in a tradition that once, in ancient times, Gyrva Gottsang Pa, from Bhūṭān, went round this natural Maṇdala in order to find his way in the wilderness. Whilst he was going to the mountain, he found a female yak which proceeded before him and led him on an untrodden path over the snows.

After finishing his route round the Holy Place, he arrived at this spot; the female yak concealed herself in a cavern, now in the temple, and accidentally one of her horns struck against a rock. It was believed by the Lama that the female yak was a disguised form of the mother of the Buḍḍha named Vajra.

This ‘Yak’s Horn Temple’ ranks next to the first temple in respect to pecuniary income. It contains, however, a larger number of priests than the other, there being about fifteen, while the latter has only four.

It was towards dusk that I reached this temple, and I was allowed to lodge there for the night. The priest who appeared to be the senior man in the place was very kind to me and offered his own chamber for my use. It faced towards Mount Kailāsa. My host told me that the view of the moon from this chamber was quite enchanting. He brought me a cup of tea with plenty of butter in it, for I had told him that I made it a rule to dispense with the evening meal. I spent a few pleasant hours with my host, who pointed out to me, on the south from the temple, the high majestic snow-covered peak of Mount Tise, representing the Buḍḍha Shākyamuni; the three small snowy peaks before the mountain, he said, were the Boḍhisaṭṭvas Manjushrī, Avalokiṭeshvara and Vajrapāṇi; he[172] then gave me a description in detail of other peaks, but I need not narrate here what he explained to me, for the account of the range is given in most works treating of Tibet and its geography.

That night I had one of the pleasantest experiences I remember during my expedition to Tibet: it was a pleasure of an elevating kind. My mind was subdued and captivated as I looked, in that still night and in that remote and far-off place, at the soft rays of the moon reflected on the crystal-like current that was flowing with a pleasant murmur. Just as, in the holy Texts, the soft breeze stirring the branches of trees in paradise is said to produce a pleasant note, that sounds to the ears of the happy denizens of that blissful abode like the voice of some one reading the Scriptures, so that sweet murmur of the moon-reflecting stream deluded my enchanted ears into believing that they were listening to the divine music of Buḍḍhism. Staying in that sacred place, and surrounded by such soul-subduing phenomena, my mind soared higher and higher, till it flew up to the eternal region beyond this world of woe and care. The holy Founder tells us that the most sacred region lies in one’s own pure mind, but I, sinful mortal as I was, felt elevated and chastened when I found myself in such an environment.

The next day I stayed at the temple and spent the time with great enjoyment. The following day I left the hospitable monastery and resumed my journey, which included the surmounting of a steep hill, known under the name of the ‘Hill of Salvation’. My host seemed to have had some spiritual affinity with me in a past life, so considerate was he in his behavior to me. For instance, he lent me a yak to carry me over the hill, and moreover gave me some articles of food and various delicacies. I took friendly leave of him, and then started on my journey on the back of the yak, which was led by a guide.


On the hill I came across many Tibetan pilgrims intent on displaying their religious zeal and piety, and their behavior more than ever convinced me that a strong fanaticism characterises the people of that land. Climbing alone was no easy task, and was one that strained even the sturdiest of legs, and yet I noticed several young pilgrims of both sexes performing the journey according to the ‘one-step-one-bow’ method, commonly adopted as a penance. As for me I felt greatly fatigued, though I was riding on the yak, for the atmosphere in that elevated region is very rare and was highly trying to my lungs. When I had ascended the hill for about five miles my respiration became very rapid and I was much exhausted. I therefore rested for awhile, and refreshed myself by taking some medicine. It was while I was taking rest that I noticed a burly fellow frantically confessing to and worshipping the snowy Tise.

My guide informed me that that man was a native of Kham, a place notorious as being a haunt of brigands and highwaymen. He really looked like a typical highwayman, with ferocious features and fierce eyes, and was performing his penance in a loud voice. He must have been a notorious figure even in that land of universal crime.

I was highly amused to find that this fellow was doing penance not for his past offences alone, but also to obtain immunity for any crimes he might commit in future. His extraordinary confession was something in this way: “O Saint Kang Rinpoche! O great Shākyamuni! O all Buḍḍhas and Boḍhisaṭṭvas in the ten quarters of the world and in the time past, present and future! I have been wicked in the past. I have murdered a number of men. I have taken a great deal that did not belong to me. I have robbed husbands of their wives. I have quarrelled ever so many times, and I have also thrashed people. Of all those great sins I repent, and so I solemnly perform my[174] penance here on this hill for them. I believe that by this act of confession and repentance, I have been absolved from those sins. I also perform here penance for my prospective sins, for I may in future repeat them, may rob people of their goods and wives, or thrash and beat them.”

This fellow, I thought, was decidedly original in his conception of penance, and surpassed other sinners by performing a prospective repentance instead of, as in the ordinary method, confining himself to penitence for his past sins. Yet I was told that this convenient mode of repentance was universal in the robber district of Kham.

Our path next lay over a hill known as the hill of the Dolma-la, meaning the Pass of the Mother of the Savior. On ascending the hill one sees to the right a snowy range of the northern parts of Mount Kailāsa, named in Tibetan Gyalpo Norjingi Phoprang, which means the “residence of King Kuvera”, the God of Wealth. The spot is very famous to Indians also; even in early times in India the great poet Kāliḍāsa described this magnificent mansion with its immense views in his masterpiece of the Meghaḍūṭa—The cloud-messenger. Seeing it, I said in my fancy: “Is it not really the mansion of the God of Wealth—that crystal abode shining in the emerald sky?” I mused furthermore that a mammon-worshipper will certainly one day explore that shining region, expecting to find a diamond mine. On the crest of Dolma-la stands a natural stone image of the Mother of the Savior. On the north-east of it a number of queer-shaped rocks and fantastic stones are to be seen, their points all looking like images. These were explained by my guide as twenty-one images of the Mother of the Savior. This crest of the hill is very high, and indeed does not appear lower in height than the top of Tise itself, the height of which is about 22,300 feet above sea-level. The air is therefore very rarefied and the[175] temperature very low. Even when I remained quiet I felt the effect of the high altitude, for my heart beat rapidly and I suffered much pain. I thought that I should hardly have been able to perform the journey on foot, and that therefore I was deeply indebted to my host for lending me a yak to carry me over the series of hills. The Tibetan pilgrims did not seem to suffer to any particular extent from the effects of the rarefied atmosphere. They possess capacious lungs and can therefore climb any elevated hill without fatigue. Of course ordinary people, who do not possess lungs half as large as those of the Tibetans, can hardly expect to undertake this journey with so much ease. As it was, I felt very much exhausted, even though I did not walk on foot but rode on the yak. Near the foot of the hill I found a large pond which was entirely frozen over—a pond associated with an interesting legend. In ancient times, says that legend, the God of Wealth and his family used the water of this pond to wash their hands, for in those days it was not frozen in summer. Afterwards a woman pilgrim carrying a baby on her back came to the pond. As she bent over to wash her hands, the baby slipped off her back into the water and was drowned. The guardian deities of the place then consulted how to provide against such accidents, and they decided that the pond should be frozen over all the year around.

The descent is rather sharp, and it was uncomfortable sitting on the yak’s back, so I dismounted and trotted down after the animal.

At last we reached the eastern part of Tise and arrived at the Zun-tul phuk, which means the cave of miracles, founded by the hermit Jetsun Milaraspa, one of the most venerated saints in the Tibetan hagiology. Various interesting traditions are told about this saint, but these I need not give here, as they are too technical. I may say, however, that Milaraspa is said to have led a[176] highly austere life, and that he did much to diffuse the true tenets of Buḍḍhism. He was also a great poet, the only poet who figures in the long history of Tibet. His biography therefore reads like a romance or a great epic, full of sublime conceptions. Milaraspa being such a unique personality in the history of Tibet, his name has attracted the attention of western explorers, and extracts from his poems have been translated. After returning to Darjeeling I explained his poems to a certain Russian traveller and writer, who translated them into his national tongue. He was much delighted with the information which I gave him, and told me that my translation enabled him to interpret something of the spirit of the great Tibetan epic.

We stayed one night at that temple, and on the following day proceeded along the banks of the river Ham-hung-gi-chu (shoe-dropping river) and reached a place which contained a temple called Gyang-tak-gonpa. This temple is dedicated to Dorje Karmo, the Goddess named White Vajra. The place is situated about one mile off the road and near by is a postal station named Darchen Tazam. This station contains about thirty houses built of stone, besides about a dozen tents pitched here and there. It is a business as well as a revenue centre for the whole district. I lodged at one of the houses, and here the guide took leave of me. That night I performed my usual religious meditation, and on the morning of the following day my pilgrim companions rejoined me.

The station lies on a steppe between the north-western corner of Lake Mānasarovara and the north-eastern corner of Lake Lakgal. On the following day our party left the station, and proceeded in a south-easterly direction, to the west of Mānasarovara. We advanced in the same direction the next day, till we reached the foot of a snowy peak named Bon-Ri. This is, as I have mentioned before, a place sacred to the Bon, or ancient religion of[177] Tibet. I saw a big temple in the place, which I found to be not a temple belonging to that old religion, as I had expected, but one belonging to the New Sect. It looked a magnificent establishment as seen from a distance, but we did not go near it. This neighborhood produced various kinds of mushrooms, and some which were growing in damp places were gathered by the women of the party. They collected large quantities of the fungus, which was fried with butter and eaten with salt. I tasted it and found it delicious. By that time we had left the limits of the sacred region, and my male companions no longer considered themselves as pilgrims, but as men who had to face the stern realities of the material world. They declared that they must resume their worldly business, and proposed to start by shooting deer. It seemed to me that their shooting not infrequently included extraordinary kinds of game, and I suspected, on good grounds, that the three brothers had now and then turned highwaymen and either robbed or murdered travellers. I therefore began to be afraid of them, and thought that I had better separate myself from them on some plausible pretext, and without awakening their suspicion.

On the following day we reached the brow of a hill, and there one of the brothers in my presence shot an animal called in Tibet changku. The shooting was done merely for pleasure and not with the object of eating its flesh or using its skin. The changku, or wolf, resembles a large species of dog with rather thin fur, which in summer turns a fine brownish color. In winter the color is said to be a whitish grey. The ears are erect and the face appears ferocious. It is said that this wild animal will attack solitary travellers and even kill them. When the brothers brought down the animal their eyes gleamed with delight, and I secretly thought that their eyes would show that same cruel gleam when they murdered a wealthy traveller.


An Ominous Outlook.

The next day, September 14th, snow again fell, and so we had to stay in the same place. The hunting-dogs went out of their own accord on a rabbit-hunting expedition, and came back with their mouths stained with blood. They must have hunted down some rabbits and made a meal of them. The snow ceased, and we left the place on the following day. Proceeding eastwards, we now came to a long undulating hill, and soon reached its summit. Here the head of the family said that our pilgrimage must end at this spot, and when asked why at this particular place, he pointed to Lake Mānasarovara, situated to the west, and also to the snow-capped peak of Manri that stood due south from the middle of the Lake, and told me that we should here bid farewell and express our good wishes to the sacred region, for this was the last point where we could have a full view of the Holy Place, and that we should express in our prayers an earnest desire to visit this sacred region again in the future. Saying this, he bowed down and I and all the rest followed his example.

When I thought that I (the first Japanese who had ever come to visit this district from a remote country thousands of miles away) was now about to take leave of Lake Mānasarovara after having been in its neighborhood for several days, a peculiar sensation came over me, and I stood gazing at the lake for some time. As we were going down the hill, my host told me that as they had already departed from the Holy Place they should now earnestly engage themselves in their worldly pursuits; therefore they thought it time[179] that I should leave them. We soon reached a little encampment of some twelve or thirteen tents, and thither I wended my way to observe the condition of the small community.

Mendicancy was well suited for satisfying my curiosity, and as a mendicant I entered the encampment. My companions remained in the same place that day and the next, the brothers occupied in shooting. On the latter day I was reading a Chinese Buḍḍhist Text, and the two women were outside engaged in some earnest talk. At first I did not pay any attention to what they were saying, but when my ears caught the word ‘Lama’ pronounced several times my curiosity was awakened. Dawa was saying that she had heard the Lama, that is myself, say that her mother was probably dead. She wished, she continued, to ascertain this of the Lama, and so she had been pressing him for some definite information. Her aunt received this remark with a laugh. He must have seen, she said, that Dawa was in love with him, and had therefore told her this fib in joke. She must not mind what the Lama told her. However, the aunt continued, her husband had been telling her that he must make the Lama marry Dawa, and that should he refuse, her husband would kill him. It was evident that this last portion of the conversation was intended for my ears, for the aunt spoke in a loud voice.

When I heard that intimidatory warning I at first felt alarmed, but the next moment I recovered my tranquillity. I thought that if I should suffer death for having resisted a temptation, my death would be highly approved by the holy Founder. He would be displeased if I should disobey my conscience for the mere fear of death. Internally praying for strength of mind to resist the temptation, even at the risk of my life, I resumed my reading. However nothing occurred to me that day, nor the next,[180] when we struck our tent and proceeded for about five miles close to the brow of a hill, from which I saw at a short distance what appeared to be houses, and I was told that this was another postal station called Tokchen Tazam. Again I visited the place in the disguise of a mendicant priest. I soon returned and found Dawa alone in the tent; the rest were all gone out hunting, so she told me. I at once saw that the conspiracy was developing, and that matters were growing quite critical.

I concluded that I must do my best to dissuade the girl from pursuing the object of her misplaced affection. Some spiritual affinity must have brought me into the company of this girl, so it seemed to me that I was bound to administer an earnest expostulation, so that she might recover from her erring fancy. So thinking, I took my seat in the tent. As soon as I did so, she brought me some mushrooms she had collected for me in the morning, for she said: “You seemed to be very fond of them.” I thanked her for her kindness, took all the mushrooms and a cup of baked flour, and then set myself to read my books. The girl stopped me, saying that she had something which she must tell me, for she had heard something which filled her with fear. Then she narrated what one of her uncles, that is one of my male companions, had said about his intention to force me to marry his niece. When she had concluded her story, I told her with the greatest composure that I should be rather glad than afraid to be killed by the brothers of her father. I had finished my pilgrimage, I added; I had nothing to desire in this world, and I was not in the least afraid to die. Moreover, I continued, I would not harbor any ill-will, even if I should be killed now by her father and uncles. I should rather thank them for hastening my departure to the plane of Boḍhisaṭṭvas; so I would pray for them when I was enabled to reach that Happy Abode. I would therefore ask to be[181] killed that very evening. The girl seemed surprised to find her revelation producing an effect quite the reverse of what she had expected. She tried to remonstrate with me on what she considered a foolish resolution, and spoke some commonplaces about death and the pleasures of life. Of course I easily refuted them, and at last she gave up the evidently useless task of persuading me.


About four o’clock that afternoon the four returned. They must have listened for some time to the conversation between Dawa and myself, for as soon as they entered the tent, the most wicked of the three brothers severely scolded Dawa for flirting with a man. Upon this, the girl’s father at once took her side, and snappishly told his brother that his Dawa had a father to protect her, and therefore wanted nobody to meddle with her, much less an uncle who had never given her even so much as one bowl of flour since she was born.


The quarrel waxed hotter and fiercer, and the brothers began to abuse each other and to divulge each other’s crimes. One accused the other of being a robber, and of having murdered men at such and such places, and was met with the recriminating accusation of having attempted to rob the Government and of having fled for fear of arrest. The wordy warfare at last developed into actual blows, and the brothers exchanged fisticuffs, and even began to hurl stones at each other. I thought I must interfere, and so I jumped up and attempted to hold back the youngest brother as he was about to spring at Dawa’s father. The fellow struck my cheek with his bony knuckles with such force that I fell, and my whole frame shook with pain. The confusion in the tent had reached its climax, and Dawa was beginning to cry and so was also her aunt. I remained a passive spectator of the rest of this terrible scene, for I had to lie prostrate from the pain. Presently the sun set and the quarrel too spent itself and the night passed without any further outbreak.

The next morning the party broke up, for each brother wanted to go his way, the eldest with his wife, the second with his daughter, and the third alone, as was also the case with me; so we had to disperse, each for his own destination. One thing that troubled me was the lack of sheep to carry my effects. At last I purchased two at six tanka each, and separating myself from the rest proceeded in the south-easterly direction. One of the brothers started for the north, while I could see the others were retracing the road we had come along.

I had heard before that I must push on rapidly, but I purposely took the south-easterly direction, in order to throw off the scent any of the brothers who might come after me to rob me, or even worse. And so I proceeded in this direction, and by about sunset I reached the brow of a hill, where I was obliged to bivouac in the open, and on[183] a snow-covered plain. The change was too sudden after having lived for so long in the tent, and I could not snatch even one wink of sleep during the night. On the following day, still continuing in the same direction, I reached a small monastery of the name of Sha Chen Khangba, where I remained that day and the next. For the first time since I parted with the brothers and the troublesome women, I felt safe, for I concluded that I was no longer in danger of being pursued by one of the murderous gang. I saw only two priests in the temple, and I spent most of my time in stitching my worn-out boots and clothes.

While I was staying in the monastery one of my sheep suddenly fell ill and died. I felt sorely grieved at his death, and read a suitable service for him. The other sheep I had to sell, at half the price I had paid for him, to one of four traders who arrived at the monastery soon after I had reached it, for I could hardly manage him now, as he was so peevish and disconsolate at the loss of his partner. To the four men I also gave the flesh of the dead sheep, and they accepted it with thanks. It happened that the party was travelling in the same direction as myself, and they proposed that I should go with them. This was quite a welcome suggestion, especially as the men were kind enough to offer their services to carry my effects, for they had with them a number of yaks.

So once more I had travelling companions, and I left the monastery with a far more cheerful heart than I had when I reached it. We proceeded in a south-easterly direction, and soon came to a small round pond, a little over half a mile in circumference. Proceeding along the right side of the pond, we next came to a lake which is very long from north-west to south-east, but very narrow. The whole circumference is said to be about forty miles. This lake is bounded by rocky hills on all sides, and the blackish rocks scattered here and there[184] were partially covered, especially in the crevices and sheltered spots between the adjoining rocks, with a thin layer of snow, so that they presented quite a pretty sight. I ascended a small elevation close by the lake, and looked down on it and also on the small pond. From that height the serpentine lake looked just like the fabulous dragon in the act of clutching a round gem, the pond corresponding to the gem. The snow-streaked rocks were not unlike a white fleece of cloud. This lake is known by the name of Kong-gyu-i Tso, as I heard from my fellow travellers. After proceeding about seventeen miles south-eastwards, with the lake on our left, we reached its extremity. Here we were to bivouac, as we had no tent, but I could not sleep on the snow-covered plain. I therefore passed the night in my usual style, that is to say, in religious meditation, the best expedient for a sleepless night.

Our road lay next day over a steep hill, and it was indeed such a break-back ascent that it seemed to be trying even to the sturdy legs and lungs of my Tibetan companions. As for myself, I was lucky enough to get permission to ride on a yak’s back, and so I could negotiate the ascent with no great difficulty. Descending the opposite slope of the hill we soon reached a plain which, together with all the adjoining country, was situated in the Kong-gyu district. On this plain I noticed a white spot, not unlike a lake at a distance. My companions informed me that the white thing was puto, and that the white spot indicated the site of a lake which produced natural soda.

When we reached the lake my companions eagerly collected the deposit, put it in skin-bags and fastened it to the back of the yaks. They told me that the soda was to be mixed with tea.

We then went on over several low undulating hills, and finally reached the lower course of the river Chema Yungdung, where I had narrowly escaped drowning a short time[185] before. As the season was now well advanced, the river was much shallower and we were able to cross it with comparative ease. I indeed could do so with perfect security, for I was carried on a yak’s back.

We were travelling all these days at the rate of about twenty-five miles a day, and I should hardly have been able to make such good progress had it not been for the fact that I could ride every now and then on a yak. What distressed me most was bivouacking in the open, where sleep was out of the question in the cold autumn nights and on ground covered with snow. After proceeding some twenty-five miles to the south-east, on the following day we reached the Brahmapuṭra, known in this region as Martsan-gi-chu or Kobei-chu, according to the districts which it traversed. The lordly river was quite shallow and could be crossed without trouble, and I did so as before on the yak’s back. We found some tents by the bank of the river where we were allowed to pass a night—quite a cheering change after so many nights of bivouacking.

It was a moonless night, but the sky was full of stars, which threw their twinkling rays on the water of the river. The vast range of the Himālayas was clearly silhouetted, so as to make its sharp outline perceptible. The majestic scene inspired me with poetic fervor:

Like to the Milky Way in Heaven at night,
With stars begemmed in countless numbers decked,
The Brahmaputra flashes on the sight,
His banks, fit haunt for Gods, appear
In gorgeous splendors from the snowy height.

The following day I had to part from my companions, who were going to a destination different from mine, and so I was again thrown on my own wits and my own legs for continuing my journey. After having travelled for so many days with the help of other people, I now had to travel[186] alone with nothing but my back on which to carry my effects, and my journey on the following day was a cheerless and fatiguing one. The load weighed heavily on my back, and the time I occupied in taking rest was perhaps longer than that spent in actual progress. At last I was so much exhausted that I could hardly move my limbs.


A Cheerless Prospect.

While I was taking rest in that helpless condition, I was fortunate enough to see a Tibetan coming along my way leading a yak. When he came to where I was sitting I greeted him, and asked him to carry my luggage as far as he could without compromising his own convenience, and promised him suitable pay for his trouble. He willingly consented, and relieved my aching back of its load.

After travelling about three miles, I observed three men coming towards us on horseback. They were fully armed, each with a gun, a lance and a sword, and as they approached they looked like burly men, wearing Tibetan hunting caps. I at once concluded that they must be highwaymen, for evidently they were not pilgrims, the latter generally travelling with a pack-horse or a yak to carry their necessaries; nor could they be merchants, for they would travel in a caravan, according to the fashion of the country. My companion came to the same conclusion and began to show signs of fear. To encounter highwaymen is not quite agreeable under any circumstances, so I was not cheered at the thought of meeting those three fellows, but I was not at all afraid, for I made up my mind to surrender whatever things they wished to have out of my effects. I simply wished to keep my life, and for this the highwaymen could have no use. With that idea I boldly advanced and soon came face to face with the three cavaliers. They asked me whence I came, and when I replied that I was returning from a visit to Mount Kailāsa they further asked me if I had not seen some traders on my way. The traders were their friends, they continued, and they were searching for them.


When I replied that I had not met with any such persons, the men then said that I must be a Lama-priest, and as such they wished me to perform some divination for them, to find out the whereabouts of their friends. Now the meaning of their request was quite clear, they wished to find the traders in order to assault and despoil them. For my own part I was rather relieved when the three fellows disclosed their intention, for I knew that highwaymen who were after traders with rich goods would scorn the idea of robbing a poor Lama-priest such as they took me to be. On the contrary they might offer some donation to such a priest, if they asked him to undertake divination for their sake. Highwaymen who do business on a large scale often prove a source of substantial profit to Lama-priests, if a donation coming from such quarters can be regarded as a legitimate profit.

Well, placed under such peculiar circumstances, I was obliged to give them a ‘direction,’ and of course the direction I gave them was the one which I judged least likely to be frequented by traders. The highwaymen were highly pleased at my divination, thanked me, and then galloped off in the direction I indicated. They did not offer me any donation, however, for they said they had nothing to present to me now.

My companion had remained at a distance all the while as a terrified spectator of this strange transaction between the highwaymen and myself. When they had galloped away he emerged from his hiding-place, and asked me what I was talking about with those dreadful men. I told him in detail what had passed between the highwaymen and myself, and relieved his anxiety by assuring him that my divination was a mere sham, and was really intended to mislead them instead of giving them any probable direction.

After having walked along a river bank for about eight miles we came to a tent which belonged to my companion,[189] and there were two or three others besides. That night I slept in the tent of my guide, and I also stayed there during the following day in order to give rest to my fatigued limbs. On the following morning (that is on September 26th) I purchased a goat according to the advice of my host, and packing my effects on the animal’s back I left the place.

I was soon after overtaken by a fearful snowstorm, which obstructed my sight and blocked my progress. My Tibetan garment was completely drenched, and I was wet to the skin. I could not determine in which direction I should proceed, for the storm blinded my eyes and I had lost my compass; but though I could not be certain of the right direction I had to move on as best I could, for to stand still was out of the question. My situation was growing more and more desperate, and I was at my wit’s end, not knowing what to do. As luck would have it, just at that moment I met with a horseman. He at once noticed the plight I was in and kindly offered me the hospitality of his tent. It was a little détour, he said, for one going to Lhasa to go with him to his tent, but it would be dangerous (though not probably fatal, as the season was not yet far advanced) to pass that snowy night in the open; the cold was too severe to expose oneself to it with safety at night. I gratefully accepted the hospitable offer, transferred, as he bade me, a part of my goat’s load on to the back of his horse, and then, leading the goat, followed the horseman and soon reached his tent.

The following morning my host left quite early, and the people of the tent, and of four or five others, broke up their camp and moved on in the direction in which I also was to proceed for my journey towards Lhasa. So I followed them, and trudged along the snow-covered ground in a south-easterly direction for about fifteen miles. I had not yet had occasion to talk with any of them, but I felt sure[190] that they would again extend to me their hospitality, and at least allow me to share their tent at night, for they must see, I thought, that it was impossible for me to sleep outside among the snow-covered hills. In time the party made a halt, selected a suitable site for pitching their camp, scraped off the snow, and set up their tents. All that while I was watching the people at work, or gazing at the surrounding scenery. When the tent-pitching was finished, I asked the people of the tent in which I had slept the preceding night for permission to enjoy a similar favor again. I was astonished to receive from them a blunt refusal. Then I tried another tent, but with no better success, and my earnest requests at the five or six other tents were all in vain. I at last came to the only remaining tent, and I thought that as this was my last chance I must somehow or other persuade the inmates to admit me, whether they were willing to receive me or not; so I begged them—they were an old dame and her daughter—for permission to sleep in their tent, on the ground that I should probably be frozen to death if I were to stay outside in the snow on that cold night, and urged that they should take compassion on me. I added that I might repay their kindness with a suitable present of money. The old woman was not softened at all by my appeal. On the contrary she was angry with me, saying that I was insulting her by trying to force hospitality from her. Why had I not tried other tents inhabited by men, and why should I be so importunate with her alone? I was insulting her because she was a woman, she added, and she insisted on my leaving her tent. When I tried to protest against this merciless treatment she stood up in an awful passion, and raising aloft the Tibetan tongs, with which she was scraping together the kindled yak’s dung, she made as though she would strike me.


At Death’s Door.

No one would take me into his tent, and I was thus quite at my wit’s end. I retired to a distance of some dozen yards and, looking at the four or five tents which appeared to be warm and cozy, remembered Buḍḍha’s words: “For him who has no relationship to me, it is very difficult to receive salvation from me.” These people were perfect strangers to me, and therefore slept comfortably in their tents, while I had to lie down on the cold ground, exposed to the severe winds. But, I thought, the fact that I had asked them for a lodging might have created a certain relationship, by means of which they might yet be saved, and that it would not be quite in vain if I read the Holy Texts for their salvation. Of course this was merely my duty as a follower of Buḍḍha, whose love is universal. So I sat down on the ground and recited the Buḍḍhist Text, with the kindest intentions. After a while the girl whom I had lately asked for a lodging peeped from her tent and stared at me, then hastily withdrew. Presently she appeared a second time and, approaching me, said that she supposed I was conjuring evil spirits to punish her and her mother for their refusal to lodge me. This must not be done, said she. She and her mother had now agreed that they should entertain me in their tent, and she had been sent for me. There was something comical in the fact that my kind intentions should be taken for revengeful motives, and that those motives should be rewarded with kindness. But I attributed all to the benevolence of Buḍḍha, and thankfully accepted the girl’s invitation. A Buḍḍhist service was held that evening.


The following morning I left the tent very early, and walked south-east for two miles and a half in a hilly district. Quite unexpectedly, two men rushed out from behind a rock and stopped me. As they did not seem like robbers, though they were armed, I was simple enough to think that they were natives of the place making a trip. They approached close to me and asked me what I had. I replied, “I had Buḍḍhism”. They did not understand what I said and exclaimed:

“What is that you have on your back?”

“That is my food.”

“What is that sticking out on your breast?”

“That is my silver.”

No sooner had the last answer been given, than the men seized my sticks, and I understood at once that they were robbers. Promptly making up my mind what to do, I said:

“You want something of me?”

“Of course!” one of them said, showing his teeth.

“Well, then, there is no use in hurrying. I will give you all you want. Be calm, and say what you want.”

“Produce your silver first.”

I gave them my purse.

“You seem to have some valuables on your back. Let us see.”

I obeyed. They also demanded to see my bag, which was being carried on the goat, and, after ransacking it, returned me the Scriptures, the bed-clothes that were heavy, and a few other things that were useless to them. They took, however, all my food, saying that they needed it, although neither could I do without food.


It is a rule among the robbers of Tibet that, having taken all they want, they should give their victim enough food for some three days, provided that the latter read the Texts and ask for food. I thought I would[194] follow this custom, and I said that I possessed in my breast-cloth a silver pagoda, containing relics of Buḍḍha, which Mr. Ḍhammapāla of India had asked me to present to the Dalai Lama, and which I did not wish to lose. The highwaymen at once wanted to know if I could not give it to them, and I replied that if they wanted it I would give it, but that as a layman could not keep it properly, they must expect some misfortune as a punishment for their sacrilege.

So saying, I produced the pagoda and invited them to open it. This was probably more than they expected. They would not even touch it, but asked me to place it upon their heads with my benediction. I held the pagoda over their heads and, reciting the three Refuges and Five Commandments of Buḍḍha, prayed that their sins might be extinguished by the merit of Ḍharma.

Then I stood up, and was going to ask of them a few days’ rations, when two men on horseback put in an appearance far ahead, and before I could look round, the robbers had gathered together all that they had seized, and made off in the opposite direction. They ran over the mountains like hares, and it was quite out of the question for me to give them chase. I thought, therefore, to ask the horsemen for provisions. But for some reason or other they climbed a mountain ahead of me, and did not come as far as where I was. I called out to them and made signs by turning my right hand inwards, according to the Tibetan custom. Perhaps my voice did not reach them, or they had some business demanding urgent attendance, for they paid no attention to me. Still I had left eight Indian gold coins which I had kept close to my skin. My baggage having been greatly diminished, I placed it all on my goat, and went on with my journey. It was a steep mountain pass, and before I had travelled eight miles it became dark. The night was spent as usual in bivouacking in a crevice between the rocks.


The following morning I wished to take a north-easterly direction, so as to reach a certain post-town; but having no compass, I could not ascertain my bearings, and seem to have strayed off to the south-east and eventually due south, instead of north-east, as I should have done. The snow began to fall at three o’clock in the afternoon, and I walked and walked until the evening, but met not a single human being. I was exceedingly hungry, and so thirsty that I ate the snow. One meal a day would have been sufficient for me, but the absolute fasting gave me no small pain.

Darkness and hunger compelled me to stop, and I selected a hollow in the ground as my bed, clearing it of snow. As there is always a danger of being frozen dead when one is beset by a snow-storm in a vast plain, I took the precaution to hold my breath, so as to minimise the communication with the outside air, according to the methods learned during my Buḍḍhist training. This, I think, is the best method for bivouacking in the snow, and I soon fell asleep in the hollow.

On waking early next morning I saw the snow had fallen to a great depth, but the weather was fine; and when I looked around, I thought the mountains ahead resembled the hilly district called Nahru-ye, where I had once been in the company of some herdsmen. Proceeding further, I found the familiar Kyang-chu river, which I was delighted to see. Sustained by the hope of finding some old acquaintances at Nahru-ye, I walked some five miles in that direction. But nowhere was there any human being to be seen; there was nothing but the snow. I was almost despairing, owing to my extreme hunger and thirst, for I was entirely exhausted, though I had no heavy baggage to carry. But I had to walk on and on, eating a little snow from time to time to allay my hunger.


I thought that by travelling farther across the Kyang-chu river, I should reach the place where Alchu Lama lived. He never wandered far away from that place, and I might find him there; so I decided upon travelling in that direction. I crossed the river about nine miles above the place where I had crossed it on the previous occasion. The water had decreased to about one-fifth of its usual amount, and it was just freezing. I broke the ice with my sticks and crossed the river. If the ice had been thick, the crossing of the river would have been a very easy task, but the thin ice entailed the danger to the traveller of being thrown into the deep current, and injured by the ice-blocks. After many difficulties I reached the opposite bank, and walked due south.

Then the baggage which was being carried by the goat got lost. It contained what the robbers had left—a carpet made of sheep-skin, shoes, drugs, and such things. I searched everywhere, but in vain. I had to give up my search and proceed further, for I wished to reach a tent before night, as sleeping amid the snow on the open field for several nights consecutively would mean the end of my life; so I pushed on until eight o’clock and had covered twenty miles, when another trouble cropped up in the shape of terrible pain in the eyes, the result of the strong glare of the sun on the snow. My eyes felt as if they would burst, and I could not remain quiet. Moreover the snow recommenced falling in the evening, and the cold was extreme, and when I lay down I felt the biting coldness of the snow on my head. I pressed the snow on my eyes, but it did not lessen the pain in the least. A cold sweat broke out all over me from the pain and cold, and, in trying to calm myself, I found that my body was becoming benumbed by the frost. I tried keeping my eyes shut, and anointed them abundantly with the oil of cloves. But slumber was far from me. I rivetted my thoughts on Buḍḍhism, and was[197] doing my best to keep down the pain, when, quite unexpectedly, I was inspired with an uta, which runs:

Upon these plains of snow, my bed is snow,
My pillow, snow; my food also the same;
And this my snowy journey, full of pain.

The effusion soothed my heart, and I felt more than ever thankful for the beauty of the Japanese language.

The next day, October 1, 1900, at about six in the morning I decided to proceed on my journey. The snow had ceased, and the sun was shining brightly, to the increased pain of my eyes. I could not walk with my eyes shut; and yet the pain of keeping them open, however slightly, was more than I could bear. I was so overcome by it that I would from time to time fall down, wherever I might be. I had had no food for nearly four days, and was so weak that the smallest stone lying in the snow would bring me down. Fortunately I sustained no injury, owing to the softness of the snow and the lightness of my body. There was a time, however, when I got quite exasperated by hunger, the pain in my eyes, and the weakness of my legs, and sat down in the snow, feeling that I was fated to die. Intellectually, however, death was far from my thoughts. Were there only some means of getting rid of my bodily pains, I thought I could walk on and on, and at last reach safety.

At this juncture a horseman put in an appearance far ahead. I strained my eyes, though with terrible pain, and thus made out that it was a horseman. I stood up at once and signalled him to approach. I wished to shout but could not; the effort seemed to choke me, and it was only after enormous exertion that I squeezed out two feeble shouts and wildly gesticulated. The horseman, having apparently observed me, galloped towards me, to my great joy. Soon he was beside me, asking me what I was doing in such a desert of snow, and I told him with uncommon difficulty that I had been robbed[198] of most of my baggage, had lost what remained to me en route, and had had nothing to eat for over three or four days. He was a young man, full of sympathy. Though he was provided with extra provisions, he said, he would give me only some sweetmeats, made of cream and brown sugar, a food which is esteemed as a rare delicacy in the northern steppes of Tibet. I swallowed down the food which he gave me so hurriedly that I did not even taste it.

I then enquired of him if I could not find a lodging hereabouts. His reply was that he was a pilgrim, and that his parents and others were staying beside the mountain ahead of us, and that I should be able to obtain some accommodation there. He therefore advised me to come to his tent, and, saying that he was in hurry, galloped away in that direction.

The distance was only a little above two miles, but I do not remember how often I stumbled and fell down, and rested, and ate snow, before I reached the tent. More than three hours were occupied on the journey, and I did not reach the tent till past eleven o’clock, when the young man came out to welcome me. His parents congratulated me on my narrow escape from death, and entertained me with the best sort of Tibetan food, which consisted of boiled rice covered with butter, and accompanied by sugar and raisins. I did not take much of the food, for fear that the sudden repletion might injure me, but I took a little milk after a very modest repast. The pain in my eyes was no better. There was no medicine, and the best I could do was to cool them with snow. In spite of the fine bed with which I was accommodated I could not sleep that night, owing to the pain I felt in my eyes.

These people, being pilgrims, were intending to move on day by day. The next morning, therefore, I also had to proceed on my journey. But it was some time before they could start, for they had to pull down the tents and pack[199] them on the yaks. I finished my tea therefore, and went out of doors, while they were busily engaged in packing their effects. I had walked to the further end of a row of four or five tents, when seven or eight ferocious Tibetan dogs attacked me, barking loudly. Handicapped as I was with the pain in my eyes, I could not deal with these dogs so deftly as at other times. At first, I kept my eyes open and brandished my two sticks, driving back the animals, which attacked me from all sides. But once I was obliged to close my eyes, and immediately a dog behind me seized one of my sticks. The next moment another dog fastened his teeth on my right leg, and threw me down.

I uttered a feeble cry for help, which brought several men on the scene, and they drove away the dogs with stones. But the blood flowed out abundantly from the wound, which I held fast with my hands, and I lay motionless until an aged dame brought me some medicine, which she said was a marvellous cure for such wounds. I dressed the wound with the medicine and bandaged it, and attempted to rise, but in vain. It was impossible for me to stand up.

But as it was equally impossible that I should lie down there for ever, I asked the people what they would advise me to do, and if they did not know the whereabouts of Alchu Lama, whom I thought to be in that vicinity. They asked me if I was acquainted with Alchu Lama, and, on being answered in the affirmative, one of them volunteered to carry me on his horse to the tent of Alchu Lama, who he said, being a physician, would be able to cure me alike of the wound and of the eye-disease. I rose with the support of the sticks, one of which broke under me and had to be thrown away, and mounted on the horse.

Arriving at a place where there stood two tents, I perceived that these tents were smaller than those of Alchu Lama. Though wondering at heart, I alighted from the horse, and enquired at one of the tents for[200] the Lama, and I was informed that this was not the Lama’s tent, but that of his wife’s father. I wanted to reach the Lama’s tents somehow, and was speaking to that effect, when the wife, hearing my voice, said that I was the revered Lama who had made a pilgrimage to the snowy peak of Tise, and came out to see me.

“Where is your Lama?” I asked.

“He lives about two miles east of this place.”

“I wish to find him. Have you no one to take me to him?”

“I have nothing to do with the Lama any more, nor can I take you. But if you want to go there, I will direct the man who has brought you here to accompany you.”

“But why do you not yourself return to your own home?”

“Oh, there is no man so wicked as he; I intend to leave him.”

“That is not good,” said I.

Then we had a long talk, and after I had been given a repast, I rode to the Lama’s tent.

The Lama being out, I was received by his domestics. When he returned home in the evening, I related my adventures to him and asked him for some medicine. He kindly dressed my wound with excellent drugs, and gave me purgatives, saying that it was necessary for me to purge my body in order to prevent the diffusion throughout my system of poison which some of the dogs injected by their bites. He also said that I should stay with him for at least a week, in order to recuperate. Thanks to his directions, which I obeyed, I was in a few days greatly relieved of the suffering both in my leg and eyes.

I had experienced enough of hardship, and had very poor prospects of an easy life in the future. But still there was a genuine pleasure in pushing on through hardships. About that time I composed a poem:

All bitter hardships in this world of woe,
Have I thus tasted now during this life;
None will be left for me to suffer more.


One day I asked the Lama why he had sent his wife to her parents, whereupon he explained the shortcomings of his wife. Both had their reasons, and I could not say which was wrong. But, I said, the man ought to have magnanimity and to console his wife, so that it was advisable for the Lama to send for his wife to come back. I supported my advice by the doctrines of Buḍḍhism, and made him yield to my proposal. He sent two of his men for his wife, who, after making some fuss, returned to his tent the same evening.

The following day, when I referred to the Discourse on the Five Vices, which is included in the Gospel of the Buḍḍha Life Eternal (one of the three books of the Jōdō Sect, but not found in the Tibetan Canon) the Lama expressed his desire to hear a lecture on it. I consented to the request and expounded the discourse on the days following. The sermon in question treats of all imaginable vices and sins devised by mankind, arranging them into five classes and explaining them in the most appropriate manner. During my lecture on this discourse the couple were so deeply moved to repentance for their sins that they wept and at times asked me to suspend the lecture. As their repentance was sincere, I congratulated them on their progress in virtue. I stayed with them for some ten days, and my bodily troubles were so much relieved that I was able to regale my eyes with the magnificent view of the snow and ice, lit up by the serene moon-light. This lovely scenery of nature caused me to think of my country, and I had occasion to compose many utas, two of which were as follows:

The spotless sky is bathed in light serene
By that cold moon with her all-tranquil ray;
This pleasant scene fires me with memories sweet
Of that dear mother-land now far away.
Here on these lonely steppes the grass is dry,
No reeds, no autumn flowers show their smiles;
On high the moon shines on these wilds alone,
Enhancing thus the loneliness profound.



The Saint of the White Cave revisited.

I spent some pleasant days here and was perfectly cured of my illness. At the instance of Alchu Lama I decided to pay another visit to Gelong Rinpoche. Our party, including the Lama, his wife, myself and three domestics, all on horseback, and a horse which carried my baggage and our presents to the holy man of the White Cave, rode south at full speed, covering a distance of thirteen miles in a short time. It was before eleven when we reached the cave, and we were ordered to wait for a time before we could see the priest. At eleven those who had assembled at the cave, about thirty in all, held a service, the illustrious priest officiating, answering questions, and receiving offerings. When all were about to withdraw, the Lama detained me, saying he had something to talk to me about. Alchu Lama and his wife thereupon bade me farewell, saying that I should take the road to Lhasa, and we parted, I thanking them for their kindness.

I sat in front of the Lama, who was engaged in deep meditation, the subject of which was not difficult to guess, for when I was at the tent of Alchu Lama I had heard it stated that rumors were persistently disseminated to the effect that the Lama who had made a pilgrimage to the snowy peak of Tise (this referred to me) was not a Chinaman, though he pretended to be one, but an Englishman, who was investigating the situation of affairs in Tibet. Alchu Lama added that the ignorance of the masses, who would take such a true lover of Buḍḍhism as myself for a spy, was incorrigible. Such being the situation, I thought the rumor must have reached the[205] ears of the good man, who was in consequence going to tell me something in reference to it. Presently the priest asked me a most matter-of-fact question: what was my object in proceeding to Lhasa, in spite of the overwhelming hardships which beset me? I answered that I had no other object than to save all beings by prosecuting my studies in Buḍḍhism. Thus I tried to parry his matter-of-fact question with a metaphysical answer. The Lama at once said:

“Why do you want to save all beings?”

“Only because they are suffering from all sorts of pains.”

“Then you have all beings in view?”

I retorted with an equally idealistic answer: “Having no Ego, how can I have all beings in view?”

The priest smiled, and, changing the subject of the conversation, asked me if I had ever been troubled with love affairs. In reply I said that though I had once greatly suffered in that connexion, I was at present free from that torture, and hoped to remain so. Then he at once turned to my adventure with the robbers, asking me whether I had hated those robbers during the time I was with them, and whether I had not cursed them after our parting, for the purpose of revenging myself on them. I replied that there was no use in hating them, as they had robbed me because I deserved to be robbed. I myself rather was hateful, who had committed the sins which made me deserve the misfortune, and I was glad that I could pay my debts. Such being my thoughts, there was no use in invoking evil on their heads. On the contrary, I had prayed that on account of their having come across me, they might become true men, or saints, in the next life if not in this. The Lama then said:

“All your words are rightly said. But you will probably meet with many such robbers on your way to Lhasa. They may even kill you. Then you will not be able to[206] accomplish your object of saving all beings. You had better give up your intention of proceeding to Lhasa, and betake yourself back to Nepāl. There is a good road from Lo to Nepāl. You must go at once to Lo. If, on the contrary, you go to Lhasa, I believe you will certainly be killed on the way.”

This he said suggestively, and continued in a solemn tone: “In order to attain your object, you may take any means. Your journey to Lhasa is not your only object. If you are sincere in saying that you want to save all beings, you must leave for Nepāl!”

I replied: “I cannot commit myself to such an equivocal argument, and I fail to concur in your opinion that any means is justifiable by its end. The Gospel of the Buḍḍha, Mighty Sun, has it that the means is the object, meaning that the practice of honest means is identical with the attainment of an object. The fact that I enter Paradise is no more the attainment of the object of my life, than is my arrival at Lhasa. The practice of honest means being the object itself, I believe that at the moment when I adopt honest means, I have attained my object.”

“Then what route will you take in your journey and whither will you go?”

“As a matter of fact, I shall take the mountain pass, and steer my way to the capital of Tibet.”

“That is curious, that you should take the road exposed to fatal risks. Better return to Nepāl. You say rash things. I know your future fate, and know that if you go on your way, you will die!”

His words were intimidating, but I replied: “Really? But I do not know my death, much less my birth. What I know is only to do what is honest.”

The Lama meditated for a while in deep silence, and then suddenly changed the conversation, referring to the Maṇi, or the sealed book of Tibet. I omit here[207] our dialogue on this subject, as it is too technical for general readers. We were so taken up with our religious talk that we were unconscious of the approach of the evening.

The Lama’s suspicions were largely allayed, and he said that he wondered how the people of the neighborhood were able to invent such rumors, and that I was a true seeker after Buḍḍhism. He was sincerely delighted with me and, saying that money and provisions were my first necessaries, gave me twenty tankas of Tibetan silver, a lump of tea, a big bag of baked flour, a copper pan, and other articles required by travellers. The whole of the presents were valued at perhaps sixty tankas, or fifteen yen in Japanese currency. I asked him to reduce the amount of the presents, for I could not easily carry so much. He said there was no need for my being troubled about that; for all along my way farther on I should everywhere find his disciples, who when they saw the travelling bag, would remember their master and carry the baggage for me. So I accepted the presents and retired, but not before he had promised to invest me the next morning with the mysterious power of the Maṇi, for which I thanked him sincerely.

During that night, I decided to take the highway to Lhasa, for, I thought the mountain pass was full of the Lama’s disciples, who, in spite of their master, would cast suspicious eyes on me, and I concluded, that if the highway was a little longer than the bye-way, it was much safer.

The following morning I was initiated in the mysteries of Maṇi, and about noon the following day I left the Lama Gelong’s cave. For about five miles I descended the hill, carrying my baggage on my back, and it was pretty heavy. Then I proceeded north, with the object of reaching the highway and not as directed by the Lama, and when I had walked another five miles, I saw two tents and a man,[208] apparently a wealthy grazier, coming out from one of them and cordially greeting me. I was rather surprised, for I knew I had no acquaintances in that neighborhood and I did not know his face. I felt a little embarrassed, but I followed him into his tent, where I was met by Alchu Lama. He had stayed the previous evening at the tent, and had told the man of our blessed religious talk of the other night. The man, in consequence, had wished to receive my benediction. Being informed of these facts, I did as he wished. Soon after I left the place, accompanied by a man and two horses carrying my things. I travelled eight miles east along the bank of the Ngar Tsang-gi-chu, which I had crossed once on my way from the cave of the White Cliff to the snowy peak of Tise. The same evening I arrived in a place on the riverside, where the man who had accompanied me put down my baggage and took his leave. During the evening, I enquired about the best way to reach the high-road, and was informed that I had to cross the Brahmapuṭra for a second time, and that I needed a guide and a carrier in order to cross it. So I engaged the men required.

The next morning I walked eastwards ten miles through a swampy plain, and over a hilly pass which was five miles long, and then crossed the Brahmapuṭra. On the farther bank of the river I found a tent of miserable appearance, kept by an old woman and her daughter, whose business it was to watch yaks straying about. I spent the following day in patching up my shirts.

On October 16, I again walked over the swampy plain in an easterly direction. The swampy plain in Tibet is dotted about with pools of various depths in which grass is growing. Walking through the damp place for about ten miles, I reached the Na-u Tsangbo, a large river flowing from the northern steppes of Tibet and into the Brahmapuṭra. I had previously been informed of the place where I could cross the river, but the water reached[209] my breast, and the current was rapid, so that, as I was carrying the heavy baggage on my back, there were times when I thought I should be swept away by the river. Moreover the sandy mud which formed the river-bed sucked my feet deep down, and made walking very difficult. Happily, however, I reached the opposite bank in safety. Proceeding a little farther, I found a big tent, where I was lodged that night. My invariable question was about the way to the high-road. The people there informed me that ten or twelve miles further to the north-east there was a post-town called Toksum Tazam, which stood on the high-road. The Tibetan high-road over the steppes has post-towns at intervals of four or five days’ journey from each other. On this side of Toksum Tazam, on the side nearer to the snowy peak of Tise, there is a post-town called Satsan Tazam. From this place I was to travel along the highway, and I should be able to locate my whereabouts exactly.

The following day I steered my way due east, and not in the north-easterly direction, which would have led me to Toksum Tazam, for this route was, I thought, rather a round-about way to reach the high-road. The next day, the 19th October, 1900, I again proceeded due east; but I met with a serious accident, which I must now describe.


Some easier days.

The plain was nothing but a swamp, and I was obliged to wade across shallow streams alternating with mud flats. At one place I came to a bog which, when I tried it with my stick, appeared to be very deep, so that my only course was to select what seemed to be the narrowest part, and to cross it as best I could. The bog at this place was not more than four yards in width, and did not look as if it could be deep, as it was covered with fine sand at the bottom of some shallow water, so I began at once to cross it by making a bold plunge.

But alas! before I had gone two steps I had sunk deep into it, and, though I tried to save myself by means of my sticks, I found myself momentarily sinking further and further into the mire. I then took the bundles I was carrying one by one off my shoulders, and threw them on to the other side; then I stripped off my clothes and threw them likewise, leaving myself exposed to the icy wind. Then I commenced with the aid of my sticks to balance myself across the bog with as much care and as gingerly as though I had been balancing myself on a tight rope in my younger days. As soon as I got my body back into a vertical position (for I had fallen almost flat upon my face), I laid the shorter of my sticks horizontally across the mud so as to give a resting place for my feet, and then with the aid of the longer stick raised myself slowly until I got both my feet upon it. Then I slowly moved my feet along the top of the horizontal stick, and thus, thanks to the lightness of my body, which had been freed from all encumbrances, I managed in a few minutes to reach terra firma.



I was shivering with cold when I got there, but I was exceedingly proud of my acrobatic feat, and, wringing out my wet clothes as best I could, put them on again and made my way to a tent which I saw near the high-road, where I fortunately found some pilgrims who gave me hospitality for the night.

The word “high-road” suggests to the mind the idea of a macadamised thoroughfare, but that is not what the traveller finds in Tibet. The high-road was nothing more than a beaten track, along which men and beasts trod their way as best they could. In fact anything is called a high-way in Tibet, if it is frequented by travellers, free from grass, and not too stony. In desert places, where there is no grass to be worn off, there are no high-roads, except in the immediate environs of Lhasa. It would be a mistake to suppose that carriages could be used on the high-road; there is no road in Tibet capable of being used by either carriage or jinriksha. When some years ago the Rājā of Nepāl presented the Dalai Lama with a carriage of European make, to be drawn by four horses, many of the Dalai Lama’s advisers recommended him to return the gift, as one which could not possibly be used in Tibet. Another opinion, however, prevailed: it was urged that the carriage had been brought from a great distance and could not well be returned without impoliteness, and it was therefore placed as a curiosity in the Palace at Lhasa, where it can be seen to this day. This was about four years ago.

Bad roads are universal in Tibet, except around Lhasa and Shigatze, the most advanced cities in the country. Still, bad as it was, I was glad to be once more on the high-road, where there were no fortresses for the molestation of travellers, and by which I might reasonably hope to reach Lhasa in due time. One day, after a long stretch of desert travelling, I reached a tent which was also a grog-shop—a[213] somewhat strange oasis in the midst of a desert. But it became intelligible when I found that a large fair of salt, wool, and cattle had recently been held in this locality and that the grog-shop had been opened in connexion with the fair by a man from Mondan in the province of Lo. The liquor sold was a kind of beer made from barley, and the grog-shop was to remain here for about another month.

I reached the tent about dusk, and was delighted to find myself amongst friends, for I had made the acquaintance of the landlady sometime before at Tsarang. The old dame was delighted to see me. She had been wondering what had become of me and was very glad that fortune had guided my steps to her tent. She was anxious to know if I were going to return to Tsarang, to which I gave an evasive answer, and she gave me such a kind reception that I should have hesitated to accept it from any but herself.

The next day I travelled over twelve miles to the south-east, with one of the old lady’s servants to guide me and a yak to carry my luggage. At the end of the journey we reached the house of a man named Gyal Bum, to whom the dame introduced me as a venerable Lama, desirous of hospitality. Gyal Bum is the second man in the province of Bomba, and possesses two thousand yaks, five thousand sheep, and an enormous amount of wealth. One of his tents was ninety yards square and had a stone chapel annexed. There were two other tents, one of ordinary size, the other very small and fitted up like a tea-house. The bottom edge of the canvas of the large tent was turned inwards, and on it were placed large quantities of goods, which served as weights to secure the tent. The goods were all concealed under Tibetan blankets, and were mostly butter, barley, wheat, wool, and the like. It was in this tent that I stayed.

Gyal Bum was about seventy-five years old, and his wife over eighty and blind. They had no children, and the[214] Tibetan law does not permit the adoption of a child from another family. Should a man die without children, his nearest relative, as a general but not universal rule, becomes his heir. The old couple asked me many questions about Buḍḍhism, which I answered as kindly as I could. They thought the teaching was excellent, and as they had now no hopes except in a future life, they asked me to conduct a benedictory service for them during their life-time—a request to which I gave consent the more readily, because I was much fatigued and wished to recuperate. The old gentleman pressed me, indeed, to make a long stay of a year or more with him, but this I declined, as I feared running any risks in view of the many wild rumors about me that were being circulated throughout the Lo province. Furthermore I was afraid that, however warmly I might be clad, I should be unable to endure the severe rigors of a winter in those regions, for I had already been obliged to borrow two fur coats from my host, and still felt so cold that I was sure I could not winter in the tent. I was obliged therefore to resist his importunities.

One incident will show that my anxieties about my health were not groundless. One day while walking I felt a lump in my throat, which I brought up and found to be a clot of blood, and the bleeding, having once begun, went on with such persistence that I began to fear consumption. I was much alarmed, as may be imagined, but the excellent precepts of my religion enabled me to keep calm, and the more keenly I felt the pain of the bleeding, the more I kept myself under control. I sat down on the grass and stopped my respiration, as though for a meditation, and was glad to find that the bleeding soon ceased, though not before I had brought up quite a pool of blood. When I got home, my pale face quite alarmed my host, and when I told him what had happened, he said that the rarity of the atmosphere (he did not call it[215] ‘rarity,’ for of that he knew nothing) often had a similar effect upon Chinese visitors. He fortunately knew of a very good remedy, which he applied with great success, and thus relieved me of my fears of a supposed consumption. Three days later I again brought up blood, though in a decreased quantity, and the old gentleman told me that after two such vomitings I should never be similarly troubled again. He was quite right; henceforth I was free from these attacks, even at Lhasa. The place Bomba is 15,000 feet above the sea-level; Lhasa is only 12,000, and no one spits blood on account of the rarity of the atmosphere at this latter place. My host kindly fed me up with milk and other nourishing food, and when, a week later, I took my departure, he presented me with the fur of an animal called yi, which he said was the only thing that would do me any good. The yi is a sort of cat that lives in the snow. It is somewhat larger than an ordinary cat, and its fur is much valued in Tibet. My host’s present was a tippet of yi fur, covering the shoulders, and I learned afterwards that such a tippet would cost twenty-five yen when new, and ten yen for an old one. He also gave me a quantity of butter and ten tankas of coin, and sent his servant with a horse to put me well on my journey. Thus I travelled some ten Japanese miles and reached the house of one Ajo-pu, a village headman, where I lodged. I was very thankful that I had stayed with Gyal Bum, for had I spat blood on the journey I should have died.

I left Ajo-pu’s house on the 29th October, 1900, and after going ten ri to the south-east, down a descent, reached the banks of the Brahmapuṭra, which was already covered with ice and glittering in the dazzling sun. I had not originally intended to go by this way, but by the high-road, which would have taken me more to the east but Ajo-pu had told me that at this season I should find no[216] herdsmen along the high-road until I reached Tadun-Tazam, while by the other road I should come across them frequently. Sure enough, I found a tent on the banks of the Brahmapuṭra, and was hospitably received by its kind owner, a man of the name of Gyal-po. He told me that he was starting the next day along the same route that I was taking, and offered to take my baggage on one of his yaks. I was glad to be thus relieved of my burden, and the next morning we all set off towards the south-east along the river.

It was a sandy swampy country, and after some four ri (ten miles) we came to a plain of soft white sand which was very tiring to the feet, so that I thankfully accepted Gyal-po’s offer of a bare-backed horse. I am not a good horseman, but I trotted on bravely for a while, till the pain in my hip-bone became unbearable. Then I changed my position and rode sideways, like a lady, but then my legs began to hurt me, so I jumped off at last and resumed my journey on foot. It was very hard walking, but I consoled myself with thinking that, at any rate, I had no luggage to carry, and so after a weary walk of five miles I came to a narrow cañon through which the river flowed.

Through this defile we went, threading our way among the numerous rocks, until at last we came to a place where three great rocks, in shape like a man’s clenched fist, blocked the valley. Here the river made a sharp turn to the south, while our road lay through a valley to the south-east; so we bid adieu to the Brahmapuṭra. Presently we crossed a big mountain and came out on an extensive plain. We had travelled nearly twenty miles that day, and near the close of it I separated from Gyal-po’s party. I was told that evening that there was another river for me to cross before I got to Tadun-Tazam, and that as it was full of perils I must hire a guide. This I did, and the next day, after walking for fifteen miles towards the south-east,[217] arrived about ten o’clock at a river a hundred and twenty yards wide, which was still covered with ice. The guide was afraid that the ice, which was not thick enough to bear us, would cut our legs if we attempted to wade through it, and on his advice we waited for the sun to melt it a little. We therefore took our lunch, and at last about noon broke the ice and began to wade across. The ice cut our legs in several places, and our feet were quite benumbed with cold by the time we had got across; but we walked on for another eighteen miles, and then stopped for the night in a little tent.

The next day, November 1, I started at nine o’clock and walked till a little past noon, when we crossed another icy rivulet. Twelve miles more brought us to Tadun, the most famous temple in northern Tibet. Tadun means the ‘seven hairs,’ and the tradition is that the hair of seven Buḍḍhas are interred here. The temple stands on the summit of a hill, and in its enclosure is a revenue office. It is in fact not a temple but a town (Tazam), one of the most populous and wealthy in northern Tibet.


War Against Suspicion.

I spent the whole of November 2nd, 1900, at the temple seeing its treasures and images. The place was just sixty miles north of Tsarang in the province of Lo in the Himālayas, and was frequented by merchants from the latter. I did not know this fact, and after I had seen the treasures I was walking round the temple, when to my astonishment I was accosted by an old acquaintance. He was a notorious drunkard and gambler, feared even by the natives of the Himālayas. While I was in Lo he used to accuse me of being a British spy. When, however, a member of his family became sick I gave him medicines, and this act of kindness of mine softened down his bitterness against me, though it was evident that he intended to take the first opportunity to quarrel with me. On the present occasion it was clear that should I take no notice of him. He would denounce me to the Tibetan Government and obstruct the execution of my object; so I decided upon a plan of campaign. Approaching him with a smile, I said I was delighted to see an old acquaintance. I was myself a teetotaller, I added, but I had heard it stated that the place had very good liquor. I would treat him to the best to be obtained in the place if he did not object to coming to my room. He accepted my invitation at once.

Ordering my landlord to bring a large quantity of the best liquor I plied him with drink until four in the morning. I did not take anything myself, but made believe to be drunk. After many glasses I got him dead drunk, and he fell asleep. I also pretended to sleep. But as soon as the landlord awoke at about half past five, I also rose and told him that the man lying there was a dear friend of mine, and that[219] I would have him treated with the best liquor whenever he awoke, and that he was never to let him go out of the house. If he should ask for my whereabouts, he was to be told that I had gone towards Tsarang. With these orders I paid my bills, tipped the landlord liberally, and set out on my journey at six o’clock.

I did not of course go towards Tsarang, but took the highway running to Lhasa. Yet my fears were not quite pacified, for the man I had to deal with was noted for his shrewdness even among the Himālayans. He would not only doubt the words of the landlord, but would suspect my reasons for plying him with liquor, and would inform the Tibetan revenue officials of my escape towards Lhasa. In the event of the mounted officials giving chase to me, it would be all in vain for me to walk as I was doing. What I wished with all my heart, even at the cost of all my money, was to get a horse or to hire a man to carry my luggage. But the plain being absolutely deserted, my desire was in vain. I was hastening along the highway to the south-east, when a large body of horsemen came galloping up from behind.

It was a caravan of eighty or ninety horses and sixteen men. I stopped one of them, and asked him to tie my luggage on to one of the horses, for which trouble I would pay, and to allow me to run behind them. The man was a servant, and could not give me any definite answer. I approached another man, who seemed to be the master and brought up the rear, with a similar petition. He said that he was not able to comply with my request for the present. But as the party was stopping that night in a valley between the two hills which were visible ahead, he advised me to push on, hard though the work might be, and wait there till some arrangements could be made. I took his advice and summoned up all my courage to reach those hills. At eight o’clock I reached the mountain slope an[220]d found two big white tents. The chief and second chief of the caravan seemed to be Lamas, the caravan itself having a religious appearance. They offered me tea and meat, but I said I did not eat any meat and gave my reasons for not doing so. The Lama was apparently interested by my explanation, and asked me where I had come from. I said I was a Chinese priest. The Lama thereupon spoke to me in Chinese, which he seemed to understand a little. I told him that his Chinese was the Pekin dialect, which I could not understand, and so our conversation was held in Tibetan. He then produced some Chinese characters and made me read and explain them, and until I had satisfied him in this connexion he did not believe in my being a Chinaman.

I learned then that he was the Lama of a temple called Lhuntubu-chœ-ten in the province of Luto on the north-western frontier of Tibet, near to Ladak on the eastern border of Kashmīr. The first Lama was named Lobsang Gendun, and the second Lobsang Yanbel. The man who advised me to go there was the Tsongbon, or chief of the caravan, and acted as the business manager for these Lamas. The rest of the party were either monks or servants. They carried dried pears, raisins, silk, woollen goods and other products of Kashmīr to Lhasa, whence they brought home tea, Buḍḍhist pictures and images. They were a very good company, and a very convenient one for me, if I could get them to carry my luggage through this vast pastoral plain of Jangthang; but I did not wish them to accompany me as far as Lhasa.

The Lama interrogated me as to the kind of Buḍḍhism I had learned and the things I knew, and put before me many questions about Tibetan Buḍḍhism. Happily, as I have already stated, I had been fully instructed in Tibetan Buḍḍhism while at Tsarang by Dr. Gyaltsan, and had studied the grammar with special care; so that not only was I[221] able to answer the questions quite easily, but I could explain many things on the subject that these Lamas did not know. He was greatly surprised, and asked me hundreds of questions in grammar, which he seemed to have been studying, though without any insight. Without the help of scientific analysis, which seems impossible for persons in these countries, one cannot fully understand the grammar. As I proceeded with the explanation of the subject, he proposed that I should accompany the party, and said that they rode until two o’clock in the afternoon every day, but that after that hour they always had plenty of leisure, during which he wished to learn grammar. Moreover, he offered to pay me suitable fees and give me food during the journey, if I would consent to his request. This was just what I was longing for; even if he paid me no fee, I should have been glad to comply with his wish.

When I awoke at four the next morning the party were making tea on a fire of dry yak dung. Presently everybody was up, and seven or eight men went out to collect the mules and horses, which had been left during the night to find pasture for themselves. These animals often wander over the mountains, and it will take at least one hour to bring them back, and at times three hours. But these horses did not try to get away from the men who went to fetch them, for they knew that they would be well fed with beans as soon as they reached the tents and before being loaded. The meal served to the caravan consisted chiefly of the flesh of sheep, yaks and goats, and occasionally pork. The grooms had thus to catch and feed the horses, strike the tents, load them on the horses, harness the horses for their own use, and drive up their own especial charges. My companions were sixteen in number, fifteen of whom rode, and one walked. The latter was going to Lhasa for the purpose of prosecuting his studies, and was in[222] company with the caravan simply for the reason that they came from the same province. He and I, being pedestrians, took tea before the caravan packed its effects, and left the place in a south-easterly direction.

My walking companion was a pedantic scholar. He had a very high opinion of himself, but he knew nothing of the essential principles of Buḍḍhism, nor did he recognise the existence of any sectional differences. It seemed as if he had only a vague notion of the doctrines. I was glad to have his company, such as it was, but he vexed me greatly by his evident animosity towards me, which unfortunately grew more violent as time progressed. The cause of this animosity was, as I learned afterwards, the fact that I had explained on a previous evening the Tibetan grammar, which, scholar though he was, was all untrodden ground to him. He was of opinion that the knowledge of grammar, unaccompanied by that of true Buḍḍhism, was a worthless acquisition, which only fools would take the trouble to make. As his manner disclosed his jealousy, I treated him with circumspection.

On that day we passed over a large hill and spent the night at a swampy place, after having walked nearly twenty miles in all. A lecture on grammar was again given, by request. On the 5th, I again walked in company with the pedantic monk. After we had arrived at Lhasa he fell into a destitute condition, and I, being then in happier circumstances, did all I could to help him. But this occurred long afterwards. During the journey, after some interesting conversation was held in connexion with religious questions, the monk applied himself to the work of systematically investigating my personality. Apparently he suspected that I was an Englishman, or at least a European, on account of my complexion, and his suspicion speedily grew into conviction. But as his questions did[223] not soar above what I had expected, I was able to reply in a manner which dissipated his doubts. After we had traversed the desert for five miles, we again reached the Brahmapuṭra, and a thaw having set in at that time, we found the water was flowing on smoothly. The clashing sound of the blocks of ice was inspiriting, and the sun was beautifully reflected on the surface of the river. We walked eastward along the bank for about seven miles, and then, leaving the river, walked in a north-easterly direction by an up-hill road along the Brahmapuṭra for another seven miles. Then we crossed the river on horseback. A post-town called Niuk-Tazam stood a little to the north on the river bank, but we did not visit it. We travelled two miles and a half in an easterly direction and encamped on the slope of a hill. That day I walked about twenty three miles. Until we had come to the neighborhood of a town called Lharche the caravan which I accompanied avoided stopping in towns, for the grass on which their horses fed was not to be found abundantly in such places.

That night I felt for the first time safe from the man whom I had left behind at Tadun, which was now sixty-five miles off. I felt that it had been most fortunate that he had not awaked from his drunken sleep until it was too late for him to inform the authorities of my presence, for if he had had the least suspicion of my escape, he would not have missed the opportunity for making money, enough to enable him to indulge himself in a good bout of drinking.

The usual lessons in the Tibetan grammar and Buḍḍhism over, the suspicious monk, who posed for a learned scholar, suddenly addressed me, saying that having been in India, I must have seen Saraṭ Chanḍra Ḍās, who explored Tibet. I replied that I did not know him, even by name. There were three hundred millions of people in India, and however famous a man might be, he must always be unknown to some. There was a great difference between India and[224] Tibet, and I asked to hear something about the man the monk referred to. The monk then narrated how Saraṭ Chanḍra Ḍās, twenty-three years ago, had cheated the Tibetan authorities with a passport; how he had robbed Tibet of her Buḍḍhism, with which he had returned to India; how on the discovery of the affair, the greatest scholar and sage in Tibet, Sengchen Dorjechan, had been executed, not to mention many other priests and laymen who were put to death and many others whose property was confiscated.

After this the monk added that as Saraṭ Chanḍra Ḍās was a renowned personage in India, it was impossible for me not to be acquainted with him. Probably I pretended not to know him. These words were spoken in a most unpleasant manner, but I put him off with a smile, saying that I had never seen the face of the Queen of England, who was so renowned, and that such a big country as India made such investigations hopeless. The stories about Saraṭ Chanḍra Ḍās are quite well known in Tibet, even children being familiar with them; but there are few who know him by his real name, for he goes by the appellation of the ‘school bābū’ (school-master). The story of the Tibetans who smuggled a foreigner into Tibet and were killed, and of those who concealed the fact from the Government and forfeited their property, are tales that Tibetan parents everywhere tell to their children.

Owing to the discovery of the adventures of Saraṭ Chanḍra Ḍās, all the Tibetans have become as suspicious as detectives, and exercise the greatest vigilance towards foreigners. I was fully acquainted with these facts, so that I too exercised great caution even in dropping a single word, however innocent and empty that word might be. But the Tibetans were very cunning questioners; and the monk was one of the most cunning. When I tried to laugh away his questions, he put other queries on every imaginable point. Other Tibetans who were[225] equally suspicious joined him in harassing me. I felt for the moment just as though I were besieged by an overwhelming force of the enemy. I thought myself in danger, and with the view of changing the subject of the conversation I turned the tables on them by asking them which they revered more, the Buḍḍha or Lobon Rinpoche, the founder of the old religion of Tibet. There is a saying in Tibet: “Padma Chungne is superior to Buḍḍha,” Padma Chungne meaning “born from the Lotus,” the founder of Lamaism. This question is an old one, and one about which Tibetans are never tired of disputing, so when this subject was introduced a most violent debate was started, and no one questioned me any more about my personality.

But the incident was sufficient to put me on my guard. The Mongols have a saying “Semnak Poepa,” meaning “black-hearted Tibetans.” Tibetans are extremely inquisitive, and one of their characteristics is to conceal their anger behind a smile, and to bide their time for vengeance. The word, ‘Poepa’ means Tibetans, and they call their own country ‘Poe’. They do not know that their country is called Tibet. ‘Poe’ means in Tibetan ‘to summon’. The founders of that country, according to the tradition, were a man of the name of Te-u Tonmar (red-faced monkey) and a woman named Tak Shimmo (stone she-devil). The former was the incarnate God of Mercy, and the latter the incarnate Yogini, who induced Te-u Tonmar to be her husband. To them were born six sons, whom they summoned into being, respectively, from the six quarters of the universe: namely: Hell, Hunger, Animalism, Asura (fighting demon), Humanity and Heaven. Thus the Tibetans called their country ‘the summoned’ or ‘Poe’. This tradition was perhaps fabricated by some inventive Lama, for the purpose of connecting Tibetan religion with Buḍḍhism. But it is a tradition which is believed by the natives. The[226] Hinḍūs do not call this country by the name of Tibet. They call it Boḍha, one of the meanings of which is ‘knowing’ or ‘idea’. It is not known how they came to call Tibet Boḍha, but according to their scholars Poe is a contraction of Boḍha. The Hinḍūs have another name for Tibet, namely, the country of ‘Hungry Devils’. This is clear even from the fact that Paldan Aṭīsha invented, as I have already mentioned, the name of Preṭapurī (town of hungry devils). Tibet has many other names which deserve study, but which are too peculiar to be expounded. At all events the ‘pa’ of Poepa means men, so that Poepa means the Tibetans.


Across the Steppes.

On November 6th, 1900, we took our way to the south-east, and marched up and down several rolling hills, till after walking more than twenty miles we reached the foot of a great snow-covered peak and lodged there. On the 7th we again climbed up and down the spurs of the Himālayas for a distance of over five miles, and arrived at the Chaksam Tsangbo (river of the iron bridge). It was no fine suspension bridge, but an iron rope, fastened to the rocks on either side, by which travellers crossed the river hand over hand, and which gave the river its name. For I heard that there is in the vicinity of Lhasa another iron bridge, which consists of two iron chains, by means of which one can very comfortably pass over the river. The bridge over the Chaksam does not now exist; but the name of the river of the iron bridge seems to have been derived from the fact that it was crossed by one of these iron ropes, though which kind it was is more than I can say. The river had a tremendously rapid current, thickly strewn with blocks of ice; but I easily crossed it on my horse. Then we had to travel through a plain between the hills, which were generally bare and devoid of vegetation except when there was a swamp where grasses were seen growing. The scene was exceedingly dismal, and there was nothing to relieve the eye. We went on for some four miles, and came to a rivulet, and at the end of another four miles arrived at a castle called Sakka Zong. We lodged beside a swamp on the west of the castle, which stands upon the summit of a hill. The style of its architecture differs not much from that of a temple, though it presents a certain martial aspect. There were no regular[228] troops stationed there. When needed the people in that vicinity, some two hundred in number, take up arms. I was told that the year before last a tribe on the northern plain had made an attack on this locality, with the result that the latter lost twenty or thirty men and about two thousand yaks. The trouble was still pending as a subject of litigation. Thus the castle seems to be a fortification against the attacks of roaming tribes, though it also has a revenue office in it. That day we travelled some fifteen miles, and the evening was spent in my lecture on grammar, as were many succeeding evenings.

The following day, after we had travelled eight miles, we passed the southern fort, on a snow-clad mountain called Chomo-Lhari. Then we travelled five miles more in a south-easterly direction, and encamped for the night. Nothing occurred worthy of mention.

On the 9th we travelled for seventeen miles along the same lonely mountain-pass leading to the south-east, and reached a valley in which we observed an exceedingly large animal ahead of us. This strange beast resembled a yak, though there was no doubt that it was not an ordinary yak. On asking its name, I was informed that it was what the Tibetans called a dongyak (wild yak). Its size was twice or three times that of the domesticated animal, and it stood about seven feet high. It was smaller than the elephant, but its eyes looked dangerous. Its horns measured twenty-five inches in circumference and five feet in length. These measurements were taken afterwards at Lhasa, where I saw the horns of a wild yak. It is described as graminivorous; when it becomes angry it will attack men or animals with its horns, often inflicting fatal injuries. Its tongue is extremely rough and anything licked by the animal would be torn to pieces. Once I saw the dried and very large tongue of a young dongyak, which was being used as a brush for horses.



An honest fellow in the party asked me to prophesy, by my art of divination, whether that night was to be passed in safety or not. I thought he was afraid of the dongyak, but the truth was not so. He pointed to a place a little below the slope, and said that in the preceding year six merchants had been killed by robbers there. He was therefore going to keep watch that night, and wished to know whether robbers were coming. In order to pacify him, I said that nothing of the kind was going to take place that night. But the features of the place were anything but agreeable, as may be guessed from the fact that the dongyak was quite at home there. The night was, however, spent without any accident. The following day we travelled over the steppes for a distance of fifteen miles, and again lodged near a swamp; we always preferred swampy places for lodging, on account of the abundant grass.


On the 11th we travelled again for fifteen miles, and on the 12th crossed a steep pass called Kur La, seven miles in length, and walked seventeen miles eastwards, lodging again beside a swamp. It was about that time that a change for the better came over the relations between the pedantic monk and myself. Proud as he was, he seems to have thought that hostility could not be maintained without serious loss to himself, as the majority of the party had come to entertain a sincere love for and confidence in me. He approached me with a kindly face, which could not be repelled; whatever his motives may have been, it would have been very ill-advised for me to quarrel with him, so I reciprocated his kindness, with the result that our relations became perfectly smooth, and I was glad to get rid of the fear that he might inform the Tibetan authorities of his suspicions about me.

The following day, November 13th, we passed over two long slopes, and the night was spent at the foot of a steep and rugged mountain. On the morrow we proceeded about seven and a half miles in a south-easterly direction, along a river flowing between rocks. A gentle slope of about twelve miles was then accomplished, and the night was spent on the bank of the river. On the 15th we proceeded further to the south-east along the river-side route. When five miles were covered, we came out upon a plain, which we crossed in an easterly direction. A journey of about seven and a half miles over the plain brought us to a post-town called Gyato Tazam, where I found a far greater number of stone buildings than at any other post-town I had visited en route. I was informed that the inhabitants of the town numbered about four hundred, representing sixty families. The people differed much from the nomadic population found in the Jangthang which we had visited before, something of urbanity being visible in their manners. While the nomads are so rude and vulgar[231] that, whenever they speak, they speak bluntly, without any regard to the persons addressed, the inhabitants of Gyato Tazam have a more refined tone in their language, though it is of course modified by the local dialect. After making some purchases in the town, we resumed our journey. Wending our way about five miles into a mountain region, we reached the bank of a stream, where we decided to pass the night.

Being the middle of November it was pretty cold, but fortunately my companions proved themselves so obliging that, on our arrival there, they went to the trouble of gathering a great mass of yak-dung, which was burnt within the tent throughout the night. As I gave them lectures on Tibetan grammar, the head priest of the party and a junior Lama were very hospitable towards me and provided me with bedding, so that I felt no cold at all. The following day, after proceeding a little less than fifteen miles over two long steep slopes, we found ourselves on the edge of a plain. We went about four miles further, and found in the centre of the plain a temple standing upon two large pillar-like rocks, which stood together and towered high into the sky. As these rocks alone are 360 yards high, the entire height may well be imagined. The temple is called the Sesum Gompa, and belongs to one of the old schools of Lamaism. Passing under the temple, we proceeded further and reached a marsh lying to the east, where we stopped for the night.

The following day we made a journey of about twenty miles through a mountain district situated to the south-east, at the end of which journey we found ourselves at a post-town called Sang Sang Tazam. We did not take lodging in the town, but encamped upon a plain in the eastern suburb, where we made as big a fire as we could, and yet felt pretty cold, especially late at night. We awoke in the morning to find ourselves completely frost-bound;[232] indeed I wondered, at first sight, if it had not snowed during the night. Thereupon I produced a short uta, which may be rendered into English thus:

How beautiful
It is to see grass dead, but blooming yet
With frost, upon a high plateau.


Holy Texts in a Slaughter-House.

Heading in a south-easterly direction as before, we proceeded about four miles, now over hills and then across moorland, and arrived at the base of a mountain, where there stood three buildings. A strange sensation came over me when I saw dozens of sheep’s hides dangling from the eaves of these buildings. Nor was that all. They were also in the habit, so I was told, of butchering yaks on the premises. It is the custom of the Tibetans, I was told, to butcher cattle towards the latter part of autumn, and dry the meat for preservation, there being no fear of decomposition, owing to the cold climate of the country. The Tibetans esteem this dried meat as quite a luxury, and claim that it is the best food in the world. Not infrequently I heard people speak anxiously about their stocks of preserved meat in summer. I was told that autumn was the best time for killing cattle, because they yielded excellent meat after their feast upon the rich summer grass. Tibetans, however, dare not slaughter animals in their own villages, or near their tents, and the three buildings in question are used as a common slaughter-house by neighboring inhabitants. Generally the slaughter is not carried out on behalf of a single individual or family, but of the whole village. The beasts butchered on the day we visited the place included two hundred and fifty sheep and goats, and thirty-five yaks. Of the latter, fifteen were despatched after our arrival there. They told me that the cries of the yak were very strange, and invited me to witness the scene of the slaughter. What cruelty! how could I bear to see it? Desirous, however, of knowing something about the operations, I stood and[234] watched the spectacle. Sadly and slowly a yak was conducted into the yard, two men pushing the animal on from behind. As soon as the proper point was reached, the legs of the poor creature were tied, and tears were seen standing in its eyes, as if it were conscious of its impending death as soon as it found itself in the pool of blood left by its companions. The scene was indeed unbearable. I wished I had money enough to redeem their lives, but I could see no help for it. Just then a priest came in, Holy Texts in hand, and read them for the doomed animal, on whose head the book and a rosary were placed. The natives believe that this religious proceeding will enable the poor yak to enter into a new state of existence and also absolve the doer of the cruel deed from the evil consequences which might otherwise follow. I hoped so, too, but even the Holy Texts read by the priest were now too much for my endurance. A flood of tears came into my eyes, and I could no longer stand the ghastly spectacle, but ran indoors. Presently, thump! something fell outside the doors; alas! the poor creature was beheaded. The natives handle a sharp knife so dexterously, that a single blow with it is said to be sufficient to finish the deadly work.

The blood gushing forth from the body of the dead beast was received in a pail, and afterwards boiled down into a kind of food said to be very delicious. When desirous to obtain this food, the Tibetans often draw blood even from the bodies of living yaks; this is done by means of a gash made in the neck of the poor beast, wide enough to cause a flow of the blood, but not to kill it. The blood taken in this way is said to yield much less delicious food than that obtained from the slaughtered animal. I then thought that the scene was the very extreme of cruelty, but afterwards found that I had been miserably mistaken, for I observed during my subsequent[235] residence at Lhasa that more than fifty thousand sheep, goats and yaks were slaughtered there during the three months ending in December every year.

But to return to my itinerary. Leaving the scene of this tragedy, we had to proceed up a very steep slope about nine miles long, and then down another, seven and a half miles long. At the end of the latter distance we found a river, on the banks of which we passed the night. The next day, November 19th, we skirted the base of a mountain (upon which there stood a big temple of the Old School, called the Tasang Gompa) until we reached the bank of a river where we encamped for the night. On the 20th we made a journey of five miles, again in a mountain region, at the end of which we found ourselves at a village called Larung, which was situated on the western shore of a lake bearing the name of Manuyui Tso. It was about twelve miles in circumference, and appeared to be very deep. For the first time during my journey, I observed in this village patches of wheat-fields, dotted with cottages.


The Third Metropolis of Tibet.

Owing to the cold season I could not observe the condition of the wheat actually growing in the fields, but I learned at the above village that in that locality the wheat crop was considered ordinary when it was at the rate of two bushels from two pecks of seeds, and unusually abundant when the rate reached three bushels. In the neighborhood of Lhasa four or five bushels are obtained from two pecks of seeds, if the weather proves favorable, but three bushels are passed as fair.

This testifies to the primitiveness of the methods of farming obtaining in Tibet. One cannot but be surprised at the ill-kept condition of the fields which, with their ‘rich’ deposits of pebbles, cannot be termed cultivated land in the proper sense of the word. I do not mean to speak ill of the Tibetans, but this curious neglect of cleaning the land is a fact; indeed, it is a universal feature of the country. I once suggested to a native farmer the advisability of removing the pebbles, but the reply was simply that such practices were not endorsed by tradition. Tradition is to the Tibetans a heavenly dictate, and controls all social arrangements. Those residing in more civilised parts of the country, however, entertain somewhat more progressive ideas, and have learned to utilise the products of modern ingenuity from the West. The case is quite different with the mass of the people, who are still laboring under a thousand and one forms of conservatism. A very curious story, in a way substantiating the foregoing statement, was told me by a village paṇdiṭ whom I could hardly credit, because of the apparent absurdity of his narrative. The story, which is given below, was[237] subsequently confirmed, quite to my surprise, by more than one citizen of Lhasa.

In Tibet, as in other countries, taxes are assessed on cultivated fields, but, as the Tibetans are practically strangers to mathematics, as stated in a preceding chapter, a very curious and primitive method is adopted with regard to the land-measuring which forms the basis of the assessment.

The method consists in setting two yaks, drawing a plough, to work upon a given area, the assessment being made according to the time taken in the tillage. In other words, the different plots of cultivated lands are classified as lands of half a day’s tillage, or a day’s tillage, and so on, as the case may be, and assessed accordingly.

After being entertained by the aforesaid scholar with many other interesting stories concerning the manners and customs of Tibet, as well as the conduct of native priests, we left the village and, proceeding for twelve miles along the edge of the lake mentioned above, reached a spot where we passed the night. On November 21st we struggled on our way through a gorge extending over a distance of five miles, till we found ourselves again on the edge of a big lake, called Nam Tso Goga. It measured about twelve miles in circumference, and its water was very pure. Proceeding along the northern bank of the lake, we passed into a valley commonly called the Senge Rung, or Lions’ Vale. This name must have been derived from the surrounding rocks, which somewhat resemble the figure of the king of beasts. After a journey of seven and a half miles through the vale, we arrived at a village bearing the same name, and then at another, where we took lodgings. We covered more than twenty-five miles that day, this forced journey being due to the necessity of altering our travelling arrangements. The fact was that, while our previous journey was through Jangthang, so that it was necessary for us to stop[238] early and graze our horses sufficiently, we had now entered into a more peopled and cultivated part of the country, where pastures were few, so that we could not stop until we reached a village where we could secure sufficient fodder for our animals. The fodder, which in Tibet usually consists of wheat and barley stalks and the stems of bean plants, is generally purchased from inn-keepers. The latter, however, extort such high prices, that fodder enough to feed a horse during a night often costs the traveller full thirty sen, though in some cases half that sum will be sufficient. In addition, beans and a solution of butter are sometimes given to horses, so that the caravan trade in the interior of Tibet is at once trying and expensive.

On November 22nd we proceeded about twelve miles over a steep slope and across plains, and arrived again on the northern bank of the Brāhmapuṭra. At this place the river was not quite as it was when we crossed it on our way. It now appeared quite fathomless, with its waters azure-blue, though it was only about two hundred yards wide. There was no hope of negotiating the stream on horseback, and we were told that the river-bed would become much wider in summer. There was, however, a ferry-boat service, a rectangular flat-bottomed boat, resembling those we see used for the purpose in India. The boat had in the middle of her stern a figure representing the head of a serpent, and had capacity enough to accommodate thirty or forty persons and twenty horses. When we landed on the opposite bank of the river, we found ourselves in the outskirts of Lharche, the city which is the third in importance in Tibet. Once there, we could fairly claim that we had gone far into the interior of the forbidden country, for it is only five days’ journey thence to Shigatze, the second Tibetan city.

Looking southward, we could see a caravanserai erected by the Chinese. It is spacious but unfurnished, no one[239] being in charge of it. It serves the double purpose of accommodating the Chinese itinerant traders and the native soldiers on march. We betook ourselves to the building for the night, which proved a jolly as well as a noisy one. It was thought very fortunate for us to have escaped from the dangers of robbers and wild beasts which infested the north-western regions, and my companions decided to celebrate the successful journey to their hearts’ content.

Throughout the night they indulged themselves in a carouse, which was enlivened by the attendance of several girls. During the next day, November 23rd, I was still staying with the rest of our party at the caravanserai, but as I was to part company with them on the 24th I read the gospel of Hokekyo, as a mark of appreciation of the kindness accorded to me by them throughout my journey with them. When the date of my departure came, the head Lama gave me ten tankas as a reward for my lectures on Tibetan grammar, while the rest of the party also collected among themselves a certain sum of money which they presented to me. A few of the party were to accompany me, for the Lama, with the junior Lama and a servant, decided to go with me, so that I was not alone on my road. We then set out, taking the road leading to the grand Sakya monastery. As for the men of the caravan, they were to proceed to Shigatze through Puntso-ling by the highway. Besides kindly carrying my personal effects together with their own, the senior Lama and party offered me the use of one of their horses, so that my trip with them was a very comfortable one.

We proceeded in a southerly direction, and for a distance of five miles our way passed through wheat-fields, the soil of which appeared to be very rich. Of all the districts in Tibet, Lharche can supply barley, wheat, beans, and butter at the lowest possible prices, which testified to the[240] position held by it with regard to agricultural products. We then ascended a rapid slope for another five miles, again traversed cultivated fields for about eleven miles, going in a south-easterly direction, and reached a hamlet called Rendah. The next day, after we had proceeded along a river for some eighteen miles, we saw before us the imposing monastery of Sakya, which was surrounded by high stone walls of about two hundred and twenty yards square, twenty feet high and six feet thick. All the structures were of stone, painted white, and the main edifice alone measured sixty feet in height, two hundred feet from east to west, and two hundred and forty feet from south to north. Over the walls, which were bow-shaped, rose a dark-colored castle, crowned with Saisho-doban (the victorious Standard of Buḍḍhism), and rodai (the disc for the dew of nectar) of dazzling gold. The spectacle was sublime and impressive, at least so far as outward appearances were concerned.


The Sakya Monastery.

We lodged at a neighboring inn which placed a cicerone at our service, and proceeded to pay a visit to the celebrated monastery. Going through the front gate and past several smaller buildings, we arrived in front of the main edifice. At first sight the interior of the latter appeared to be completely enclosed, but a closer examination showed that light was let in through a courtyard. Entering the front hall, seventy-eight feet by forty-two, we saw standing on both sides statues of Vajrapāni, each about twenty-five feet high, one painted blue and the other red, such as are seen on each side of the gate of every great Japanese Temple. Each image has its right leg a little bent and the left one put forward, while the right hand is raised towards the sky and the left one vigorously stretched downward. The workmanship seemed even to my lay eyes representative of Tibetan art, the muscles, for instance, being very excellently moulded. There are also images of the four heavenly kings, each thirty feet high, standing on the right side. Again, looking to the left, we saw on the wall (which was of stone over-laid with mud and then with some lime-like substance) beautiful pictures of deities and saints, which covered a space twenty-four feet by twenty-one. There is no fissure visible in the pictured area, in spite of its dimensions. The structure as a whole is in good repair. The front hall opens to an inner courtyard, paved with stone, thirty-six feet by thirty, where the priests of the inferior orders gather to dine and to read the scriptures, while the higher Lamas have the privilege of living inside the building. Passing this[242] courtyard we entered the main chamber (which faces west) where the images of Buḍḍhist deities are placed. There are two entrances to this chamber, the southern one being open to the priests and the northern one to the visitors. Once inside, we were lost in a sea of dazzling gold; the splendor was simply beyond description. The ceilings and pillars are all covered with gold brocade, and the images, more than three hundred in number, are emblazoned with very fine gold. In the centre of the room there stands a statue of Shākyamuni Buḍḍha, thirty-five feet high, which, we were told, is made of mud covered with gold. In front of this image are placed seven water-trays, some candle-sticks and a table for oblations, all of pure gold, with the exception of a few articles made of silver.

The disorderly manner in which the images are arranged, however, greatly detracts from the impression produced by their intrinsic merits. The spectacle is a grand exhibition of Buḍḍhist fine arts, but put together without much order. In short, the chief feature of the chamber consists in its splendor, but its effect is greatly impaired by the tasteless and excessive decorations.

At the rear of this chamber there is another, sixty feet high and two hundred and forty feet wide, which is full of valuable collections of ancient Buḍḍhist manuscripts, some written in gilded letters on dark blue-colored paper and others in Samskṛṭ on the leaves of the fan palm tree (Borassus flabelliformis). Many of these scriptures were brought all the way from India by the founder of the temple, Sakya Panḍiṭ, and his successors, who sent their priests to that country for the purpose.

With regard to the scriptures in the Tibetan language, I was told that they had a great number of them there, and that they were all written, not printed. We left this chamber, and while we were again looking round the[243] main chamber I was struck with a strong and offensive smell which, as my subsequent experiences taught me, is a curious feature of every monastery in Tibet. I wondered how I had been insensible to such a stench up to that time. Where did it come from? you may ask. Well! in Tibetan temples clarified butter is used in lighting the lamps offered to Buḍḍha, and the priests are so careless as to throw away upon the floor the residue of tea and butter, which not only keeps the floor always wet but also putrefies. This is why the chamber is filled with such a sickening odor. Strangely enough, Tibetans regard this smell as a sweet one, but I declare myself emphatically to the contrary. On both sides of the main chamber we found two more chambers where different figures were also kept. Of these images, the one which especially attracted my attention was that of Padma Chungne, the founder of the old school of Lamaism, for it is made entirely of precious stones. The surrounding walls and the floor are also inlaid with gems, which are amazingly beautiful.

Outside the main edifice there are several dormitories where some five hundred men of the order live. Then standing to the south is the stately residence of the ‘great instructor’ of the temple, Chamba Pasang Tinle, who looks after the spiritual education of five hundred souls.

We had an interview with this spiritual superior, who looked very saint-like, seated on a dais covered with two mats in one of the upper rooms. I wanted to ask him a few questions with regard to the difference between the Sakya doctrines and those of the other sects of Lamaism, but he told me that he was busy then and asked me to come again the next day. We then retired and left the temple grounds.

I noticed several palatial buildings rising above a far-off willow plantation. My companions told me[244] that these buildings were the residence of the Abbot of the temple, Sakya Koma Rinpoche, and we proceeded to pay our respects to him. Koma Rinpoche means the ‘highest treasure’ and is used only in addressing the Chinese Emperor and the Abbot of the Sakya Monastery, whom Tibetans esteem as one of the two sacred beings of the world. This being so, the natives who are honored with an audience by the Abbot pay special respect to him, and when he gives them his blessing in return it is not infrequently accompanied by some presents. But in reality the Abbot is a layman, the essential point of his excellence being that he is the descendant of Sakya Panḍiṭ himself. He is married, takes meat for dinner, and even drinks wine, as do all the secular people. In spite of these facts, not only the public at large but also priests salute him with the rite of ‘three bows’ which as laid down by Buḍḍha is a mark of reverence due only to high priests and not to laymen.

When we were received by the Abbot, I therefore paid him only such respect as would be due to a personage of his rank. He has, however, a very dignified mien, which bespeaks his noble descent.

While we were returning to our lodgings, I was blamed by my companions for my failure to give the Abbot the ‘three bows,’ and when I told them the reason of the omission they were astonished at my rigid observance of the Buḍḍha’s teachings. The next day, when I called upon the ‘great teacher’ at the appointed hour, I found him playing with a boy who was behaving toward him in a very familiar way, as if he were his son. I could not think that such a man, who was a genuine priest, was married, and yet I very much suspected some such relation—a suspicion which was afterwards confirmed during my sojourn at Lhasa.


At first I had intended to stay and study at the temple for at least two weeks, but after this discovery I was now loath to remain with such a degenerate priest. I left the town the next day, and as I was now separated from my companions I had to carry my effects myself. For a distance of two and a half miles the road gradually ascended along a mountain rivulet in a south-easterly direction and then, turning eastwards, became a steep descent of five miles. Proceeding ten miles further in a south-easterly direction and along the stream I found two dwellings, in one of which I lodged for the night. The next day I again ascended a steep slope, two and a half miles long, and climbed down another twice that length. As the day was snowy and my baggage got wet, I was obliged to take lodgings at the first house I could find. The next day, November 30th, I fortunately met seven or eight men who seemed to be transport agents, and were driving forty or fifty asses, and I was glad to place my things in their charge. Thus freed from encumbrances, I, with the party, descended the Tharu river for five miles. It then turned to the south-east, and after proceeding fifteen miles further along the riverside, we found a village where we stopped.

The drivers, however, encamped in a neighboring meadow, where they unburdened their animals and surrounded themselves on all sides except one with the goods thus unloaded. As was customary with them, the men improvised a kind of fire-place. On the first of December we proceeded along the river for about ten miles and then left it; again for ten miles, we ascended the eastern mountain called Rangla with its perpendicular peaks of red rock. We lodged under the rock and on the following day we ascended Rangla for five miles and marched more than another five miles on the mountainous plains; we reached a big monastery named Kang-chen and passed that night in a field south of the monastery. At first, when[246] I saw my drivers recklessly making their way through the cultivated fields, I expressed my fear to them that we might be caught by the farmers. “No,” was their reply, “you need not bother yourself on that score.” They explained to me that these fields were fallow ones, “which were enjoying their holidays” for this year, so that any person might choose them as roads. It was a custom in this locality to raise the wheat-crop every other year, leaving the fields unemployed for the intervening year—a custom which did not obtain in Lhasa and the neighborhood. Moreover, I was told, it was winter, when the privilege held good in any year, and no one need entertain any fear of intruding. At night I preached to my drivers, and the next day we set out together, taking an easterly direction. We proceeded seven and a half miles, when we found rising among the mountains a magnificent temple, still under construction. On making enquiries I learned that the work had been undertaken by the Tibetan Government, which is acting under the advice of a soothsayer.

The latter had, I was told, declared that there exists a spring just beneath the site of the building, that it is the mouth of a monstrous dragon, and that unless a temple be erected over it, it will ultimately burst out and deluge the whole country. Unfortunately this idea is supported by a book of prophecies brought from China, which is apparently the work of some priest with hidden motives. I read the book and found it to be full of awe-inspiring predictions. It states, for instance, that as wickedness obtains on the earth, a flood of water will be brought upon it and everything on the face of it destroyed; that fatal calamities, such as a great famine or war, will break out as a prelude to such a flood. In addition, it is stated that the book had been sent from heaven, and that therefore any one who is[247] so careless as to doubt its truth will be punished with immediate death. I declared that these prophecies were all false, but of course nothing extraordinary happened to me. The book may be well meant, but it is full of nonsensical sayings. But Tibetans believe in it so firmly that translated copies are being circulated all over the country. It is most surprising that such superstitions should have led the Government to begin a foolish undertaking at a great cost. But indeed, oracle-mongers are held in high esteem, not only by the Government but also by the general mass of the people, who consult them whenever they are at fault.

Passing under the above-mentioned temple we proceeded further, and before we had gone far, we found some five vultures (known among the natives by the name of Cha-goppo) perched on a hill-side. On questioning my companions, I was told that there exists in Tibet a very curious and unpleasant custom of offering the corpses of dead men to vultures as a part of the funeral ceremony; that as in this locality the people do not bring enough carrion to these birds, the latter are always hungry; and that therefore they are granted an allowance of meat from the kitchen of a temple called the Tashi Lhunpo. How they are fed on human flesh at a funeral ceremony I shall relate later in my account of Lhasa.

After some further journeying we arrived at an “abstinence house” (Nyun ne Lhakhang in Tibetan), in the neighborhood of which there stood a temple called the Nartang. Wanting to make some enquiries, I decided to stay at this house, so that I parted company with my carriers, who proceeded towards Shigatze. This house is used both by priests and laymen for observing the ‘Eight rules of abstinence’ enjoined by the Buḍḍha, or other forms of religious self-denial, such as silence or abstinence from meat. Abstinence from flesh is considered an[248] austerity by Tibetan priests, because they eat meat, contrary to the ordinary usages of Buḍḍhist monks.

The next day I visited the Nartang Temple, where I inspected the most valuable of its treasures, which are immense heaps of wooden printing-blocks, comprising the collection of all the Buḍḍhist writings in Tibet, divided into two departments—Buḍḍha’s own preachings and the works of the saints. In addition, they have an equally large number of printing-blocks for the commentaries prepared by the native Lamas. These blocks are kept in two large buildings, one of which measures about 180 feet by sixty. This temple is the sole publisher of the ‘collection of all the Buḍḍhist writings,’ the three hundred priests who live there being printers. I called upon the head priest of the temple, who had been specially sent from the Tashi Lhunpo Temple, and found him very clever in conversation. The interview was at once very instructive and agreeable to me, for the priest not only gave me valuable information on Buḍḍhism but also accorded me cordial treatment.




The next day, December 5th, I proceeded for about eight miles across a plain in a south-easterly direction, when the gold-colored roof of a palatial building, with many white-painted dormitories for priests close by, presented itself before my view. In addition, temple-like buildings in red paint were seen rising amidst these structures, making in all a grand and beautiful spectacle. The town before me was Shigatze, the second capital of Tibet, and the palatial building was the Tashi Lhunpo Temple. The name means ‘a glorious mass’ or ‘Mount Sumeru,’ a legendary mountain mentioned in Buḍḍhist Scriptures. The monastery owes its name to its founder, Gendun Tub, who thought that the mountain at the rear of the temple resembled Sumeru.[250] There were altogether three thousand three hundred priests in the temple, but sometimes the number increases to over five thousand; and though it is but the second temple in the country it maintains the same dignity as the papal see. The secular part of the city lay beyond the temple and consisted of some three thousand five hundred dwellings. The number of the inhabitants was stated by the natives to be over thirty thousand, but this calculation cannot be much trusted, as the science of statistics is utterly unknown in Tibet. I visited the temple, where I asked for the dormitory called Peetuk Khamtsan, which is allotted to the Lamaist monks from the north-eastern plateau, since I had feigned myself to be one of these. At length I found it and settled myself in it, for I intended to stay there for some time and to pick up any knowledge I could from those with whom I might come into contact.

The Lama Superior of this temple is regarded as the second Grand Lama of Tibet, for, though he does not possess any political influence, yet with regard to the rank bestowed by the Chinese Emperor he is superior even to the Dalai Lama himself. Sometimes a kind of regency under this ‘second Grand Lama’ takes place during the interval between the Dalai Lama’s death and the enthronement of what in Tibet is believed to be his re-incarnated self.

This second Grand Lama is commonly called Panchen Rinpoche, but his real title is Kyab-kon Chen-bo, meaning ‘Great Protector,’ while his name is Lobsang Choe-ki Nima, the ‘noble-minded religious sun’. I was told he was eighteen years old, having been born in the year of “sheep,” and was believed to be an incarnation of Amida-nyorai. At the time of my visit he was away at a distant palace, so that I could not see him. During my stay in the town my only business was to visit various[251] Lamas and scholars, with whom I discussed the teachings of Buḍḍha.

One day I called upon the tutor of the second Grand Lama, Tsan Chenba, a venerable priest, seventy-four years of age, who was very kind to me. As he was reputed to be the highest authority on Tibetan grammar and rhetoric among the three thousand priests in the temple, I asked him several grammatical questions, and in doing so I took care to select such questions as were familiar to me, for I wanted to know in what way my host would try to explain them. I was, however, disappointed, as he confessed that he could give no answer and said that he could only refer me to a learned physician living at Engon on the road to Lhasa, who, he was inclined to believe, could give me a satisfactory answer. I was, therefore, glad to take leave of him. En passant it may be stated that five branches of science—phonetics, medicine, logic, engineering and religious science and philosophy—were centuries ago introduced into Tibet from India, but now-a-days very few—I will almost say no—Tibetans are proficient in them, or even in one of them. Under present circumstances, those who take to the study of grammar belong to very limited classes, the majority of them consisting of the men in the Government service who learn just the elementary rules of grammar, in order to be able to prepare official documents. It is not wonderful therefore that there should be scholars who, in spite of their zeal in the investigation and exposition of Buḍḍha’s doctrines, are absolute strangers to history and other branches of science.

After a stay of several days at the temple, I was one day thinking of leaving the town, when I was informed that the Grand Lama was expected home presently, so I went out to witness his procession. It must be noted that owing to the absence of roads in Tibet the[252] procession passed through the more beaten parts of the country, which served as roads. On both sides of the route there stood cylindrical posts upon which incense was burnt by the waiting crowds, both sacerdotal and secular, most of whom prostrated themselves on the advent of the cortège. The second Grand Lama was borne in a palanquin decorated with gold brocades and gorgeous kinds of silk, and was accompanied by about three hundred mounted attendants who, instead of being armed, carried Buḍḍhist utensils. The procession was heralded by the native band, using some kind of wind instruments and drums. The spectacle was so splendid that I congratulated myself on my good fortune in having witnessed it.

During that night, in compliance with the request of the priests in my dormitory, I delivered a sermon on the ten Buḍḍhist virtues, which seemed to please them greatly. They confessed to me that, priests as they were, they found no interest in the theoretical and dry expositions of Buḍḍha’s teachings to which they had been used to listen, but that my delivery was so easy and pleasing that it aroused in them a real zest for Buḍḍhism. This fact is a sad commentary on the ignorance of the average Tibetan priests.

I learned subsequently, however, that the priests in this temple were very rigid in their conduct, except in the habit of drinking. With regard to this latter an amusing story is told. One day the Dalai Lama of Lhasa met with the Grand Lama of the Tashi Lhunpo monastery. In the course of conversation, the former said he was very sorry that his priests were addicted to the use of tobacco. Panchen Rinpoche sympathised, but stated that he was no less sorry that his own priests were exceedingly partial to alcoholic drinks. They then discussed which of the two luxuries was the more sinful, and also whether or not some effective measures could be taken to prevent these[253] vicious habits. But even their great influence could do nothing, and the vicious practices were open secrets. A curious rule was however enacted in order to prevent the habit of drinking. Every priest returning from the street was bound to present himself before the priestly guard at the gate of the temple, who examined his breath, any disclosure of his drunkenness being followed by an immediate punishment. Some impudent priests often attempted to conceal their inebriation by eating a good deal of garlic, the strong smell of which impregnated their breath and thus might prevent detection.

Leaving the temple at ten on the morning of December 15th, I proceeded about two miles across the city of Shigatze, when I reached the Tsanchu river. The great bridge erected over it is called the Samba Shar, which means eastern bridge. It measures about three hundred and sixty yards in length and eight yards in breadth. It is unlike our own bridges, for it consists of slabs of stones covered with earth, which are in turn placed upon rows of long wooden boards spanning stone structures erected in the water at equal distances of about ten yards. The bridge has parapets made of stone. Passing over the bridge, I proceeded four miles to the north, till I found myself on the bank of the Brahmapuṭra. The road now turned to the east along that river, and a further journey of about twelve miles brought me to a village called Pe, where I lodged at a poor farmer’s. There I noticed with curiosity that turf instead of the usual yak-dung was heaped besides the fire-place. I was told that in that locality the dried roots of grasses were used as fuel; hence the heaps of turf.

I also found a boy of about twelve years old sitting beside the fire-place and learning to write. He had a bamboo stick for his pen, and was writing with it upon white powder sprinkled over a small piece of wood.[254] Every now and then he presented his work to his father and had its ill-done portions corrected by him, this process being repeated over and over again. I wondered at the care with which the child was taught to practise penmanship, in spite of the poor condition of the family, but I soon learned the secret. Agriculture was the sole industry in this locality, and if the tenant did not know how to write and count, he would possibly be imposed upon by his landlord in the payment of his rent. As to the art of counting, it was taught in a very primitive way, stones, sticks or rosaries being used for the purpose. With respect to writing and counting the poorer classes of this locality were far above those in Lhasa, who were totally ignorant.

At night I preached to the members of the family, and the next day I proceeded about five miles along the river already mentioned. The road, which sloped eastward, now became very narrow, with the river on the left and a very steep and rugged mountain on the right. I struggled on for about four miles further, and then came out upon a wide space. Looking to the right, I saw two large buildings standing on the summit of a mountain. These buildings constitute the Engon temple where, as the old priest of the Tashi Lhunpo temple had kindly informed me, lives the celebrated grammarian. I climbed the mountain, and reached the temple after an arduous ascent of more than two miles. There I learned that the larger of the two edifices accommodates two hundred and thirty male priests, while the other, situated a little lower, is a nunnery where live seventy-two nuns. The history of this temple is very interesting, but I need not dwell on it here in detail. I stayed at the temple for the night, and the next day I had an interview with its principal priest. The latter, however, talked only something of Buḍḍhism, being ignorant of grammar and rhetoric, but[255] was kind enough to refer me to the physician, Amdo Ka-sang, of whom the old priest of the Tashi Lhunpo had such a high opinion.

I then called upon this physician and grammarian, to whom I gave some presents in token of my respect. After the usual greetings had been exchanged, the host questioned me how long I had been studying the Tibetan language. “Three years,” I replied. My host declared that the study of grammar and rhetoric greatly depended upon the method used and that, if the method were a poor one, the period of three years would prove too short to accomplish anything. He then asked me a few questions on grammar, which, as they were very simple, I answered quickly. I asked him to put to me some more difficult questions on rhetoric, but, to my great disappointment, he confessed that he had no knowledge of rhetoric. I next asked him which of the Tibetan grammarians he thought the best, to which question he answered that he preferred Ngul-chu Lama’s grammar (Ngul-chu being the name of a temple) which, in reality, is very imperfect. I almost doubted his sincerity, so that I again asked him why he did not follow the views taken by Situ Lama, who is well-known as the highest authority on Tibetan grammar. To my great surprise, my host had never read Situ’s works, though he had heard something of the grammarian. I then turned my questions to the number of vowels in the Tibetan alphabet, about which there are two different opinions among grammarians. This question, simple as it may appear, has been the subject of much discussion, so that the study of the Tibetan language must be started with this theme. My question on this subject seemed to embarrass my host who, after some pondering, said that there were sixteen vowels in the Tibetan alphabet, and began to enumerate them. Curiously enough, all the vowels mentioned by him were those of the Samskṛ[256]ṭ alphabet, so I asked him what he thought of the opinion that the number of the Tibetan vowels was five.

The doctor seemed abashed. He apologised for his mistake in having mentioned the Samskṛṭ vowels, and admitted that the Tibetan vowels numbered only five. (This five-vowel opinion is erroneous, though several western scholars maintain it in their works. It must be noted that the Tibetan characters were invented by Thumi Sambhota, who tells us in his work that there were only four vowels in his language.) In short, the interview proved a disappointment. The doctor possessed very limited knowledge, being a great grammarian and rhetorician only in the eyes of ignorant native priests. I returned to my room, where I was asked by a priest on what subject I had talked with the ‘learned’ doctor. When I answered him that I had discussed some grammatical questions with the doctor, the priest said with an air of importance that the doctor was the highest authority on grammar and rhetoric throughout the province of Tsan, that one or two interviews with him would be insufficient to secure any benefit, and that I should stay with him for at least two or three years if I really wished to study grammar. In addition, the priest confessed that, long as he had had the fortune to listen to the doctor’s lectures, he was still a total stranger to grammar. I was so much tickled by these remarks that I burst out laughing, which seemed somewhat to embarrass the priest.

The next day, December 18th, I proceeded about five miles over an undulating country, going in a south-easterly direction, when I again reached the Brahmapuṭra river. Crossing a vast plain which stretched along the river, I made my way eastward, and was within some two miles and a half of the Pombo Ri-o-che, a temple belonging to an older sect of Lamaism, and situated upon a towering peak, when I was unexpectedly called and stopped by someone.


A Supposed Miracle.

Turning about to see what it could be, I caught sight of two stout fellows armed with Tibetan swords. On their approach, I asked them what they wanted. Abruptly picking up a stone, the younger of them threatened me and said: “What do you mean?”

“Run off,” he menaced, “or you shall die.”

Then I took my seat on a stone by the roadside and gave myself up for lost. The men strode toward me, and violently seized my stick.

“Tell us what you have and where you come from,” they said.

“I am a pilgrim,” I answered, “and I come from Tise.”

“You have money?”

“I have a little,” I said, “not worth taking, as I was robbed at Jangthang.”

“What have you on your back?”

“Some food and the Scriptures.”

“Unpack it and let us see; you may have much money there.”

“No, the money is in my pocket,” I said “and not in the baggage. Being a priest, I never tell a lie. You may have either the money or the baggage, if you wish.”

I was just going to give them money when three horsemen appeared riding towards us, and at sight of them the highwaymen took to their heels, leaving the stick and everything else. Thus I was saved.

“Who are they?” asked the horsemen, and on my answering that they had demanded of me my money and baggage, they expressed their disgust.


“Go to yonder temple,” they added after a little pause, “and you will find a village. Be quick and we will see you safe there.”

I thanked them and walked on toward the village, and the horsemen went away westward after a little while. Instead of stopping there for the night, I proceeded eastwards as far as Nya-mo-Hotta, a little village about seven miles off, where I lodged. The following day I took lunch at Teshok, and stopped at Tak-tsu-kha in the evening. On December 20th at dawn, I went south-east through the deep snow, it having snowed very hard the night before. While going along the river Brahmapuṭra, I saw some cranes walking in the snow, and was so delighted that I forgot that I was in so cold a climate.

Then I amused myself with composing Utas, of which the following is one:

With crystals of the snow, how white the sand
All spotted gleams upon the river banks!
The flocks of cranes to me appear to sing
The changeless glories of the Path of Truth
In their melodious joyful bursts of song:
On those bejewelled banks they tread in pride;
With gait majestic slow they strut about.

Amid such beautiful scenes I went down along the southern bank of the river, and after about eight miles’ walk I came to Kurum Namse, where I took lunch. I proceeded still further east along the same stream for about five miles, and found the river running north-east, while my road lay south-east into the mountain. I went up the hill about four miles, and stopped at Shab-Tontub.

On the following morning I went eastwards again along a clear stream, and after about four miles I could see from its banks a rocky mountain, at the foot of which there was a temple called Cham Chen Gompa (meaning ‘the monastery of the great image of Charity’, i.e., the Boḍhisaṭṭva of that name), where there was an image of[259] the Buḍḍha Maiṭreya about thirty-five feet high. Boḍhisaṭṭva Maiṭreya (which name means ‘Charity’) is honored as next to Buḍḍha in rank, but in Tibet he is worshipped as a Buḍḍha who will hereafter appear again on earth. I worshipped at this temple, and then at the shrine of the divinities, and of Shākyamuni Buḍḍha beside the temple. Then I entered a lamasery. This temple, which is the largest between Lhasa and Shigatze, has two hundred dormitories, with three hundred priests. The chief priest of the house where I stopped was in great distress on account of some bad dreams which he had had on several successive nights. He had dreamed that he was dying, and this troubled him much, for he had immense wealth. So he asked me to read the Scriptures to him, so that he might be free from the supposed evil. I knew of no gospel specially suitable for such purposes, but I thought that the reading of the Buḍḍhist canon might do him good, so I told him that I would do as he wished, and from the following day began reading The Aphorisms of the White Lotus of the Wonderful Law and other Scriptures in Tibetan.

It was on the 28th of December, as I remember, that a priest was going to Kātmāndu in Nepāl, and I seized the occasion to send a letter home by him, addressed to my bosom friend Tokujuro Hige. I paid him a comparatively large sum of money and asked him to send it registered from the post office of Nepāl. The man was reputed so honest that he had never been known to tell a lie, but strangely enough the letter failed to reach its address, as I have since discovered.

During the afternoon of the 31st I was sped on my way by the head priest, who lent me a horse. I got on the horse, loaded it with my baggage, and going east for about three miles, came to Ta-mi-la, where I was asked to read the Scriptures. While riding to the village, I lifted up my[260] thanks to Buḍḍha for the grace by which I had been saved through so many calamities and afflictions during the year, it being the last day of the 33rd year of Meiji according to the Japanese mode of reckoning (A.D. 1900). I did not know what adversities were yet in store for me, but I could not but think that I might be kept safe to do all I could for the cause of Buḍḍhism.

The New Year’s Day dawned, but I met with nothing special to mark the day, as the Tibetans use the old calendar. Still I got up early at three o’clock in the morning, and turning east, as I had done every New Year’s Day, I began the New Year’s reading of the Scriptures. For, as Buḍḍhism teaches us, it is our duty to pray for the health of the sovereign, and every Buḍḍhist reads the Scriptures on New Year’s Day, in however remote a place he may happen to be, and prays for the welfare of the Imperial Family. I read the Scriptures at the village till the 5th, and on the following day I proceeded seven miles to Omi, where I stopped for the night. In a temple of this village there was an image called in Tibetan Sung Chung Dolma (the Mother of Salvation who utters a command) which was about three feet high, and so beautiful that it seemed as if it might even speak. The Tibetans told me that the image at one time actually spoke. I read the Scriptures there for two days, and received many gifts. I had met the highwaymen, and had been robbed of my money, but money was constantly given to me, and my reading the Scriptures earned me so many gifts, that I had now laid by a considerable sum of money, and I was living on the food given to me by others.

On the 12th of January, at 5 o’clock in the morning, I set out on my journey with a coolie, who carried my baggage. We went on south-east along the bank of a stream flowing through the mountains. Here we found the snow turned into ice, and so slippery was the ground that we had to take great[261] care, lest we should fall. Going on for about twelve miles, we found ourselves at Choe Ten, where there were many hot springs, three of them warm enough to bathe in. I do not know for what disease they might be really efficacious, though they seemed to me to be good for rheumatism. I saw several places in the stream where steaming springs could be seen boiling up. We took our lunch and again went on eastward for about nine miles, till we came in sight of a temple called Mani Lha-khang, in a willow plantation along the river. This temple was so called, because it enshrined a large bronze cylinder holding many pieces of paper each bearing the spell mani, consisting of the following six sounds ‘Om-ma-ni-pad-me-hum’ and meaning “all will be as we will.” The tube was beautifully wrapped in copper foil, and ornamented with gold and silver. It had an iron axle through it and was so formed that it would revolve from left to right. This temple is among the most famous in Tibet. The founder of the temple was Je Tsong-kha-pa, who started a new sect. His memory is held in great esteem in the country, and especially in this temple, mostly because he was the inventor of the “prayer-cylinder”.

I stopped at this temple, the keeper of which was very rude; without any scruple he asked me to read his face for him, for he said I looked out of the common. I had never studied physiognomy, but I thought that I might thus teach a lesson to the Tibetans, who are very superstitious. So I told him that I was very sorry for him, for he seemed to be a man who, though often given money and other things, would sustain much loss through other men, and for whom the future would have nothing but debt. Singularly enough, this exactly told his past life, and he was so surprised at my words, that he told all about me to his richest neighbor, called Dorje Gyalpo (Prince Diamond). That very evening a fine lady, who[262] I was told was the wife of the rich man, came to me with a child, and asked me to tell its fortune. This troubled me not a little. But when I saw the sickly and feeble state of the child I could easily guess what would happen, so I ventured to tell her that I was very sorry, for the child seemed likely not to live long, and I also told her about the philosophy of retribution. She asked me if there was no way of saving its life. I thought how glad I should be if I could have an opportunity of reading the ‘complete Text,’ as I knew that I should have very little chance of doing so after reaching Lhasa. I said therefore that a long reading of the Scriptures might do some good. She went home early that evening.

Very strange indeed! the child fell so ill the following morning that the whole family was struck with my chance prediction, and I was asked to come to the house to read the Scriptures, even though it might take several days to do so. I said I would, but as they had no copy of the ‘complete Scriptures’ I asked for a man to be sent to Rong Langba, a little further up the hill, to borrow a copy. In the meanwhile I sat in the usual religious meditation, when suddenly my ears caught the sound of weeping and crying women in the kitchen. What could all that mean? Something serious must have happened in the house. Still I kept quiet, as it was none of my business to go and see. Soon, however, the mistress of the house came to tell me that the child had died as predicted, and she asked me to save it. I was also surprised to learn how my words had come true, and hurried into the room, only to find the child quite senseless and cold.

I felt the child’s pulse, which was beating faintly, though his body was not warm and his neck was nearly stiff. I thought the disease might be congestion of the brain, as I had read a few books on medicine. So I called for some cold water, and put on to his head a piece of wet[263] cloth, while, at the same time, I rubbed his neck and head vigorously for twenty minutes. It was only a short faint, and the child began to come to his senses. You can easily imagine how glad was his grandmother, who was almost beside herself with joy to see restored to life the child whom they had supposed to be dead. I told her to keep quiet and to continue rubbing till the child was perfectly well. This won for me no small respect from all present, and I was asked to stay for a long time to read the Scriptures. I, too, was glad to stay there over two months during the cold season, enjoying my reading. Besides reading the Scriptures, I often took walks among the hills and valleys and on these occasions many children, with the one I had saved, followed me in my walks quite as if they were my own children. I loved the children so much, or rather was so loved by them, that my only business besides my reading was to take them for walks.


Manners and Customs.

The Tibetans are very foul in their habits, some of which I may mention here. In the house in which I stayed there were some twenty servants, and they brought me a cup of tea every morning. They never washed the cup which I used, but brought tea in it every day, and they would say that it was quite clean, for I had used it only the night before, though it was as dirty as it could be. They think cups are unclean if they have been used by their inferiors, but they never wash those used by themselves or their equals, for these are clean in their eyes, though it is disgusting even to look at them. If I asked a servant to wash my cup, it was wiped with his sleeve, which might be quite wet and dirty from being used as a handkerchief. Then he said it was clean, and poured tea into it. Just think of it! It is impossible to drink out of such a cup, but still one must do so, for it would only arouse their suspicions to be too strict about such matters. It seems to be nothing compared with his other unclean habits that the Tibetan does not wash his plates and dishes. He does not even wash or wipe himself after the calls of nature, but behaves like the lower animals in this respect. To this there is no single exception, from the high priest down to the shepherd; every one does the same. I was, therefore, much laughed at and suspected when I followed the Japanese custom in this particular, and even the children would laugh at me. I was much troubled at this; still I could not do otherwise. This was a still greater trouble in the tents, for in Jangthang I used to have four or five dogs beside me whenever I retired for private purposes. You can well[265] imagine how terrified I was at first, though I soon got accustomed to them. And no sooner had I gone away than the dogs devoured the excrement. For this reason there is little or no filth lying about in Jangthang.

Nor are these the Tibetan’s only unclean habits. He never washes his body; many have never been washed since their birth. One would scarcely believe that they boast in the country, if not in towns or cities, of never having been washed. It calls forth laughter from others to wash even the hands and face, and so the only clean part about them are the palms of the hands and eyes, all other parts being jet-black. The country gentlemen and the priests, however, have partially cleaned faces, mouths and hands, though the other parts of their bodies are just as black as can be. They are quite as black on their necks and backs as the African negroes. Why then are their hands so white? It is because they make dough with their own hands with flour in a bowl, and the dirt of their hands is mixed with the dough. So Tibetan dishes are made of dirt and flour, and the Tibetans eat with their teeth black with sordes. It is a sickening sight! Why do they not wash their bodies? Because they have a superstitious belief that it wipes off happiness to wash the body. This belief is not quite so prevalent among the inhabitants of Central Tibet as among those of the remote provinces north of the Himālayas.

It is necessary at betrothal to show not only the countenance of the girl, but also to show how black she is with filth. If she is all black except her eyes, and her dress is bright with dirt and butter, she is regarded as blessed. If she has a white face and clean hands she will be less fortunate, for she is said to have washed away her luck. Girls are equally superstitious about this, for they too attach much importance in courting to the black[267]ness of the boys. I know it is difficult to credit what I have just stated; even I myself could not believe it until I had visited several places and seen Tibetan habits for myself. People below the middle class have no change of clothes, but generally dress themselves in torn and filthy rags. They blow their noses into their clothes in the presence of others. Their dress is often as hard as hide with dried dirt. It is as it were a concrete of butter, filth and mucus. But people above the middle class are a little less untidy. The priesthood especially are instructed to wash their hands and faces and keep their clothes clean. They are somewhat cleaner, therefore, but only in comparison with their people. It was often very difficult for me to accept invitations to dinner and tea amid these foul habits. While at Tsarang I tried very hard to get accustomed to them, but it is difficult to overcome physical revolt.

Still, amid these disagreeable things, the natural beauty of the country often much comforted me. Once before the Tibetan New Year I was reading as usual at my desk, while the people were busy preparing for the New Year. I looked out of my window to see the snow. Oh the splendor of the sight! You can little imagine how much I was delighted when a crane appeared, strolling along in the snow, and filling me with sentimental and poetical reminiscences of my native land. In this wise I was comforted, amid the unpleasant habits of the people, by the beautiful charms of nature, as well as by some interesting things which I noticed among the ceremonies of the New Year.

The Tibetans use neither the Indian calendar, nor the Chinese, but the Turkistan, which resembles the Chinese in that it has one leap year in every four, but it is always one year behind the latter. We find many strange things in its way of counting days. There are often given, say, two seventh days, or we sometimes find the eleventh day[268] after the ninth but without the tenth. I could not quite make out what all these meant. Upon inquiring from an astrologer, I was told that it was sometimes necessary to add one day, or to leave one out, because they were lucky or unlucky, and a lucky day was duplicated, while an unlucky one must be omitted. In this convenient way is constructed the calendar as generally used in Tibet, though some disagreements are found between the calendars used in different parts of the country, as for instance in fixing the New Year or other great days. But this is a matter that should cause little wonder. The Tibetan calendar is computed by four officials appointed by the Government, who count days with black and white stones or shells. When their calendars differ, the best ones are chosen, and an oracle is consulted to decide which is the proper one to be adopted. The New Year’s ceremony is generally held on the day given in the Government calendar, but it is very rarely that the New Year’s Day of the Tibetan calendar falls on the same day as that of the Chinese, there being generally a difference of one, two, or even three days between them.

On New Year’s morning a piece of fire-colored silk, or handkerchiefs sewn together in the shape of a flag, is put over a heap of baked flour, on which are strewn some dried grapes, dried peaches and small black persimmons. The head of the house first picks up some of the fruits with his right hand, tosses them up three times, and eats them. Then his wife, guests and servants follow his example one after another. Next comes Tibetan tea, with fried cakes of wheat flour for each. These are brought in on a tray, something in the shape of a copper plate, gilded and white at the centre. They drink the tea and eat the cakes, but, unlike the Japanese, exchange no words of congratulation, and seem mostly to enjoy the eating. They take meat dried, raw, and boiled, but roast meat is regarded as unceremonial.


Tibet produces fresh-water fish, but the Tibetans do not usually eat it; they subsist chiefly on the meat of the yak, goat, and sheep, for they consider it sinful to kill fish. Pork is eaten, but only by the Tibetans who have dealings with the Chinese. After the morning ceremony, they again meet at about ten o’clock to drink tea or wine, and eat cake or fruits. At two in the afternoon they have dinner, at which they eat, if rich, a sort of macaroni mixed with eggs. The soup has mutton or something else dipped in it. At nine or ten o’clock in the evening they make a sort of meat gruel, commonly composed of wheat flour, wheat dumplings, meat, radishes, and cheese. But the course of dishes mentioned above is not settled, for they sometimes eat the gruel in the morning, though generally in the evening. The above are the dishes taken by the Tibetans of the higher circles.

The lowest class find it hard to get cheese and meat for their gruel, and put fat in their stead. Nor is it less difficult for them to get radishes. If they put wheat dumplings in the gruel, which they make on special occasions, it is reckoned among their best dishes; their usual gruel is made very thick with baked flour with some herbs and flowers put in it. In the winter, when they have no fresh herbs or flowers, they use what they have stored and laid by during the summer. The radish is however much grown in some parts of Tibet, where it is largely used. The Tibetan is fonder of baked flour than of rice, all classes generally living on the former. The Tibetans at Darjeeling live on baked flour from Tibet, for they fall ill if they live on rice. Baked flour can of course be had in India, but the Tibetan seems much superior to the Indian, for they send orders to Tibet for their native productions.

In this way I passed the festive New Year season, and, while reading my Scriptures amid these charming scenes,[270] learned much about Tibetan customs and homes, and found good material for my study.


A little white and black bird like a crow, called Kyaka in Tibetan, used to come to my window. It was a knowing bird, and could tell one man from another, and was very regular in its ways. One day while I was looking out of my window I saw one of a flock, seemingly their head, pecking another to death, as if angry with the latter because it had quarrelled with the other members of the flock. I was surprised and told my landlord about it, when he told me that birds were more regular than men, and related several stories which showed how strict the birds were. It is a common saying, he added, that one might deviate from human laws by the breadth of a log, before a hair-breadth’s deviation from bird’s law would be tolerated.—(Cha tim ta nga tsam shikna mi tim nya shing tsam shik go.)

Having stayed in this place a long time in order to read the Scriptures, I was determined to leave on the 14th March, as it was getting warmer. In the morning the family asked me to recite to them the Three Refuges, and the Five Commands or moral precepts of Buḍḍhism, which I did with pleasure. After dinner as I was leaving the house I was presented with some money and a priest’s robe, red in color and made of wool, which must have cost some thirty-five yen. I departed accompanied by a servant, who carried my luggage, for they told me they could not send me off on horseback, much though they desired to do so, for all their horses were away on trading journeys.

Up the Yak-Chu river I went for about ten miles eastwards, till I came to a post village called Che-sum, where I stopped for the night. I started at six o’clock the next morning, and went on along the river for another seven miles. It was a narrow pass, walled up between high[271] mountains; the snow lay deep in the valleys and the water of the streams was frozen. At the end of about seven miles I came to a little opening and, looking up to the top of a mountain on the left, I noticed a white building which looked neither like a temple nor like the dwelling of a priest. What could it be? Upon inquiring of my companion I was told it was a hail-proof temple.

I had never heard of such a temple, and was surprised at seeing one. When I heard the name for the first time I could not believe my own ears, but when I asked more particularly about it at Lhasa, I found that what had been told me was true. I will now relate the strange method which the Tibetans have for keeping off hailstones, which they dread exceedingly, especially in summer, for then the crops of wheat and barley, which they can reap only once in a year or two, may be entirely destroyed. So they naturally try to find some means to keep off the hailstones, and the method they have discovered is certainly curious enough.

The nation is so credulous in the matter of religion that they indiscriminately believe whatever is told to them by their religious teachers, the lamas. Thus for instance they believe that there are eight kinds of evil spirits which delight in afflicting people and send hail to hurt the crops. Some priests therefore maintain that they must fight against and destroy these evil demons in order to keep them off, and the old school profess that in order to combat these spirits effectually they must know when the demons are preparing the hail. During the winter when there is much snow, these spirits, according to the priests, gather themselves at a certain place, where they make large quantities of hail out of snow. They then store the hail somewhere in heaven, and go to rest, until in the summer when the crops are nearly ripe they throw down the hail from the air. Hence the Tibetans must make[272] sharp weapons to keep off the hail, and consequently, while the spirits are preparing their hail, the Tibetans hold a secret meeting in some ravine where they prepare ‘hail-proof shells,’ which are pieces of mud about the size of a sparrow’s egg. These are made by a priest, who works with a servant or two in some lonely ravine, where by some secret method he makes many shells, chanting words of incantation the while, whereby he lays a spell on each shell he makes. These pellets are afterwards used as missiles when hail falls in the summer, and are supposed to drive it back. None but priests of good family may devote themselves to this work. Every village has at least one priest called Ngak-pa (the chanters of incantations of the old school) and during the winter these Ngak-pas offer prayers, perform charms, or pray for blessings for others. But the Tibetans have a general belief that the Ngak-pas sometimes curse others. I was often told that such and such person had offended a Ngak-pa and was cursed to death.

Having spent the winter in this way, the Ngak-pas during the summer prepare to fight against the devils. Let me remark, in passing, that Tibet has not four seasons, as we have, but the year is divided into summer and winter. The four seasons are indeed mentioned in Tibetan books, but there are in reality only two.

The summer there is from about the 15th of March to the 15th of September and all the rest of the year is winter. As early as March or April the ploughing of the fields and sowing of wheat begins, and then the Ngak-pa proceeds to the Hail-Subduing-Temple, erected on the top of one of the high mountains. This kind of temple is always built on the most elevated place in the whole district, for the reason that the greatest advantage is thus obtained for ascertaining the direction from which the clouds containing hail issue forth. From the time that[273] the ears of the wheat begin to shoot, the priest continues to reside in the temple, though from time to time, it is said, he visits his own house, as he has not very much to do in the earlier part of his service. About June, however, when the wheat has grown larger, the protection of the crop from injury by hail becomes more urgent, so that the priest never leaves the temple, and his time is fully taken up with making offerings and sending up prayers for protection to various deities. The service is gone through three times each day and night, and numberless incantations are pronounced. What is more strange is that the great hail storms generally occur when the larger part of the crops are becoming ripe, and then it is the time for the priest on service to bend his whole energies to the work of preventing the attack of hail.

When it happens that big masses of clouds are gathering overhead, the Ngak-pa first assumes a solemn and stern aspect, drawing himself up on the brink of the precipice as firm as the rock itself, and then pronounces an enchantment with many flourishes of his rosary much in the same manner as our warrior of old did with his baton. In a wild attempt to drive away the hail clouds, he fights against the mountain, but it often happens that the overwhelming host comes gloomily upon him with thunders roaring and flashes of lightning that seem to shake the ground under him and rend the sky above, and the volleys of big hailstones follow, pouring down thick and fast, like arrows flying in the thick of battle. The priest then, all in a frenzy, dances in fight against the air, displaying a fury quite like a madman in a rage. With charms uttered at the top of his voice he cuts the air right and left, up and down, with his fist clenched and finger pointed. If in spite of all his efforts, the volleys of hail thicken and strike the fields beneath, the priest grows madder in his wrath,[275] quickly snatches handfuls of the bullets aforementioned which he carries about him, and throws them violently against the clouds as if to strike them. If all this avail nothing, he rends his garment to pieces, and throws the rags up in the air, so perfectly mad is he in his attempt to put a stop to the falling hailstones. When, as sometimes happens, the hail goes drifting away and leaves the place unharmed, the priest is puffed up with pride at the victory he has gained, and the people come to congratulate him with a great show of gratitude. But when, unluckily for him, the hail falls so heavily as to do much harm to the crops, his reverence has to be punished with a fine, apportioned to the amount of injury done by the hail, as provided by the law of the land.


To make up for the loss the Ngak-pa thus sustains, he is entitled at other times, when the year passes with little or no hail, to obtain an income under the name of “hail-prevention-tax;” a strange kind of impost, is it not? The “hail-prevention-tax” is levied in kind, rated at about two sho of wheat per tan of land, which is to be paid to the Ngak-pa. In a plentiful year this rate may be increased to two and a half sho. This is, indeed a heavy tax for the farmers in Tibet, for it is an extra, in addition to the regular amount which they have to pay to their Government.

There is another custom even more singular than that. The power of jurisdiction over the district resides in the person of the Ngak-pa, this being founded on the belief that the plentitude or deficiency of the crops each summer is dependent entirely on his power. The Ngak-pa being thus the administrator of justice receives a large salary in that capacity in addition to his income as preventer of hail. It might therefore be supposed that this class of priests is quite wealthy, but the Tibetan Ngak-pas are most of them singularly poor.[276] Their gains, coming from deception founded upon the superstition of the people, are soon dissipated, for what is ill-got is ill-spent, as the saying is. But the influence they exercise over the people is very strong. For instance, when a poor-looking Ngak-pa, attired like a beggar, meets with a fine gentleman on the road, the latter is sure to stick out his tongue and to bow down in profound respect. So these Ngak-pas gain much in peaceful days, though they are at the same time subject to a heavy penalty when the hail season sets in. Occasionally too, some of them are flogged on their naked bodies. The Tibetans are very strict in this respect, and no nobleman who has committed wrong is spared a flogging because of his caste. So far about the hail tax.

From this temple I went eastwards for about seven miles, when I came to a village called Yase. From the mountains east of this village flows a river called Yakchu, which, running north-west, empties itself into the Brahmapuṭra. Some European maps incorrectly give the Yakchu as having its source in lake Yamdo. Going on some two miles, I found one of the strangest lakes in the world. It is called lake Yamdo-Tso in Tibetan, but some foreign maps call it lake Palti. Palti however is not the name of the lake, but of the village on the western side. The lake is about one hundred and eighty miles in circumference, and has an island with a mountain range in its centre. Many lakes have small islands in them, but authoritative geographers state that none has so large a mountain as this. I must, however, here say that the land in the lake is connected with the main land at two points on the south, so that it is not actually an island. No words can describe the beautiful scenery here. The lofty peaks of the Himālayas stand high in a line from the south-east to the south-west of the lake, and add to its magnificence, and the tempest often lashes it into high waves, which dash roaring[277] upon the shore. Standing on a high rock by the shore, I marvelled to see the terrible scene of the angry lake waves, with the peaks of the Himālayan mountains amidst the clouds, looking like a superhuman being.

I proceeded for about four miles to the east, and then the road turned to the north-east. On the left stood a wall of high mountains, while on the right I could see the peaks of mountains in the lake. I went east and then north along a rather wide path by the lake for about six miles, till I came to Palti. There is a castle on a hill in this village, and very beautiful the lake looks when the castle throws its shadow on the water.

I lodged at a house at the foot of this castle. I had walked twenty-five miles that day, but the invigorating mountain scenery dispelled my fatigue, though I had been very tired. On the following day, March 16th, I started at four o’clock, in the snow and ice, and went north-east along the lake. There were mountains on the left and the lake on the right, as before. The path went pretty nearly north, but straight up and down in a zig-zag along the mountain. Often I slipped on the ice, or went deep into the snow, and I encountered much trouble, which was, however, almost nothing when compared with those which I had met in passing over the Himālayas.

At dawn I climbed up the mountain in deep snow, and looked down upon the surface of the lake. I could see among the shadows of the mountains the crescent moon beautifully reflected dimly and faintly on the water. The bright day was soon coming, the moon began already to lose its dim light, and the morning star twinkled on the surface of the water. Amid the charms of nature I lost all my fatigue and weariness, and I stood quite entranced. Soon the water-fowl were heard on the sands along the lake, and some mandarin ducks were amusing themselves in the water, while cranes were wildly flying about[278] with noisy cries. What a contrast it was with the scene of the day before! No pleasure on a journey can be greater than travelling in this way at dawn. I still went on for about twelve miles along the lake and came to a little stream in the mountains at about nine o’clock. It is here that travellers make tea, and bake their wheat for eating. The lake is full of water, but it is poisonous.

A strange story is told about how it turned poisonous. About twenty years ago, as the Tibetans tell, the famous Saraṭ Chanḍra Ḍās, an Indian by birth, who passed for an Englishman, came from India and pronounced a spell upon the lake; the water at once turned as red as blood. A lama, they say, came along and turned the water back to its original color, but it still remained poisonous. One cannot believe anything that the Tibetans say, but the water seems to have really turned red. Saraṭ Chanḍra Ḍās cannot have done that, but, unfortunately for him, it was just after his return from Tibet that the water thus changed. Saraṭ Chanḍra Ḍās, as every one knows, is an Indian, but Tibetans, with few exceptions, think him to be an Englishman. Any way the water of the lake must have been poisonous for a long time, for the water is stagnant, there being no current, and there are divers poisonous elements near the lake.

There also seem to be places where I think there must be coal; I saw several kinds of strange ores and many kinds of herbs which I think may have dissolved in the water and have colored it. I have seen some foreign maps in which the water of this lake is made to flow into the Brahmapuṭra, which is quite false.

I found several persons taking lunch as we did amid this beautiful scenery. This being the way that runs between Lhasa and Shigatze there were travellers on it, among whom was a soldier from Nepāl. He was[279] one of the most humorous fellows I ever saw, and was very good company for me.


On to Lhasa.

The soldier, whose company proved not altogether unwelcome in a travel like mine, happened to be one of the Legation Guards of the Minister of Nepāl at Lhasa. His love of his mother had tempted him from his duty, but at Shigatze on his way to Nepāl his thought turned to his love of a woman at Lhasa and this was so much greater than his love for his mother that he suddenly changed his mind and determined to go back to Lhasa. Among other things I asked him how many soldiers the Nepāl Government kept stationed at Lhasa, and he answered that it was but a few years ago that his Government first sent a guard to the Tibetan capital. He told me that a great calamity befell the capital over ten years ago.

It seems that there were about three hundred merchants of the Palpo tribe of Nepāl at Lhasa. They are the most active and alert of the Nepālese tribes, with regard to trading, and follow Indian, not Tibetan Buḍḍhism. They engage in trade at Lhasa in woollen cloth, cotton, silk, coral, jewels, dry goods, rice, beans and corn.

Some thirteen years ago, a Palpo merchant at Lhasa searched a Lhasa woman on the charge that she had stolen a piece of coral from his shop. When the coral was not found he became so angry that, in spite of her protesting tears, he took her by force into his house. When she was allowed to go out again, she told the people all that had happened. The ‘warrior-priests’ of the Sera monastery heard of the affair and became so irritated about the ill-treatment of the woman that some of them came to enquire into the matter, and having ascertained what they wanted[281] went back to Sera and told their chief, who at once called out the warrior-priests.

These warrior-priests are under one chief, at whose summons they gather themselves together. Many of them were not in residence at that time, but about one thousand assembled. These were preparing to march on Lhasa to wreck vengeance on all the Palpo merchants, when the latter got wind of the matter, Sera being only about four miles from the capital. So they had fled from the city before the bellicose priests entered Lhasa, each armed with sword or a large iron hook. These men broke into the deserted houses of the merchants, and carried off what they found. Among the raiders there were, besides the priests, vagabonds of the city, who dispersed with their spoil the next morning at daybreak. Presently the merchants returned to their houses, and were much distressed to find their merchandise gone—their only property, as they owned no land. Their loss was estimated at something under 230,000 yen.

This affair became a diplomatic question, and it took over five years to settle it. The Tibetan Government had to compensate the merchants and a party of twenty-five Nepālese soldiers came to be stationed at Lhasa. The chief diplomatist in this affair on the Nepāl side was Jibbahaḍur, whose name has already been mentioned; he was the Clerk of the Nepālese Government, and is the present Nepālese Minister to Tibet.

As we walked on we found ourselves at the foot of a steep hill called Genpala, which has an incline of about two and a half miles to its top, from which I obtained my first view of Lhasa. From the summit I could see, to the north-east, the Brahmapuṭra running south-east. There is a large tributary called Kichu running from the north-east that flows into this river. It runs through a large[282] plain, in the middle of which is a mountain with a high building; and this I saw showing beautifully in the golden sunshine. This was the residence of the Dalai Lama of Lhasa, and is called Tse Potala. Beyond the castle are to be seen roofs towering high in the air, which look like those of a town. These are the streets of Lhasa, which look very small, when seen so far off. I rested for a while, and then gradually went down a great slope for about seven miles till I came to Pache, where I stopped for the night. Having walked all day in the snow and ice I was very foot-sore and fatigued, as well I might be, for I had made twenty-five miles on foot that day.

The following day, the 17th of March, I descended for another two miles and a half and found myself on the banks of the Brahmapuṭra. I walked some six miles along the southern bank of the river before I came to the ferry of Chaksam, where I had to cross the river. Formerly there was an iron bridge at this place, the remaining chains of which may still be seen a little lower down the stream. The ferry boats are rectangular in shape like Indian boats. But it is only in the winter that these boats are used, for in the summer large vessels cannot pass across. The Tibetans then use instead the yak-hide canoe. They sew together the hides of three yaks, and the seams are painted over with a sort of lacquer, to make them waterproof. These hide canoes float on the water, and are used as ferry-boats even in the winter when there are not many passengers. In Tibetan the word Kowa (meaning ‘hide’) also signifies a boat. The hide boat naturally absorbs much water and soon gets too soft and heavy for use, and the Tibetan therefore dries his hide boat in the sun after he has used it for half a day in the water. It is so light that a man can easily lift it, and the Tibetan will carry it on his back to the higher part of a[283] stream, and will float it down for a day or two loaded with goods or men. When the boat is unloaded, it is again carried up the stream. But our party being too many for a hide canoe I was ferried over the river in one of the regular wooden boats.

Walking for about three miles on the dry sandy bed of the river, I came to a beautiful place where I saw rocks and high trees casting their shadows on the water. The ground about Lake Yamdo, of which I have spoken elsewhere, is so elevated that it looks as much as 13,500 feet above sea level, but here it is only 11,500 feet high. Here, in sunny places beside the water, the buds of the willows were already out. After seeing only bald mountains and dead leaves for a long time, the green leaves were a delightful sight. Though my coolie carried my baggage, and I was not much troubled on that score, the old wounds on my feet began to smart again, and I could hardly walk. In the midst of my trouble there came along a horseman, to whom I gave a little money to carry me on horseback. About two miles and a half further on we came to a town called Chu-shur, a rather bustling place, situated in the delta formed by the rivers Kichu and Brahmapuṭra, the former running from the north-east and the latter from the north-west.

I hardly know any town on the way to Lhasa worse and more wicked than this. The people of the town are indifferent, even unkind, to strangers, and are much skilled in robbing them of their luggage. They will steal both luggage and goods in transport in such a skilful manner that they can hardly be detected. It is widely known in Tibet that no place is richer in thieves than Chu-shur and I had often been warned to be on my guard against them. There being so many skilful thieves and the place being so much frequented by travellers, there is consequently a[284] good circulation of money, and one would suppose that Chu-shur had many rich men; but strange to say, I was told upon enquiry that there were more poor men in that town than in most of the other towns and villages of Tibet. After dining there, I started towards the north-east (on foot, as I could procure no horse) along the stream of the Kichu river and walked on until I felt so much pain in my feet that I could proceed no further. I had laid myself down on the grass to rest when, to my boundless joy, a donkey-driver came along and I was given a lift on the back of his animal for some ten miles, till I arrived at Jang. At Jang something happened that prevented my coolie from following me any further, and he deserted me. My feet were aching worse than ever, for I had travelled about twenty-five miles that day by the help of the donkey; but what to do on the following day I was at a loss to conceive. Happily I was told of some men who were going with tax-meat to the Government at Lhasa, and I asked them to take me on one of their horses. They were going to pay the tax to the Government, yet they did not take their horses from their own village, but hired them elsewhere. They did not travel more than eight or nine miles a day, and I, too, hired a horse for myself, placed my luggage in their charge, and started together with them. We halted at a little village named Nam to take rest, and here stopped for the night. On the following day we went about six miles along a narrow rocky mountain path, which ran north-east along the Kichu river, till we came to Nethang.


Arrival in Lhasa.

At Nethang there is a temple of the Mothers of Salvation, who are most devoutly worshipped in Tibet, and it is said that it was founded by an Indian hermit, Shrī Aṭīsha by name, who organised a new sect in Tibet. I went there to worship the twenty-one Mothers of Salvation (Dolma Nishu tsa chik in Tibetan) whose images I found very well made. On the following day, the 20th, I again went on towards the north-east, along the river, over a plain of about five miles, till I came to a large bridge which I crossed, went on north-east for another four miles, and came to a village called Sing Zonkha, where I stopped for the night. I was to arrive at Lhasa, the capital of the country, on the following day, March 21st.

I hired a horse at the village, and asked my companions to take care of my baggage while I rode on amid the beautiful scenes of the place. After about two miles, I saw on the left a splendid monastery, which at first sight looked more like a large village, though it was in reality the Rebung monastery, the largest of the kind in the vicinity of Lhasa. It is indeed the largest monastery in the ecclesiastical district under the Dalai Lama, and has an army of priests who number some 7,700 as a general rule, though sometimes their number rises as high as nine thousand. During the summer, when the priests go out into the country on pilgrimage, there remain some six thousand only. This is one centre of Tibetan learning, and has a college. I saw in all three colleges in Central Tibet, the other two being the Sera college in Lhasa and that at Ganden.

The former has 5,500 students, and the latter 3,300. But these numbers are only nominal, and the colleges[286] can, like the Rebung monastery, take in either more or fewer students than their fixed number. At the side of the road below this monastery is a place where yaks, sheep, and goats are killed for the table of the Dalai Lama, and the Tibetans have so superstitious a regard for the sheep (seven in number) the meat of which is offered to the Dalai Lama daily, that they ask for such things as the wool and other parts of the animal as keepsakes. Besides sheep, the Dalai Lama eats other kinds of meat, which is also sent from the same place.

It is not very sensible of the Pontiff to get his meat from such a distant place, while he lives in the city of Lhasa; but he takes another view. Lhasa is too near to his palace for the slaughter of animals, and he does not want to have it thought that the animals are killed for him. He desires to get his meat without being responsible for giving the order to kill the animals. This looks very good, but since it is settled that the meat served to him shall be taken from this place, special care is taken in selecting the animals for slaughter, and at bottom, therefore, it makes no difference whether his meat is bought at Lhasa or at that particular place.

I went on for another five miles, and came to the foot of the hill on which stood the palace of the Grand Lama, the place which I had seen from Genpala.


The palace is so splendid that even its picture looks beautiful. I am not going to describe it in detail, but there is a quaint little story about it which shows the impression it creates at first sight. A certain countryman once drove to Lhasa some asses heavily loaded with butter. He saw the magnificent palace, and was so struck with its beauty that he stood gazing at it, thinking that it must be a palace of the Gods. When he recovered himself, he was mortified to find that his asses had strayed away. When he had gathered them, he found that there[287] were nine instead of ten, and looked about anxiously to find the lost one. When asked what he was looking for, he answered that some one must have stolen his ass while he was looking at the palace, for he had come thither with ten asses. It was some time before he found that he had not counted the ass on which he was riding. This shows how the magnificence of the palace had affected him. I went half a mile along a wide road, south-east of the palace hill, and came to a bridge called Yuthok Samba, a hundred and twenty feet by fifteen, over which is built a roof in the Chinese style. I crossed the bridge and went on another hundred and twenty yards before I found myself at the western gate of Lhasa, constructed somewhat after the Chinese fashion. I passed through the gate and rode on some two hundred and fifty yards, when I came to a sort of large open court. Here I had to alight, for I was before the large temple of Buḍḍha. I enquired how the image of Buḍḍha came to be placed in the temple. It was before king Srong-tsan Gambo (who later introduced[288] Buḍḍhism into the country) was won to the religion, and when he was engaged to Princess Un-ching, a daughter of the Chinese Emperor Ta-sung of the Thang dynasty. She demanded a promise from his father that Buḍḍhism should be widely preached in Tibet, and required at the same time that she might be permitted to take with her an image of Buḍḍha, which had just been brought from India. The request being granted, the Princess took it to the city of Lhasa, where it has remained ever since.

The image was thus brought into the country by the Princess at the same time as Buḍḍhism itself. It was soon found necessary to preach a new form of Buḍḍhism and to invent new characters in which to write its teachings. So learned men, sixteen in number, were sent to India to study Buḍḍhism, and to invent new characters. Consequently, new Tibetan letters were formed, and Buḍḍhist doctrines were translated into Tibetan. Budḍḍhism was thus taught for over thirteen centuries, to the great advantage both of Tibet and of Buḍḍhism. This image of Buḍḍha was not originally carved in China, but was made by a Buḍḍhist sculptor, Vishvakarma by name, in India, whence it was introduced into Tibet through China. When I lifted up my thanks before this image of Buḍḍha for my safe arrival in Tibet, I could not help shedding tears over the goodness of Buḍḍha, which enabled me to see His image at this temple as well as at Buḍḍhagayā in India. I need not say, for the whole story shows it, how great is my faith in Buḍḍha. I do not mean that I do not respect other Buḍḍhist deities; still Buḍḍha claims the greatest worship from me, and I have entirely given myself up to Him and His religion.

There are many cheap inns and hotels in Lhasa, but as I had been informed that they were not respectable, I desired to stay with a friend, a son of the premier of Tibet. While at Darjeeling I had become acquainted with[289] this young noble, and he had offered me a lodging during my stay in Lhasa. I liked him, and did many things for him, and now, though I did not mean to demand a return for what I had done for him, I had no alternative but to go to him. So I called at his house. It was known as Bandesha—a magnificent mansion on a plot of about three hundred and sixty feet square. I entered the house and asked if he was in, but heard that my friend had become a lunatic. They told me that he had gone out of his mind two years before, and that he went mad at regular periods. I learned that he was staying at his brother’s villa at Namsailing, and was obliged to go there for him, but there also I could not find him, and was told the same thing. I waited there for over two hours, as I was told he might come, and then I reflected that it would be of no use for me to see a madman, on whom I could not depend, so I made up my mind to direct my steps to the Sera monastery, for I thought it would be better for me to be temporarily admitted in the college, and then to pass the regular entrance examinations. So I at once hired a coolie to carry my baggage, and started for the monastery.

Like the Rebung monastery, it was built on the slope of a hill, and when seen from a distance looked like a village. Guided by the coolie, I arrived at the monastery at four o’clock and at once called at the dormitory of Pituk Khamtsan, giving myself out as a Tibetan, as I came from Jangthang. Hitherto I had passed for a Chinaman, but as such I should have had to go to Pate Khamtsan, where I feared I might be detected. I had not trimmed my hair nor shaved my face, nor bathed for a long time, and I cannot have been much cleaner than a Tibetan, so I made up my mind to pass for one and to live among them. The examinations for a Tibetan might be too difficult for me; still I could command the Tibetan language almost as[290] well as a native, and I was often treated as one. I thought, therefore, that I could pass without detection, and so for my own safety I entered the monastery in this guise. The dormitory is occupied by several priests, who in turn, by the year, take the charge of the house. The then head of the dormitory was a very kind and simple old man, called La-toe-pa, and when I told him about my desire to obtain temporary admission, he gave me every particular as to what to do.

Before I go any further in my narrative, I must say something briefly about the Sera college. It is divided into three departments—Je-Ta-tsang, Maye Ta-tsang, and Ngakpa Ta-tsang. The first department contains 3,800 priests, the second 2,500 and the third five hundred. The former two departments have eighteen dormitories, named Khamtsan. They differ in size, for the small ones have about fifty priests in them, while there are over a thousand priests in the largest ones. There were two hundred priests in the house at which I stayed. Each Khamtsan has its own property, and all the Khamtsans as a whole are called Sera. These are the largest divisions of the monastery, but I will not enter into the sub-divisions.


The Warrior-Priests of Sera.

In Tibet there are two classes of priests, scholar-priests and warrior-priests, who in Tibetan are called Lob-nyer and Thab-to respectively. The former class of priests come to Sera, as their name shows, with the purpose of study, at an expense of three yen or, if they take the regular course, of eight yen a month. They graduate from the college after a study of twenty years, during which time their special study is the Buḍḍhist Catechism and philosophy, the principal course of the Sera college. As they come to the college after they have finished the study of the regular courses, most of them are from thirty to thirty-five or thirty-six years of age when they graduate, though a few clever priests receive the decree of doctor at the age of twenty-eight years.

The warrior-priests have no money to pay for a course of study in the college. They earn their way by gathering yak-dung from the fields or by carrying from the bank of the river Kichu to the monastery wood which has been brought in boats from Sam-ya-e or Kongbo. Then they serve the scholar-priests as their servants. It is also among their daily tasks to play flutes, lyres, harps, flageolets, to beat drums, and to prepare offerings for the deities. The above tasks may not be too humble for a low class of priests, but the warrior-priests have another strange daily task to do by which they deserve their strange name. Every day they repair to certain hills and practise throwing large stones at a target, and thus test their muscles. They jump, run up mountains, or leap down from high rocks. At intervals they sing popular songs as loudly as they[292] can, for they are proud of their good voices. Then they practise fighting with clubs. When they have no fixed task in the temple, they are seen going by threes or fives to their respective places of practice. The reader may wonder of what use these priests are in Tibet, and will perhaps be surprised to know that they are of great use. When, for instance, the higher class Lamas travel in the northern plains or in some remote district, they take these priests as their body guards. They are very daring. Having no wives to look after, they meet death calmly. So invincible and implacable are these fighting priests that they are the most feared of any in Tibet. They are very quarrelsome, too, though they rarely fall out with one another without some serious provocation. They scarcely ever fight for a pecuniary matter, but the beauty of young boys presents an exciting cause, and the theft of a boy will often lead to a duel. Once challenged, no priest can honorably avoid the duel, for to shun it would instantly excommunicate him from among his fellow-priests and he would be driven out of the temple. There are chiefs among the warrior-priests, and they have rules of their own, with officers to see them well carried out. This is an open secret, and the warrior-priests are therefore allowed sometimes to do things quite unbecoming to priests or anybody else. When any grave matter occurs, the chiefs are often ordered to attend to it with the other warrior-priests.

A duel being agreed upon, both the fighters go to the appointed place, mostly in the evening. They fight each other with swords while the umpires judge their way of fighting. If either of the combatants does anything cowardly or mean, the umpire leaves the fighters to themselves, till one or the other is killed. If both fight bravely till they are wounded, the umpire bids them stop fighting.[293] He tells them to make peace, and takes them to Lhasa, where they make friends over a cup of chang (beer or wine). The use of all intoxicants being strictly prohibited in the Sera monastery, many warrior-priests, when they go to Lhasa, take the opportunity of drinking much of them, and under that influence they do many rude things.

One day, some one accidentally discovered that I was a doctor, and from that time I came to be paid undeserved respect by these priests. When they were wounded in their feet or hands during their practice they came to me for cure, and I was strangely successful with them. I think that half-civilised people are more easily cured of wounds than civilised people. A sprained arm was so easily set right, that the warrior-priests began to consider me to be a doctor indispensable among them. Besides, I scarcely ever took fees from them for their recovery, and I gave them medicine gratis, except when they offered me something in return and compelled me to accept it. This kindness won me their hearts. They saw that it often made them worse to go to a native doctor when they were wounded in a duel, while I treated their wounds, or set their bones, gratis and far better than their native doctors did. This pleased them so much that I became a great favorite among them. Everywhere I was greeted with the protruded tongue of salutation.

Besides, I was helped and guarded by them in many respects. They are very true to their duties and obligations. They may look a little rough, but they are much more truthful than the nobles and other priests of the land, who, though kind and truthful at first sight, are deceitful and crafty in seeking their own benefit and happiness. The warrior-priests are as a rule not deceitful and cunning at heart, and I have found in them many other points that claim my respect and liking. On the other hand, I was often troubled in my intercourse with the[294] Lamas, who hide a mean and crafty behavior under their warm garments of wool. So far for the two classes of priests.

I had trimmed and shaved neither hair nor beard in my journey of over ten months, so that they had grown very long. On the day after my arrival, therefore, when I got a priest to shave my head, I asked him to shave off my beard also. He wondered why I wanted to have it shaved off, and told me that it would be very unwise of me to do so when it had grown so beautiful. He seemed to think that I was joking, and I was obliged to let it grow. A beard is much valued by the Tibetans, because they generally have none, though the inhabitants of Kham and other remote provinces grow beards. They are so eager to have a beard, that after I was known to be a doctor I was often asked to give medicine to make the beard grow. They would say that I must have used some medicine to make my beard grow so long.

As my object was to be a student priest I bought a hat, a pair of shoes, and a rosary, according to the regulations of the monastery. I did not buy a priest’s robe, as I could in time use the one which had been given to me. So I went to Je Ta-tsang, chief professor of the department which I was to enter, for him to question me before I was admitted as a probationary student; but I found that no examinations were to be given. I called on the professor with a present of the best tea to be procured in Tibet. His first question was: “Where are you from? You look like a Mongolian; are you not one?” Being answered in the negative, he asked me several geographical questions, for he was well acquainted with the geography of the country. But I answered well, as I had travelled through the provinces on my own feet. It was thus settled that I might be admitted on probation. So I saluted the Lama with my tongue out, and he put his right hand on my head, as usual, and put a red cloth about two[295] feet long round my neck as the sign of my admission. The reader must know that one has to put such a piece of cloth round the neck in the presence of all noble Lamas in Tibet. I had then to appear before the priest who sees that the laws are carried out, and to get his permission, and I found that as I had a permit from the professor I could easily get the sanction of the priest, and thus I was admitted into the college. I had then to prepare myself for the regular entrance examination of the department of logic.

On the following day I found a teacher to help me in my preparation. Finding however that one teacher was not sufficient for the many subjects I had to study, I engaged a second, and I was thus soon busy preparing myself. There was a Lama living in the dormitory opposite to mine, a stout priest who seemed to be very learned. One day I was called to his room to see him, and among other questions I was asked if I had not come with a caravan of Ruto from Jangthang to the Sakya temple. I was told that among the disciples of the Lama there was one Tobten, a nice gentle Tibetan, and this person happened to be the one who had treated me very kindly during my journey with the caravan. It was this man who had asked me if I would take meat, and whom I had told that I did not take it. I had hitherto been supposed to have come from Jangthang, but now I was entirely unmasked.

“Then you are not from Jangthang,” said the Lama, and then he told me that he had heard I was a Chinaman and good at writing Chinese characters. On my confessing that I was not a Tibetan he was grieved, because he feared that my deceit might bring trouble upon the dormitory, for a Chinaman must go to Pate Khamtsan. He then asked me why I had violated the regulations of the place, and I replied that I had been robbed, as he might have heard from his disciple, at Jangthang, and that I had not money[296] enough to enter into the Pate Khamtsan as a Chinaman. Besides, I said, I should have to pay something for service every year, if I went to the Chinese house. Having told him all these secrets, I then asked him to help me to stay with him, as I could not go to the other house. The Lama said that his disciple had told him of the robbery, and that he was very sorry for me, adding that he would leave the matter till objection should be made. So I was left there without further trouble, and I passed for a man from Jangthang. In this way I kept on studying day and night, till I had a great swelling in my shoulders. I was obliged to draw some blood from the shoulders by a device of my own, and then I went to a druggist in the city to buy some medicine, which soon cured the swelling.


Tibet and North China.

On the 7th of April I went to see a great service of prayer for the Chinese Emperor in connexion with the “Boxer” war. It was held not only at Sera, but at every temple in Tibet. At the monastery where I lived they held a secret meeting for seven days, during which time special priests offered secret prayers. They were then to perform something secret for the victory of China. On enquiry I was told that Peking was invaded by the troops of several foreign countries, and that the Chinese seemed to have been beaten. They might be too late, they said, but they prayed for the safety of the Emperor of China. I was quite anxious to know more particulars, but they were all kept secret, and no one would tell me any more.

The prayer service was held in the Tsochen Hall at Sera, and commenced with a long warlike procession. First came the players on lyres, flageolets, drums, and large flutes, followed by men carrying incense-burners. Then came ten nice looking Tibetan boys, still in their teens, all dressed in fine Buḍḍhist robes ornamented with colored Chinese crape, and each burning incense. Next followed fifty spear-like objects on each side of the road, each surmounted with a movable blade like that of a Chinese spear. These blades had hilt guards, under which hung gold brocade or fine colored Chinese crape, sixteen feet long, thus making the spear twenty-five feet long altogether. The spear, the handle of which was either of gold or gilt, seemed rather heavy, for two strong warrior-priests carried each of them. Then came a triangular board about six feet high, with various figures made of butter on it, and after it another triangular board, four feet high,[298] with some red figure made of a mixture of baked flour, butter and honey. These boards were borne by seven or eight men. After them came some two hundred priests, dressed in handsome robes and scarfs quite dazzling to the eye. Half of these beat drums, while the other half carried cymbals. After these priests came the chief Lama, who was to offer the secret prayer. He had dressed himself in the splendid robes of his high rank. Last of all his disciples followed.

Thus the procession presented a grand sight, and the people of Lhasa came out in great crowds to see it. It marched out about two hundred yards from the great hall to an open yard outside the stone fence, where the view opened as far as Lhasa. Another two hundred yards further, the procession came before a grass-roofed shed, built of bamboo, wood and straw. There the chief Lama recited something in front of the triangular figures of butter and of baked wheat, and of the spear-shaped objects, while the two hundred priests around him chanted verses from the Buḍḍhist Scriptures, and beat drums and cymbals. A priest with a pair of cymbals walked through the lines of the priests; he seemed to be a sort of band-master, for he marched through their ranks beating time. His steps and gait were very odd and different from any dancings that I had ever seen. Soon the chief Lama was seen pretending to throw away his rosary, at which signal the spear-bearers threw their spears at the shed and then the triangular board of baked flour was thrown at it also. They then set fire to the shed, at the burning of which the priests as well as the spectators clapped their hands, crying out “Lha-kyallo! Lha-kyallo!” This is a Tibetan word, meaning “surely the Gods will triumph.” Thus was the ceremony over, one of the most splendid I had ever seen in Buḍḍhism. On the following day all the priests of the monastery were invited[299] to Lhasa to attend the Cho-en Joe service, which lasted a month, to pray that the Dalai Lama of Tibet might be kept from all evil during the year. This was a celebration said to be only second in importance to the other. I also went to Lhasa, and took lodging in the house of a Palpo merchant.

In the capital I got more definite information about the Boxer trouble. Perhaps some merchants who had returned from China, or some who had came from Nepāl or some who had been to India, might have brought the news; but it was all very laughable and unreliable. Some would say the Emperor of China had bequeathed his throne to the Crown Prince and absconded, while others told me that the Emperor was defeated and was then in Sin-an. The trouble was brought about, some said, by a wicked minister, who married an English lady to the Emperor, while others asserted that there was a country called Japan, which was so strong that her troops took possession of Peking. Another said that a famine prevailed in China and people were all famished; indeed, every sort of rumor was abroad in the Tibetan capital.

I was especially pleased to hear something about Japan, even the very name of which had not yet been heard in Tibet, and some merchants told me that Japan was so powerful and so chivalrous that even when her army had taken possession of Peking, she had sent shiploads of rice, wheat and clothing to the Chinese capital to relieve tens of thousands of natives who were suffering from famine. But others would say against Japan that she could not be such a friendly country, but must have done what she had done merely out of her crafty “land-grabbing diplomacy,” as the British nation did. Rumor after rumor was making its way through Tibet, and I did not know what to believe. Only I was pretty sure that a war had broken out between China and[300] other Powers. In the meantime the Palpo merchant with whom I was staying was going to Nepāl. I utilised the occasion and through his kindness sent two letters, one to Rai Saraṭ Chanḍra Ḍās in India, and the other to Mr. I. Hige of my native province. I was glad to find afterwards that they reached their destination, but it was very difficult to send a letter in that way; one must first see that the man by whom it is to be sent is honest and not likely to betray one’s secret, and one cannot easily trust a Tibetan. But my Tibetan had more than once been shown to be true to his trust.

The Cho-en Joe was a meeting of a kind I had never seen before. In the first place there was a Sakya temple over two hundred and forty yards square, with another and central Sakya temple, one hundred and twenty yards square. A wide pavement ran along inside the walls, where the ordinary priests sat. The same kind of pavement was found on the second and third floors. No priest was admitted into the Sakya temple but the Dalai Lama or the “greater” professors, though they did not always attend the meetings. Some twenty thousand priests attended that celebration, while over twenty-five thousand assembled on the occasion of the festival held at Lhasa for the safety of the Emperor of China. About five in the morning the sound of flutes called all the priests in Lhasa to the place of meeting. They chanted the Scriptures and were given butter and tea, as usual, three times, at intervals of thirty minutes. Of the twenty thousand very few were regular priests, the rest being either warrior-priests or loafers, who came only with the mean object of filling their stomachs. Instead of reciting from the Scriptures, therefore, they were openly doing all sorts of things during the meeting, such as singing profane songs, or pushing each other about. One could see the rowdiness of these warrior-priests, who sat there making obscene jokes, and often quarrelling with one another.


The warrior-priests being so lawless, some guard-priests are detailed to keep order among them. The guard-priest does not judge between the quarrelling priests, but strikes them any time he sees them quarrelling. So he is much feared by the other priests, who take to their huts at the first sign of his presence. Still he often takes them by surprise, and thrashes them most mercilessly on head, limbs or body, so that occasionally they even die from the effects of his rough treatment. This is not, however, considered to be murder, the perpetrator of the deed is not punished, and the body of his victim is simply thrown away for the birds to devour.

Warrior-priests train themselves for two hours in the morning. They take baked flour in tea during that time, and at the end they are given some gruel. Usually the gruel is made of rice, with much meat in it, and is given gratis. Each priest brings a bowl which holds a pint or more, and he takes a bowlful of gruel and three cups of tea. On their way back to their respective lodgings, they receive ge, which in Tibetan means ‘alms,’ from the officers. It is said that some believers give as much as twenty-five sen or fifty sen per head to each of the priests. In this respect some Tibetan merchants, landowners and high officers are very generous, for they are sometimes known to give eight or nine thousand yen in alms to these priests. There are many who give that sum in that way, and much money is known to be sent for that object from Mongolia.

There once was among these priests a Russian spy from Mongolia. He had the degree of doctor, and held the office of Tsan-ni Kenbo. He often made such donations, and his fame had spread far and wide. Such alms-giving, without religious faith, did not improve his spiritual condition in the least; but so many merchants[302] give money for the sake of their business, that this doctor was content to think his alms had also promoted his virtue. In these ways the priests get much money, and the festival season is the best time of the year for them. Sufficiency begets bad conduct, and it is during such times that the priests are most contentious and vindictive, and that duels are most frequent. A duel is not generally fought in Lhasa itself; as a rule they only appoint the place and time for it and fight it after they get back to their own dormitories, because while they are in Lhasa they are under the authority of the magistrate priest of the Rebung temple, and not of their own temples. This magistrate is known to be so severe, strict and exacting, that they are afraid to fight a duel before him, and they patiently wait till they return to their own temples.

On the day that the great celebration was over, I saw a festival procession. First came groups dressed as the four divine kings, followed by the eight devil kings, each with a special mark. Each group was followed by three or five hundred priests, differently dressed. Unlike a religious procession in Japan, which is as a rule very solemn, the Tibetan procession marched in a sportive manner, for the persons in it played with one another while moving. They would even joke with the spectators. They carried in the procession various treasures and musical instruments, such as drums, lyres, pipes, flageolets and Indian flutes, the most attractive objects being some imitations of dragons. There were many strange figures formed, as they told me, after the model of the treasures of the submarine dragon’s palace. Imitations were there of every instrument, treasure, or dress found in Tibet, and of the old costumes that are found in Tibetan history; and several Indian tribes were to be seen in the long procession of over two and a half miles. It is impossible to[303] enter into details, as I saw it only once; my memory does not serve me for other particulars.

This procession had one of the strangest of origins. It is said that Ngak Wang Gyamtso, the fifth Pontiff of the New Sect, devised the procession after one which he saw in a dream in the Buḍḍhist Paradise, and it seemed quite fitting that such a curious procession should have so vague an origin.


Admission into Sera College.

I did not see as much of the festival as I might have done, because I had to go through my formal entrance examinations before the festival was entirely over, and I devoted all spare moments to preparation. Once more I overworked myself, but I bought some more medicine, and was soon well again. This caused no little wonder among my neighbors, and I was often asked if I had studied medicine. I must have studied it, they would say, because I could cure my own illness, and I was obliged to tell them that I had read a few books on medicine. This led me to practise it among them afterwards.

Before the celebrations were over, I went back to my own monastery for my examination. It was on April 18th that I presented myself with forty other candidates. I was given both written and oral examinations, besides the recitation of a passage from the Scriptures. The examinations were such as are generally given to those who have finished the common course in Tibetan schools. They were not so difficult for me as I had expected, and I was admitted to the college, though all were not equally fortunate, for only seven out of the forty passed. Among the successful members were a few warrior-priests also. They had run into debt, and had since studied hard to be admitted. But, let me say, their object was something more than mere study. Scholarships were awarded, from fifty sen to one yen and sometimes two yen a month per scholar-priest. The amount was not fixed, but it generally came to some ten yen a year. It was on account of that sum of money that many warrior-priests tried to pass the examination. I was admitted as a student of the[305] first class, in which priest-students varying from boys in their teens to men in the forties and fifties were studying the Buḍḍhist catechism, according to the Tibetan fashion. Their way of studying was so interesting and active, and they were so earnest and fervent, that one would have thought they were quarrelling with one another while discussing.

The catechism is a very pleasant performance, and the ways of questioning, emphasis, and intonation are quite interesting. The catechised sits in a certain attitude, and the questioner stands up with a rosary in his left hand, and walks towards him. He stretches out his hands with the palm of the left hand downwards and that of the right hand upwards and claps them together, uttering the words, Chi! chi tawa choe chan. Here ‘Chi’ means the heart of the Boḍhisaṭṭva Mañjushrī and its utterance is supposed to make the questioner one with Him, whose real body is knowledge. The rest of the utterance literally means, “in that nature of the truth.” The sense of the whole is “We shall begin the discussion following the nature of Truth as it is manifested in the Universe.” Then the discussion begins in earnest according the rules of the logic of Nyāya. The first question, for instance, may be whether Buḍḍha was human or not. Whether the answer is in the affirmative or the negative, the questioner goes on to ask; “But he was not above mortality, was he?” If he be answered in the affirmative, he will say that it could not be so, for Buḍḍha was no more than mortal. The answerer, if bright enough, will then reply that Buḍḍha, though himself above death, submitted himself to it in his incarnated body. He must say also that Buḍḍha had three bodies, called in Saṁskṛṭ Ḍharmakāya, Sambhogakāya and Nirmānakāya, and in Tibetan, Choeku, Lonjoeku and Tulku. These terms mean: ‘The all pervading body consisting of the purest[307] virtue of Truth in him’, ‘the body derived from his countless virtues, enjoying complete happiness with the light of Truth,’ and ‘the body derived from his boundless mercy and transcendental knowledge for the good of all beings.’


If the catechised shows any weak point in his answers, the questioner never fails to take advantage of the opportunity, and drives him on, saying for example that Buḍḍha was a real man born in India. Whether the answer be in the affirmative or negative, he will go on asking many questions in succession, and that with so much animation that, when he utters the words of a question, he beats time with hands and feet. The teacher always teaches the catechists that the foot must come down so strongly that the door of hell may be broken open, and that the hands must make so great a noise that the voice of knowledge may frighten the devils all over the world, by a fearless heart and a brave attitude. The object of the questions and answers is to free the mind from all worldliness, and to get into the very bottom of Truth, giving no power to the devils of hell in the mind.

To show how excitedly the catechism is carried on, it is said that a countryman once came to see the scene. The question happened to be about physiognomy (kan-sa), which in Tibetan is synonymous with a tobacco-pipe. The countryman thought that they were disputing over a tobacco-pipe, and was very much surprised that a pipe should be the matter of the quarrel, for the priests were seemingly very much provoked and railed at each other and exchanged blows! Three years later, the same countryman came to worship at the temple of Sera, and again happened to see the priests disputing hotly about what he thought to be a pipe. He saw them strike each other at the end of the dispute, and felt very sorry for them. So he thought he would settle the dispute by arbitration. He then walked among the priests, holding out his pipe,[308] which he meant to give them. Though it was none of his business to come among the priests, he offered the pipe and begged them to settle the dispute, thereby causing great laughter among them. It is with such excitement and with hardly any formality that the questions are asked and answered. Still it must not be supposed that one could answer these questions without a knowledge of Buḍḍhism. One has to read many texts and reference books before one can go through these questions. It takes the natives twenty years of hard and unceasing study, with examinations every year, to obtain the degree of a doctor.

The catechism forms the chief part of the education of Tibetan priests. This method seems to excite so great an interest among priest-students that there are always many Mongolians in Tibet, who come so far and through so much hardship with the sole object of receiving education there. There are three hundred Mongolians at the Sera college, and hardly fewer at other large temples, such as that of Tashi Lhunpo. The New Sect of Buḍḍhism owes a great deal of its fine prospects to its catechism, while the Old Sect has already lost popularity and is now tottering. It is by this spirited Catechism that the naturally dull and lazy Tibetans are goaded on to understand Buḍḍhism, and are very rich, for a half-civilised nation, in logical ideas. But let me add, it is only the learned that are rich in logical ideas; the people at large, who have received little education, are far from being intelligent.

The Catechism is generally held at some beautiful place, where there are many fine trees, such as elms, willows, nuts, peaches and various others which are not found in Japan, though on the whole Tibet does not possess a large variety of trees. The ground under the trees is covered with beautiful white sand. When the first Catechism is over, the priests have what is[309] termed the Garden of Truth, at some equally well-wooded place, where there are varieties of flowers. The ground there is also covered with white sand, and enclosed by stone walls five or six feet high with a gateway constructed in Chinese fashion. The priests gather themselves there to read from the Scriptures, and after the reading, they begin questioning one another. Here they make no difference of classes, but ask one another concerning their text books and everything else. This helps them a great deal to improve their knowledge and wisdom.

At the other place, there may be no more than one questioner and one answerer, the rest keeping silence, whether the class consist of fifty or a hundred priests. The questioner and the answerer might change, but they could be taken only from that one class. In the garden, however, there are no such limitations, there is no difference of classes, and young and old priests are seen questioning each other. So one may easily fancy how noisy and excited they are. While I was having a Catechism among them under a peach-forest in blossom, snowflakes began to fall on us. I stopped questioning and, struck with the beautiful scene around me, I wrote two Japanese poems which served to give my friends at home some idea of my thoughts.

In spring the blooming flowers of the peach
Are fully blown in “Dharma-garden” there,
Greeting with welcome glee the friendly snows.
Under their shades the wrangling priests discuss,
With their vehement, uncouth gestures strange,
Their doubts to melt, like to the melting snows
Beneath these trees emitting odours sweet.

Day and night I studied in this way. But finding soon that it left me too many precious hours to have only one teacher, I now found another priest to teach me. I went to them to receive their instruction, while they too sometimes came to teach me. I thus made considerable progress in my learning.


There is a strange custom which a new college student has to observe as a sign of his admittance. I had to go to Lhasa and to travel, as a sign of my admittance, for two days to beg for fuel. But one day a young priest next door quarrelled with another young priest and hit him with a stone, which dislocated the bone of his upper arm. The wounded lad was a special favorite of his instructor, who feared very much that he might be deformed. Bone-setting is quite unknown to the Tibetans, and their doctors, who have no knowledge of how to set a dislocated bone, apply heated iron, or give some medicine to drink or use. I was on my walk and happened to hear the pitiful cries of the wounded boy, and was told, when I asked why they did not send for a doctor, that it was far better not to do so, as it would only be a heavy expense for nothing. They were not going to have one. When I asked if no doctor in Tibet could set a dislocated bone, they seemed to be much surprised at my improbable question. It was with some difficulty that I made them believe that a dislocated bone can be easily set. So going to the wounded boy, I easily set his bone, while a Tibetan held his head and left hand. Then I acupunctured that part where the muscle was a little swollen, and the boy was soon cured.


Meeting with the Incarnate Bodhisattva.

This healing made me an object of much talk, and I soon found myself surrounded by many patients. I now began to fear that I should thus be prevented from studying, and so fail to accomplish my chief end. So I tried every means to keep the patients from me, but the more I declined, the more patients I found brought to me, and I was at last obliged to get some medicines from Thien-ho-thang (a Chinese druggist) in Lhasa. I gave the medicines to these patients, most of whom recovered either through their faith in me or through the efficacy of the drugs; for I had studied the rudiments of medical science (of the old school, it is true) and this enabled me to use the medicines. There is one disease which is most feared as fatal by the Tibetans. It is dropsy, little, if at all different from beri-beri. No one in the neighborhood of Lhasa seemed to know how to cure the disease. I prepared for it a medicine of which I had been told by a Tibetan hermit, and gave it to some patients suffering from dropsy. I am glad to say that this medicine cured six or seven patients out of every ten, though I could not heal cases that were far gone.

This made me quite famous and my name, known only in my own monastery at first, began to be known in the whole city of Lhasa and in the country as far as Shigatze. Often two horses were sent on for me from places of three days’ journey distant to take me to patients. I took no reward from the poor, but gave them medicine gratis. This may have had a great deal to do with my popularity, and I came to be regarded as a God of medicine.


There are many cases of consumption in Tibet. I gave my medicine to those patients who were in the first stages of the disease, but chronic cases I left without any medicine, to meditation or religious services that they might gain salvation, and die at ease. This, I was told, made some patients fear to come to me, for it was said that those to whom medicine was given recovered, while the others, whom I taught about death and the future, without giving them any medicine, were sure to die. Some did not like to be told that death was near them, and women especially were frightened to come before me. The Tibetans have a strange habit. When they fall ill, before any doctor is sent for, a sorcerer is asked to see which doctor is best and what kind of medicine is good. Some doctors, therefore, are so wicked as to bribe the sorcerer to recommend them to the patients. The sorcerer, too, being pleased enough to see the patients cured by the doctor whom he suggested, began to recommend me to his patients when he saw my name was making so great a stir in Tibet. He would tell his patients to be sure to come to me. I never asked him to mention me, nor even saw him in person; nor is it probable that he ever saw me. His recommendation must have come out of his love of fame. When, therefore, a high officer or priest fell ill and was told by his sorcerer to see me, I was sure to be sent for. A horse was sent to bring me, generally with a letter of introduction. Often I received a letter politely requesting me to come, and wherever I went, therefore, I was very kindly received, for the life of the patient was supposed to depend entirely on me.

Fame travels surprisingly fast, and at last mine reached the Royal Court, so that I was one day called there. The Dalai Lama was not in reality ill, but desired to see what I looked like. In Tibet it is no easy matter[313] to see His Holiness. He may be seen while passing, but no ordinary priests or even high priests can have the privilege of talking to him. This was, therefore a great honor to me, and I took the liberty of riding the horse sent to take me to the Royal palace. The Grand Lama was not then at Potala, but at his country palace called Nolpu Lingka, in a forest along the Kichu, south-west of Potala. This palace is much newer than the other, and the Pope enjoys the coolness there in summer.

I rode along a wide road in the forest for about three hundred and fifty yards, till I came to a high stone wall over twenty feet high and three hundred and fifty yards square. I went west through the large gate in the wall, and found on both sides of the road inside the gate many white boxes in the shape of post pillars about six yards apart. In them incense is burned when the Dalai Lama goes along the road. Lofty trees are grown in the courtyard on both sides of the road, though there is a very wide lawn within the court. After about a hundred yards, I came to a square piece of ground enclosed by stone fences about one hundred and fifty yards square, along which were seen many beautiful stone houses for the priest officials to live in. These houses have each a flower garden which is beautifully decorated with as many trees and plants as can be found in Tibet. What is stranger still, at the four corners as well as some other parts of the stone fences are found little kennels, in which two or three score strong Tibetan dogs are chained. They bark terribly from their high pens. The Dalai Lama is said to be so fond of dogs that whoever brings him a strong hound is treated very kindly and receives great rewards. Hence many dogs are brought from great distances. None of his predecessors, however, have had such a liking for dogs. The gates to the Papal palace are at the east and west corners of the walls and face south. About thirty[314] yards from the gate was a large house into which my horse was led. Then I was taken to the house of the Court Physician.

This residence of the Court Physician has four large rooms, parlor, study, servants’ room and kitchen. The house is approached through a garden full of beautiful flowers, and one then comes to a curtain of white linen. Going under the curtain, one enters another garden, at one side of which is the entrance to the parlor.

The parlor has Chinese sliding doors in white, with panes of glass. In the room were two images, one of Buḍḍha and the other of Tsong-kha-pa, the founder of the New Sect, set on a gilt stand, with pictures of dragons, peacocks, and flowers. Such images are found in most shrines of the New Sect. Before the images were Tibetan candlesticks of silver, with three butter-candles that were left burning both day and night. The Physician was sitting on a Tibetan carpet with painted flowers, and there were two beautiful high desks before him, in front of which there was a fur cushion for the guest to sit upon. I was told to sit on this fur cushion, and very soon a servant priest brought in the very best tea, which he poured into the physician’s cup and then into mine on the desk. The physician was said to be very kind and gentle, and his face resembled mine so much that we might be taken for brothers.

The physician told me that the Dalai Lama was not seriously ill and that it was because I had healed so many patients that he wished to see me. But, he added, as he was very busy, I must not talk long with him. He said that the Dalai Lama might have something that the physician must consult me about.

After this talk with the physician, I was led by him to the Palace, and we went north towards the gate mentioned above. There was a guard-priest at the gate, who was[315] dressed in a tight-sleeved priestly cloak, which no common priests are allowed to put on. He keeps guard with a club. Inside the gate there was a stone pavement some twenty yards square, surrounded by covered ways, where there were some things in the shape of stools. There was another gate about nine yards wide in front of this. The inner gate was guarded by four priests, each with a short club instead of a long one. Walking about ten yards from the inner gate into the inner court, I found on both walls a picture of a fierce looking Mongolian leading a tiger by a rein; and the walls, which were roofed over, had a court between them. Instead of going straight through the court, I went left along the covered way till I came to the end of the western wall, when the Dalai Lama appeared from his inner chamber.

He was preceded by Dunnyel Chenmo the Lord Chamberlain, and Choe Bon Kenbo the Papal Chaplain. After His Holiness came Yongjin Rinpoche the Papal Tutor. The Dalai Lama took his seat on the right hand chair in front, and the two former attendants stood on each side, while the Tutor sat on the chair a little below them. Seven or eight high priests sat before His Holiness. The Court Physician leading me a little to one side, in front of the Dalai Lama, saluted him. I saluted him three times, and taking my robe off one of my shoulders I stepped before him, when His Holiness stretched out his right hand to put it on my head. Then I withdrew about four yards and stood beside the physician.


The Dalai Lama then began by praising me for having healed many poor priests at Sera. He told me to stay long at Sera and to do as I had done, and I answered that I would do with pleasure as he wished me. I had been told that the Pope was well versed in Chinese, and I feared that he might speak in Chinese, for then my imposture would be discovered. I had made up my mind, therefore, that I[317] would in that case frankly tell him to what nationality I belonged, that I might be worthy of a Japanese, for I deemed it to be a great honor to be granted an interview with him.

Luckily, however, he did not talk Chinese, but instead inquired in Tibetan about Buḍḍhism and Buḍḍhists in China, which I answered to his satisfaction. He was pleased to tell me that he was thinking of appointing me to some high office. After the talk I was honored by a cup of tea in the presence of the Dalai Lama and drank it with much ceremony, though he retired to his chamber before I had finished drinking.

The Dalai Lama was dressed in a cloak different from that of a common priest. He had on a silk hood and a great robe called saṅghāṭi and under it a fine putuk of Tibetan wool about his waist. His under dress was what is called tema woven of the best Chinese sheep wool. He wore a fine Papal crown on his head though he is said to be often bare-headed, with no crown at all. He held a rosary in his left hand. He was then aged twenty six. He is about five feet eight inches high, a moderate height in Tibet.

The Dalai Lama looks very brave. His eye-brows are very high, and he is very keen-eyed. Once a Chinese phrenologist remarked that the Tibetan Pope would bring about war one day, to the great disturbance of the country, for though brave-looking, he had an unlucky face. Whether the prophesy comes true or not, he really looks the very man of whose face a phrenologist would be sure to say something. He has a very sharp and commanding voice, so that one could not but pay reverence in his presence. From my long acquaintance with the Dalai Lama, during which I heard and saw much of him and had frequent interviews with him, I judge that he is richer in thoughts political than[318] religious. He was bred in Buḍḍhism, and in it he has great faith, and he is very anxious to clear away all corruption from the Buḍḍhism and Buḍḍhists in Tibet.

But political thoughts are working most busily in his mind. He seems to fear the British most, and is always thinking how to keep them from Tibet. He seems to give full scope to all designs calculated to check the encroaching force of the British. I could plainly see this while remaining near him. Had he not been on his guard, however, which he always is, he must have been poisoned by his retainers. He has often been on the point of being poisoned, and each time his caution has detected the conspiracy and the intriguers were put to death.

None of the five Dalai Lamas from the fourth to the ninth in Tibet reached their twenty fifth year; all were poisoned when eighteen or twenty-two years old. This is almost an open secret in Tibet, and the reason is that, if a wise Dalai Lama is on the throne, his courtiers cannot gratify their selfish desires. Some of these seem to have been wise Dalai Lamas, for they received special education until they were twenty-two or three years old. History proves that they have written books to instruct the people.

I could not help shedding tears when the ex-Papal Minister of Finance, at whose house I was staying at one time, told me about the fate of the predecessors of the present Dalai Lama. The Papal Court is a den of disloyal thieves who go by the name of courtiers, and they do all they can to neutralise the force of the few loyal courtiers, who are too weak to do anything against them. The ex-Minister for Finance was among the ill-fated party driven out of the court by these toadies, who pretended to pay great reverence to the sacred Monarch before the people, simply because they could not otherwise stay in their offices. When anything happened against their in[319]terests, they conspired to communicate with one another and to accuse falsely the loyal courtiers. They would often go so far as to slander them shamelessly, and say that such and such a person had been guilty of a disrespectful act against the Dalai Lama.

In this subtle way some wicked courtiers turned honest scholars or priests out of the court, and the Dalai Lama is surrounded by these pretended loyalist devils. Hence he is so dangerously situated, that he is obliged to pay the greatest attention to what is offered him to eat, lest some poison should have been put in it. I could not but shed tears for him, when I thought that there could be no court on earth so full of wicked courtiers. But the present Dalai Lama is so prudent and particular that these evil doers can get no chance of doing anything against him. Still, he is really in great danger. He is wise for his age, for, young as he is, he seems to have great sympathy with the afflicted, and is much respected, and indeed almost worshipped, by his people, though much disliked by the evil local governors, whom he has been known to punish, to deprive of their estates, and to imprison for their evil deeds.


I often had occasion to see the inner chamber of the palace and found that it was magnificent. It is built in the Indian, Chinese and Tibetan styles. The garden has an artificial hill in it after the Chinese fashion, while, as is seen in a Indian garden, it has a lawn outside with some charming flowers. The place seems very good for walks. The inside of the palace is built after the Tibetan style, while a part of the roof is Chinese and the rest purely Indian. The royal garden has various rocks and has here and there such trees as willows, peaches, elms and many other strange trees found only in Tibet. In Tibet only few flowers bloom in summer, though there are many in winter. A variety of flowers, such[320] as chrysanthemums, poppies, magnolias, tulips, and others are planted in front of the palace veranda. The pavement is decorated here and there with glittering jewels, and the walls are painted by the best painters in Tibet. The papal throne stands on two Tibetan mats at the farther side of the room, and beside the throne is spread a thick Tibetan carpet, over which is a Chinese carpet of wool. A table of costly wood is set on the carpets. There is a tea-bureau, over which hangs a picture of Je Rinpoche, painted on a gold-dusted canvas. There are many such rooms, besides, which I was not allowed to enter, but which looked very beautiful from the outside. I was often invited to the chief physician’s to talk about medicine with him. He taught me several things about medicine that I did not know, though the medical knowledge which I had gained from my own books enabled me to keep up with him in the talk. This must have done a great deal to make the chief physician welcome me so much.[321] He even said he would be most glad to recommend me as a Court Physician.

He said that he would do his best to that end, telling me at the same time to see the premier and some other Ministers of State. My answer was however that I could not very well stay long in Lhasa, for I was most earnest to study Buḍḍhism. I told him also that I intended to go to India to study Samskṛṭ, and at this he felt very sorry, for when I left there would be no good doctor in the city. When I said that my object was not medicine, but to study Buḍḍhism, the physician very plausibly argued that as it was the ultimate object of Buḍḍhism to save men, I might as well stay in the city as a doctor to practise medicine. The doctor, I said, only relieved men of earthly pains, but could hardly do anything toward the salvation of souls. What doctor, however skilful, could save a dying patient? Besides, I feared I might do them more harm than good, for I had only a smattering of medicine after all. I might heal them of their diseases, but I could not give peace to their souls, while a priest could free them from the most painful and durable of all diseases. It was more urgent to study how to heal this. Buḍḍha was the greatest doctor, who had given eighty-four thousand religious medicines to eighty-four thousand mental diseases, and we, as His disciples, I said, must study His ways of healing. On these grounds I declined his offer. Finding me so firm in my resolution, the physician went on to say that, if I ever tried to leave the city for India, or some other far-off country, the Dalai Lama would give orders to keep me in the country, and that my only happiness lay in staying to work among the priests. When I heard this I began to repent that I had been telling him my secrets rather too plainly. I feared it would put me to some inconvenience to insist on going to India, and soon changed the subject of our talk. So far about my[322] medical practice; but now, something took place of which I had never dreamed.


Life in the Sera Monastery.

What happened was this. It became a matter of hot discussion among the priests of our dormitory Pituk Khamtsan whether they should leave me to stay there or not, because I was being received by the Grand Lama, the noblemen and the Ministers, as a great doctor. After a long discussion, the priests came to an agreement that they should make a special rule on my account, and put me in one of the best rooms. I was, of course, pleased to be removed from my strangely smelling, dark and dirty room to a free, clean apartment. I saw the Dalai Lama on July 21st, and was removed into the good room toward the end of the same month. It is one of the regulations of the college that no new-comer shall have a separate room for himself, but that he shall live with some one else in a room, though occasionally a rich student may enjoy the possession of a dirty room for himself on admission. Though not among the poor, I was not eligible to have a room, even a dirty one, all to myself. A priest must reside there some ten years before he is allowed to live in a room of the fourth class; after three years more he may be removed to a study room of the third class. But it must be remembered that everything depends on money. When he receives the degree of a doctor, he is given a second-class room. The rooms of the first class are used only by incarnate Lamas, who come to study. As things were I was given a second-class study. It was a cosy structure of two storeys with a kitchen and a closet. Some studies have third floors, but my new quarters were only two-storied. The room upstairs was the best. To live in such a house, however, one must have articles of furniture as well as[324] some servant-priests. I was now like a poor boy, who had grown up all of a sudden and had been given a house to keep. I was obliged to procure many articles needed for my new condition, all of which I had fortunately money enough to buy.

The priests, though diverse in studies, may be classified into three large divisions, higher, middle, and lower. By the middle class of priests, I mean those who spend about seven yen a month for their keep. They do not pay for their dwellings, which are provided by their temple, though some Khamtsans, which are in debt, take rents from their priests for their studying-rooms. When a Khamtsan is too full of priests, some of them go to seek rooms for themselves in some other, in which case they pay from one to three yen a month, or twenty-five sen for a dirty room.

A suit of clothing as used by student-priests consists of a hood of common wool cloth, a shirt, and a priest’s robe, besides a pair of shoes. It costs twenty yen to provide all these articles. At breakfast they take butter-tea and baked flour. Rich priests make tea for themselves every morning, though three large bowlfuls are given in the hall of the monastery. In the afternoon they drink tea again, this time with some meat, chiefly dried, though at times raw. In the evening they take some gruel of baked flour, cooked with cheese, radishes and fat. Butter-tea is always found in a bowl on the table. The Tibetan in general drinks much tea, because very few vegetables are eaten as compared with the amount of meat. A tea-cup is covered with a silver lid. When it gets cool, it is drunk and new tea is poured in again and left some twenty minutes to cool, though in winter no more than five or six minutes are needed, during which time those at table will talk to one another, or read from the Scriptures or do some private business. Such are the meals of a middle-class[325] priest. Most priests have some landed property, and some of them breed yaks, horses, sheep and goats in the provinces, though it would be rare for one of the middle-class to have more than some fifty yaks and ten horses. These animals are also employed in ploughing the fields, but no more than ten lots of land may be ploughed by two yaks in a day. The priests can hardly lead a well-to-do life without such property or some private business, for what they are given from their temples and by the believers is not sufficient for them.

Few priests are without some private business or other—indeed, most of them are engaged in trade. Agriculture comes next to trade, and then cattle-breeding. Manufacturers of Buḍḍhist articles, painters of Buḍḍhist pictures, tailors, carpenters, masons, shoemakers and stone-layers are found among the priests; there is hardly any kind of business in Tibet, but some of the priests are engaged in it. There are, besides, many kinds of business in which none but priests engage. The lower class of priests as well as the middle-class engage in trade, but some rich priests have as many as from five hundred to four thousand yaks and from one to six hundred horses. They have from one to six hundred lots of land, each lot being as large as will take two yaks to cultivate in a day. But there are not more than three or four of the priests who have started in trade with a capital of five hundred thousand yen. They live very luxuriously, wear priestly cloaks of the best woollen texture produced in Tibet, and use very thick butter-tea every morning, which is considered a great delicacy.

To make the best butter-tea, the tea is first boiled for half a day, till it gets dark brown. After being skimmed, it is shaken several times in the cylinder with some fresh yak butter and salt. This makes the best tea, and a tea-pot full of such tea costs thirty-[326]eight sen to make. Tea-pots, or jars, are made of clay in the shape of ordinary Japanese tea pots. I could not at first drink the tea, when I saw that it looked like thick oil. Still, it is one of the best drinks among the best circles in Tibet, who drink it every morning. It is usually taken mixed with what is called tsu and baked flour. The tsu is a hardened mixture of cheese, butter and white sugar. The Tibetan puts this substance into his tea. He eats meat dried, raw or cooked, even at breakfast. At dinner the priests eat rice imported from Nepāl, the price of which is about fifty sen per sho. They do not however eat boiled rice by itself, but a bowlful of it mixed with grapes and sugar and butter. After the rice, baked flour or egg macaroni is sometimes eaten. In the evening wheat dumplings with gruel are served at table; what they call gruel has in it some meat, radishes, cheese and butter. The above is the usual course of dishes at the tables of the highest circles. They cannot live a day without meat, and if on some occasion they are kept from it, they are sure to say they are getting thinner.

The priests of the higher class live very comfortably, for they build their own villas, or have their own temples; besides, they have always the best dwellings of the temples to which they belong. They are supported by their estates, as I said, and they keep, each one of them, from five or six to seventy or eighty servants in their houses. From among these servants are often selected treasurers and stewards. The lower class of priests, on the contrary, live pitifully. No words can half describe their poor condition. The warrior-priests, though among the poorest, are still able to keep the wolf from their doors, for they are employed as farmers or as guards, or in some other private business, so that they earn money with which they live from hand to mouth. There is another and far poorer class of priests—the scholar-priests who[327] have to support themselves in their studies, but who must earn their living as well as their expenses as students. They are too busy with their study to go out to make any money. What they receive as offerings from the believers and as salary from their temples, does not together amount to a little more than two or three yen a month, and it is insufficient to support them. They can drink tea gratis every morning at the temple, but they cannot get any baked flour, which makes the chief part of a meal. Baked flour costs at least one and a half yen a month. During the catechisms they go to Ta-tsang where they are given three cups of tea for dinner. But it takes them a month to review what they study in a month in catechisms. During the period of review they must get some one to help them, and they have to pay some fifty sen a month in return. Then they must have some fire to keep them warm in the evening besides something to refresh them. For refreshments they get tea-leaves with which the richer priests have made their tea. Then they must get fuel to make tea out of these leaves. The fuel is generally yak-dung, which costs thirty-five sen a bag of two and a half bushels. A priest will burn three or four bagfuls a month if he is not particular and careful, while a poor priest may have to manage with a bagful a year.

The poorest priest has in his room a sheep’s fur, a wooden bowl, a rosary and a dirty cushion, which makes a bed at night. In a corner are found a stove, an earthen pan, and a pot or jar, which all belong to the room. A bag hanging in one corner contains the baked flour which supports his life; but it is very rarely full. The most precious items of their property are the text books of the catechism. There are no priests, however poor, but have five or six copies of the catechism. These books, however, are not their permanent property, for they will sell them as[328] soon as their examinations are over. At night their bed consists of their hood, an underdress and a bed covering, besides an old blanket, which, however, is in the possession of only a limited number. He who has a room of his own is among the best of this poor class of priests. In most rooms of nine feet square, three or four priests often have a pan in common. I felt so sorry sometimes when I was called to see a patient among them that I not only gave medicine for nothing, but sometimes gave him some money. Such is the condition of the poorest priests, and I was told that they often passed a couple of days without eating, when they were given little in the way of help. When they receive a little money they will hurry to Lhasa, over three miles off, to buy some baked flour. Some of them do not come home directly from the city, for hunger often takes them to some little restaurant, where they eat some macaroni. The consequence is that they spend their money and are plunged again into such poverty that they must live another couple of days without anything to eat. I hardly ever passed them without giving them something, so that they at last came to pay so much respect to me that they would stop when they saw me, and wait in reverence while I passed.


My Tibetan Friends and Benefactors.

To go back a little in my story, my prosperity as a doctor obliged me to buy much medicine, and I often went to Thien-ho-thang, a drug store which was kept by Li Tsu-shu, a Chinese from Yunnang. In China they make decoctions of their medicines, but the Tibetans take every medicine in powdered form. Every medical herb and root is pulverised, as well as some kinds of horns and stones. To get some of these medicines I was often obliged to stop a couple of days in his house; and as I bought great quantities of medicine, I came to be treated very civilly as a good customer. He lent me a book on medicine, the reading of which added not a little to my small knowledge, and I boldly undertook every kind of patient. I know I made a very dangerous doctor, but I was obliged to go on as a pedant domineering over a society of ignoramuses. Still, I admit I possessed more knowledge of physiology than most of the doctors in Lhasa, and I was in consequence more trusted than they.

I frequently went to this druggist, who owned the largest of the three Chinese drug stores in Lhasa. Li Tsu-shu was about thirty years old and had a very fine house. He lived with his wife, a son and a daughter, a mother-in-law and three maids. They treated me as if I were a member of the family, probably because I was kind to them and gave them all sorts of things that I received from my friends and clients. When, for instance, somebody gave me too much cake, sugar, milk or grapes, for my own use, I used to take them to the druggist to give them to the children, who were consequently quite impatient to see me. If I happened not to visit the house for a couple of days, they be[330]came anxious about me. I was soon so much beloved by the children that we seemed to have been friends for over ten years, and I was sometimes asked if I had known them in China. This acquaintance with the children helped me very much afterwards, when I was leaving Tibet.

This Gyami Menkhang or Chinese druggist had his house in the street of Wan-dzu Shing-khang, in Lhasa. Among those who used to come to his store was Ma Tseng, Secretary to the Chinese Amban. He was a great scholar and a man of worldly knowledge. He had a Tibetan mother and was born in Tibet. He spoke Tibetan without a shade of Chinese accent, while he spoke and read Chinese quite as well. He had read much in Chinese, and had been twice in Peking. Three times he had gone to India, visited Calcutta and Bombay as a peddler, and come back with a great store of knowledge about foreign affairs. His office hours being very short, he had much time to spare, and as he was a great friend of the druggist’s, he came to him very often. This led me to get acquainted with him, and I found him very amusing. He told me many Tibetan secrets and many of their habits and customs both good and bad. I soon found that what was told by him was always true. Being the Secretary of the Chinese Amban, he was also acquainted with the secret relations of the Tibetan and Chinese Governments. He was so talkative, that he would tell me anything before I asked. His acquaintance pleased me so much that when I was tired of reading I would take a walk to the druggist’s, with no other object than to talk with this Secretary.

Once while standing at the door of the druggist’s, I saw a man apparently of quality come towards me with his servant. The store stands at the corner where the streets leading to Panang-sho and Kache-hakhang meet, and this man came along Ani-sakan street toward Panang-sho.[331] He passed a few steps by me, when he turned and looked at me. Then I heard his servant say that I must be the man. Walking to me the nobleman said “Is it you?” I looked at him and found him, though much thinner than before, to be the son of Para the Premier, whom I had met at Darjeeling. He did not look like a man out of his senses, as I had been told. He said that he was much pleased that I had come to his country. He was on some important business, but went with me into the house of the druggist. The wife of the druggist, who knew him, gave him a chair, and the young noble seemed to be desirous to talk with me. I hinted that it was not good for us to let it be known that we had seen each other at Darjeeling, and began our talk by saying that it was about half a year since we had met each other at Gyangtze. He also was aware that his staying at Darjeeling should be kept a secret, and carefully avoided talking about our having met in that town.

From what he said and did there, I could not find anything in him that showed him to be an idiot; on the contrary, he was evidently a man of much sense. Among other things he told me that three months before, one of his servants committed theft and, when reproved severely, had pierced him through the side with a sword with the result that a part of his intestines could be seen. This, he added, made him so haggard. When, after a long talk, he went on his way, the wife of the druggist told me that the young man had hoodwinked me about the wounds, which really were given him for wrong-doing on his side. She told me that everything concerning his family was known to her, for she had before been wife to his brother, who, not being allowed to live long with her, simply because she was of birth too humble for his family, divorced her and was now adopted at Namsailing. The young man, she told me, was very prodigal, and deeply in debt, on account of[332] which he was wounded. To my question whether he was then beside himself, she answered that he was mad or otherwise as it suited him, and not a man to be easily trusted, for he was very good at taking money from others.

In Tibet, when people go out to enjoy the flowers (for the flower-season is very short there) they pitch tents in the wheat-fields or in a forest, and have every sort of merriment. This is called a picnic of lingka, or forest party, and forms one of the merriest amusements in Tibet. I was invited once to one of these villas in the wheat-fields. I found there an old nun of about sixty years of age, with seven or eight nun-attendants beside her. Hers was not a tent, but a splendid house of wood, the walls of which were covered over inside with painted cloth and outside with white cloth. Though temporary, the building was well furnished. This old lady had been ill for over fifteen years, and was aware that she was sinking. She said she knew that her disease was incurable, but nevertheless desired to have such a famous doctor as myself to feel her pulse, and would be satisfied if I could only relieve her a little of her pain. I examined her and found that her trouble was rheumatism, so I gave her a little tincture of camphor, besides some medicine for her stomach, which was a little out of order. Faith works wonders. My medicine told well and, her pain of fifteen years gradually abating, she was soon able to enjoy sound sleep, which had long been desired by her. Finally she became so well that she could walk a little. Her raptures can be imagined, and she at once reported the condition of her health to her family. It seems that she was married, though not legally, to the Ex-Minister of Finance, who was also a priest of the New Sect. Shame on Buḍḍhism therefore that he was living with the nun. Priest nobles are generally supposed to have wives, though not legally married to them; most of them keep such women somewhere, and the nuns are the[333] best class of women to be their wives—at least so had thought the Ex-Minister of Finance. This particular nun was old now and bent with age, though she was stoutly built.

When one of the man servants in the residence of the Minister of Finance fell ill, I was sure to be summoned, for they put great faith in me and I could not but believe that the Lord Buḍḍha was working through me to cause me to succeed so wondrously among them. In this wise I became acquainted with the Ex-Minister of Finance, who was a deeply learned scholar, as well as an experienced diplomatist. Aged sixty-two, he was about seven feet six inches in height—taller than any other Tibetan I saw.

His dress took twice as much cloth as that of an ordinary person. He knew men well, and was shrewd in business, exceedingly kind and faithful and never deceitful. His only fault was his living with the nun. While talking with me, they often repented with tears of the folly they had committed with each other when young. He was not bad at heart, but his passionate behavior soiled what should have been his stainless purity, and also he was much influenced by worldly thoughts. He had great sympathy with my condition, and often said that he was very sorry for me to have to see a patient, who had been sent to me from Lhasa, when the patients in Sera were keeping me so busy. Besides being sorry for my lack of time for study, he warned me to be on my guard. Upon my asking him what he meant, he disclosed his fear that I might be poisoned like many other envied persons, for I had already robbed many doctors of their business. When I expressed my concern, he asked me if I should be contented with a moderate living. Being assured that I should be quite satisfied if I could only obtain a mere living, he said that he would support me, and offered me a dwelling in his residence. It was not pretty, he said,[334] but quiet and comfortable. It was situated out of the way, so that few patients, except those who were very dangerously ill, would be likely to trouble me, and I could then study more devotedly. Not only, he said, could I give more time to study, but I should also be on better terms with the city physicians, if at the cost of some inconvenience on the part of general patients. I was very glad to accept this kind offer, for I had been much regretting the little time and opportunity I had to study Buḍḍhism, which was the sole object of my coming to Lhasa through so many hardships.


Japan in Lhasa.

Everything went well with me, for I had earned much money, and besides everything needed for my livelihood was to be given to me by the Ex-Minister. So at last, leaving a young lad in charge of my quarters at Sera, I removed to the residence of the Ex-Minister with my furniture. I told the lad never to let it out of his mouth that I was with the Ex-Minister, and to try to send most patients to some other doctor in the city. I provided for him some way of living and study. Still, I went to Sera occasionally to have my catechism. My new dwelling was six yards by four. It was divided in the middle into two rooms, and being the dwelling of a noble, the walls were brightly colored green with various pictures. The thick carpet[336] had flowers of gold woven in it in the Tibetan style. There was a desk of ebony, as well as a little Buḍḍhist shrine. The accommodation was very complete, and everything was clean. Beside this residence there was another, that of the present Minister of Finance. It was three storied, the Ex-Minister Cham-ba Choe-sang’s being a two-storied house. It was quiet there and my priest friends no more troubled me in my study by their calls, but it was a little too far for me to go to my teacher’s.


Now it happened that I found a very good tutor. The Ex-Minister had a natural half-brother, Ti Rinpoche (the present ruler of Tibet) by title, whose father was a Chinaman. He was of Sera extraction, and had been made a priest when seven years old, and was then sixty-seven years of age. The previous year he was created the highest priest in all Tibet. The title of his priestly rank is Ti Rinpoche of Ganden. There is, in the temple of Ganden, a priestly seat on which Je Tsong-kha-pa, the Founder of the New Sect, had sat, and on which none may sit but the Dalai Lama and this highest priest. The former, however, cannot always seat himself on it, while the latter, living at Ganden, can sit on it any time. The Grand Lama had the right to sit on it by birth, while Ti Rinpoche had had to have a secret training of thirty long years after he had received the degree of doctor in Buḍḍhism, before he was given the privilege. When this training of long years had made him a priest perfectly learned and virtuous, he was elected the highest priest in Tibet and given the privilege to sit on the seat. Any person or priest who has attained moral and intellectual perfection after a study and training of some fifty or sixty years may use this seat, except sons of butchers, blacksmiths, hunters, and men of the lowest caste.

Hence in reality, the highest priest must be more learned and virtuous than the Grand Lama. I was very[337] fortunate to have as my tutor such a high personage. This is a privilege denied to most people in Tibet, where the distinction of castes is given so much importance, that it is among the most difficult things for any one to have an interview with such a great man. In this way, I succeeded in learning much about the secrets of Tibetan Buḍḍhism. The highest priest at the first glance at me seemed to know what kind of a man I am, and treated me as what I suppose he thought me to be. He hinted, if indirectly, that he felt some fear for me, and I, too, began to fear him. Still, he must have found faithfulness in me, for he taught me Buḍḍhism in its true form, and I felt correspondingly grateful to him, for none of the many doctors, learned scholars, religionists, and hermits with whom I studied Buḍḍhism influenced me half so much as this highest priest. It must have been this virtuous Buḍḍhist, I believe, who influenced the Ex-Minister, his brother, when fallen into so great a folly, to repent of his sin and to live a peaceful life. And the nun-wife of the Ex-Minister, let me add, was of hardly less active temper, though she had not so many ideas as her husband.

This nun-wife had made a pilgrimage of repentance about twenty years before to Kātmāndu in Nepāl. I was much delighted to hear the story of this pilgrimage and its hardships, the more so as I had been in Nepāl myself. I could not but be moved by the charitable deeds of both the Ex-Minister and the nun, and instead of blaming them for their bad behavior, which brought shame on Buḍḍhism, I rather sympathised with them for it, as they had so many things in common. They taught me how great was the power of charming love, and warned me against it. The more acquainted I became with this family, the more fully I began to know about it. I came to understand the state of the family, the conditions of the servants,[338] and every particular of the house. On the other hand, I had little opportunity to talk with the present Minister of Finance, who lived next to my house, for he was too busy to receive guests. His name was Ten-Jin Choe Gyal; he was quiet and very strong-willed, but when he talked to me he smiled and made me feel quite at home with him. He put off all the dignity of a Minister, mainly because, I believe, I was being treated by the Ex-Minister and his nun-wife as if I were their son. Being in the Ministerial chair, he was often able to disclose to me some important secrets of the Government, and we talked quite confidentially with each other. If any grave subject presented itself at the court, he usually gave no opinion of his own there, but would consult with the Ex-Minister, whom he regarded as his superior, and the Ex-Minister then gave him his opinions about the subject, discussing it from various points of view. The Ex-Minister would have been by that time promoted to the position of the highest priest had it not been for his ill-famed deeds of love, which were a cause of impeachment against him. Had this strong man been appointed Premier under the present able Grand Lama, we might have expected much wiser government in Tibet. I was often present at the meetings of the two Ministers, and was requested to give my humble opinions about the subjects discussed. This gave me a good opportunity of studying Tibetan politics. While in the monastery, where was discussed only the philosophy of Buḍḍhism, I could hear little or nothing about the Government of the Grand Lama, which was generally supposed to be good. The priests know only how reverently to bend their heads before the Dalai Lama, but are entirely ignorant of the secrets of their Government, or I should say the secrets are kept from the priests; but now I succeeded in hearing many of the diplomatic secrets about the relations of the Government with China, Britain, Russia and Nepāl.


I have already told how I met the Prince of Para at the druggist’s; now I met no less unexpectedly a merchant of Darjeeling, Tsa Rong-ba by name, who also proved afterwards a great help to me at the time of my departure from Tibet. I think before I go on further I shall do well to narrate how I happened to meet him. Once I was walking along Parkor, the ‘Middle path for the circumambulation of the holy temple of the Buḍḍha’ and the busiest street in Lhasa. At the sides of the street are many shops, not very different from those in most other countries. Many portable shops or stalls may also be seen in the street, in which daily necessaries are sold, and articles of food, clothing and furniture. Most of these things are of course made in Tibet, though some are imports from Calcutta and Bombay as also from China. But the thing that attracted my eye most was a box of Japanese matches. Japanese matches, manufactured by Doi of Osaka, are imported into the capital of Tibet, besides some other kinds without the names of the manufacturers on them. There were to be seen, among others, those which have the trade mark of two elephants and of one, as well as the wax candles with the trade mark of an elephant coming out of a house. The paper was red with a white picture on it. Some matches of Swedish make were also imported, but they are now ousted by the Japanese. Some Japanese bamboo blinds with pictures of women may also be seen in Tibet. Some kutani porcelain is seen in the high circles, but rarely in stores or shops. Japanese scroll pictures too are often found hanging in the houses of rich families. These inanimate Japanese articles are more daring than the people who made them!

Wishing that these articles, an outcome of Japanese civilisation, might be conducive to light in dark Tibet, I walked along the street, till I came to a shop where I saw a cake of soap. It looked as good as any that[340] could be found in the Tibetan capital. I walked into the shop and asked how much it cost, and I noticed the master staring at me. He looked very much like a merchant with whom I became acquainted in Darjeeling but I could not believe that he could be settled there, and wondered if he were a kinsman of that merchant. No, it was, as I found afterwards, the man himself, whose name was Tsa Rong-ba. But I had then so different an appearance myself that he too could not easily recognise me. For while in Darjeeling I had usually dressed myself in Japanese dress and scarcely went out in a Tibetan costume, though I often put it on indoors. After my arrival in Tibet, I clothed myself entirely as a Tibetan. Moreover I now had my beard growing long, which I had not at Darjeeling. The man told me that the soap was too dear, and showed me another cheap and good kind, but I liked the dearer one better and bought two cakes of it. When I came home and showed them to the Minister of Finance, he was so pleased with them for their good smell that he asked me to let him have one cake, so I gave him both.


A couple of days afterwards I again went to Tsa Rong-ba’s to buy a few cakes of the same soap, as I feared it might soon be out of stock. Instead of selling me the soap, the master stared me in the face. When I tried to pay the price, he began asking me if I knew him. The sound of his voice plainly told me his identity and I laughed as I replied that I knew him. He looked much surprised and told me to come into his house. Telling his servants to close the doors of the shop, for it was now getting dark, he led me into his house, which was small in size but neat and clean. I was led into his parlor upstairs, and found his wife who came with him from Darjeeling. I recognised her at once, but she seemed to have quite forgotten me. Even when her husband said she must[342] know me, as she had received much kind treatment from me, she could not recollect me, until he told her how she had received medicine from me when ill at Darjeeling. She then expressed her joy at seeing me in such a strange place and so unexpectedly.

Then the husband and wife expressed their great wonder that I, a stranger, had succeeded in entering Tibet, when it was exceedingly difficult for even a Tibetan to come or go to the capital. They did not believe me when I told them that I had come by the way of Jangthang; for they said there were soldiers placed on guard all along the road. I said I had come through pathless wilds, but they refused to believe me. But now I thought myself to be within a hair’s breadth of the danger of detection, which would bring everything in my plan to naught. Were I known to be a Japanese, some evil or other would certainly befall me, and all the kindness of the Ministers and the priests at Sera to me would end in air-bubbles. I feared this merchant might betray me to the Government for his own benefit. I must get the better of him, I thought, and I tried to do so.

Assuming a serious attitude, speaking in a determined tone of voice, and looking the man and the woman straight in their eyes, I said: “Here is a fine job for you; you can give me up to the authorities; tell them that I am a ‘Japan Lama’ in disguise, who smuggled himself into the country against its laws. By so doing you may serve a double purpose, for I have been thinking that sooner or later I shall have to do the same thing myself, only I was afraid that they might not believe me. But if you do it for me you will save me the trouble, while the authorities will believe; besides, you may come into a nice bit of fortune; for they will reward you for your information with a large sum of money. I have long made up my mind.”


I noticed a change come over the looks of the woman first: she turned pale and even began to tremble; but the man spoke first, and, in a tone of both appeal and reproach, earnestly protested that he had no such intention as that of which I seemed to suspect him. Indeed he went the length—quite voluntarily—of swearing by “Cho-o Rinpoche” that he would never betray me, lest he should die. Still I urged them both. He once more gave his pledge, in which the woman joined in the most fear-stricken manner, both raising their hands, with which they pointed in the direction of the ‘Buḍḍha temple’ of Lhasa. I knew what the latter act with the words of the oath meant. I became convinced of their sincerity, and saw that I was safe in their hands. For Cho-o Rinpoche means “Holiness of the Savior” and forms in Tibet the most solemn words of swearing which, when uttered in the manner described, furnish the strongest possible proof of sincerity. It is true that Tibetans are much given to swearing, and possess a great variety of expressions for the purpose, there being forty-five of them to my own knowledge. Those most commonly in use are “Konjogsum” (Holy three treasures) and “Ama tang te!” (separate me from my mother). The natives are in the habit of using these oaths as words of interjection. But when, in all seriousness, they subject themselves to the form observed by my host and his wife, they may safely be depended upon for their absolute sincerity. As it was, I pressed them no further, and they seemed to be well pleased at the final dispelling of all my suspicion against them.

Before I took leave of them they asked me about my lodging, and finding out I was the “Serai amchi,” the doctor of Sera, they were most astonished and pleased—pleased to know that they had as acquaintance a man of so great renown as I was then in Lhasa. From that time onward I was a frequent visitor and trusted friend at Tsa[344] Rong-ba’s, with always something to give the good couple, as was the case with me at Gyami menkhang’s, the Chinese druggist.


Scholastic Aspirants.

First, to speak of the nationalities of the aspirants; the students in the three great colleges are not solely natives of Tibet; they comprise Mongols proper, and also Khams, who belong to a somewhat different race. In fact it is customary to place Mongols first in point of numbers, then Tibetans, and last of all Khams. These three groups of students are as distinct in their characteristics as they are in their nationalities. Tibetans, generally speaking, are a very quiet, courteous, and intelligent set of students, but are not at all inclined to be diligent—indeed they are as a rule as lazy as they can be. The fact that they are very dirty in their habits seems to come from this their national weakness of being extremely and eternally idle. During winter days, for instance, a Tibetan bonze who possesses the ordinary means of living will simply do no work, beyond attending to the routine of chanting the sacred text in the service-hall, and making trips to the monastery kitchen for his ration of tea. When the weather is fine he spends all his leisure hours basking in the warm sun and squatting naked in front of his cell. Nothing can be more significant of his instinctive indolence than the sight of him as he sits dozing there the whole day long, putting on his head to dry a waste scrap of some woollen stuff, with which he occasionally blows his nose. Such behavior, excusable only in an old or decrepit person, is nothing unusual in many of the young Tibetan priests. How lazy and sluggish the average Tibetans are, it is almost beyond the power of Westerners to imagine.


Not so with the Mongols: one never sees them enjoying themselves in such an indolent fashion. They study very hard and always take a very active part in the catechetical exercises, principally because they are alive to the purpose for which they have come so far from their home and country. Four hundred out of the five hundred Mongols are generally fine students; while the ratio has to be inverted in the case of Tibetans, four hundred and fifty out of five hundred of whom are but trash. In consequence of this, the bulk of the “students militant” or warrior-priests of whom I have already spoken are Tibetans, Khams and Mongols being seldom found among them. Mongols are studious and progressive, but one common fault with them is that they are very quick-tempered, so that the slightest thing causes them to flare up in tremendous rage. Being always conscious of the fact that they are the most assiduous of the students, and that the largest number of the winners of the doctor’s degree always come from amongst them, they are very proud and uppish. This Mongolian pride makes most Mongols, even those that try to be calm and well-balanced, to be pitied for their narrow-mindedness and petulance, in spite of all their other numerous good qualities. A Mongol has it in him to become a great leader like Genghis Khan; but the career of that great conqueror was but a meteoric burst of short-lived splendor, and, like him, the Mongols as a nation seem to be incapable of consolidating their national greatness on anything like a permanent basis, or of carrying out any schemes calculated to secure the permanent progress and improvement of their country.

The Khams, on the other hand, are infinitely superior in this respect both to the Mongols and the Tibetans, and this in spite of the fact that their country is generally supposed to be no better than a den of thieves and[347] robbers. A Kham is excitable, but he does not lose his temper like a Mongol: indeed, he can be admirably patient and persevering when he wills. In point of physique, too, he is far ahead as a rule of both the others. The Khams are chivalrous men, blunt and outspoken, and averse to flattery. My observations among the students of Sera lead me to infer that more open-hearted, unaffected students are to be found among the Khams than among any other of the nationalities represented there. Mongols will occasionally demean themselves by fawning upon others in order to gain some object dear to their hearts, but the worst sinners in this respect are the Tibetans—so much so that the Khams, unless they are thoroughly Tibetanised Khams, are unwilling to enter into friendship with them. It is said to the honor of the Khams that even their robbers are honorable and will often give a helping hand to the poor and weak, and rescue those who stand in imminent peril. The Kham women and children, as a rule, share in the apathetic appearance of the men. They are often very unbecomingly dressed and have none of the attractiveness of the Tibetan women, who, like their husbands, fathers, and brothers, are generally well-spoken and affable in outward demeanor, however full of thorns and brambles their innermost hearts may be.

I have been able to give here only a brief and cursory notice of some of the characteristic features of the principal tribes that inhabit these unfrequented regions of Central Asia, with a few of the most essential of the points of difference between them. I might carry my subdivision much further, and speak of the Khams as Mankhams, Bas, Tsarongs, etc., but that would involve a very long and not very profitable discourse, and I therefore pass on to topics of greater interest.

To interpret correctly the aspirations of Tibetan Lamas, their ideals, or the final goal which they strive to[348] attain, it may safely be said that their main purpose in entering the priesthood is only to procure the largest possible amount of fortune, as well as the highest possible fame in that entirely secluded world of theirs. To seek religious truth and to practise religious austerities with a view to acquiring knowledge and character sufficient to carry out the noble work of delivering men and leading them to salvation, is not at all what they wish to do. If they study, they do so as a means of gaining reputation, of extending their influence, and mainly of accumulating wealth. They simply desire to escape from the painful struggle of life in the world of competition, and to enjoy lazy and comfortable days on earth as well as in heaven. Nine hundred and ninety-nine out of a thousand seem to have no conception of the problems of the future life, and there is nothing deep in their religious life. “It is more blessed to receive than to give” is their motto, and hence the monastic life, study and service, in its fullest sense, goes in their eyes for nothing. The reason why these priests and scholars, who ought to be the noblest and most unselfish of all men, have been brought to this state of apostasy, seems to be this.

In Tibet, the social estimation of priest and scholars is made, not according to their learning or virtue, nor yet according to the amount of good they have done for their fellow-men, but entirely according to the amount of property which they possess. Thus, a priest who owns an estate of a thousand dollars, however mean and ignorant he may be, is much more influential and far more highly esteemed in society than a learned and virtuous priest who lives on a small income. They believe in the almighty dollar, and twist S. Paul’s saying: “Though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I can remove mountains, and[349] have not” money, “I am nothing.” They are earnest therefore in making money, in whatever way they find profitable. Some of them, as I have said, are engaged in trade or industrial enterprises, and others in agriculture or stock-farming. Besides, it is their custom to appropriate to themselves the remuneration which they receive when they visit laymen’s houses for the purpose of chanting the Sacred Text for them, in accordance with their priestly duty.

It is pitiful to contemplate the condition of the students who, without scholarship or support, are preparing in the colleges for their degrees. They live hard struggling lives of study in the midst of want, and yet the only stimulus that encourages them is the expectation that they will be able to enjoy the comfortable life of high priests, when they have got through the prescribed course of study and have achieved the Doctorate. They do really suffer, but their sufferings are not, so far as I know, those of the man of self-denial who strives hard and struggles against difficulties for the noble ambition of winning souls to salvation, or for some humanitarian purpose; they are exceedingly patient in suffering, simply with the hope of reaping ease and comfort in the latter part of their lives. After a hard monastic life of some twenty years when they have completed the whole course of study, these poor students will have the honor of getting the Doctor’s degree, a title implying the highest learning, but in undue proportion costly; for besides spending nearly half their lives in toils and struggles to get it, they have to give a grand feast to all their schoolmasters to celebrate their graduation. It is true, the feast consists only of meat gruel, a sort of porridge of meat mixed with rice, but the quantity given is enormous, as there are many capacious stomachs to be filled.

To give a feast of this sort requires some five hundred yen at the very least, each bowlful costing over[350] twenty-five sen. Of course, the poverty-stricken priests cannot possibly provide the money themselves, but fortunately the diploma has its use this time; their credit has so much improved that the wealthy priests who turned up their noses at needy students are very willing now to supply them with the necessary money, simply because they have the degree and chance to pay interest. By the means of this convenient credit transaction they can procure the means of giving the necessary banquet and the wealthy priests get not only credit for their generosity, but also interest for their money. But nothing is more disappointing than the future life of those poor priests, who will probably never succeed in paying off the burden of debt, or, if exceptionally fortunate, they may succeed in doing so only after long and hard struggles. It is a sad thing to contemplate, but such is the hard lot of most Tibetan priests.


Tibetan Weddings and Wedded Life.

As I was lodging at the house of the Minister of Finance, I had the good fortune to become acquainted with and occasionally to call on the other Ministers of State, among whom was one of the Prime-Ministers, of the name of Sho Khangwa. (In Tibet, there are four Prime-Ministers and three Ministers of Finance; the senior Minister, in either case, taking the actual business and standing responsible for the conduct of affairs, while the others hold only nominal portfolios, assisting in the work of the Department as vice-Ministers. Sho Khangwa was the second Prime-Minister). During my stay in Lhasa, his daughter married the son of a noble called the Prince of Yutok. I was invited to the wedding, a ceremony most solemnly performed, which I attended with curiosity and interest. Before proceeding to relate what I saw on that occasion, I may make a few observations on Tibetan marriages in general. No general statement can be made however with regard to marriage-customs, as they vary vastly according to the different localities. There are several books containing descriptions of Tibetan marriages, but these are from the pens of European travellers, who may perhaps have been in Chinese Tibet, or on the northern frontier of Tibet proper, but were surely not permitted to visit Lhasa. So although their descriptions may be correct, so far as they go, yet no detailed account of a marriage in Lhasa is, so far as I know, to be found in any of these books. It is next to impossible for a passing visitor, especially in such a country as Tibet, where marriage-customs and manners differ so much with the widely separated tribes, to give any really trustworthy descriptions; still,[352] as circumstances have given me special opportunities of observing minutely the people’s life, social and domestic, in Lhasa, and even of attending several wedding ceremonies of the natives, it is not only proper, but may also possibly be of some value, to relate my observations and experiences during my stay in the city.

It is generally known that a peculiar system of marriage prevails in Tibet—a plurality not of wives but of husbands. The cases of polyandry are; first, when several brothers take the same woman as their wife at the same time; second, when two or more men not brothers, marry the same woman by mutual agreement; and thirdly, when a woman, already married to one man, gains influence over her husband, and, with his consent, marries another in addition. In case the mother of a family dies, either the father or the son takes a new spouse, who becomes at the same time the wife of the other male members of the family without infringing the law of the country. They are quite insensible to the shame of this dissolute condition of matrimonial relations, which can scarcely be even imagined by people with a civilised moral sense; and yet there do exist some restrictions: marriage of brothers with sisters, or between cousins, is not only censured by the public as immoral, but also prohibited by the law as criminal.

The wife’s authority over her husbands is something surprising. All the money which the husbands have earned has to be handed over to their wife, and if one of the husbands is found less clever or less successful in making money than the others, she will give him a severe scolding. When a husband needs money, he has to beg his wife to give him so much for such and such a purpose, just as a child does to its mother. If she happens to find any of her husbands keeping back his earnings, she will break out in anger, and give him slaps instead of caresses. In[353] short, a wife generally exercises a commanding authority over her husbands.

She will order them to go out shopping and to do this or that, and husbands are quite obedient to the wife, too, and quite ready to do everything that is required, or that they find suitable to soothe her. When two or more men have anything to agree upon among them, they do not decide for themselves, but run home and ask their wife’s opinion before coming to a final decision, and, if she has no objection, they will meet again and settle the matter. Though polyandry is the prevailing system of marriage in Tibet, there are a few exceptional cases of monogamistic couples, generally in cases where the husband is in a comparatively influential position.

Another peculiarity in connexion with marriage is that an agreement, to the effect that either husband or wife may divorce the other whenever he or she has become averse to continuing as the other’s partner, is acknowledged as a legitimate condition of a matrimonial contract.

I come now to a description of the marriage ceremony as observed in Lhasa. The Tibetans, whether men or women, marry generally between the twentieth and twenty-fifth years of age.

Although there are some exceptions (especially in the case of couples married late in life, where the husband’s age much exceeds that of his wife) usually both bride and groom are of about equal age. If a woman who has five brothers as her husbands gives birth to a child, the eldest of the brothers is called the father of the child and the rest the uncles. One European writer says that in Tibet the eldest of the brothers, who have the same woman as their wife, is called the great father of her children, and the younger brothers their small fathers; but this I have not been able to verify.


There is almost no such thing, so far as my experience of the Tibetans has gone, as a woman choosing her own husbands. The choice of husbands and all decision connected therewith are made by the parents only, and the daughter herself who is going to be married is never permitted to make any choice of her partner, nor even to take any part in the consultation regarding her own marriage. She is compelled to marry whomsoever her parents decide upon for her husband. Not only so, but parents never tell their daughter at all that a proposal has been made, or that they are going to give her in marriage, until the very day of the wedding. These compulsory marriages, therefore, frequently end in divorce. However, in the remote country or even in the city, sometimes a girl selects her partner and obtains permission from her parents to marry the man of her choice. Such cases, however are very exceptional.

It is the universal usage throughout the country for the parents of a young man of marriageable age to make enquiries for a suitable bride among families equal in lineage, fortune and rank with their own. When such a girl is found, they at once communicate through a middleman with the girl’s parents, asking whether she may be given as wife to their sons. If the answer is a simple negative, the middleman understands that the case is an entirely hopeless one; but if they say: “We will see about it” or something to that effect, he will call on them several times and talk of all the good qualities of the young man, his parents and everything about him. Then the girl’s parents, after giving a conditional consent to the proposal, go to a fortune-teller or a high priest to ask his judgment and advice in this important matter, or they will go to a sorcerer who is believed to be able to give information about the future, and then only will they give a definite answer to the middleman.


The parents on each side keep the whole thing a secret from their son or daughter, even after the betrothal has been decided upon. Thus both bride and groom go to the very day of their wedding, without knowing anything of their own marriage—neither the preliminary consultations nor the name of the bride or groom; they are brought face to face for the first time on the wedding day. There is no custom of exchanging presents between bride and bridegroom, or of the bride’s bringing a dowry to her husband as in Japan, and no consultation or arrangement is made, or anything like a marriage-contract regarding the property of the parties concerned; only the bride’s parents, to keep up the honor of the family, have to furnish their daughter with all things needed for her marriage, suitable to their social standing; else they would be disgraced in the public eye. On the groom’s side also his parents send a present of some money to the bride’s mother as ‘breast money’ or nurse expense, remuneration for her marriage and care in bringing up the girl. Then, again, the parents on both sides go and enquire of a fortune-teller or sorcerer, before fixing upon the day of the wedding or of beginning to make the necessary preparations.

On the morning of the wedding, the girl’s parents, who have already been informed of the time when the middleman is to come from the groom’s house, casually tell the girl that the weather being very fine they intend going to the Temple, and that she had better go with them, and that as they are going to have a “lingka feast” she had better have her hair done, or words to that effect. The girl is generally much delighted at hearing this, and starts at once to dress herself quite unconscious of the stratagem. But sometimes a clever girl sees through the artifice and breaks into tears of sorrow at her unexpected departure from her old home.




A girl who is unaware of this artifice will wash and scrub her face and body as her parents bid her, and make herself as smart as they please. It is to be noted that, as a general custom in Tibet, ordinary people never wash their faces or bodies at all, though the nobles do so every morning just after leaving their beds. The manner in which they wash their faces is almost more like a joke. When a nobleman gets up in the morning, a maid or attendant will bring him a ladleful of warm water which he first takes in the palms of his hands and then puts into his mouth. After holding it in there for a while he spits it back into his palms little by little and then washes his face with it. When the water in the mouth is all gone, he will spit several times on to his palms and again rub his face. It is true that basins are used by some Tibetans: the above is however the normal way.

To return, the girl, knowing nothing about the trick in store for her and expecting to go out for amusement, is cheerful and gay, busily engaged in her toilet, and adorning her hair with her old comb and pins, when her parents come to her with a new comb, pins and other toilet articles (all of which have been secretly presented by the groom’s parents through the middleman) and say to her: “Your pins and comb are too old, my dear, we have some new ones for you; here they are; and a good bottle of hair-oil too. You must dress yourself up as nicely as possible,” and so on. Then when at last the toilet is complete, the parents tell her for the first time that an engagement has already been made with so and so, whom she has to marry that day. This is the general custom not only in Lhasa, but also in Shigatze and other towns.

But, as I have already said, a sagacious girl who can see through her parents’ artifices is not generally willing to dress herself up for the occasion, but will be found weeping at her unforeseen calamities and sets herself to[358] complaining in this strain “Oh! dear me! I don’t want to leave my home. It is not fair of father and mother to marry me off to a person whom I shall probably not like. How can I get out of it?” And then she becomes very depressed, and devotes absolutely no attention to her hair-dressing. In this case, however, the girl’s friends, who are there to help in the preparations for her wedding, try to cheer her up and encourage her to obey her parents, and even help her to adorn and dress herself.

After all these preparations are over, the bride’s parents have to give a series of farewell banquets for their daughter, which will last two weeks, or even more sometimes, if their family is rich or high in social rank, but two or three days only in the case of the poor. During these festivities, the relatives and acquaintances of her parents visit the family with presents of money, food, or clothes, to congratulate them on their daughter’s happy wedding, the value of the presents differing according to the visitor’s wealth as well as their intimacy with the family. These visitors are cordially entertained with Tibetan tea and cold spirits, which they drink to excess, visitors and host alike enjoying the good things provided, and having a regular good time or what they call a chachang pemma, the happiest state in the world.

While drinking, they eat nothing at all; but at the afternoon meal they take some meat and wheat-cakes. The meat they eat is generally the flesh of the yak, or that of goats or sheep; pork is sometimes used in Lhasa, but beef is very rare throughout the country, and is especially rare in the case of wedding feasts. Their cooking and bill of fare are very simple: three dishes of meat, raw, dried and boiled (roast meat is never seen at a wedding). The boiled meat is cooked in oil and salt, or sometimes in salt and water and is brought in first,[359] together with tsu, a concoction of cheese, butter and sugar. When these are all gone, a big dish of boiled rice mixed with butter, sugar, raisins and Chinese persimmons is served. In the evening, again, the guests are entertained to a dinner in which a sort of vermicelli, made of wheat-flour and eggs, or pure Chinese cookery is set before the guests. In this manner they have three or four meals a day; and besides these, tea and intoxicants are constantly served during the intervals between the meals. While eating and drinking the guests are regaled with pleasant talk, and when the feasts begin to flag they revive the fun by singing and dancing. It is very interesting to see men and women like the moving beads of a rosary, dancing and jumping promiscuously round and round the circles. They dance in a regular and systematic manner, each keeping step with the music as carefully as if he were a soldier at drill, and yet the regularity and solemnity of the dance does not in least interfere with the keenness and zest of their enjoyment. The instrument used in their dance music is called damnyan, and is often used in accompanying singing as well as dancing.

Towards the close of the festive time (I may observe that it is only the poorest folk that dispense with the prenuptial feasts), usually on the eve of the wedding, the parents of the bridegroom send their representative and the middleman, with a number of attendants, to the bride’s home to receive the bride. They bring with them a present of some money as nurin or ‘breast money’ for the bride’s parents, who are obliged to seem a little backward about taking it, etiquette demanding that they should require a good deal of coaxing before accepting such a present. The nurin may vary in amount from a couple of dollars to two hundred or even five hundred dollars. Some parents (not many) refuse it absolutely, saying[360] that the girl being their beloved daughter, it is not their expectation or their desire to receive any nurin, but that they “only hope heartily that their daughter will be loved by and enjoy a happy life among the family to which she is given in marriage.”

Then the middleman gives the bride the dress, belt, Chinese shoes and all other articles necessary for a bride during the wedding ceremony, these too being presented by the groom’s parents, and these the bride cannot refuse; she must wear them even though they do not suit her. In addition to these gifts the bride generally receives a precious gem, such as is usually worn by a woman of Lhasa on the middle of her forehead. This gem is said to be a sign of a woman’s being married, though in Lhasa there seems to exist no strict discrimination in the matter, for unmarried women in that city often wear it as a mere ornament. In Shigatze and the neighboring provinces, however, the use of the gem is strictly restricted, as a matter of fact, exclusively to married women, who wear it high up at the back of the head, so that they can be easily distinguished from single females. In the case of a divorce, a husband has simply to pluck off the gem from his wife’s head without the trouble of going to court, or asking the authorities to alter the census. This single act on the part of the husband properly and perfectly certifies and legalises the divorce.

Besides the things necessary for a bride to wear during the ceremony which the bridegroom’s parents have to provide, many valuable ornaments, a fringe, neck-rings, ear-rings, finger-rings, ornamented armlets and breast-jewels, are given by the bride’s own parents, for what the groom’s parents send the bride-elect is confined to the dress, belt, under-wear and shoes, to be worn on the occasion of the wedding ceremony.


Then, those who come to receive the bride stay at the bride’s house that night, and enjoy a few pleasant hours drinking with the family.

An interesting feature of this drinking feast is that the middleman and the representatives of the bridegroom’s family have to be very careful not to drink too much that night, because it is the custom for the friends and relatives of the bride’s family to try to steal something from them if the drink should happen to make them drowsy. If they succeed, they show what they have stolen before all the guests assembled the next morning, and boast of the success of their trick, and their victims have to pay them some twenty tanka of Tibetan silver, or two dollars and a half in American gold, as a penalty for their carelessness. So the middleman and the others do all they can not to be tempted to drink, while the bride’s friends and relatives ply their guests with liquor and will take no refusal. The reader can imagine the noise and uproar that sometimes ensue. But in urging their guests to drink, the friends of the bride must strictly observe the old ancestral customs, or else the middleman and the representatives of the groom’s family will ridicule them for their ignorance, and thus everlasting shame will come upon the bride’s family. The others, in their turn, have to arm themselves with suitable reasons for abstinence. They have to say that chang is the worst of all sorts of poison, that it is a maker of quarrels or a robber of wisdom. The refusal to drink must always be clothed in some proverbial expression of this kind, according to the old time-honored customs, and the ordinary Tibetan would be very much disappointed and almost feel that he had not been to a proper wedding, if it was not accompanied with their friendly wranglings over the cups.


Wedding Ceremonies.

Early in the morning of the nuptial day the father and mother give a farewell banquet in the house of the bride. At the same time the priests of the Old School, generally known as the ‘Scarlet-Hoods’ or Red-Caps, are asked by the family to hold a festal service in honor of the village and family Gods. The object of the festival is to inform the Gods of the daughter’s being engaged and to take leave of them, and further to pray the Gods not to do any injury to their family because of their daughter’s leaving them for ever, as in return they promise to make offerings to them and recite the Sacred Text for their pleasure. Such ceremonies in general are held at the temple to which the ‘Scarlet-Hoods’ belong. Simultaneously with the above another festival is held in the house of the bride by the priest of the Bon religion (pronounced Pon, but written Bon), the old religion of Tibet, to propitiate the God Lu-i Gyalpo, or King-Dragon, who according to the Tibetan mythology is the protector of the fortunes of each individual family. It is a constant fear with Tibetans that if it should ever happen that a man should provoke this God’s anger by any means whatever, the consequence will be the entire destruction of his fortune. Therefore lest the God should leave the family and follow the daughter to whom he is affectionately attached, and thus abandon the family to utter poverty, no efforts whatsoever are spared by the family to keep him away from the daughter. The passages from the Bon scripture which are read on the occasion of the ceremony are very interesting. In most of the cases the sentences are the same, and, in the main, are to the effect that the[363] family to which the daughter has been engaged is not enjoying such happiness as the maiden’s own family enjoys; and again that it is not dignified for the King-Dragon to go to another house in pursuit of a girl: it is advisable for the God to stay with the present family and look after its interests, as before; for boundless will be the happiness that he shall enjoy in case he stays with the present family as hitherto. After all, this is not a matter of mere traditional formality, for among the people of Tibet the superstition is common that if the King-Dragon should leave a family for ever to follow a daughter on her marriage, the family will be reduced to utter poverty; hence these customs are universally observed by the people.

The banquet over, there enters the preacher who is to exhort the bride. He stands in front of the bride, and instructs her by means of a collection of maxims which he has well committed to memory previous to the ceremony. The preacher is a kind personage, selected from people who are accomplished in such things. In almost all cases the words of exhortation are about the same, and they are composed of very easy expressions, so that anybody can understand them. The sentences say that when the bride goes to the house of her husband, she must behave with uniform kindness; that, as it is the duty of a woman to be obedient to her superiors, once she goes to her husband’s she must not only be obedient to her parents-in-law, but must also wait upon her husband and his brothers and sisters with equal kindness, and more especially must she love her husband’s younger brothers and sisters with the same kindness that she has for her true brothers or sisters; she must treat her servants as if they were her own children, and the like. Here and there in the intervals of the exhortations is inserted a story, which is told by the preacher with such skill that the bride is generally deeply impressed. When the exhortation is[364] over, the father and mother of the bride sit before her, and with tears repeat exhortations similar to those previously recited by the regular preacher. Then also come the relatives and friends of the bride, who, bursting into tears, and taking the bride by the hand, make their exhortations most tenderly and in a most caressing manner. After these ceremonies, the bride has at last to leave her old home. There is no fixed standard as to the property which a bride takes with her to her husband’s on the occasion of her marriage. Some are rich enough to take a piece of land as a dowry, but some can afford only to take a few clothes.

When she leaves her house, the bride weeps bitterly, and all efforts to get her on horseback are in vain, she prostrates herself on the ground and lies there obstinately helpless. Her features become those of one whose heart is too heavy to part with her parents and her home. In such a case, the bride is lifted up and placed by friends on horseback. She does not ride in the same manner as westerns do, but astride, after the Japanese fashion. Women in Tibet are very good riders; they do not ride with long stirrups, but with legs bent back, as if they were astride on a very low bench, and use an extremely short stirrup leather. There is no difference between men and women in the manner of riding. While in Tibet I used to ride in the same manner, and during the first part of my experiences I had a hard time of it, more especially in the case of a long ride, after which I often felt much pain about my legs.

Now the bride, thus placed on horseback, makes her way to the house of the bridegroom. She is dressed in the wedding garment which has been presented to her by the bridegroom, and also wears the ornaments for head and arms which have been presented to her by her own parents, and her head and face are covered with rin-chen na-nga,[365] the precious cloths woven from sheep’s wool, in stripes of yellow, green, red, white and black. On account of the cloth, no glimpse of her face can be caught. The back of her neck is also covered with a small banner, called the ‘banner of good omen’. This ‘banner of good omen’ is made of a fine silk stuff dyed in five different colors, and is some fourteen inches or so in length; it is inscribed with good wishes for her future.

The people who have come to see the bride off and those who have come to receive her all go on horseback, and on their way to the bridegroom’s house six banquets altogether are given by the relatives of the bride and of the bridegroom. Those who have come to see the bride off give three banquets at three different points on the road, and those who have come to welcome her give three similar banquets. Sometimes the banquets are given at places two miles apart, and sometimes three, as the case may be, and after the sixth banquet has duly taken place, the gate of the bridegroom’s house is at last reached by the wedding procession. In these banquets, however nobody drinks anything to excess, because every one is impressed with the fact that he has been entrusted with the very important duty of taking the bride in safety to the house of the bridegroom, and so the others, recognising the situation, never press any one to drink to excess. As a rule, it is customary in Tibet to press one’s guests to eat the dainties which have been set before them, while for the guests it is considered very impolite to taste such dainties immediately; to do so without a great deal of pressure is to be as vulgar as a Chinaman. The banquets are given by the friends of the bride and bridegroom at the houses of their friends or at their own, but on the whole it is more usual to have tents erected at convenient places in fields on the way to the bridegroom’s house, and to entertain the wedding procession there.





Thus the gate of the bridegroom’s house is reached. It would not occur to anybody that there should be any question as to whether the bride could at once be admitted to the house of the bridegroom or not, as those who had come to receive the bride on the way were the relatives of the bridegroom. However, the fact is quite the reverse. This is where the Tibetan custom appear so strange in the eyes of a foreigner. When the bride reaches the gate, she finds it locked, bolted, and barred against her ingress. In the crowd gathered in front of the gate of the bridegroom’s house, there is a man whose duty it is to drive away the evil spirits, or epidemic diseases, which, it is believed by the people, may have followed the bride on her way to the bridegroom’s. Hidden under his right hand, the man has a sword which is called the Torma, or the sword of the secret charm, with which he tears such evil spirits or epidemic diseases to pieces. The sword is made of a mixture of baked flour, butter and water, fried hard and colored with the red juice of a plant. Its shape is long and triangular, like a bayonet; it looks like a sword, and is said to have some secret charm, pronounced by a priest, concealed in it. The spectators do not know which one in the crowd has the sword, but some one must have it, and as soon as the bride arrives the man, taking advantage of any opportunity that may offer, throws it in the face of the bride, and runs inside the gate, the door of which opens to receive him as he discharges this duty. No sooner has the man fled inside the gate, than the door is again closed, and the bride is left standing outside, all covered with the red fragments of the stuff that has been thrown at her. One may wonder what can be the origin of such a custom, and one is told that the bride, on taking leave of her family, has lost the protection of the Gods of the village and of the house in which she has been a resident, and the people are afraid that, for want of the divine protec[369]tion, the bride must have met with a crowd of evil spirits, or epidemic diseases, on her way to the bridegroom’s house, and that these might cause some injury to the new couple; hence the use of the Torma to conquer such evil spirits, or epidemic diseases.

Then one wants to know why the man fled inside the gate, and caused the door to be closed after him, immediately after throwing the sword in the face of the bride. There is a peculiar sort of custom prevalent at weddings, by which every one caught by the bride’s friends is bound to pay them a penalty of twenty tanka, and therefore the man flies inside the gate lest he should be caught by the people who have come to see the bride off. By this time the people inside the gate, who have been waiting for the arrival of the wedding procession, demand that the bride’s party give sheppa (explanation) at the gate, or else the bride cannot be admitted. The sheppa consists of many beautiful words and fine phrases, indicating wishes for good luck and happiness. In response to their demands, the man in the wedding procession whose duty it is to say the ‘explanation’ has to say: “We want to say sheppa, but for lack of the kata we cannot do so.” On hearing this the man inside the gate shows a tiny piece of kata through a chink in the gate and says: “Here is the kata,” but no sooner has he done so than he promptly pulls it back again. One may wonder why the people should pull the cloth in so quickly, and one is told that it is in consideration of a peculiar custom, that the man must pay twenty tanka as penalty to any of the bride’s friends that can catch hold of the cloth; naturally therefore, it is quickly pulled away. On seeing the kata, the man in the wedding procession whose duty it is to say sheppa solemnly says as follows: “This is the gate which leads to the store-house where many precious and valuable things are[370] kept; the pillars are built of gold and the door of silver and inside the gate there is a hall of worship which is made of natural cloisonné; there is also a palace, the inmates of which are as virtuous and beautiful as angels and Gods.”

Words similar to these are said, and at the termination of the sheppa the gate is open.

I must here not omit to say that on her way to the bridegroom’s, as she is riding past a certain village, the bride is sometimes caught hold of and carried off by the people of the village, on the pretext that her coming will cause some injury to them, as it is believed by them also that the bride has lost the protection of the Gods of her native place, and that during her journey many evil spirits and epidemic diseases must have taken hold of her, and that these, on arriving at the village, will do great damage to its farms and cause much injury to the inhabitants. So the people of the village carry off the bride as a compensation for such prospective damage, and in order to get a safe passage through the village the attendants of the bride must pay ransom. I may say that this is a very rare occurrence in a town, but in lonely parts of the country it will sometimes take place. It must be understood that it is generally in the case of a family which is not popular with its neighbors that the bride receives such treatment.

Upon the gate being opened, the mother of the bridegroom comes out with some sour milk and chema in her hands. Chema is a mixture of baked flour, butter, sugar and taro-root. Taro-root is a kind of potato, produced in Tibet, as large as a man’s little finger, and very nice to eat. Chema and sour milk are used only when there is a celebration of some extraordinary occasion. A little of this is distributed to each person in the procession, who receives it on his palm and eats it. This ceremony over, the mother leads the party into her[371] house and gives a banquet in honor of the bride, when the priest of the “Old School” is called upon to inform the Gods of the village and of the house that an addition has been made to the members of the family by the arrival of the bride, and that, therefore, the Gods are prayed to extend their arms to the bride, and to be her protectors henceforward.

These prayers over, the father and mother of the bridegroom give a piece of kata to the couple, and to all the other people who have come to see the bride off or to receive her. Such is the ceremony that makes the happy couple husband and wife. Before the feasting has begun to flag the newly married couple are removed to an adjacent room. The people who have come either to see the bride off or to receive her, stay in the house of the bridegroom, and attend the banquets which are given daily, and during this time the friends and relatives come to join the banquet, every one bringing with him a reasonable amount of presents. The feasting lasts for two or three days at least, and for a month at most. Tibetans are very fond of meat, and most of their food is more fatty even than Chinese cookery. They give long banquets richly furnished with such food, and the reader can well imagine how foolishly idle are the people of Tibet in their habits. The feasting over, the people who have come to see the bride off, or to receive her, say good-bye to the house, but still, for several days following, the friends and servants of the bride remain in the house with the bride, this being the custom. If the bride is from a well-to-do family, she takes with her a servant from her father’s house, and make her stay with her in the new family to serve her as long as she lives. In this way the wedding ceremonies come to an end. In one month or one year after the marriage the bride, together with the bridegroom, comes to her old home, and[372] they stay there as long as she likes, sometimes for one month and sometimes for three. When making the first visit to her father’s house, the bride takes with her not more than two or three persons. Her husband stays with her for several days, and then returns to his house, but when the day comes on which the bride has promised her husband to return to his house, the husband comes for her and takes her home again.

In case the bridegroom has a brother, the bride must marry him also in six or twelve months after marrying the eldest brother. The wedding ceremony in such a case is carried on privately at the house of the bridegroom, the mother of the bridegroom acting as the middleman. In this case the eldest brother, to whom the bride was first married, takes himself off from the house on business, or for pleasure, so as to let the bride and his younger brother marry during his absence. It makes no difference if the bridegroom has three or more brothers; the bride has to marry each one of them separately, and in the same manner. Sometimes the bride and her brothers-in-law live together at their pleasure, without having any formal ceremonies to celebrate their weddings.

Such is the polyandry practised by the people of Tibet, and called the sa-sum. In a family where the bride has more than one bridegroom, it is very seldom that we find the brothers living together. If one of the brothers is at home the other absents himself, either on business, if he is a merchant, or on official duties. In this way all possible means are taken to keep only one of the brothers at home, each in his turn.

Polyandry flourishes in Tibet even at the present time, and it is considered by the general public to be the right thing to follow and, in consequence, if ever a merchant (having been out of the country and seen much of the outside world and observed how shameful his habits[373] at home have been) should protest against this sort of wedlock, he is shunned by his fellow-men as a crank, and his protest brushed away with “Luk-su-mindu,” which means “there is no such a custom (in Tibet).” This peculiar and ridiculous wedlock, as well as this unreasonable relationship between a husband and wife, has its origin in the Bon religion, and in spite of the introduction of true Buḍḍhism into Tibet the habit has come down to the present time and remains flourishing. The fact is that among the Buḍḍhist believers there has scarcely been any one who has ever given any thought to social problems, and moreover, as the priests of ancient times were generally recluses, who paid no attention whatever to the application of their religion to the needs of the practical world, or to making the principles of true Buḍḍhism as distinct as possible, the natural outcome has been that this shameful custom, altogether contradictory to the principles of Buḍḍhism, has remained in this part of the world. The blame lies entirely with the priests; it must not be laid at the door of Buḍḍhism.


Tibetan Punishments.

One day early in October I left my residence in Lhasa and strolled toward the Parkor. Parkor is the name of one of the principal streets in that city, as I have already mentioned, and is the place where criminals are exposed to public disgrace. Pillory in Tibet takes various forms, the criminal being exposed sometimes with only handcuffs, or fetters alone, and at others with both. On that particular occasion I saw as many as twenty criminals undergoing punishment, some of them tied to posts, while others were left fettered at one of the street crossings. They were all well-dressed, and had their necks fixed in a frame of thick wooden boards about 1⅕ inches thick, and three feet square. The frame had in the centre a hole just large enough for the neck and was composed of two wooden boards fastened together by means of ridges, and a lock. From this frame was suspended a piece of paper informing the public of the nature of the crime committed by the exposed person, and of the judgment passed upon him, sentencing him to the pillory for a certain number of days and to exile or flogging afterwards. The flogging generally ranges from three hundred to seven hundred lashes. As so many criminals were pilloried on that particular occasion, I could not read all the sentences, even though my curiosity was stronger than the sense of pity that naturally rose in my bosom when I beheld the miserable spectacle. I confess that I read one or two of them, and found that the criminals were men connected with the Tangye-ling monastery, the Lama superior of which is qualified to succeed to the supreme power of the pontificate in case, for one reason or[375] another, the post of the Dalai Lama should happen to fall vacant. The monastery is therefore one of the most influential institutions in the Tibetan Hierarchy and generally contains a large number of inmates, both priests and laymen.

Shortly before my arrival in Lhasa this high post was occupied by a distinguished priest named Temo Rinpoche. His steward went under the name of Norpu Che-ring, and this man was charged with the heinous crime of having secretly made an attempt on the life of the Dalai Lama by invoking the aid of evil deities. Norpu Che-ring’s conjuration was conducted not according to the Buḍḍhist formula, but according to that of the Bon religion. A piece of paper containing the dangerous incantation was secreted in the soles of the beautiful foot-gear worn by the Dalai Lama, which was then presented to his Holiness. The incantation must have possessed an extraordinary potency, for it was said that the Grand Lama invariably fell ill one way or another whenever he put on these accursed objects. The cause of his illness was at last traced to the foot-gear with its invocation paper by the wise men in attendance on the Grand Lama.

This amazing revelation led to the wholesale arrest of all the persons suspected of being privy to the crime, the venerable Temo Rinpoche among the rest. Some people even regarded the latter as the ring-leader in this plot and denounced him as having conspired against the life of the Grand Lama in order to create for himself a chance of wielding the supreme authority. At any rate Temo Rinpoche occupied the pontifical seat as Regent before the present Grand Lama was installed on his throne. Norpu Che-ring was the Prime-Minister to the Regent, and conducted the affairs of state in a high-handed manner. Things were even worse than this, for it is a fact, admitting of no dispute, that Norpu was oppressive, and mer[376]cilessly put to death a large number of innocent persons. He was therefore a persona ingrata with at least a section of the public, and some of his enemies lost no time in giving a detailed denunciation of the despotic rule of the Regent and his Prime-Minister as soon as the present Grand Lama was safely enthroned. Naturally therefore the former Regent and his Lieutenant were not regarded with favor by the Grand Lama, and such being the case, the terrible revelation about the shoes was at once followed by their arrest, and they were thrown into prison.

All this had occurred before my arrival. When I came to Lhasa Temo Rinpoche had been dead for some time, but Norpu Che-ring was still lingering in a stone dungeon which was guarded with special severity, because of the grave nature of his crime. The dungeon had only one narrow hole in the top, through which food was doled out to the prisoner, or he himself was dragged out whenever he had to undergo his examinations, which were always accompanied with torture. Hope of escape was out of the question, and the only opportunity offered him of seeing the sunshine was by no means a source of relief, for it was invariably associated with the infliction of tortures of a terribly excruciating character. The mere description of it chilled my blood. The torture, as inflicted on Norpu Che-ring, was devised with diabolical ingenuity, for it consisted in driving a sharpened bamboo stick into the sensitive part of the finger directly underneath the nail. After the nail had been sufficiently abused as a means of torture, it was torn off, and the stick was next drilled in between the flesh and the skin. As even criminals possess no more than ten fingers on both hands the inquisitor had to make chary use of this stock of torture, and took only one finger at a time, till the whole number was disposed of. Such was the treatment the ex-Prime-Minister received at his hands.


Norpu Che-ring bore this torture with admirable fortitude; he persisted that the whole plot originated in him alone and was put in execution by his own hands only. His master had nothing to do with it. The inquisitors’ object in subjecting their former superior and colleague to this infernal torture was to extort from him a confession implicating Temo Rinpoche, but they were denied this satisfaction by the unflinching courage of their victim. It is said that this suffering of Norpu Che-ring had so far awakened the sympathy of Temo Rinpoche himself that the latter tried, like the priest of noble heart that he was, to take the whole responsibility of the plot upon his own shoulders, declaring that Norpu was merely a tool who carried out his orders, and that therefore the latter was entirely innocent of the crime. Temo even advised his steward, whenever the two happened to be together at the inquisition, to confess, as he, that is Temo, had done.

The steward, on his part, would reply that his master must have made that baseless confession from the benevolent motive of saving his, the steward’s life, but that he was not so mean and depraved as to seek an unmerited deliverance at the cost of his venerable master’s life. And so he preferred to suffer pain rather than to be released, and baffled all the attempts of the torturers. By the time I reached Lhasa Norpu had already endured this painful existence for two years, and during that long period not one word even in the faintest way implicating his master had passed his lips. From this it may be concluded that Temo had really no hand in the plot. At the same time it must be remembered that Temo was an elder brother of Norpu, and the fraternal affection which the latter entertained towards the other might therefore have been too strong to allow of his implicating Temo, even supposing that the late Regent was really privy to the plot. Be the real circumstances what they might, when[379] I heard all these painful particulars, my sympathy was powerfully aroused for Norpu, whatever hard words others might utter against him; for the mere fact that he submitted so long to such revolting punishments with such persevering fortitude and with such faithful constancy to his master and brother, appealed strongly to my heart.

The pilloried criminals whom I saw on that occasion were all subordinates of Norpu Che-ring. Besides these, sixteen Bon priests had been executed as accomplices, while the number of laymen and priests who had been exiled on the same charge must have been large, though the exact number was unknown to outsiders. The pilloried criminals were apparently minor offenders, for half of them were sentenced to exile and the remaining half to floggings of from three hundred to five hundred lashes. The pillory was to last in each case for three to seven days. Looking at these pitiable creatures I felt as if I were witnessing a sight such as might exist in the Nether World. My heart truly bled for the poor, helpless fellows.


Heavy with this sad reflexion I proceeded further on, and soon arrived at a place to the south of a Buḍḍhist edifice; and there, near the western corner of the building, flooded by sunshine, I beheld another heart-rending sight. It was a beautiful lady in the pillory. Her neck was secured in the regulation frame, just as was that of a rougher criminal, and the ponderous piece of wood was weighing heavily upon her frail shoulders. A piece of red cloth made of Bhūtān silk was upon her head, which hung very low, for the frame around her neck did not allow her to move it freely. Her eyes were closed. Three men, apparently police constables, were near by as guards. A vessel containing baked flour was lying there, and also some small delicacies that must have been sent by relatives or friends. All this food she had to take from the hands of one or other of the three rough attendants, for her own hands were manacled. She was none other than the wife of Norpu Che-ring, whose miserable story I have already told, and was a daughter of the house of Do-ring, one of the oldest and most respected families in the whole of the Tibetan aristocracy.


When her husband was arrested, he was at first confined in a cell less terrible than the stone dungeon to which he was afterwards transferred. But this early and apparently more considerate treatment only plunged his family into greater misery. His wife was told that the jailer of the prison in which her husband was incarcerated was not overstrict and that he was open to corruption, and what faithful wife, even though Tibetan, would resist the temptation placed before her under such circumstances, of trying to seek some means of gaining admission to the lonely cell where her dear lord was confined? And so it came to pass that Madame Norpu bribed the jailer, and with his connivance was often at her husband’s side; but somehow her[381] transgression reached the ears of the government, and she also was thrown into prison.

On the very morning of the day on which I came upon this piteous sight of the pillory, she was led out of the prison, as I heard afterwards, not however for liberation, but first to suffer at the gate of the prison a flogging of three hundred lashes, and then to be conducted to a busy thoroughfare to be pilloried for public disgrace.

Poor woman! she seemed to be almost insensible when I saw her, and the mere sight of her emaciated form and death-pale face aroused my strongest sympathy. The sentiment of pity was intensified when I saw a group of idle spectators, among whom I even noticed some aristocratic-looking persons, gazing at the pillory with callous indifference. They were heartless enough to approach her place of torture and read the judgment paper. The sentence, as I heard it read aloud by these fellows, condemned her to so many whippings, then to seven days pillory, and lastly to exile at such-and-such a place, there to remain imprisoned, fettered and manacled. The spectators not only read out the sentence with an air of perfect indifference, but some of them even betrayed their depravity by reviling and jeering at the lady: “Serve her right,” I heard them say; “their hard treatment of others has brought them to this. Serve them right.” These aristocrats were giving sardonic smiles, as if gloating over the misery of the house of Norpu Che-ring.

Really the heartless depravity of these people was beyond description, and I could not help feeling angry with them. These same people, I thought, who seemed to take so much delight in the calamity of the family of Norpu Che-ring, must have vied with each other in courting his favor while he was in power and prosperity. Even if it were beyond the comprehension of these brutes to appreciate the meaning of that merciful principle which bids us “hate the offence[382] but pity the offender,” one would have expected them to be humane enough to show some sympathy towards this woman who was paying so dearly for her excusable indiscretion. But they seemed to be utterly impervious to such sentiments, and so behaved themselves in that shameful manner. I, who knew that political rivalry in Tibet was allowed to run to such an extreme as to involve even innocent women in painful punishment, felt sincerely sorry for the Lady Norpu, and returned to my residence with a heavy heart. My sentiment on that particular occasion is partially embodied in this uta that occurred to me as I retraced my heavy steps:

You, everchanging foolish herds of men,
As fickle as the dew upon the trees,
To blooming flowers your smiling welcome give;
Why should your tears of pity cease to flow
When blooms or withering flowers pass away?

On my return, when I saw my host, the former Minister of Finance, I related to him what I had seen in the street, and asked him to tell me all he knew about the affair. He fully shared my sympathy for the unfortunate woman.

While Norpu Che-ring was in power, my host told me, he was held in high respect. Nobody dared to whisper one word of blame about him and his wife. Now they were fallen, and he felt really sorry for them. It was true, he continued, that some people used to find fault with the private conduct of Norpu Che-ring, and the former Minister could not deny that there was some reason for that. But Temo Rinpoche was a venerable man, pure in life, pious and benevolent, and had met with such a sad end solely in consequence of the wicked intrigues of his followers. My host was perfectly certain that Temo Rinpoche had absolutely no hand in the plot. He said that he could not talk thus to others; he could be confidential to me alone.

Tortures are carried to the extreme of diabolical ingenuity. They are such as one might expect in hell. One[383] method consists in drilling a sharpened bamboo stick into the tender part of the tip of the fingers, as already described. Another consists in placing ‘stone-bonnets’ on the head of the victim. Each ‘bonnet’ weighs about eight pounds, and one after another is heaped on as the torture proceeds. The weight at first forces tears out of the eyes of the victim, but afterward, as the weight is increased, the very eye-balls are forced from their sockets. Then flogging, though far milder in itself, is a painful punishment, as it is done with a heavy rod, cut fresh from a willow tree, the criminal receiving it on the bared small of his back. The part is soon torn open by the lashing, and the blood that oozes out is scattered right and left as the beater continues his brutal task, until the prescribed number, three hundred or five hundred blows as the case may be, are given. Very often, and perhaps with the object of prolonging the torture, the flogging is suspended, and the poor victim receives a cup of water, after which the painful process is resumed. In nine cases out of ten the victims of this corporeal punishment fall ill, and while at Lhasa I more than once prescribed for persons who, as the result of flogging, were bleeding internally. The wounds caused by the flogging are shocking to see, as I know from my personal observations.

A prison-house is in any case an awful place, but more especially so in Tibet, for even the best of them has nothing but mud walls and a planked floor, and is very dark in the interior, even in broad day. This absence of sunlight is itself a serious punishment in such a cold country.

As for food, prisoners are fed only once a day with a couple of handfuls of baked flour. This is hardly sufficient to keep body and soul together, so that a prisoner is generally obliged to ask his friends to send him some food. Nothing, however, sent in from outside reaches the[384] prisoners entire, for the gaolers subtract for their own mouths more than half of it, and only a small portion of the whole quantity gets into the prisoners’ hands.

The most lenient form of punishment is a fine; then comes flogging, to be followed, at a great distance, by the extraction of the eye-balls; then the amputation of the hands. The amputation is not done all at once, but only after the hands have been firmly tied for about twelve hours, till they become completely paralysed. The criminals who are about to suffer amputation are generally suspended by the wrists from some elevated object with stout cord, and naughty street urchins are allowed to pull the cord up and down at their pleasure. After this treatment the hands are chopped off at the wrists in public. This punishment is generally inflicted on thieves and robbers after their fifth or sixth offence. Lhasa abounds in handless beggars and in beggars minus their eye-balls; and perhaps the proportion of eyeless beggars is larger than that of the handless ones.

Then there are other forms of mutilation also inflicted as punishment, and of these ear-cutting and nose-slitting are the most painful. Both parties in a case of adultery are visited with this physical deformation. These forms of punishment are inflicted by the authorities upon the accusation of the aggrieved party, the right of lodging the complaint being limited, however, to the husband; in fact he himself may with impunity cut off the ears or slit the noses of the criminal parties, when taken in flagrante delicto. He has simply to report the matter afterwards to the authorities.

With regard to exile there are two different kinds, one leaving a criminal to live at large in the exiled place, and the other, which is heavier, confining him in a local prison.

Capital punishment is carried out solely by immersion in water. There are two modes of this execution: one by[385] putting a criminal into a bag made of hides and throwing the bag with its live contents into the water; and the other by tying the criminal’s hands and feet and throwing him into a river with a heavy stone tied to his body. The executioners lift him out after about ten minutes, and if he is judged to be still alive, down they plunge him again, and this lifting up and down is repeated till the criminal expires. The lifeless body is then cut to pieces, the head alone being kept, and all the rest of the severed members are thrown into the river. The head is deposited in a head vase, either at once, or after it has been exposed in public for three or seven days, and the vase is carried to a building established for this sole purpose, which bears a horrible name signifying “Perpetual Damnation.” This practice comes from a superstition of the people that those whose heads are kept in that edifice will forever be precluded from being reborn in this world.

All these punishments struck me as entirely out of place for a country in which Buḍḍhist doctrines are held in such high respect. Especially did I think the idea of eternal damnation irreconcilable with the principles of mercy and justice, for I should say that execution ought to absolve criminals of their offences. Several other barbarous forms of punishment are in vogue, but these I may omit here, for what I have stated in the preceding paragraphs is enough to convey some idea of criminal procedure as it exists in the Forbidden Land.

I stayed in Lhasa till about the middle of October 1901, when I decided to return to Sera. My host kindly placed at my disposal one of his horses and on this I jogged towards my destination. The snow had been falling since the previous evening, and already the road was covered with a thick layer of its crystal carpet. It was the first snow of the season. On the road from Lhasa to Sera,[386] by Shom-khe-Lamkha (priest’s road), there is a river about half a mile on this side of Sera. This river dries up in winter, and on the day I am speaking of its bed was covered with snow. There I noticed a party of five or six young priestlings of Sera, absorbed in the innocent sport of snowballing. This highly amused me, calling forth in my mind’s eye the sights I had frequently come across at home, and reminding me that human nature is, after all, very much alike the world over. And so these little fellows were pelting each other with soft missiles, running and pursuing, shouting and laughing, forgetting for once the stern reprimanding voices of their exacting masters, and I amused myself with composing an uta, as follows.

On yonder fields of snow the children play,
And fight with snow-balls in great glee.
They throw and scatter these amongst themselves,
And in these heated contests melts the snow.

While I was watching the snow-fight, a burly fellow coming from the direction of Lhasa overtook me and began to stare at me. I at once recognised in him one of my old acquaintances, the youngest of the three brothers whom I accompanied on the pilgrimage round Lake Mānasarovara, who gave my face a sharp parting smack, as already told. He seemed to be quite astonished, even frightened, when he saw me, his whilom companion of humble attire, now transformed into an aristocratic-looking personage, such as I must have appeared to him. At any rate he avoided my eyes, and was about to walk off with hurried steps, when I bade him stop, and asked him if he had forgotten my face. The man could not but confess that he had not, and told me that he was going to Sera. I made him come along with me, and treated him quite hospitably at my quarters in the monastery, besides giving him a farewell present on parting. When I thanked him for all the trouble he had taken for[387] me during our pilgrimage, the man bowed his head as if in repentance, and even shed tears, no doubt of remorse. Before taking his departure he told me that his brothers were living together at their native place, and that they were all doing well.


A grim Funeral and grimmer Medicine.

It was just previous to the grand monthly catechising contest that I returned to the Sera monastery. While I was busy with preparation, and in eager expectation of taking part in this important function, one of my acquaintances died and I had to attend his funeral. Incidentally therefore I took part in a ceremony which is perhaps unique in the world. I may observe here that in Tibetan funerals neither a coffin nor urn is used in which to deposit the corpse. It is simply laid on a frame made of two wooden poles, with a proper space between and two cross pieces tied to them. The rectangular space thus described is filled in with a rough sort of network of ropes, and over the netting is spread a sheet of cloth for the reception of the corpse. Another piece of cloth, pure white in color, is thrown over the corpse, and that completes the arrangement. The whole burden is then carried on the shoulders of two men, who insert their heads between the projecting ends of the two longer poles.

Generally a funeral is performed on the third or fourth day after death, the interval being spent in observances peculiar to Tibet. First of all a properly qualified Lama is consulted as to the auspicious day for performing the ceremony; then as to the special mode of funeral and the final disposal of the corpse. The Lama consulted gives his instructions on all these points after referring to his books, and bids the relatives of the deceased read such and such passages in the Sacred Texts, conduct the funeral ceremony on such and such day, and take the bier from the house at such and such an hour of the day.[389] The priest also advises on the mode of burial, of which there are four in vogue; the four modes being distinguishable from each other by the agencies to be brought into service, namely: water, flame, earth, and birds of the air. This last corresponds to the “air-burial” of Buḍḍhism.

Of the four kinds of burial, or more properly modes of disposing of corpses, the one generally regarded as the best is to leave the corpse to the vultures, known under the name of Cha-goppo in Tibet; then comes cremation; then water-burial, and last land-burial. This last method of interment is never adopted except when a person dies from small-pox. In this particular case alone the Tibetans observe some sanitary principles, though probably by mere accident and not from any conviction, for they think that this dreadful epidemic is likely to spread if the corpse of a person stricken down by small-pox is left for birds or consigned to a river. Though cremation is considered as a superior way of disposing of dead bodies, the process is by no means easy in a country where faggots are scarce, for the dried dung of the yak is hardly thought proper for the purpose. Hence cremation is confined to the wealthier class only. Water-burial generally takes place near a large stream; but, in consigning a dead body to the water, it is first thoroughly dismembered, and thrown into the water piece by piece. This troublesome course is adopted from the idea that a dead body thrown in whole will not speedily disappear from sight.

These four processes of disposing of corpses originate from Hinḍū philosophy, according to which human bodies are believed to consist of four elements, earth, water, fire and air, and it is thought that on death they should return to these original elements. Land-burial corresponds to the returning to earth, cremation to fire, water-burial to water, and the bird-devouring[390] to the air, of which birds are the denizens. The bodies of Lamas are mostly disposed of by this last process, while those of a few privileged persons only, such as the Dalai Lama, sub-Dalai Lama and other venerable Lamas, believed to be incarnations of Boḍhisaṭṭvas, are given a special mode of burial.

‘Air-burial’ was chosen for the friend whose funeral I attended, and I shall briefly describe how this ‘burial’ was performed. Leaving the college at Sera, the cortège proceeded eastward till it reached the bank of a river near which, in a small valley formed between two contiguous hills, stood a big boulder about twelve yards high. The top of this stone was level and measured about fifteen feet square. This was the ‘burial-ground’ for this particular kind of interment. On the summits of the surrounding hills, and even on the inaccessible parts of the rock itself, were perched a large number of vultures, with their eyes glistening with greed. They are always waiting there for ‘burials’. When the bier was placed upon this rock, the white sheet was taken off, and the priest who had come, with the rest of the mourners and sympathisers, began to chant their texts to the accompaniment of drums and cymbals. At the same time one man approached the corpse with a broadsword, with which to ‘dress’ it. In ‘dressing’ the abdomen was first cut open and the entrails removed. Next all the various members of the body were severed, after which some other men, including a few priests, undertook the finishing work of final ‘dressing’, which consisted in separating the flesh and bones, just as butchers do with slaughtered cattle. By this time the vultures had gathered in a flock round the place, and big pieces, such as the flesh of the thighs, were thrown to them and most voraciously[392] did they devour them. Then the bones had to be disposed of, and this was done by first throwing them into one of the ten cavities on the rock, and pounding the heap with big stones. When the bones had been fairly well pulverised a quantity of baked flour was added to the mass, and this dainty mixture was also given to the birds. The only thing that remained of the dead body was the hair.


The Tibetans may practically be considered as a kind of cannibals. I was struck with this notion while witnessing the burial ceremony. All the cloths used in the burial go as a matter of course to the grave-diggers, though they hardly deserve this name, as their duty consists not in digging the grave but in chopping the flesh of the corpse and pounding the bones. Even priests give them help, for the pounding business is necessarily tedious and tiresome. Meanwhile the pounders have to take refreshment, and tea is drunk almost incessantly, for Tibetans are great tea-drinkers. The grave-diggers, or priests, prepare tea, or help themselves to baked flour, with their hands splashed over with a mash of human flesh and bones, for they never wash their hands before they prepare tea or take food, the most they do being to clap their hands, so as to get rid of the coarser fragments. And thus they take a good deal of minced human flesh, bones or brain, mixed with their tea or flour. They do so with perfect nonchalance; in fact, they have no idea whatever how really abominable and horrible their practice is, for they are accustomed to it. When I suggested that they might wash their hands before taking refreshment, they looked at me with an air of surprise. They scoffed at my suggestion, and even observed that eating with unwashed hands really added relish to food; besides, the spirit of the dead man would be satisfied when he saw them take fragments of his mortal remains with their food without aversion. It has been stated that the Tibetans[393] are descendants of the Rākshasa tribe—a tribe of fiendish cannibals who used to feed on human flesh; and what I witnessed at the burial convinced me that, even at the present day, they retained the horrible habit of their ancestors.

While the burial ceremony is going on, a religious service is also conducted at the house of the deceased, and when the ceremony is over, those who have attended it call at the house of the bereaved family, where they are feasted by its members. I noticed that at this entertainment intoxicants are served only to the laity. This discrimination is not observed, however, in the country districts.

I shall next describe the mode of burying a Dalai Lama or a high-priest.

When a person of high distinction dies, his body is put in a big box and marsh salt is copiously sprinkled over it till it is thoroughly imbedded in this alkaline padding. All this while, religious chanting goes on, accompanied by the music of flutes, pipes and other instruments. The box is then kept in a temple for about three months, during which time offerings are made regularly, as when the deceased was yet alive, and his disciples keep vigil over it by turns. Before the coffin lights are kept burning in several golden burners containing melted butter, while holy water is offered in seven silver vessels. Flowers of the season are also offered with other things. Every one allowed to worship near the remains is expected to make some offering in kind, accompanied by a small sum of money. By the time the three months have elapsed, all the watery portion of the corpse has been absorbed by the salt, and it has become hard and dry. It seems to me (though I am not quite sure) that the Tibetan salt contains a large percentage of soda or other alkalies; at any rate it is somewhat different from the[394] salt found in Japan. Perhaps some special ingredients are mixed in the salt, when it is used for packing a corpse.

Be that as it may, when it is taken out of the coffin the corpse is thoroughly hardened, and has all its parts shrunk up, owing to the loss of all fluid elements, and the eyes are sunk in their sockets. Then follows the process of ‘dressing’ the hardened corpse. The ‘dressing’ in this case is made with a compound of a certain kind of clay and pulverised particles of white sandalwood, and also probably certain drugs of foreign production. This compound is carefully spread over all parts of the body. It is finally gilded, and a ‘natural’ image is the result. This image is put in a tabernacle enclosed in a small outer structure, which is highly decorated, and the whole thing, image and all, is kept in a shrine. Such shrines are found in many parts of Tibet; in the premises of the Tashi Lhunpo monastery at Shigatze five such edifices are found, their roofs resplendent with gold. In construction these roofs very much resemble the double roof of a palace or similar building in China, and of course the decoration and size of the edifice and tabernacle are different according to the rank of the canonised Lamas, some of these structures being inlaid with gold and others with silver.

At any rate, these images are objects of veneration to the Tibetans; both priests and ordinary people visit and worship them. This peculiar mode of embalming high Lamas has been wittily commented upon by a certain Chinaman, who remarks that the practice is inconsistent with the strong prejudice which Tibetans possess against earth-burial, as this mode of burial, according to their superstition, sends the dead person to hell. For the treatment accorded to the dead body of a Grand Lama, or other distinguished priest, is in fact a sort of earth-burial, in that the corpse is not given to birds or consigned to rivers or[395] flames, but is preserved in clay after it has been salted and hardened.

Now I come to the most wonderful medicines in the world. The first is the salt used in packing corpses. This salt is considered as an article of great virtue, and accessible only to a limited number of the privileged class. It is distributed only among aristocratic people, and among priests of distinction.

Only the wealthy merchants and great patrons of temples may hope, through some powerful influence, to obtain a small quantity of this precious dirt. The salt is a panacea for the Tibetan, who swallows a small dose either by itself or dissolved in water for all kinds of ills that flesh is heir to—from a slight attack of cold to a serious case of fatal disease. Whatever medical quality this loathsome compound possesses, one thing is certain—that it exercises a powerful influence upon the untutored minds of the ignorant Tibetans, and so excellently serves the purpose of “mental cure”. The salt medicine reminds me of the existence in Tibet (and happily nowhere else) of another sort of panacea equally abominable. The mere mention of the real nature of this second series of so-called medicines, would, instead of curing the people of other countries, infallibly make them sick, as the essential ingredients are nothing less than the excreta, both liquid and solid, of the Grand Lama or other high priests. These are mixed with other substances and are made into pills, which are gilded over and sometimes colored red. These pills, known under the name of Tsa Chen-norpu (precious balls) are not on sale, they being accessible to ordinary people only through some powerful influence, and even then only by paying for them a large sum of money. The Tibetan is glad, however, to procure these pills at any cost, for he is under a fond delusion that they possess a most effective curative power. They are kept as something[396] like a family treasure, and are used as the last resort, when all other means of treatment have failed. When, by some accident, a patient despaired of by doctors recovers after he has been dosed with a few of the ‘precious pills,’ the people of course extol their merit to the skies; while if he dies, his case is regarded as having been beyond cure, and the pills remain therefore the object of undiminished faith. To do justice to this superstition, I ought to add that the common Tibetans are kept entirely in the dark as to the ingredients of the pills; they are taken as medicines prepared by the Grand Lama himself according to a certain secret formula, and the shocking secret is known only to a select few, who are entitled to attend the Dalai Lama’s court.


Foreign Explorers and the Policy of Seclusion.

During the first decade of November, 1901, I returned to Lhasa to enjoy as before the hospitality of the ex-Minister. At that time the Finance Minister of the day was somewhat less occupied, and being, as I stated before, a nephew of the nun who was mistress of the house where I was a guest, and a gentleman of refined and affable manners, he used often to call on and be invited to sit with the ex-Minister, the nun and myself, and to take part in our chats. Sometimes I called upon the Minister of the day in his apartments to talk with him. On one occasion our conversation touched on the subject of a British female missionary, who attempted to visit Lhasa.

“I wonder why British people are so desirous to come to our country,” observed the Minister in the course of our talk. “I cannot at all understand their motive. For instance, a British woman arrived some eight or nine years ago at a place called Nakchukha on the boundary between Tibet and China. She came there with two servants determined to enter Tibet.”

It at once occurred to me that the Minister was referring to the case of one Miss Annie R. Taylor, a missionary, who attempted to travel from northern China to Darjeeling via Lhasa. My host did not know, or could not remember, her name, but I knew it very well, having been told of her bold venture while I was staying at Darjeeling, where I accidentally met with one of the guides who had accompanied her. But I prudently kept what I knew to myself, and listened to the Minister as one eager to hear a strange and interesting story. The Minister went on to tell me how the lady was stopped by the natives of[398] the place from proceeding further. It was very fortunate that the chieftain of the local tribe was a man of a merciful turn of mind, as otherwise she would have been murdered there and then. A report on the matter was soon forwarded to Lhasa by the magistrate of the district, and my host was then ordered by his Government to hasten to the spot, and deal with the foreign adventuress in a suitable manner. In other words his commission was to cause the lady at once to quit Tibetan soil. The Minister took with him two of his servants, besides a number of coolies, the party altogether numbering about thirty.

Arrived at Nakchukha, he at once caused the lady to be brought to him; but when he saw her, he at first could not understand what she was saying, for although she spoke Tibetan, it was in a dialect differing from that in vogue at Lhasa. At last he succeeded in gathering the drift of what she had to say, which was to this effect. She had come to Tibet in order to acquaint herself with the sacred teachings of Tibetan Buḍḍhism. With that object she wanted to make a pilgrimage to Lhasa and to return home by way of Darjeeling. She then showed to the Minister a passport she had obtained from the Emperor of China. The Minister told her that personally he highly appreciated the lady’s purpose, but he was under strict orders from the Grand Lama’s Government to forbid the entrance of the lady and of any other foreigner within his dominions. Should she, in disregard of this intimation, dare to push her way into the interior, she would be sure to meet with some terrible mishap, perhaps death, for the Grand Lama’s Government could not extend its protection to a foreigner who, in defiance of its well-meant warning, should attempt a journey through the wild districts of Tibet. His Government did not like the idea of being entangled needlessly in trouble with another country, and therefore absolutely demanded the withdrawal of the lady from[399] Tibet. As a messenger of the Grand Lama’s Government, especially despatched for this purpose, he must ask the lady to retrace her steps. The Minister dwelt on this point courteously but firmly.

The lady on her part equally remained unyielding in her original declaration, and persisted on repeating her request, not for one or two days only, but even for four or five days in succession. When the Minister pointed out how foolhardy she was in her desire, and why she should rather return the way she had come under the protection of the Grand Lama’s Government, which would, in that case, escort her back as far as some safe place, the lady demanded an explanation as to why a person, possessing a passport obtained from the Emperor of China, could not travel through Tibet, which was a protectorate under that Emperor. The Minister admitted the suzerainty of the Chinese Emperor, but said that, at the same time, they were not obliged to obey the Emperor’s will in everything, and that especially in the matter of seclusion they were determined to oppose even the Emperor, should he try by force to set aside this traditional policy. He further added, as he told me, that if the lady should still persist in her intention, he would be constrained to put her two Tibetan guides under arrest, and punish them according to the laws of the land. This punishment would be waived, however, if the lady desisted from her purpose and withdrew from Tibet.

After all these protracted negotiations, the lady was at last induced to give up her point, and in about half a day’s time after their last meeting she came to acquaint him with the change in her resolution. As it was ascertained that the lady and her guides were subject to much discomfort, having suffered robbery on the way, the Minister kindly gave her some necessaries before she left Tibet for China.

After having narrated all these things the Minister once more gave vent to his feeling of wonder at the inexplic[400]able eagerness which foreigners were wont to show in their desire to visit his country. I for my part replied discreetly that neither did I know why they should wish to enter it, but that I had heard that such attempts on the part of foreigners were not a novelty. The Minister himself knew that cases of strangers making attempts similar to that of the British lady were not rare, and our conversation next turned to this part of Tibetan history.

The first authentic story of the arrival of a foreigner in Tibet is recorded in the year 1328, when a priest of Pordenone, named Friar Odoric, entered Tibet as a propagandist of the Roman Catholic Church. His attempt failed, chiefly because the Tibetans of the time had nothing in particular to learn from Odoric, for Tibet possessed many priests of its own, who were able to perform many things differing little from those recorded of Jesus Christ in their miraculous character. Indeed Odoric himself seems to have profited by what he saw in Tibet, instead of imparting anything new to the natives. He took notes of many wonderful things performed by Tibetan priests, and took them home, but he burnt most of those notes, for fear that their publication might compromise the interests of his own religion. So only a fragment of the account of his travels was preserved.

Some persons attribute this destruction of his own notes by Odoric to the inaccuracies which he had subsequently discovered, and claim that he destroyed them in order not to mislead future generations. This explanation has generally been accepted in preference to the other—that the Tibetan Buḍḍhism of the fourteenth century possessed a larger number of miracles than those of Christianity. That the latter was the more correct explanation of the two may be inferred, however, from the fact that the Roman Catholic Church, while devoting great energy to propagating its doctrines in China, kept[401] itself aloof from Tibet, having come to the conclusion that that country was beyond its evangelising power.

In 1661 two brothers named Grueber and D’Orville, probably Frenchmen, entered Tibet. It is doubtful whether they proceeded as far as Lhasa, though it is stated that they went from Pekin to Lhasa and thence through Nepāl to India. When Warren Hastings was the Viceroy of India, he conceived the idea of establishing a regular trade connexion between India and Tibet, and dispatched a commissioner, named George Bogle, to the latter country in the year 1774. Bogle was accompanied by his wife. He failed to reach Lhasa, but remained at Shigatze, and his account of the journey is still extant in print. In 1781 Hastings again dispatched a commissioner, this time under Captain Turner, who stayed in Tibet for two years. Only one English explorer reached Lhasa from India. That man was Thomas Manning, and it was in 1811.

About that time trade between India and Tibet had grown active, but with the termination of Hasting’s viceroyalty and his return to England the trade began to flag for lack of encouragement, till it ceased altogether. All channels of communications have since that time become almost closed between the two countries. Meanwhile other Christian missionaries had begun pushing on their work with great activity, even up to Lhasa, which they entered freely, and also to other places, some of them not far from that city, and this movement on the part of foreign propagandists put the Grand Lama’s Government on its guard. Coming down as late as 1871, a Russian Colonel named Prejevalsky entered Tibet across its eastern border through Kham, and reached a place about five hundred miles from Lhasa. But he was compelled to return thence homeward, at the bidding of Tibet’s hierarchical Government. Apparently he at first passed through the Chinese region of Tibet, but was stopped as soon as he had set his feet in the[402] Dalai Lama’s dominions. This Russian Officer, undaunted by his first failure, next tried to enter Tibet from the north, and this time he reached a place about one hundred and seventy miles from Lhasa on the boundary line between the Chinese and the Tibetan territories, but was again obliged to withdraw.

In 1879 an Englishman named Captain Hill entered Tibet from the direction of Ta-chien-lu, but he also had to withdraw from Ba-lithang on the boundary between the Chinese and Tibetan dominions. It was at this place also that the Japanese priests, Messrs. Nōmi and Teramoto, were driven back. My host the Minister once incidentally referred to Mr. Nōmi’s attempt, and said that two priests from a country named Japan reached Ba-lithang some years ago, but they were ordered to withdraw, as it was not sufficiently clear whether they were really Buḍḍhist priests or persons of other callings.

The last exploration I would mention here is that undertaken in 1881 and 1882 by Saraṭ Chanḍra Ḍās, my own teacher, of whom mention has been made several times already. This Hinḍū had obtained in a very ingenious way a pass from the Tibetan Government, and, armed with it, he first proceeded as far as Shigatze, where he remained for two months; after awhile he returned to India. That was in 1881. The result of his exploration was reported to the British Government, and he was for a second time asked to undertake another trip into Tibet in the following year, having secured as before a Tibetan passport. On his second visit he first reached Shigatze and afterward entered Lhasa. As I heard from a Tibetan, he conducted his mission with extreme caution, seldom venturing abroad in the daytime, and when obliged to do so he took every care to avoid attracting the attention of the natives. He spent most of his time in a room of a temple, and there secretly carried[403] out his investigations. In this way he stayed in Lhasa for twenty days; then he went back to his sphere of work in other parts of Tibet and at last returned to Darjeeling after an absence of less than a year.

I have mentioned, in a preceding chapter that when the real nature of the mission of Saraṭ Chanḍra Ḍās had become known to the Tibetan Government, it caused extraordinary disturbance, involving all the officials who had been on duty at the barrier-gates through which the Hinḍū had passed, as well as all the persons who had extended any sort of hospitality to him during his stay in the country. All these persons were thrown into prison and their property was confiscated. A number of those whose complicity, unwitting though it was, was judged more serious than that of the others were condemned to death and executed. After this memorable occurrence, Tibet resolved more than ever to enforce strictly the policy of exclusion against all foreigners.

In 1886 a Secretary of the American Legation at Peking, Mr. Rockhill, tried to enter Tibet, only to repeat the failure of others, and all other Christian missionaries who made similar attempts about that time were also unsuccessful. The number of abortive Tibetan explorers must be quite large; I myself heard of some twenty-five or twenty-six. I should not wonder if the number would reach forty or even fifty, when all the would-be explorers are taken into account. I have frequently seen in our Japanese magazines and newspapers articles about Tibet, which are highly misleading and often fictitious. The fact must be that those articles are written on the incorrect information found in most works on Tibet, and that the inaccuracy is further aggravated by the inventive brains of the writers of the articles. One of the most conspicuous instances of this kind is furnished in the case of A. Csoma de Körös, a Hungarian, who first[404] compiled a Tibetan-English dictionary, having learned the language from a Lama in Ladak, a district on the south-western boundary of Tibet, next to British India, where the compiler resided for more than three years. The author wanted to study the Tibetan language on its native soil and for that reason attempted to enter Tibet. He found it impossible to carry out his plan from Ladak, as the Tibetan frontier guards there forbade the entry into their country of a stranger. Then it occurred to him that he might succeed in his project if he started from Darjeeling, and thither he went. Unfortunately, he caught jungle-fever while travelling in the neighborhood of Darjeeling and died there, never having put his foot on Tibetan soil. His tomb even now stands at a place near Darjeeling, probably at the place where he fell ill. Writers on Tibet, both Japanese and Western, mostly represent this Csoma as having spent many years in Lhasa, and that is where the fiction comes in. Another lexicographer, Jaeschke, compiled a Tibetan dictionary based on, but much better than Csoma’s. Jaeschke never entered Tibet, and yet he is generally credited with having successfully crossed the border and reached Lhasa, and lived there for a considerable period. All such errors being made by Western writers as well as by the Japanese, I do not of course mean to blame the latter alone.

Besides the attempts at Tibetan exploration already referred to, there have from time to time been a number of missionaries or spies despatched by either Russia or England, who have frequently appeared at Tibetan frontier stations only to arouse the suspicions of the Grand Lama’s Government, until the latter has become irrevocably committed to the policy of absolute seclusion. To do justice to the Tibetans, they were originally a people highly hospitable to strangers. This sentiment was superseded[405] by one of fear and even of antipathy, as the result of an insidious piece of advice which, probably prompted by some policy of its own, the Government of China gave to Tibet; it was to the effect that if the latter allowed the free entrance of foreigners into her territories, they would destroy her Buḍḍhism, and replace it with Christianity. The simple-minded Tibetan became dreadfully alarmed at this warning; but even then he did not all at once put the policy of exclusion into full force. The absolute exclusion dates from the discovery of Saraṭ Chanḍra Ḍās’ mission. Since then, the enforcement of the exclusion policy has become so strict that it now seems as though Tibet has been converted into a nation of detectives and constables.

Especially for European people, with such visible marks of racial distinction on the surface and also because they are accustomed to make their attempts on a large scale, it has become morally impossible to enter Tibet. Dr. Sven Hedin, for example, tried to enter repeatedly from the north, while I was staying at Lhasa, but each time the renowned explorer was baffled in his attempt, and he finally gave it up altogether[3]. In view of such repeated attempts on the part of foreigners, both the Lamas and ordinary people could not but suspect the motive of these adventurers, and they have therefore naturally come to the conclusion that all those foreigners must be entertaining some sinister designs on Tibet. The popular idea about the supposed designs of England is interesting, for the natives attribute it to the desire on the part of English people to take possession of gold mines which are plentifully found in their country. This is of course a very superficial view, so far as the interest England seems to feel toward Tibet is concerned; for the Tibetan policy of that country, in my own humble[406] opinion, comes from the desire to prevent Russia from bringing Tibet under her sway and from using that highland as a base of operations in carrying out her ambitious projects on India, for it is evident that, with Russia securely established up there, England would hardly be able to feel secure about the safety of India.

The Tibetan Minister of the Treasury once said to me that it would indeed be a great humiliation to Tibet if ever she were reduced to being a tributary of another country, but that there might be another calamity far more disastrous and unbearable in its effect, and that was the danger of her national religion being superseded by a strange faith. Therefore, the Minister continued, Tibet must oppose, at all costs, any plans made by foreigners against her, and consequently the latter should be prevented from hearing of the existence of factious rivalries in the Hierarchy, for should they get an inkling of this state of affairs, it would not take them long to turn this internal dissension to serve their own mischievous ends. Hence it was absolutely necessary for Tibet that she should forbid the entry of all foreigners and keep them in the dark as to the real condition of the country. It will thus be seen that the seclusion policy, which primarily originated in religious motives, has since acquired a greater force from political considerations, and it is not strange that no foreigners have been allowed to enter Tibet since the revelation of the secret mission of Saraṭ Chanḍra Ḍās. That incident, the then Minister of Finance told me in referring to it, impressed the Tibetans more strongly than ever with the necessity of locking their door against the intrusion of all foreigners.


A Metropolis of Filth.

Shortly after I had the conversation recorded in the last chapter with the Finance Minister, I went out with the ex-Minister and his attendants for a walk round the lingkor (circuit) of Lhasa, this being the outermost circuit surrounding the city, and measuring about six miles. The journey round this circuit is considered as a highly pious act by Tibetans, who believe that it amounts to visiting every temple and sacred stone house contained within the circuit. There are several modes of performing this journey—walking steadily along, making a bow at each step, or making one at every three steps. Our journey on that occasion had no such religious meaning; it was merely a walk. The walk, however, was rather trying to me, for my host was very tall and had very long legs, so that I had to hurry to keep pace even with his leisurely steps.

By the side of this circuit and to the east of Lhasa stood a queerly shaped high fence, made of countless yak’s horns. The fence measures from one hundred and twenty to two hundred and forty yards in length and as it is entirely composed of the horns, it is hardly possible to form an idea even in imagination of how many horns went to the construction of the fence. The enclosure is used as a slaughtering place for yak. It was not the first time that I had seen that fence, but on that particular day I was able to observe it with greater care than ever before. When I remarked to the ex-Minister how immense must be the number of the beasts that had been slaughtered in the enclosure, my host replied that he felt pity for the beasts. We soon arrived at an opening in the fence and, peeping[408] in, I saw some thirty yaks brought there for slaughter. The work was done in a manner quite improper for such a Buḍḍhist country as Tibet, for no pious ceremony was performed, such as the touching of the head of a beast about to be slaughtered with a Buḍḍhist Text. It was butchered quite unceremoniously, in a thoroughly business-like manner. I subsequently learned that the slaughter of animals is undertaken in Lhasa exclusively by Chinese Muhammeḍans, who are of course not expected to care much about such ceremonies. As it was, I saw a slaughterman chop off the head of a yak in a very impious manner, and in the presence of the other poor beasts, which were staring with tearful eyes at the butchery of their comrades. I really felt pity for the beasts.

The ex-Minister was apparently impressed with a similar sentiment, for he told me that he felt as though he could hardly swallow a morsel of meat after he had witnessed such a horrible scene; yet such is human depravity, he continued, that people soon forget this tender feeling of compassion when they return home, and are displeased if no meat is served to them at table. He could not but conclude therefore that the Tibetans must be the descendants of Rākshasas or devils, and that the blood of those impious savages must be still running in their veins.

The circuit is kept in excellent repair (comparatively speaking, that is to say) for the Hierarchy maintains a regular staff of road-commissioners who are charged with the duty of keeping the circuit in good condition for the benefit of the pilgrims, who not unfrequently have to kneel on the ground for their devotions.

The contrast which the condition of the circuit makes with that of ordinary thoroughfares is beyond description. It is not merely that the other roads are full of holes, but also that they have in their midst open cesspools, specially constructed and openly frequented by both men and[409] women. The filth, the stench, the utter abomination of the streets are extremely loathsome, especially after rains in summer, for though there are plenty of dogs feeding about in the streets they are not enough for the supply. Then remember that the Lhasa people drink water from the shallow wells standing amidst such abominable surroundings. The meaning of the word Lhasa itself is indeed absolutely inappropriate; it signifies the ‘ground of deities,’ and therefore supposedly a place of purity. As Panden Aṭīsha remarked, a place in Tibet is really a city of devils, who subsist on vile substances. I have often heard of the filthy condition of the streets in Chinese cities, but I hardly believe they can be as filthy as the streets in Lhasa, where the people live in utter defiance of all rules of hygiene and even decency. The wonder is how they can escape being exterminated by pestilence, which would be sure to visit most other places that neglected, even in a far lesser degree, the laws of sanitation; and yet, from what I observed during my residence in Lhasa, the people did not seem to suffer to any perceptible extent from such unhygienic surroundings. My own theory is that this immunity from epidemic must be due to the extremely healthy climate of Lhasa. The winter there is sufficiently cold, but is less uncomfortable than in our Hokkaido, for though at night the mercury falls below freezing point, it rises to forty or fifty degrees Fahrenheit in the daytime. In summer, too, the thermometer rarely rises much above eighty. Indeed of all the places I have travelled in or heard of, Lhasa seems to come first in point of a healthy climate. It is owing to this precious gift of nature that the people of Lhasa can live with impunity amidst filth and general contaminations.

All these thoughts occurred to me while I walked round the circuit with the ex-Minister, and also whenever I took a walk in the city.



I must here give a brief description of the Tibetan religion, for without it any intelligent explanation of the political system is impossible, while some notice, however cursory, of the administrative organisation must precede an account of Tibetan diplomacy, upon which I also wish to touch briefly.

In describing the Tibetan national religion, I must confine myself only to a popular exposition of the subject, and must leave out of consideration as much as possible other matters that are ulterior and technical.

With that premise I must first of all state that Lamaism is divided into two main branches, one older and the other more modern, the former being popularly known as the ‘Red Cap Sect’ and the latter as the ‘Yellow Cap.’ The older Sect is subdivided into a large number of sub-sects, such as Sakya, Karmapa, Dukpa, Zokchenpa, and others, but they all agree upon cardinal points and in the formula for attaining perfection.

The founder of the Old Sect was a Ṭānṭric priest named Lobon Padma Chungne in Tibetan. That name was derived from a popular tradition that he was born into this world out of a lotus flower in the Pond of Ḍanakosha, in a Royal garden of the Kingdom of Urken, now in Cabul. His career is full of myths far more fantastic than any of those in the Japanese mythology, and there is very little that is tangible and rational about it. One thing seems to be certain—that, although a priest, he strictly enjoined on his disciples the practices of flesh-eating, marriage and drinking. He ingeniously grafted carnal practices on to Buḍḍhist doctrines, and declared that the only secret of[411] perfection for priests consisted in leading a jovial life, and that by this means alone a man born into this world of ‘five impurities’ can hope to attain quickly to Buḍḍhahood and salvation.


The doctrine that it is necessary to satisfy carnal desires is based on the theory that great desires partake of the nature of Mahāboḍhi; that as the greatest of human desires is sensuality, therefore man can attain Mahāboḍhi by indulging this passion, for by it he can best realise the first essential of the reality of Āṭman, that is oblivion[412] of self. The eating of animal flesh, another craving of men, conforms to the principle of mercy, because the soul of the animal can be brought under the beneficial influence of the Boḍhi in the eater, and is thus enabled indirectly to attain this supreme state. Liquors give pleasure to men, so that to enjoy ourselves by drinking them and to live a pleasant life is an ideal state obtained by an intelligent act. In short, according to the doctrines of the Old Sect, men can attain Buḍḍhahood by holy contemplation accompanied by drinking liquors, eating flesh, and indulgence in carnal desires. Such are, in the main, the fundamental tenets of this particular Sect, the details of which I could not give here even if I had ample space at my disposal, for they are too full of obscenity. I may say, however, that this Sect tries to justify the indulgence of human desires under the sanction of Buḍḍhism.

In Japan also there once existed the Tatekawa school of the Shingon Sect, which did much to corrupt social order and morals by preaching similar pernicious theories, though it is not possible to speak authoritatively on this subject, as very few fragments of the texts and canonical writings of that suppressed school are now extant. However, the scope and plan of that quasi-religion must have been extremely limited.

The Old Sect of Tibet is, on the other hand, on a large scale and its doctrine has obtained a wide credence throughout the country.

The texts of this sect are still extant in Tibet and the Samskṛṭ texts prepared in India with Tibetan translations are fairly numerous. The Old Sect has undergone considerable modifications since its introduction into Tibet, for the Lama priests have freely modified the original according to their own views and opinions. In fact the Tibetan texts of this particular Sect are far from preserving the original forms of teaching and expression.


I have brought home, among other Lamaistic writings, quite a large number of volumes treating on the esoteric side of the doctrines of the Old Sect, which are credited as being most authentic, but I have to keep them in a closed box, for they are too full of obscene passages to allow of their being read by the many.

These degenerate doctrines were widely spread throughout Tibet until, about five hundred years ago, they proved to be too pernicious even for such a corrupt country as Tibet. A reaction arose against the Old Sect, which took the shape of the so-called New Sect.

This was founded by Paldan Aṭīsha, a priest from India, in the eleventh century A. D., and was after three centuries further perfected by Je Tsong-kha-pa, who was born in a house “amidst onion plots” in Amdo, a Chinese part of Tibet, situated to the north of Tibet proper. This priest, perceiving the fearful state of corruption into which the Tibetan religion had fallen, assigned to himself the Herculean task of purging that Augean stable.

He took his ground on the fundamental proposition that priesthood must stand on asceticism, that priesthood devoid of asceticism was also void, and that of all the conditions of asceticism abstinence from carnal desires was the most important, for a priest indulging in these had nothing to distinguish him from a layman. Je Tsong-kha-pa set an example of following his own precepts, but first he declared for the necessity of enforcing rules of moral discipline for priests. But there were not a sufficient number of priests qualified to receive ordination. At last a number of his first convents and of the supporters of his precepts were collected to form the nucleus of the new movement, and they raised the standard of a spiritual campaign at Ganden, a place about forty miles from Lhasa.


But the New Sect, in superseding the degenerated national religion, had to conform itself to the national[415] partiality for esoterism, which is more or less present in every form of religion or cult prevailing in Tibet, and it therefore included in its system certain esoteric forms as distinct from the esoterism of the Old Sect. The New Sect did not denounce the images worshipped by the followers of the Old Sect, although they all consisted of dual figures of men and women, often represented in offensive postures; it had, however, to give to them a new interpretation of an abstract nature. Thus men were explained as representing ‘proper means’ and women as representing ‘transcendental knowledge,’ and it was said that the proper combination of the two elements gave birth to Buḍḍhas. Therefore the birth of Buḍḍhas, according to this interpretation, did not come from carnal indulgence. Animal flesh, again, was interpreted as representing mercy, and therefore not intended for eating, while liquors were considered as embodying human intelligence, and as giving an object-lesson to teach men how to exercise their inborn intelligence.

In that symbolic way the New Sect explained the precepts inculcated by its older rival. The images that had been used by the latter were also adopted, only with a new interpretation, so that externally the two sects do not differ much from each other. Strange as it may appear, it is highly probable that worldly circumstances obliged the New Sect to assume this anomalous position. I have to stop here in my description of the doctrinal side of the Tibetan religion, for to go further would lead me into technical and abstruse points.

I shall describe next that peculiar practice or belief of the Tibetan religion which is called incarnation.

The idea embodied in the doctrine of incarnation is that the Buḍḍhas, or saints whose bodies are invisible to man, are reincarnated in the shape of priests of pious virtue for the salvation of the people. The scope of this incarnation is[416] rather comprehensive in Tibet, for almost every lama with any pretensions above the common level believes that he is destined to be reborn into the world to work for salvation. This idea seems to have undergone considerable modifications since it was first conceived, so that such incarnations as are accepted to-day appear quite different from those of older days, as I shall describe further on.


The Tibetan Hierarchy.

More than four centuries ago there lived a priest named Gendun Tub who was a disciple of the founder of the New Sect. It was this priest who first originated the practice of invocation of oracles which was subsequently elaborated into a peculiar habit of selecting incarnations. It happened in this way. When Gendun Tub was about to expire, he left word that he would be reborn at such and such a place. Enquiry was made, and the birth of a boy was ascertained to have taken place at the specified place. This would not be particularly marvellous were it not for the fact, as recorded in tradition, that, as soon as he could articulate, the boy declared his wish to return to his temple, the name of which he declared to be Tashi Lhunpo, the very temple where the venerable Gendun Tub had died. There was no longer any doubt in the minds of his faithful disciples and followers that their master had been reborn in that boy. The boy was conveyed to the temple, was there brought up, and was finally installed as the second Grand Lama, called Gendun Gyamtso.

Nothing particular occurred in this matter of incarnations during the periods of his third and fourth successors, but they grew quite popular afterwards, especially in the days of the fifth and the sixth Grand Lamas, till at last the whole system of the consultation of divine oracles assumed the shape in which it is found to-day. The fifth Grand Lama was a great promoter of the oracle system. His name was Ngakwang Gyamtso, and though the head of the New Sect, he investigated the texts and all matters of the Old Sect and introduced into his own sect many things pertain[418]ing to the Old. Oracle-invocation was extensively practised in his time, and the privilege of undertaking this solemn work was entrusted to four temples, or rather the deities presiding over them, namely Nechung, Samye, Lamo and Gatong. From the fifth Grand Lama also dates another innovation of far greater importance, that is to say, the establishment of Hierarchical Government.

Before his time, the Grand Lamas held only spiritual power, and had nothing to do with temporal or administrative affairs, for the Grand Lamas had no territories to administer except a small glebe.

About that time a powerful Mongolian chieftain named Shrī Gaumi Tenjin Choe Gyal invaded Tibet and subdued all the petty tribes that had hitherto existed there. These numbered thirteen, each counting according to tradition ten thousand families. Tibet may thus be considered to have contained one hundred and thirty thousand families, and, strange to say, this is also believed to be the present number of the population, according to popular accounts.

The Mongolian conqueror disposed of the districts he had subdued in a very interesting manner, for instead of bringing them under his direct control he presented the whole region to the Grand Lama of the day. Thus originated the system of the Hierarchy, which therefore dates only about three centuries back. But to return to the subject of oracle-consultation.

By this time the process of consultation had to undergo considerable modifications, owing to the fact that the high Lamas who were to be reborn not unfrequently omitted the trouble of enlightening others about the places of their re-appearance on the earth. These places had to be discovered therefore, for the Tibetans firmly held, as they do even to-day, that high Lamas who die are sure to re-incarnate somewhere after the lapse of forty-nine days from the day of death. Hence arose the[419] necessity to determine the place of such re-incarnation, and this task devolved on the oracle-invokers of one of the four particular temples mentioned before.

The process as it is in vogue at present is essentially identical with that prevailing in former times, and is exceedingly strange, to say the least of it. The mediums or invokers who perform this holy business behave themselves in such an extravagant way that the uninitiated would consider them to be stark mad.

The consultation of the oracle is performed by a number of priests, one of whom is a medium, the rest being assistants. These beat drums and strike cymbals, whilst others chant the Texts. The medium is attired in a gorgeous fashion. He wears a big head-cloth with silk pendants of five hues hanging from behind. Sometimes strips of glittering brocade are used instead. The garment is not unlike that worn by Japanese priests, and is of yellow or red satin, decorated with figures of flowers. From the knot of the sash hang long strips of cloth. Thus attired, the medium waits for response from the deities, remaining with closed eyes in a half sitting posture, while all the time the discordant sounds made by the orchestra are kept up. After a while he begins to tremble and shake, this movement gathering force, till all of sudden he either falls on his back or jumps up, according to the nature of the deity who responds to the invocation, and has now descended into the body of the medium. He will then say, still continuing to shudder, that the particular Lama has re-appeared at such and such a place, and in such and such a house which faces in a certain direction; that the family consists of a certain number of members; that a baby born on a certain day is a re-incarnation of the dead Lama, and so on. An enquiry is then made according to the direction and of course the pronouncement of the oracle is confirmed, and a baby corresponding to the description given is found in[420] the house. The boy is left under the care of his mother till he can be weaned, and then he is brought to the specified temple where he is educated. In education special care is taken to inspire in him the strong self-confidence that he is a holy re-incarnation.

At any rate the practice of invoking divine oracles extensively came into vogue from the time of the fifth Grand Lama, and is used for all matters great or small, from vexed international problems to trifling questions that easily admit of solution.

The oracle-giving deities, as I mentioned before, are four, and they are regarded as the guardian angels of the Lama Hierarchy. Of the four Nechung is the most powerful.

Suppose a Grand Lama dies, and a necessity arises to determine the place of his re-incarnation. The four temples dedicated to the four deities are ordered by the authorities to undertake the mysterious business of identification, this order being generally issued about a year after the death of the august Lama. All the priests of the four temples are summoned on that occasion, and they separately consult their own respective oracles. Their deities are, however, not infallible, and often prove just as divided in their judgment as ordinary mortals are, for very rarely do the four oracles coincide, and usually those oracles produce three different candidates. The choice has therefore to be made from among the three.

The three or four boy-candidates (as the case may be) are brought to Lhasa, when they have reached the age of five years. The ceremony of selection is next performed. This is of course conducted with great pomp and solemnity. The dignitaries who are privileged to take part in it are the Chinese Commissioner residing in Lhasa and the Regent Lama; also the Prime Ministers and all the Ministers, Vice-Ministers and a number of high Lamas are allowed to be present. First the names of the boy-candi[421]dates (three or four in number, as the case may be) are written on so many pieces of paper, and put in a golden urn which is then sealed. For the period of a week a kind of high mass is performed in the ceremony-hall, in order to entreat the divine intercession for the selection of the real re-incarnation. When this period expires all the dignitaries before-mentioned are once more assembled around the sealed urn. This is carefully inspected and the seal is then taken off. The Chinese Commissioner then takes a pair of tiny ivory sticks something like ordinary chop-sticks in shape and size and, with his eyes shut, puts them into the urn and solemnly picks out one of the papers. The name written on that paper is read, and the bearer of that name is acknowledged as Grand Lama-elect.

From what I have described, there is apparently little room, if any, for trickery, but I have heard from the Secretary of the Chinese Commissioner that dishonest practices are in reality not infrequent. Indeed the temptations are too strong for greedy and dishonest minds to resist, owing to the keen rivalry among the parents of the boy-candidates to have their own boys selected. Strong interest urges them on in this rivalry, for the parents of the Lama-elect are not only entitled to receive the title of Duke from the Chinese Government, but also enjoy many other advantages, above all the acquisition of a large fortune. Under these circumstances the parents and relatives of eligible boys are said to offer large bribes to the Chinese Amban, and to others who are connected with the ceremony of selection. I do not affirm the fact of bribes, but at least I have heard that cases of such under-hand influence have occurred not unfrequently.

The selection of the Grand Lama is thus made by an elaborate process, in which the influence of the oracle-invokers plays an important part. The priests who have charge of this business are in most cases men who make[422] it their business to blackmail every applicant. Most of the oracle-priests are therefore extremely wealthy.

The Nechung who are under the direct patronage of the Hierarchy, are generally millionaires, as millionaires go in Tibet. This, taken in conjunction with another fact, that the re-incarnations of higher Lamas are generally sons of wealthy aristocrats, or merchants, and that it is only very rarely that they are discovered among the lowly, must be considered as suggesting the working of some such practices. I have even heard that some unscrupulous people corrupt the oracle-priests for the benefit of their unborn children, so as to have their boys accepted as Lamas incarnate when born. From a worldly point of view the expense incurred on this account not unfrequently proves a good ‘investment,’ if I may use the profane expression, for the boys who are the objects of the oracles have a good chance of being installed in the temples where their spiritual antecedents presided, which are sure to possess large property. This property goes, it need hardly be added, to the boys, after they have been duly installed. Whatever may have been the practical effect of incarnation in former times, it is, as matters stand at present, an incarnation of all vices and corruptions, instead of the souls of departed Lamas.

I once remarked to certain Tibetans that the present mode of incarnation was a glaring humbug, and that it was nothing less than an embodiment of bribery.

To do justice to the incarnations themselves, they grow up, in eight cases out of ten, to be Lamas of more than average ability, perhaps because they are brought up with special care. Their teachers and guardians treat their wards with kindness and never use rough language to them even when they behave as they ought not to behave. In such case the teachers and guardians appeal to their sense of honor and great responsibility.


This reminds me of the necessity of treating children with consideration, and that to abuse them as blockheads or fools, when they err in their conduct or over their lessons, deprives them of the sense of self-confidence, and hence prevents its natural development. They must be educated in such a way as to allow full play to their sense of self-respect.

The Tibetans have not adopted this particular mode of education for their boy-incarnations from any deep conviction as to educational policy; they are doing so out of their respect towards their boy-masters.

I should add, also, that the general mass of the people are left in complete ignorance of all the tricks and intrigues that are concocted and extensively carried on in the higher circles. With guileless innocence the ordinary people swallow all the fabulous tales that are circulated about the alleged evidences fabricated for establishing the re-incarnation of Lamas. Those only who are acquainted with what is going on behind the scenes at Lhasa and Shigatze treat those ‘evidences’ with scorn, and denounce the re-incarnation affair as downright imposture and a mischievous farce. To them the re-incarnation is an embodiment of bribery, nothing more nor less. At best it is a fraud committed by oracle-priests at the instance of aristocrats who are very often their patrons and protectors.

Oracles are not confined in their operation to matters of incarnation; they are consulted for many other purposes. A Cabinet Minister who has committed some error will hasten to those priests, especially to the Nechung, to prevent his being punished, or to have the punishment modified. In such a case a Minister has to pay to the priests a sum varying from the minimum of one thousand yen to ten or twenty times that amount, according to the gravity of the offence. When in time that offence comes to the[424] ears of the Government, and the question of punishing the offender is brought on the tapis, the latter can sit silent without much perturbation, secure in the thought that he has forestalled the Government and has secretly ‘purchased’ a favorable understanding with the consulters of the oracles. For to these consulters the matter is sure to be brought, sooner or later, for their decision, or more properly for the decision of their deity. The priests will then consult the oracles, but with a foregone conclusion as to the nature of the response, being bound by the accused party with fetters of gold. The oracles will say: “Don’t punish the man, for to do so will be to invite calamity on the country. Only reprimand is enough, for the man is at heart well-meaning. His fault came from inadvertence.” And so the Minister is absolved from the charge, or is sentenced merely to a nominal punishment.

On the other hand, a Minister or any other high personage who is a persona ingrata to the Nechung priests is in danger of bringing down on his head an oracle of terrible nature at any moment, and in the presence of the Grand Lama himself. The unscrupulous priests will even turn the virtues of their unfortunate victim into a means of denouncing him. The power which those oracle-priests wield in the official circles of the Grand Lama’s Government is therefore a formidable one, and the officials hold them in even greater awe than they do their supreme chief. The Nechung priests may be even regarded as wielding the real power in the Hierarchical administration. It is true that the present Grand Lama, being a man of great force of mind, does not blindly adopt in all cases the insidious advice of the priests; still in the great majority of cases he has to follow it, for to reject the Nechung’s words is contrary to the traditions of the country.

The Nechung, who exercise such power even in small affairs, very often prove to be broken reeds when they are[425] confronted with grave national questions. Suppose, for instance, they are asked to consult the oracles about a diplomatic trouble, in the presence of the Dalai Lama and other great dignitaries. The priests proceed to do so with pomp and solemnity, attired in gorgeous dress befitting the occasion. In time the deity responds to the invocation, and is consulted about the policy which the Government has to adopt, say, about the trouble which is supposed to have appeared between it and England. The medium will remain silent, and simply continue to tremble for some time. He will next make one high jump, and then drop down apparently unconscious. The attendants of the medium are then thrown into consternation, all whispering to each other with significant nods and head-shakes that the deity must have been offended at the impious question put to him, and must have therefore gone off in holy wrath. And so for a grave question, for which the aid of the oracle is most needed, the Hierarchical Government is left in the lurch and is compelled to give decision according to its own mother-wit. Such is the farce of the oracle-system.


Men of learning and priests of sincere piety and honest conviction are therefore bitterly (though not openly) opposed to the doings of those oracle-priests, whom they denounce as Ministers of devils, and as the worst enemies of religion. Fortunately, however, the two Lamaist chiefs are not installed only by the agency of the Nechungs, as above mentioned.

I may, for instance, refer in passing to the supposed parentage of the present Tashi Lama, the second Grand Lama, of Tashi Lhunpo. He is said to have been born of a dumb woman by some unknown father. Some say that his father was a hermit, while others are of opinion that he was a priest, but the most probable account is the one which I heard from a certain authority, who informed me[427] that a learned doctor, one Meto-ke-sang (chrysanthemum-flower) of the monastery of Sera, was the real father of the present head of the Tashi Lhunpo. This doctor became a monomaniac after having studied the literature of the Old Sect, roamed about the country, and at last cohabited with a dumb woman. The result was the birth of the boy on whom fell the great honor. The Lama is therefore, said to bear a great personal resemblance to that mad doctor. Though this opinion was held by a reliable authority of the Sera monastery with whom I was acquainted, of course I cannot vouch for the authenticity of his explanation.


The Government.

I shall next describe the system of the Hierarchical Government, and other matters relative to it based on the information I incidentally obtained on those subjects during my stay in Lhasa. The information is far from being complete, for besides the fact that the subjects were entirely foreign to the primary objects of my Tibetan expedition, and therefore I was not impelled to make any systematic inquiries, I could not without inviting strong suspicion put any questions to my friends in Lhasa about matters of Tibetan politics. Whatever knowledge I could gather on the subject was derived incidentally in the course of conversations with my distinguished host and some others, and as the result of enquiries made in a highly guarded and roundabout way. Hence there still remain many points in the Government system of which I myself am ignorant.

With this reserve, I may state first of all that the Hierarchy is composed of both clerical and lay departments, each consisting of an equal number of men. The priests of higher rank who attend to the affairs of State bear the title of “Tse Dung” and they number one hundred and sixty-five, and there are lay officials of corresponding rank and number known under the title of “Dung Khor”. The priestly functionaries of higher rank are subject to the control of four Grand Secretaries, bearing the title of “Tung yk chen mo” but the real power is vested in the senior priest. Similarly four “Shabpe” (Premiers) are appointed over the head of the higher lay officials. Of these four “Shabpe” the one enjoying precedence in[429] appointment holds the real power, the other three being his councillors and advisers.

The Cabinet is composed of four Prime-Ministers, three Ministers of Finance, two Ministers of War, a Minister of the Household, a Minister of Religion, a Minister of Justice, and four Grand Secretaries belonging to the Order.

All these higher posts, both of priests and laymen, are in most cases filled only by men belonging to the privileged classes; very rarely do they fall to the Ngak-pa, Bon-bo and Shal-ngo castes.

The Tibetan administration is of an anomalous description—a hybrid partaking of feudalism on the one hand and of the modern system of Local Government on the other.

The relation between Peers and commoners apparently resembles feudalism. The first recipient of the title was granted a certain tract of land in recognition of his service, and there at once sprung up between this lord of the manor, as it were, and the inhabitants of that particular place a relationship akin to that between sovereign and subject. This lord is an absolute master of his people, both in regard to their rights and even their lives.

The lord levies a poll-tax on the inhabitants, and even the poorest are not exempted from this obligation. The levy varies considerably according to the means of the payer, from say one tanka paid by a poor inhabitant to even a hundred paid by a wealthier member of the community. Besides, every freeholder must pay land tax, the land held by him being understood theoretically to belong to the lord. However heavy the burden of the poll-tax may be, each person is obliged to pay it, for if he neglects to do so he is liable to be punished with flogging and the confiscation of his property to boot. The only means of escape from this obligation consists in becoming a monk, and there must be in the Tibetan priesthood a large number of men who have turned priests solely with[430] this object of avoiding the payment of taxes. The witty remark once made to me by my teacher, Ti Rinpoche, on this subject may illustrate the state of affairs in the Tibetan priesthood. He said: “I do not know whether to rejoice at or to regret the presence of so many priests in Tibet. Some seem to take this as a sign of the flourishing condition of the national religion and on that ground seem to be satisfied with it. I cannot quite agree with this argument; on the contrary I rather hold that it is better to have even two or three precious diamonds than a heap of stones and broken tiles.” The motives that lead people to become priests lying in that region, it is not strange that the Tibetan priesthood should contain plenty of rubbish with very few diamonds among them.

However, when it is remembered how heavy are the burdens imposed on the shoulders of the people, it is not strange that they should try to evade them by entering the Order. The condition of even the poorest priest presents a great contrast to that of other poor people, for the priest is at least sure to obtain every month a regular allowance, small as it is, from the Hierarchical Government, while he can expect more or less of extra allowances in the shape of occasional presents from charitable people. But a poor layman cannot expect any help from those quarters, and he has to support his family with his own labor and to pay the poll-tax besides. Very often therefore he is hardly able to drive the wolf of hunger from his door, and in such case his only hope of succor lies in a loan from his landlord, or the lord of the manor wherein he resides. But hope of repayment there is none, and so the poor farmer gets that loan under a strange contract, that is to say, by binding himself to offer his son or daughter as a servant to the creditor when he or she attains a certain age. And so his child when he has reached the age of (say) ten years is surrendered to the[431] creditor, who is entitled to employ him as a servant for fifteen or twenty years, and for a loan which does not generally exceed ten yen. The lives of the children of poor people may therefore be considered as being foreclosed by their parents. Those pitiable children grow up to be practically slaves of the Peers.

The relationship existing between the Peers and the people residing on their estates, therefore, partakes of the nature of feudalism in some essential respects, but it cannot be said that feudalism reigns alone in Tibet to the exclusion of other systems of Government. On the contrary a centralised form of Government prevails more or less at the same time. The Peers, it must be remembered, do not generally reside on their own estates; they reside in Lhasa and leave their estates in charge of their stewards. And they are not unfrequently appointed by the Central Government as Governors of certain districts.

Consequently the Tibetans may be said to be divided into two classes of people, one being subject to the control of the lords of the manors and other to that of the Central Government. Not unfrequently the two overlap, and the same people are obliged to pay poll-tax to their lords and other taxes to the Central Government.

The work of revenue collection is entrusted to two or three Commissioners appointed from among the clerical or lay officials of higher rank, and these, invested with judicial and executive powers, are despatched every year to the provinces to collect revenue, consisting of taxes, imposts and import duties, these being paid either in money or kind.

The demands on revenue are many and various, and among the items of ordinary expenditure may be mentioned first of all the sums required for supporting, either wholly or partially, a large number of priests residing both in Lhasa and in the provinces, the former alone numbering[432] about twenty-five thousand. The outlay on account of building temples and religious ceremonies is not small, but that on account of salaries paid to the officials of the Central Government appears to be less. A Premier draws the yearly salary of about six hundred koku or four thousand bushels of wheat, the stipend being generally paid in this grain. The first Lord of the Treasury draws three hundred and sixty koku. What is very interesting about these salaries is that the State functionaries very often relinquish the right of receiving their salaries, and leave them unclaimed. My host, who continued to hold for ten years the post of the Minister of Finance, had persistently refrained during that long period from claiming what was his due. When I marvelled at this strange act of disinterestedness on his part, he replied that his own estate supplied what he wanted and so he did not wish to give trouble to the Grand Lama’s Exchequer. And he further informed me that most of his colleagues who were men of means generally omitted to claim their salaries wholly or in part, though there were some who punctually received the money to which they were entitled by right. Not that even those who showed themselves so disinterested in the matter of official stipends are above corruption, for I heard that some of the Ministers who declined their salaries did not scruple to receive or even to exact bribes. In justice to them I may add that bribery is a universal vice in Tibet, and is not regarded in so serious a light there as in more enlightened countries. My host was a gentleman of strict integrity and morals, but he used to accept presents offered out of respect to him.

The clerical and lay high functionaries, each numbering one hundred and sixty-five, attend to the various affairs of State. They are sometimes appointed as Governors of provinces, while at other times they are sent on judicial business. In such cases appointments are never given to[433] clerical or lay officials only, but both are invariably appointed as associates, and in equal number, one each or two, or sometimes four. The Judicial Commissioners were formerly often guilty of injustice and open to the charge of judging cases, not according to their real deserts, but according to the amount of bribes offered. They are no longer so now, thanks to the vigilance and energy of the present Dalai Lama who, whenever such a case of wrong-doing comes to his ears, does not hesitate to confiscate the property of the offending parties and to deprive them of their rank. Sometimes when a case of grave moment occurs it is submitted to the personal judgment of the Grand Lama himself.

The Grand Lama is therefore placed in a highly anomalous position, for while he is the dispenser of benevolence and the supreme head of a religion preaching mercy and forbearance, he is obliged to pass judgment and to sentence persons to exile or even to capital punishment. As head of a religion he is positively forbidden by its teachings to pass a decree of that nature, whether that decree is justifiable in the worldly sense or not. But the Grand Lama does issue decrees of this irreligious description. He is not, however, a political chief, inasmuch as he faithfully adheres to the rules of mortification enforced by his religion; he has no wife, for instance, nor does he drink intoxicating liquor. His position is really highly anomalous.

And yet all the priests in Tibet take from the Grand Lama the holy vow of discipline; I myself was advised by my Tibetan friends to pass that ceremony, but my religious scruples stood in the way, so I did not follow the advice. However I was initiated by the Grand Lama in the ‘Hidden Teaching,’ for this ceremony had nothing to do with my religious convictions.

The Grand Lama himself being placed in this false position, all the priests under him are naturally open[434] to a similar charge. They are partly priests and partly men of the world, and sometimes it is hardly possible to distinguish them from ordinary laymen. For instance, the Tibetan priests, as I have mentioned elsewhere, undertake farming or business, while the young rowdies among them attend to the work of ordinary soldiers. The only things that distinctly distinguish the priests from laymen are that the former shave their hair and wear priestly robes, and the latter do not; that is all. I am compelled to say that Lamaism has fallen, and that it has assumed a form quite contrary to that to which its great reformer Je Tsong-kha-pa elevated it, and I am sincerely sorry for this degeneration. I shall next describe the education and the caste system in Tibet.


Education and Castes.

Education is not widely diffused in Tibet. In the neighborhood of Shigatze children are taught comparatively well the three subjects of writing, arithmetic and reading, but in other places no provision exists for teaching children, except at monasteries, so that the boys and girls of ordinary people are generally left uneducated, especially the latter.

As might naturally be expected, educational establishments are few and far between. The only institutions worthy of the name are found on the premises of the Palace at Lhasa, and of the Tashi Lhunpo monasteries in Shigatze; all the rest are only ‘family schools’.

From the important position which priests command in Tibet, the system of training them is pretty well developed, and it is only at religious schools that one can obtain even a comparatively advanced education. Sons of ordinary people can enjoy the benefit of that education only by joining the order, for otherwise they are refused admission to Government schools.

The doors of those schools are, of course, shut against boys of humble origin. In Tibet there exists one class which is the lowest in the scale of social gradation. This lowest grade is subdivided into fishermen, ferry-men, smiths, and butchers. Smiths are relegated to this grade in Tibet just as in India, and for the same reason—that they pursue an objectionable occupation in making edged tools used for slaughtering living things, the most sinful occupation of all. People of this lowest grade are even prohibited from becoming priests, and if ever they enter the privileged order it is by some surreptitious means and by concealing[436] their real rank. In this way some men of the lowest origin have become priests at places remote from their native villages. Compared with these despised classes, the ordinary people may be said to enjoy a great advantage.

The classes who are entitled to enter the Government institutions are only four:

1. Ger-pa, Peers; 2. Ngak-pa, the manṭra clan, 3. Bon-bo, the Old Sect clan; 4. Shal-ngo, families of former chieftains.

The Peers consist of the descendants of former ministers and generals, and contain the supreme class called Yabshi which is composed of families of the thirteen Grand Lamas, past and present, and also of the descendants of the first King of Tibet, called Tichen Lha-kyari. They all hold the rank of Duke. The descendants in the direct line of that King still exist to this day, and their head is entitled to occupy the same rank as the Grand Lama, only he does not possess any power in public affairs. The highest posts in the Tibetan Hierarchy are within the easy reach of the Yabshi men, who can become Prime Ministers or other great dignitaries of state provided they are judged to possess qualifications for undertaking those high functions. Even when they do not occupy such elevated positions, they at least hold posts that are of next in importance. All the remarks about the Yabshi apply to the families of the Dalai Lamas, installed at Lhasa, for though the other Patriarchs at Tashi Lhunpo also possess Yabshi of their own, they do not enjoy the same privileges as the others. The descendants of the Dalai Lama’s relatives, and those of the former King, may therefore be considered as forming in practice the royal families of Tibet. These should, for convenience, be set apart as a distinct class, though there are other families that do not differ much from them in origin and privilege. Of these, one called De-pon Cheka (families of generals) represents the descendants of the generals and[437] captains who rendered distinguished services when Tibet engaged in war. The merits of those warriors, long since dead, obtain for their descendants great respect from the public and they enjoy great privileges.

The next grade of the Peerage, but considerably below these, consists of the descendants of families of great historic renown, or of ministers of distinguished service. Though occupying the lowest grade in the herald-book of the Peerage, even the portfolio of the Premier is accessible to these Peers, provided that they are men of ability.

In general, honor and ability seldom go together in Tibet, for official posts are freely sold and purchased, though buyers are limited. High officials of real ability are even regarded as a nuisance by their colleagues, and are liable to be dismissed through their intrigues. Such being the case, by far the greater majority of high official posts are held by men who have obtained them in exchange for money.

The class that ranks next to Peers is that of the Ngak-pas or miracle workers, who are the descendants of Lamas who worked miracles, not the least of them being their marriage in violation of the rules of Lama priesthood. Those Lamas transmitted their ‘hidden arts’ exclusively to this social grade, which thus possesses hereditary secrets. The Ngak-pas play an important part in the social organism of Tibet. For instance they are entitled, as already mentioned, to levy the ‘hail-tax’ in summer, and therefore to assume the function of administrators. They are also held in great awe by provincials and townsmen, as being magicians of power. The simple-minded folk believe that if once they incur the displeasure of a Ngak-pa they may be cursed by him, and therefore may bring upon themselves some calamity. As I mentioned before, the Ngak-pa people occupy the advantageous position of being able to procure money in the[438] shape of proceeds of the ‘hail-tax,’ and of presents coming from all classes of people. Strange as it may appear, the Ngak-pa men, while commanding such advantages, are notoriously poor; they even stand as synonyms for poverty. Their sole consolation is that they are conscious of the great power they hold over all classes of people; and even Peers are often seen to dismount from horseback and give a courteous salute when they happen to meet a beggarly Ngak-pa in the street.

The third caste is the Bon-bo the name of an old religion which prevailed in Tibet long before the introduction of Buḍḍhism. The priests of this practically extinct religion were allowed to marry, and have left behind them the class of people who represent this old social institution in Tibet. The Bon-bo people have to play a certain distinct rôle in public affairs. This is more of a ceremonial than of a religious nature. It consists in worshipping local deities, and undertaking ceremonies intended to secure their favor. When people marry, they ask a Bon-bo man to pray for them to their local deity. Sometimes he undertakes other kinds of prayer or even performs symbolic rites with a benevolent or malevolent aim, according to circumstances. Families of this particular class are found almost everywhere throughout the country, though in limited numbers. In some remote villages, as Tsar-ka in the Himālayas, all the villagers are said to belong to this class, but in most cases only one or two families are found in one village or in one district. In such cases the Bon-bo are objects of great respect, and they sometimes act as local magistrates or administrators. Even when they pursue any other kind of business, they still command great respect from their neighbors as descendants of ancient families.

Though the Bon-bo are descendants of an old religious order, their present representatives are no longer priests,[439] for they do not preach their tenets to others, nor try to persuade them to become converts. They are simply content to hand down their ancestral teachings and traditions to their children and so maintain their distinct position in society. Not unfrequently the young Bon-bo enter the priesthood, and these take precedence over all the other Bon-bo. Strictly speaking the respect which the people belonging to this particular class enjoy over others at present is due to their honorable lineage.

The fourth class is “Shal-ngo” and is composed of the descendants of ancient families who acquired power in the locality on account of their wealth in either money or land. The Tibetans are in general a highly conservative race, and therefore they succeed in most cases in keeping intact their hereditary property. Their polyandrous custom too must be conducive to that result, preventing as it does the splitting up of family property among brothers. By far the great majority of the Shal-ngo people possess therefore more or less property; and even a poor Shal-ngo commands the same respect from the public as his richer confrère.

Common people are divided into two grades, one called tong-ba and the other tong-du. The former is superior, and includes all those common people who possess some means and have not fallen into an ignoble state of slavery. Tong-du means etymologically “petty people,” and their rank being one grade lower than that of others, the people of this class are engaged in menial service. Still they are not strictly speaking slaves; they should more properly be considered as poor tenant-farmers, for formerly these people used to stand in the relation of tenant-farmers to land-owners, though such relation no longer exists.

Some tong-ba are reduced to more straitened circumstances than the tong-du, but, generally considered, the tong-ba are distinguished from the others by the possession of property,[440] greater or less as the case may be, while poverty is a special feature of the tong-du.

However low the tong-ba may fall in the worldly sense of the word, and, on the other hand, however thriving the tong-du may become, a strict line of demarcation still continues to separate the two classes. Society continues to treat them as before, and as if nothing had happened in their relative fortunes. No ordinary people deign to eat with one belonging to the tong-du class, nor do they ever intermarry with them.

This strict rule of social etiquette is in force even among the four divisions of the lowest class, that is to say, ferry-men, fishermen, smiths and butchers. Of the four, the first two rank higher than the other two. Thus, though smiths and butchers are not permitted to eat in the same room with common people, the other two classes are allowed to do so, only they may not sit at table with a privileged plebeian, but must eat or drink from their own vessels.

It is hardly necessary to add that a strong barrier is set up between these four kinds of social outcasts and the ordinary common people, to prevent their intermarriage; a man or woman belonging to the latter class, who is so indiscreet as to obey the bidding of his or her heart and to marry one of the despised race, is socially tabooed from his or her own kith and kin. This punishment is permanent, and even when the bond of this mésalliance has been dissolved by divorce, or any other cause, the fallen man or woman can never hope to regain the caste which he or she has forfeited. The mark of social infamy will follow him or her to the grave.

It is curious, however, that the issues of these mésalliances form a social class of their own. They are called tak ta ril, which means a ‘mixed race produced by black and white twisted together’. They occupy a position even[441] lower than that of the four despised classes mentioned above, and are in fact the lowest caste in Tibet.

There is one interesting feature in regard to this rigid canon of social caste, and that is the presence of gentlemen-smiths, who, being men of a mechanical turn of mind, have become smiths from preference. These gentlemen-smiths do not forfeit their birth and rank on this account.

Both by law and custom the higher classes enjoy special privileges, and these go a long way. The children of aristocrats, for instance, are entitled to exact from their humbler playmates great respect and courtesy. When the latter so forget themselves in their disputes and quarrels with their noble associates as to use rough language, they are at once punished, even when they are in the right. It is evident therefore from what has been stated that a plebeian, no matter how wealthy, is obliged to behave respectfully under all circumstances to a man belonging to the Ngak-pa or Bon-bo, even though the latter may be as poor as a church mouse. As each social class forms practically one distinct community with its own particular etiquette, customs and so forth, ranks are more plainly visible on the surface in Tibet than in most other countries. The Tibetan proverb corresponding to the western saying that “blood will out” gains a special significance when applied to the state of affairs prevailing in that semi-civilised country.

The aristocrats of Tibet are distinguished by noble mien and refined manners. Conscious of their elevated position, they possess on the whole a high sense of honor. The other privileged castes occupying a lower plane, such as the men of the Ngak-pa and Bon-bo races and the descendants of ancient grandees, still bear the marks of their respectable birth and can easily be distinguished even by strangers from the common people.


The common people are plebeian in their general bearing and appearance, but one thing to their credit is that they are known for strict honesty, and even extreme poverty seldom tempts them into committing arts of larceny. On the other hand, the lower classes or social outcasts are notorious for their criminal propensities to robbery and murder. In practice they are characterised by crime and wretchedness; they are criminals and beggars. Beggars in fact form a community of their own, the profession being hereditary. These classes are deservedly held in contempt by the public, and their faces even seem to justify such treatment, for they are remarkable for ferocity, depravity and vileness.

As I have mentioned before, lads belonging to the higher ranks are entitled to enter Government schools, but the subjects taught there are at best imperfect. The lessons consist only of learning by memory, penmanship and counting. The first subject is the most important, next comes penmanship, the latter receiving even a larger allotment of hours than the other. Counting is a primitive affair, being taught by means of pebbles, pieces of wood, or shells. The subject matters of learning by memory are Buḍḍhist Texts, the elements of grammar, and lastly rhetoric. This last is a subject of great ambition for Tibetan scholars, who are just like Chinese in their fondness for grandiloquent expressions. Documents to be presented to the Dalai Lama and other high personages bristle with high-flown phraseology and with characters rarely used in ordinary writing, and not found even in Buḍḍhist Texts. The fact is that Tibetan scholars at present hold strange ideas about writing, being of opinion that they should aim at composing in a style unintelligible to ordinary persons. The more characters they can use which cannot easily be understood by others, the better proof, they think, have they given of the[443] profundity of their scholarship. The most scholarly compositions are practically hierographic so far as their incomprehensibility is concerned.


The birch-rod is considered to be the most useful implement in teaching; not exactly a birch-rod, however, but a flat piece of bamboo. The cramming of difficult passages of rhetoric being the principal mode of learning imposed on pupils, their masters are invariably of opinion that they must make free use of the rod in order to quicken their pupils’[444] progress. The relation between masters and pupils does not differ much from that between gaolers and convicts. The latter, poor fellows, hold their masters in such dread that they find it exceedingly trying, at the sight of them and their formidable pedagogic weapons, to compose their minds and to go on unfalteringly with their lessons. They cower with fear, and are filled with the perturbing thought that the rod is sure to descend upon them for the slightest stumble they make in the path of learning. The ordinary way of using the rod is to give thirty blows with it on the left palm of the pupil. Prudence counsels the pupil to stretch out his hand with alacrity at the bidding of his hard master, for in case he hesitates to do so the penalty is generally doubled, and sixty blows instead of thirty are given. It is a cruel sight to see a little pupil holding out his open hand and submitting to the punishment with tearful eyes. Surely this is not education but mere cruelty.

I once made an earnest remonstrance on this subject with the Minister of Finance who, in common with the rest, used to teach his boys with a liberal application of the rod. To do justice to the Minister, his method of teaching was much more considerate than that of most of his countrymen, and he very seldom resorted to rough handling, such as binding pupils with cords over-night or compelling them to go without dinner or supper. When however I remonstrated with him on the ground that the infliction of corporal punishment was entirely opposed to all sound principles of education, he at first defended the Tibetan system with great earnestness. We had a somewhat animated though courteous dispute on the subject; but at length, being a man of great candor of mind, he seemed to perceive the merit of my position. At any rate he ceased to use the rod as he did before, and generally confined himself to giving a reprimand when[445] any of his boys went astray with his learning. The Minister afterward informed me that his boys seemed to make better progress when they were spared the rod.

Abuse is also considered as an efficient means of educating boys. “Beast,” “beggar,” “devil,” “ass,” “eater of parents’ flesh,” are epithets applied to backward boys by their teachers, and this custom of using foul language is naturally handed on from teachers to pupils, who when they grow up are sure to pass on those slanderous appellations to the next generation.

While the education of the sons of laymen is conducted with such severity, that of boy disciples by Lama priests is extremely lenient, and is quite in contrast to that of the others. The disciples are not even reprimanded, much less chastised, when they neglect their work. The priests generally leave them to do as they like, much as uxorious husbands do towards their wilful wives, so that it is no wonder that the disciples of Lamas very seldom make any good progress in learning. They are spoiled by the excessive indulgence of their masters. Some of these masters own the evil of their way of education, and are careful not to spoil the youthful pupils placed under their care, and it is precisely from among these latter disciples that priests of learning and ability may be expected.

The memorising part of the Tibetan system of education, as mentioned above, is a heavy burden on the pupils. To give some idea of what an important part this work occupies in their system, I may note that a young acolyte, who has grown to fifteen or sixteen years old, has to commit to memory, from the oral instruction of his teachers, from three hundred to five hundred pages of Buḍḍhist texts in the course of a year. He has then to undergo an examination on what he has learned. Even for a lad of weak memory, the number of pages is not less than one hundred in a year. For those who have grown older, that[446] is for those whose age ranges between eighteen and thirty, the task imposed is still more formidable, being five to eight hundred and even one thousand pages. I was amazed at this mental feat of the Tibetan priests, for I could barely learn fifty sheets in six months, that being the minimum limit allotted for aspirants of poor memory.


Tibetan Trade and Industry.

I shall now describe the trade of Tibet, though my account must necessarily be imperfect for obvious reasons.

I shall begin with an interesting incident that occurred to me in November, 1901, when I was enabled to send home letters for the first time after my arrival in the country. That was on the 18th of the month, and through the agency of Tsa Rong-ba, a Tibetan trader with whom I had become acquainted at Darjeeling. This man started for Calcutta on Government business to buy iron, and as I knew him to be trustworthy I entrusted him with a letter addressed to Saraṭ Chanḍra Ḍās, in which were enclosed several others addressed to my friends and relatives in Japan.

The iron which he was commissioned to procure was for the purpose of manufacturing small arms at an arsenal situated at Dib near Che-Cho-ling, on the bank of the river Kichu, which flows to the south of Lhasa.

This industry was an innovation in Tibet, and in fact had begun only about eight years before that time. It was introduced by a Tibetan named Lha Tse-ring who had lived for a long time at Darjeeling and, at the request of his Government, brought back with him about ten gunsmiths, mostly Hinḍū and Cashmere Mohamedans. Only two of these smiths remained in Tibet at the time I reached Lhasa, the rest having returned home or died; but as several of the Tibetan smiths had acquired the art from them, no inconvenience was experienced in continuing the industry. This was a great improvement on the old state of affairs, for Tibet had formerly possessed only flint-lock muskets, and even these could not easily be[448] introduced from India. The manufacture of improved firearms was therefore a great boon to the country, and the Government did not spare expense and trouble to encourage the development of the art. Hence it came about that my acquaintance was authorised by the Government to proceed to Calcutta and procure a supply of iron.

It ought to be mentioned that about this time the departure of Tibetan merchants to foreign countries for the transaction of business had become quite frequent. They proceeded first of all to British India, next to China, and lastly to the Russian territories. The trade with the last was, however, quite insignificant as yet, and whatever relations Tibet may have with Russia are in most cases political and very rarely commercial.

I shall first describe the Tibetan trade with British India and Nepāl.

Of Tibetan products exported to India wool is the most important, and next musk and the tails of yaks, furs and leathers. Buḍḍhist images and books, being liable to confiscation when discovered, seldom go abroad, though they are more or less in demand in India. Other goods exported to India are insignificant. Formerly more or less Chinese tea for consumption by the Tibetans residing at Darjeeling used to go to India, but this is no longer the case.

The quantity of wool sent abroad is quite large. From five thousand to six thousand mule-packs go to Darjeeling, about one thousand five hundred to Bhūtān, about two thousand five hundred to Nepāl and about three thousand to Ladak. These figures are of course far from precise, for (reliable official returns being wanting) I based my estimates on information obtained from the traders. Besides the figures given above, there are quantities, greater or less, sent to China and also westward to Mānasarovara, but as I did not visit either district, and moreover had no means[449] of making an estimate about them, I have nothing to say on the subject.

Musk is obtained in Tibet, but from a certain species of deer and not from civet-cats. The musk-deer is found almost everywhere in that country. It is of about two and a half times or three times the size of an ordinary cat, and though resembling the Japanese deer in shape, it is not so tall as the other. The musk-deer subsists on herbage, and is covered with light and soft fur of a deep grey color. It has an exceedingly amiable face indicative of its mild nature. One characteristic feature is that it has two small but pretty tusks somewhat curved projecting from the upper jaws. The musk is found only in the male, and is contained in a little pouch attached to the hinder part. A strange fact is that the pouch is said to grow gradually in size from the beginning to the middle of each lunar month and then gradually to be reduced again until the end of the month, this periodic change appearing with great regularity. The musk-deer is therefore shot about the middle of the month, generally between the 13th and 15th.

The musk-deer is shot with a gun, but in preserved forests such as are found round about Lhasa and other Buḍḍhist headquarters, where shooting and hunting are strictly forbidden on pain of severe penalties, hunters catch the animal, clandestinely of course, by means of traps. Though the deer is found almost everywhere in Tibet, its principal habitation is in such remote districts as Kong-bo, Tsari and Lo. Musk is very cheap in all those districts, costing about one-tenth of the price given in Japan. The musk produced there is also purer than that produced in more prosperous places, for the people being simple-minded do not tamper with it nor adulterate it with other substances. The musk coming from Lo, for instance, is especially reputed for purity and cheapness. The[450] district is inhabited by half-naked aborigines, who resemble in outward appearance both Tibetans and Hinḍūs, though ethnologically they are more akin to the former than to the latter.

The musk produced by these savages is bartered against articles either of ornament or domestic utility, such as mirrors, glass beads, iron pans, sickles, knives, flour, confectionery and foreign trinkets.

Though the musk is obtainable at a very reasonable price in these districts, the risks and dangers from highwaymen which traders encounter on the road are so great that only those who are uncommonly adventurous proceed thither to get a supply from the natives.

The Tibetan musk is sent in larger quantities to China than to India, notwithstanding the fact that transport to the latter is easier. Almost all goods from Tibet to China travel through Ta-chien-lu. However, even at present, more or less is sent to Yunnan, whence Japan has been used to obtain its supply. The so-called ‘Yunnan-musk’ so much prized in Japan therefore comes originally from Tibet.

The ‘Blood-horn’ of the ‘Precious deer’ is the most valuable item among the commodities on the export list to China. This horn makes a medicine highly valued by Chinese physicians, being considered to possess the power of invigorating the body, prolonging life and giving lustre to the face. It is in fact used as an elixir by the Chinese. The horn therefore commands a high price, and even in Tibet a Chinese merchant will give as much as five hundred yen in Japanese currency for a pair of good horns. The inferior horns, however, can be bought at even two or three yen a piece, these being used not for medicine but only for ornament. Sharp, experienced eyes are required to distinguish a good and valuable horn from an inferior one, and even in Tibet there are not many such experts.


This special kind of deer is found in the wild districts of the south-eastern and north-western parts of Tibet, especially in the former. It is a large animal, larger than an average horse, but in shape it resembles an ordinary deer, only that it is plumper. As a rule it is covered with greyish hair, though some are covered with fur of other hues.

The horns are renewed every year, the growth beginning from about January of the lunar calendar. The new horns are covered with a hairy epidermis and consist of nothing but thickened blood. They continue to grow, and about March or April produce one ramification. At the same time the base becomes hard and bony, whilst the upper parts remain of the same consistency as before. They are further ramified and elongated with the lapse of time, and the growth reaches its climax by about September, after which the counter process of decay commences and the horns, now grown quite long, drop off about the middle of December. The largest specimens I saw measured thirteen inches in length with the main stem of about 1⅘ inches in girth, and even such horns are completely covered with hairy integument.

The best season for the horns, that is when they are medically most efficacious, is believed to be April or May, and it is then that the natives go out to hunt the animal. The shooting should be done with accurate aim so as to drop the animal at once, and the hunters therefore generally aim at the forehead. This is owing to the fact that when the animal is only wounded, instead of being brought down by a single shot, he invariably knocks his head against rocks or trees and breaks the precious horns to pieces. About the month of April or May, the animal, probably from the necessity of protecting his horns, sojourns in less remote and rocky places, and this habit makes him fall an easy prey to the hunter.


I may mention that I brought home a fine specimen of these horns which I bought at Lhasa. They are genuine, for I had them judged by a competent expert.

The exports to Nepāl comprise wool, yak-tails, salt, saltpetre, woollen goods and a few other articles. To the districts lying to the north-east of Tibet, that is to the north-western parts of China and Mongolia, go various kinds of woollen goods; Buḍḍhist books also go largely to Mongolia, as do also Buḍḍhist images, pictures and various paraphernalia. These, considered as objects of art, are worthless, though formerly Tibet produced images and pictures of high artistic standard. The contrast between old and new images and pictures, both of which are to be seen in most temples in Tibet, is sufficiently glaring, for the latter are as a rule clumsy performances, offensive to the taste and also to the sense of decency, being invariably bi-sexual representations of men and women with one common body. I was once struck with the notion that the Tibetans are characterised by four serious defects, these being: filthiness, superstition, unnatural customs (such as polyandry), and unnatural art. I should be sorely perplexed if I were asked to name their redeeming points; but if I had to do so, I should mention first of all the fine climate in the vicinity of Lhasa and Shigatze, their sonorous and refreshing voices in reading the Text, the animated style of their catechisms, and their ancient art. But to cut short my digression, and to resume the description of Tibetan trade, I must next give an account of the import business.

Of the imported goods, those coming from India are mostly in evidence. Among them may be mentioned woollen cloth for decorating the rooms of temples and for other uses, silk handkerchiefs, Burma crêpes, Benares brocades, silk tissues, and cotton fabrics. White cotton piece-goods are mostly in demand, next piece-goods of[453] light blue and of russet color. Figured chintzes of various patterns are also imported more or less.

Imports from China comprise first of all silk fabrics of sundry kinds, as brocades, tussore silk, crêpes and satins of various kinds. Silver bullion and drugs are also imported, but in respect of value tea stands first on the list of Chinese imports. From what I have roughly estimated, the quantity of tea arriving at Lhasa alone will cost not less than six hundred and fifty thousand yen a year approximately, while the import to Eastern Tibet, which is more thickly inhabited than the other half of the country, must of course reach a larger figure, for the Tibetans are great tea-drinkers and both high and low imbibe a large quantity of the beverage all through the year. The poorest people, who cannot afford to buy, are satisfied with a thin decoction obtained from the refuse of the tea-pots of wealthier people. Tea is rather costly, for one brick of inferior quality measuring about one foot long, 6½ inches wide and three inches thick costs two yen seventy-five sen at Lhasa; a brick consisting of only leaves without any mixture of twigs cannot be obtained at less than five yen. The prices rise as we go westward, owing to the cost of transportation, and for a brick costing two yen seventy-five sen at Lhasa as much as three yen twenty-five sen has to be paid in Western Tibet.

The imports from Bhūtān or Sikkim comprise tussore-silk goods, woollen fabrics, and cotton goods.

Then from India, Kashmīr, or Nepāl are imported copper utensils, grains, dried grapes, dried peaches, dates, medical drugs, and precious stones of various kinds, as diamonds, rubies, agates, turquoises and corals. Of these turquoises and corals are the most important, being widely used by the Tibetans as a hair decoration. For this purpose the best quality of turquoises are even more prized than diamonds, and a good turquoise of the size of the tip of the small[454] finger fetches as much as one thousand two hundred yen. Coral without spots is rather rare, and most of those seen on the heads of the Tibetan women are spotted more or less. The Tibetans are fond of the reddish or deep reddish variety, which are not popular among the Japanese. Superior kinds come from China, and one good coral ball from China commands from one hundred and twenty to two hundred and thirty yen. Indian specimens are usually inferior in quality. Coral-beads are also imported from that country. Glass beads do duty for corals for poorer folk, and imitation corals made in Japan are sold also. These were formerly passed off as genuine by dishonest merchants, and were sold at comparatively speaking fabulous prices. They are now taken at their proper value. Cheap foreign fancy goods and Japanese matches also find their way to Tibet through India.

Several queer customs prevail in Tibet concerning business transactions. The mode of selling woollen and cotton piece-goods is particularly singular. The standard of measurement is the length of the two outstretched hands, while another measurement based on the length from the elbow to the tip of the fingers is also used. This measurement is determined by the buyers, so that a large person enjoys the advantage of getting a longer measure, while the merchant is subjected to so much disadvantage. However, this primitive mode of measurement is generally applied to the native products only, as for foreign cloth the unit of measurement is a square, each side of which is equal to the breadth of the cloth to be sold. This is called a kha, and a kha varies with the breadth of each piece of cloth.

Very seldom are native merchants honest in their dealing; even the most trustworthy ask a price ten to twenty per cent higher than is reasonable, and the price asked by the more dishonest is really monstrous, being double or even as much as five or six times the real rate.


Another interesting feature in Tibetan transactions is the blessing which the merchants bestow on anything which people buy from them. The most common formula of blessing is to this effect: “May the goods you have bought from me avert from you disease or any other suffering; may your purchase bring good luck and prosperity, so that you may grow richer, build storehouses, and buy more and more goods from us!”

The blessing accompanying the parting with sacred books is more ceremonious. The merchant reverentially lifts the book over his head in both hands, and then hands it over to the purchaser (a priest in most cases) with this blessing:

“May your reverence not only seek the true light from this sacred work, but may you conduct yourself according to that light, so that you may attain better intelligence, wisdom and morals, and fit yourself for the holy work of salvation, for the good of all beings!”

The purchaser has also a ceremony to perform in this transaction, and I must confess that his performance is more obviously selfish, outwardly at least; for in handing the price he just touches the dirty coin with his tongue, then wipes it on the neck of his garment, and finally hands it to the merchant after having cast upon it one lingering glance indicative of his reluctance to part with it. This act of licking and wiping signifies that the purchaser has licked off and wiped away for his own benefit all the good luck that was contained in that piece. The coin that goes to the merchant is therefore considered as a mere empty thing, so far as the virtue that was originally contained in it is concerned.

Though these tedious processes are omitted by big merchants, such as those engaged in dealing in tea, all the others faithfully observe them, especially those in the country.


It may be supposed that with so little to export and so much to import, the country would be impoverished. This, however, is not the case, as I shall explain. Tibet has been used to obtain a large amount of gold from Mongolia—more as donations to Tibetan Lamas than as the price paid for Tibetan goods. This influx of gold from Mongolia has done much thus far in enabling the country to keep the balance of her trade. She therefore cannot adopt an exclusion policy economically, even though she may without much inconvenience do so politically. In fact the enforcement of economic exclusion would be followed by serious internal trouble, simply because it would put a stop to the inflow of gold from Mongolia.

However, so far as this Mongolian gold is concerned, it seems as if circumstances were about to bring Tibet to a result tantamount to the enforcement of economic exclusion, for since the war between Japan and China and especially since the Boxer trouble the inflow of Mongolian gold to Tibet has virtually ceased, so much so that the Mongolian priests who are staying in Tibet for the prosecution of their studies are sorely embarrassed owing to the non-arrival of their remittances from home. Some of them have even been obliged to suspend regular attendance at lectures, and to seek some means of earning their livelihood, just as the poorer native Buḍḍhist students are accustomed to do.

Another thing that adds to the economic difficulties of the Tibetans is their tendency to grow more and more luxurious in their style of living, a tendency that began to be particularly noticeable from about twenty years ago. This has been inevitably brought about by the foreign trade of Tibet and the arrival of goods of foreign origin. All these circumstances have impressed the Tibetans with the necessity of extending their sphere of trade with foreign countries instead of confining their commercial operations[457] within the narrow bounds of their own country. The consequence is that a larger number of the inhabitants have begun to proceed every year to China, India and Nepāl on commercial enterprises.

Now suppose that Tibet should prohibit her people embarking in this foreign trade, what would be the consequence? In the first place she would be unable to get any supply of goods from India, China and other countries, goods which are now articles of daily necessity for her people. This, though sufficiently hard, might be endured; but what would be unendurable would be the closing of Indian markets to the wool of Tibet, India being the most important consumer of this staple produce of the country. More wool being produced than can be reasonably consumed at home, the close of foreign markets is certain to bring down prices, and therefore to rob the sheep-farmers, or more properly the nomadic people of that country, of the greater part of the income they are at present enabled to get from their wool. The supply for food is, on the other hand, less than the demand, and as the prices of this essential of life cannot be expected to go down in proportion to those of wool, the sheep-farmers who constitute the greater part of the whole population would be threatened with starvation.

The incoming of gold from Mongolia being suspended, Tibet cannot, even if she would, cut off her commercial relations with the outside world.

Urged by necessity, trade is advancing with great strides, judging at least from the larger number of people engaged in it, for as matters stand at present the Forbidden Land may without exaggeration be considered as a “nation of shop-keepers”.

In fact all the people, with the exception of those who are disqualified through physical defects and age, are engaged in business of one kind or another. Even[458] farmers are partly traders. In winter when farm-work is slack they proceed to northern Tibet to lay in their stock of salt, obtained from the salt lakes that are found there. Then these men start for Bhūtān, Nepāl or Sikkim, to sell their goods in those places.

Priests are not too proud to deal with secular dollars and cents, and monasteries often trade on a large scale.


The Government itself is a trader, not directly, but through its regular agents, who in virtue of the important trust reposed in them enjoy various privileges, such as the liberty to requisition horses for carrying their goods or to take lodgment gratis.

Peers are also traders, mostly by proxy, though some of them refrain from making investments and are content to subsist on the income derived from their land. None the less the business spirit permeates the whole Peerage, and even these non-trading Peers are ready to make small bargains now and then. Suppose a visitor to a Peer’s house takes a fancy to some of the furniture or hall decoration in it. In such a case it is not considered impolite for the visitor to ask the host the price of that particular article, and to ask him, if the price is considered reasonable, to sell it to him. Nor is it thought derogatory for the host to sell his belongings, and so the bargain is struck when both parties can come to terms. The whole proceeding is conducted with the shrewdness and vigilant attention to details which characterise regular businessmen.

It is interesting to note that even boy-disciples in monasteries are traders in their own way, and do not hesitate to invest their money whenever they happen to notice in the shops or other places articles that appeal to their fancy. These they bring home and either sell, (generally at a large profit) to other boys, or exchange for other objects.


One great evil attends this propensity, and that is the danger of stimulating cunning practices, each party trying to impose upon the other in all those dealings.


Currency and Printing blocks.

Commodities are either bartered or bought with regular coins. I should more strictly say the coin, there being only one kind of coin, and that is a twenty-four sen silver piece. That is the only legal tender current. Transactions have to be conducted therefore in a rather complicated manner, inasmuch as that coin admits of being divided in two ways only. In the first place it may be cut into two, thereby producing two twelve-sen pieces; or it may be divided into a ⅔ piece and a ⅓ piece, the former passing at sixteen sen and the latter at eight. The cutting is far from being exact, and cut pieces are in most cases perforated in the centre or worn down at the edges. These however are passed and received without complaint.

In Lhasa and other prosperous places the unit of transactions is four sen, but there being no four-sen piece one must take with him in making a purchase of four sen one ⅔ piece valued at sixteen sen, and receive in return for it one ½ piece valued at twelve sen. When the seller happens not to possess this one-half piece, the buyer then produces one ½ piece and one ⅔ piece, and receives in return for the two one whole piece called a tanka which is valued at twenty-four sen. For a purchase of eight sen a buyer produces one tanka and receives a ⅔ piece in change.

The unit of transaction being four sen there are six gradations of value between this minimum and a tanka, each possessing a distinct denomination. Thus four sen is called a khakang, eight sen a karma, twelve sen a chyekka, sixteen sen a shokang, twenty sen a kabchi and twenty-four sen a tanka.


In less prosperous places, and indeed everywhere except in Lhasa and Shigatze, it is impossible to make a purchase of less than one tanka, owing to be the absence of divided pieces of smaller value.

In some places are found silver pieces which are locally circulated, as in the north-western steppes which form the boundary line between Tibet and India. These pieces are semi-circular in shape, but are not accepted in the Grand Lama’s dominions.

Here I should like to recount what occurred to me in my monetary dealings. It was not an ordinary transaction, but a sort of blackmail carried out at my expense.

I have spoken before of the prodigal son of the house of Para. One day this man sent his servant to me with a letter and asked for a loan of money, rather a large sum for Tibet. Of course he had no idea of repaying me, and his loan was really blackmail. I sent back the servant with half of what he had asked, together with a letter. I was told that he was highly enraged at what I had done, exclaiming that I had insulted him, and that he had not asked for the sum for charity, and so on. At any rate he sent back the money to me, probably expecting that I would then send him the whole sum asked for. But I did not oblige him as he had expected, and took no notice of his threat. A few days after another letter reached me from that young man, again asking for the sum as at first. I decided to save myself from further annoyance and so I sent the sum. Like master, like servant; the latter, having heard most probably from his spendthrift master that I was a Japanese, came to me for a loan or blackmail of fifty yen. I gave that sum too, for I knew that they could not annoy me repeatedly with impunity.

About that time I chiefly devoted my leisure to collecting Buḍḍhist books, for I had a fairly large amount of money. I must remark here that Buḍḍhist works not in[463] ordinary use are not sold by booksellers in Tibet; they are kept in the form of blocks at one monastery or another, and any person who wishes to get a copy of any of such works must obtain from the owner of the copyright permission to get an impression of it. In return for this permission an applicant has to forward some fee and some donation to the monastery which owns and keeps the particular set of blocks from which he wishes to get an impression or impressions, this donation generally consisting of a quantity of tussore silk. The fee, more or less differing in rate according to monasteries and kind of blocks, ranges from about twenty-five sen to about one yen twenty sen per hundred sheets. The permission obtained, the applicant next engages either three or six printers, two printers and one assorter forming a special printing party, so to say. Wages for the men are generally fifty sen a day without board, and as they work in a very dilatory manner, the cost of printing is rather heavy. The paper used in printing is of native origin, made of a certain plant, the leaves and roots of which are poisonous. The roots are white and produce excellent tough fibres. The Tibetan paper is therefore sufficiently strong and durable, but is not white, owing to bad bleaching.

Booksellers in Tibet, at least so far as I observed at Lhasa, do not sell their books at their own houses, but at open stalls in the courtyard in front of the western door of the great temple-shrine of the Buḍḍha Shākyamuni, called Cho Khang. I saw ten such bookstalls in Lhasa and two or three at the bazaar in Shigatze, and those stallkeepers arranged their stock in trade in heaps instead of leaving their books open to invite inspection, as booksellers of other countries do.

The books which I collected either through purchase, or by getting special impressions from the original blocks, were at first kept in my room at the Sera monastery, and[464] my collection was a subject of wonder and curiosity to the priests who were quartered in the rooms not far from my own. The collection, they were heard saying to each other, contained three times as many books as even a learned doctor possessed in Tibet, and they could not but wonder how I, a student from a remote country, could carry home so many books. I therefore kept all my subsequent purchases in my room at the house of my host, in order to avoid suspicion.

Meanwhile the end of the month of December drew near and at last the New Year’s eve arrived. I made an arrangement to keep the day according to the Japanese custom. Accordingly I sent my boy to the Sakya Temple in the city with clarified butter to make an offering of light to the Buḍḍha enshrined in the edifice. This is done by putting clarified butter into the gold lamps placed before the tabernacle. Any one who wishes to make this offering has simply to pay in the usual charge of two tanka to the keepers of the edifice, and on that particular occasion I therefore sent my boy with two tanka pieces.

I arranged my own room in a manner suitable to the occasion. I hung a roll on which was painted an image of Buḍḍha, set in front of it a tiny sacred tabernacle, then three stands of silver lamps, and lastly various offerings. After the preliminary service had been concluded, I began, after the hour of midnight, a regular service and kept it up till four in the morning of the New Year’s Day. Then I performed a ceremony in order to pray for the prosperity of their Imperial Majesties the Emperor and Empress, H. I. H. the Crown Prince, and also for the greater prosperity and glory of the Empire of Japan. I thought that during the three thousand years that had elapsed since the founding of the Empire this must be the first time that one of its own subjects had offered such a prayer in that city of the Forbidden Land; then a strange[465] sensation came over me, and somehow I felt grateful tears rising in my eyes.


As I turned my eyes outward, while continuing the service, I noticed the New Year’s sun beginning to ascend in the eastern sky, reflecting its golden rays on the snow that covered the surrounding hills and plains. Nearer before my eyes and in the spacious court of the monastery, several snow-white cranes were stalking at leisure, now and then uttering their peculiar cry. The whole scene[466] was exquisite and quite captivating; how I should have liked to invite my own countrymen to come and share this pleasure with me! The service, the thought about my dear home, the snow-scene, the cranes, and the New Year’s Day—these roused in me a chain of peculiar sentiments at once delightful and sad, and this strange association of thoughts I embodied on that occasion in a couple of awkward utas freely rendered into prose thus:—

“Here on this Roof of the World and amidst the ascending dawn heralded by the cry of the cranes, I glorify the long and prosperous reign of our sovereign liege who reigns over his realm in the Far East.

“I hear in the garden of the holy seat the voice of the pure-white cranes, glorifying the triumph of the Holy Religion.”


The Festival of Lights.

On January 4th, 1902, that is to say, on November 25th of the lunar calendar, the festival of Sang-joe commenced, this being the anniversary day of the death of Je Tsong-kha-pa the great Lamaist reformer. This may be called the “Festival of Lights,” every roof in Lhasa and in all the adjoining villages blazing with lights set burning in honor of the occasion. Hundreds, even thousands of such butter-fed lights were burning on the roofs of monasteries, and presented a unique sight, such as is rarely seen in other parts of the world.

The Sang-joe is one of the most popular festivals, and lasts for two weeks. It is the season when the Tibetans, priests and laymen, give themselves up to great rejoicing, when dancing, singing and feasting are the order of the day, and when people put on their gala dresses.

The arrival of the season is announced by an interesting custom, a sort of religious blackmail, enforced at the expense of people of position from about the second decade of the month of November according to the lunar calendar. According to this custom every person enjoys the privilege, for the sake of the coming festival, of begging a present of money from any superior in rank or position who may visit his house. Even people of good position and means do not think it beneath them to exercise this privilege of begging. I myself felt the effect of this custom and was obliged to present here a tanka and there two tanka. In this way I spent about five yen in Japanese money during this season of public begging. I did not doubt it when I was told by some acquaintance[468] that my Sang-joe item next year would be threefold what it was in the present year, owing to the enlargement of the circle of my acquaintances.

The religious side of Sang-joe is a sort of vigil, performed every night from about midnight to early dawn, the service consisting of the reading in company of holy Texts. This midnight ceremony is a solemn affair which every person in the monastery is obliged to attend.

As I attended this ceremony in the Sera monastery I was highly impressed with the solemnity of the function, and felt that the peculiarly subdued tones of the chanting exerted upon my mind a powerful effect. It seemed to me as if angels were conducting the service.

The whole surroundings were in keeping with the solemnity of the occasion. The lofty hall was hung with tapestries of glittering brocade and satin; the pillars were wound with red woollen cloth with floral designs in blue and white; while on the walls and from the upper parts of the pillars were hung religious pictures regarded as masterpieces in Tibet. All these were lighted up by several thousand lamps containing melted butter, the lamps shining bright and clear with pure-white rays, not unlike those of gas-burners.

Sitting in the hall amidst such sacred surroundings, and listening to the chanting of the holy Texts, thoughts of profound piety took possession of my mind, and I felt as if I were transported to the region of Buḍḍha.

The Sang-joe is also a great occasion of alms and charity, and the priests, especially the acolytes and disciples, go round at dawn to collect alms in the temple when the service is concluded. The people being more generously disposed at this season than at other times give quite liberally. I am sorry to say that this pious inclination on the part of the people is often abused by mischievous priests, who do not scruple to go, in violation of[469] the rules, on a second or even third or fourth round of begging at one time. I was astonished to hear that the priests who are on duty to prevent such irregular practices are in many cases the very instigators, abetting the younger disciples in committing them. The ill-gotten proceeds go into the pockets of those unscrupulous ‘inspectors’ who, urged on by greed, even go to the extreme of thrashing the young disciples when they refuse to go on fraudulent errands of this particular description. Now and then the erratic doings of these lads come to the ears of the higher authorities, who summon them and inflict upon them a severe reprimand, together with the more smarting punishment of a flogging. The incorrigible disciples are not disconcerted in the least, being conscious that they have their protectors in the official inspectors, and of course they are immune from expulsion from the monastery.

These mischievous young people are in most cases warrior-priests. These warrior-priests, of whom an account has already been given, are easily distinguished from the rest by their peculiar appearance and especially by their way of dressing the hair. Sometimes their heads are shaved bald, but more often they leave ringlets at each temple, and consider that these locks of four or five inches long give them a smart appearance. This manner of hair-dressing is not approved by the Lama authorities, and when they take notice of the locks they ruthlessly pull them off, leaving the temples swollen and bloody. Painful as this treatment is, the warriors rather glory in it, and swagger about the streets to display the marks of their courage. They are, however, cautious to conceal their ‘smart’ hair-dressing from the notice of the authorities, so that when they present themselves in the monastery they either tuck their ringlets behind the ears or besmear their faces with lamp-black compounded with[470] butter. When at first I saw such blackened faces I wondered what the blackening meant, but afterwards I was informed of the reason of the strange phenomenon and my wonder disappeared as I became accustomed to the sight.

I am sorry to say that the warrior-priests are not merely offensive in appearance; they are generally also guilty of far more grave offences, and the nights of the holy service are abused as occasions for indulging in fearful malpractices. They really seem to be the descendants of the men of Sodom and Gomorrah mentioned in the bible.

They are often quite particular in small affairs. They are afraid of killing tiny insects, are strict in not stepping over broken tiles of a monastery when they find them on the road, but walk round them to the right, and never to the left. And yet they, and even their superiors, commit grave sin without much remorse. Really they are straining at gnats and swallowing camels.

There lived once in Tibet a humorous priest named Duk Nyon, a Tibetan Rabelais, who was celebrated for his amusing though none the less sensible way of teaching. This priest met on the road a priest of the New Sect, and it may be imagined that sharp repartees must have been exchanged between the two. On the road Duk Nyon noticed a small stone, which he carefully avoided and instead of walking over it walked round it. Next they came to a big rock, which hardly admitted of walking over. The humorist stooped low to give momentum to his body and the next instant he jumped over it. His companion marvelled at this strange behavior of Duk Nyon; he could not understand why he should have avoided a small stone and then should jump over a large one. So the New Sect priest bantered Duk Nyon on what he considered a silly proceeding, but Duk[471] Nyon replied that he had been merely giving an object-lesson to the New Sect folk, who were meticulously exact about small things, but were wont to leap over grave sins without remorse. The story goes that his companion was much abashed at this home-thrust of the humorist. This witty remark of the old priest may be said to hold true even at the present time, for though the Sang-joe presents a solemn and impressive front outwardly, it is full of abominable sights behind the scenes. It is merely a season of criminal indulgence for the warrior-priests and other undesirable classes.


Tibetan Women.

As the position of women bears a vital relation to the prosperity and greatness of a country, I shall devote a chapter to this subject. Of the women of Tibet those residing in Lhasa are regarded as models of Tibetan womanhood, and they therefore demand most attention.

First let me describe the Lhasa ladies, beginning with their mode of dress.

It is interesting to note that the women’s garments do not differ much in appearance from those of men; both are cut in the same way, and the only perceptible difference in appearance, if difference it be, is that women are attired with more taste and elegance than men. Another distinguishing mark in Tibetan attire is a sash, a narrow band about an inch and a half wide and eight feet long, terminating at one end in a fringe. The sash is not tied, as in Japan, but is merely wound round the body with the end tucked in. Some persons wear a belt made of a piece of silk cloth, passing it three times round the body.

The ladies of Lhasa dress their hair somewhat like their sisters of Mongolia, though this fashion is not followed by those in Shigatze and other parts of Tibet. They use a large quantity of false hair, imported from China, their natural supply being rather scanty. The hair is divided into two equal parts down the middle, and each half is plaited into a braid and left flowing behind. The ends of the braids are tied with red or green cords with fringed knots, and these two cords are connected by other beaded cords, the cords consisting usually of seven or eight threads on which pearls are strung as beads with a larger pearl or turquoise in the middle.


They also wear a head-ornament made of turquoises or corals, with one large piece surmounting the rest; and they put on the middle of the head a cap made of small pearls. Then there are usually golden ear-rings and a breast ornament (which may cost as much as three or four thousand yen), besides a necklace of precious stones. The pendant is generally a miniature golden tabernacle which may cost from two hundred to three hundred yen. The arms are decorated with bracelets, the right one made of pretty shells and the left one of engraved silver. I must not omit to mention that all the Lhasan women, both rich and poor, use an apron, which in the case of the ladies is made of the best Tibetan wool woven in variegated hues. Finger-rings are comparatively plain, being generally of silver, excepting those worn by ladies of the highest class. Shoes are also pretty, and are made of red and green woollen fabrics.

With all their splendid attire, the Lhasan ladies follow a strange custom in their toilet, for they often paint their faces, not with white powder as their sisters of other countries do, but with a reddish-black substance. The Tibetans think that the natural color of the flesh peeping from underneath the soot adds very much to the charm of the appearance.

The complexion of the Lhasan women is not quite fair, but very much resembles that of their Japanese sisters. In general appearance too the two cannot be easily distinguished, but the women of Lhasa, and indeed of all Tibet, are taller in stature and stronger in constitution than the women of Japan. Indeed one hardly ever finds in Tibet women who are so short and frail as are the average Japanese ladies. The Tibetan ladies being moreover attired in loose and capacious garments look very imposing.

The ladies of the higher classes have fair complexions and are as pretty as their sisters of Japan.


The women of Kham and the surrounding districts are especially fair-complexioned, but they generally lack attractiveness, and look cold and repellent. Their way of speaking also strikes one as inelegant and uninviting. In contrast to them, their sisters of Lhasa are charming to look at, and full of attraction. Their only defect is that they lack weight and dignity, such as commands respect from others, and their daily conduct is not quite edifying. For instance, they do not mind eating while walking in the streets. They are also excitable, or pretend to be excited by trifling circumstances, are prone to flirt and to be flippant, and seldom possess such nobleness as befits women of rank. If one criticises them severely, one would say that they are more like ballet-girls than ladies of high station. They are therefore objects more to be loved and pitied, than to be respected and adored. Altogether they lack character. Probably this singular defect may have been brought about by the polyandrous custom of the country.

There are many things which I might cite to the discredit of the fair sex of Tibet, but of these I will single out only two, their love of liquor and their uncleanly habits. Uncleanliness is, it is true, universal in Tibet, but it naturally stands out more conspicuously in contrast to the general habits of women in other countries, especially in Japan. Most of the Tibetan women are content with simply washing their faces and hands, but this washing is seldom extended to other parts of the body; the ladies of the higher classes however, are less open to this charge; having no particular business, they have plenty of time to devote to their toilet.

That which is particularly noteworthy about the women of Tibet, and probably constitutes their chief merit, is their great activity, both in the matter of business and also in other respects. The women of the middle and[475] lower classes, for instance, regard trade as their own proper sphere of activity, and they are therefore very shrewd in business of every description. They even choose their husbands from a business point of view.

As ladies are not required to engage in such kind of work, their activity is more shown in the form of counsels to their husbands, whether invited or not. It seems that the Tibetan ladies enjoy great influence over their husbands, for not only are they allowed to have a voice in the affairs of men, but are often taken into confidence by them about matters of importance.

The ladies, perhaps, command even more leisure than their sisters in other countries. They have practically no special and public duties, while their domestic cares are also very light, as they do not undertake sewing. Sewing is considered in Tibet as men’s work, and even for a little stitching they rely on the tailor. Nor do the ladies of Tibet care much about weaving and spinning, though some women of the lower classes pursue either one or both as their regular profession. Spinning is done with primitive distaffs, and is a tedious and awkward process, incapable of producing yarn of an even and fine size. Yarns such as are produced by spinning jennies are never obtained from native distaffs.

The condition of Tibetan women with regard to men, especially in the provinces, may be considered as surpassing the ideal of western women, so far as the theory of equality of rights between the sexes is concerned. For their stout sisters of Tibet enjoy from the public almost equal treatment with men. They receive, for instance, equal wages with men, and indeed there is nothing wonderful in this when it is remembered that the women of Tibet, being strongly built and sturdy, can work just as well as the rougher sex, and therefore are perfectly entitled to receive the same remuneration. These women, though looking[476] modest and lovely, are nevertheless very courageous at heart, so that when they fall into a passion their husbands are hardly able to keep them under control. They rage like beings possessed, and no soothing words or apologies can pacify them. Cases in which husbands were apologising on bent knees to wives furious with passion often came to my notice while I was staying in Tibet. They are demure as cats when they are at peace, but when their passion is roused they are dreadful as tigers. They are very selfish and really rule the roost. What is worse, they are not always faithful to their husbands, but regard acts of inconstancy as something of quite ordinary nature; and they are often audacious enough to lay the blame on the shoulders of their poor hen-pecked husbands, alleging their inability to support their own wives!

The whole attention of the Tibetan women is concentrated on their own selfish interests, and they do not care a straw for the good of their husbands so long as they are satisfied. The shrewdness they exercise in promoting their own selfish aims is something remarkable. From the highest to the lowest, they are allowed to have their own savings, more or less, according to their position and circumstances, and fortified with that source of strength they receive a decree of divorce from their husbands without any sense of regret. They will, in that case, pack up their belongings and leave their husbands’ doors with alacrity.

On the other hand, Tibetan women are extremely affectionate and considerate to the men of their own liking, as if to make amends for their lack of virtue towards the husbands they do not love. They lavish their love upon them, devote their whole attention to pleasing them, and spare neither pains nor money to anticipate their wishes and so to give them satisfaction. In short, the women of Tibet seem to possess two antagonistic qualities, and are disposed to run to extremes.


Perhaps this apparent anomaly comes from their immoral habits, and also from the fact that the sense of chastity in women must have been seriously affected by the polyandrous custom of the country. Though sufficiently shrewd to protect their own interests, they are never self-dependent; they invariably lean on the help of one man or another, even when they have sufficient means at their disposal to support themselves and their children. If a husband dies and leaves his widow and children enough to live on, very rarely does the bereaved woman remain faithful to the memory of her departed husband. Only very ugly or old women remain widows; all the rest marry again with indecent haste. Indeed the idea of fidelity to the husband of her first love never seems to enter the mind of even a well-educated woman, for such stories of faithfulness as are common in other countries are conspicuous by their absence in Tibet.

I shall touch only briefly on the occupations of Tibetan women of the middle and lower classes. The women in the provinces attend to farming and rear cattle, sheep or yaks. But the commonest business for them is the making of butter and other substances obtained from milk, the process being in this wise: first the milk is subjected to heat, and then left to cool till a coating of cream appears on the surface. This cream is skimmed off, and to the remainder a quantity of sour milk is added and the mixture left for about a day in a covered vessel. The mixture becomes curdled, and this curdled milk is transferred to a narrow deep vessel and a small quantity of lukewarm water is added to it. A piece of wood of the same shape as, and in size slightly smaller than, the vessel is put into it, and is moved up and down by a handle. When the curdled mass is sufficiently churned in this way, the fat begins to separate from the watery portion. According to the condition of that separation, more or less lukewarm water[478] is added and the stirring is resumed, till the butter-fat and water are completely separated. The butter is then strained, and the remainder is boiled till coagulated clots appear, easily separable from the sour watery portion. These clots are known as chura, and they are very nice to eat. The water or whey, though sour, is not unpalatable, and is especially good for quenching thirst. The chura is used either fresh or in a dried form, the latter corresponding to the cheese used by western people.


Tibetan Boys and Girls.

Boys enjoy better treatment in Tibet than their sisters, this discrimination beginning soon after their birth. Thus the naming ceremony is almost always performed for boys and very seldom for girls. Though differing more or less according to localities, this naming ceremony is generally performed after the lapse of three days from the time of birth. One strange custom about the birth is that a baby is never washed, nor is there a regular midwife. The only thing done to the new-born baby is the anointing of its body (especially the head) with butter, this being carried out twice a day. As this anointing is rather copiously applied, the Tibetan baby may perhaps be described as being subjected to butter-washing.

On the naming-day, a priest is asked to perform the ceremony. The process commences with the sprinkling of holy water on the baby’s head. The water is first blessed by the priest, and a quantity of yellow powder made of the saffron flower is then added to it.


The name is generally determined according to the day of the birth, and especially according to the nomenclature of the days of the week. For instance a boy or a girl who is born on Sunday is named Nyima, this meaning Sun in Tibetan. The babies born on Monday bear the common name of Dawa; those on Saturday Penba; those on Friday Pasang; and so on. This general use of the same names giving rise to confusion, a specific individual surname has to be given to each baby. The individual appellation either precedes or follows the common designation. One baby bears the name of Nyima-Chering[481] meaning “Sun longevity,” another Dawa-pun-tsuok, meaning “Moon-all-perfection.”

The choice of such individual names is usually made by the Lama who attends the ceremony, or is determined by an oracle-consulter, and only rarely by the father of the baby.

Sometimes the week nomenclature is disregarded and names of abstract meaning are given to the babies; sometimes also names of animals are used. On the whole the surnames are of an abstract nature as in the case of Japanese names. I may add that the boys take a religious name when they enter the priesthood.

On the naming-day of boys a great feast is held in honor of the occasion, and the relatives and friends of the family are invited to it. These of course bring with them suitable presents, such as casks of liquor, rolls of cloth, or money. The ceremony and the banquet that accompanies it are chiefly observed by people residing in or near a city, for in the provinces only wealthy people can afford to follow this custom.

When the naming ceremony is concluded, the officiating priest reads a service, in order to inform the patron deity of the place or of the family of the birth of a baby, and of the fact that that baby has received such and such a name, and praying that the baby shall be taken under the protection of that patron deity. This service may be undertaken by a priest of either the New or Old Sect or by an oracle-consulter. The last named functionary performs with his own hand all the ceremony of name-giving, when a baby is born to him, and does not entrust this business to another priest.

The beginning of school-attendance is another great occasion for boys, and it arrives when the boy attains the age of eight or nine. This day also is celebrated with a feast, to which the relatives and friends of the house are[482] invited, and these present to the boy a kata, which the boy hangs around his neck with the two ends suspended over his breast. If the boy is sent to a teacher residing at some distance from his home, he leaves his paternal roof and lives under that of his master; but when his master lives in the neighborhood he daily attends his lessons from home.

The other great occasions for boys are at the end of school life, and the admission to official service, the latter requiring a ceremony of far greater importance and a more splendid banquet than the other.

The ceremonies performed for the benefit of female children are fewer in number than those for their brothers. Generally only one ceremony is performed, this being a festival for celebrating the advent of girlhood, and consists of dressing her hair for the first time since her birth. The dressing is done in a simple style. The hair is tied and made to hang down behind in four braids, surmounted with a pretty hair ornament made of red coral and turquoises. On this occasion a large number of people are invited to a feast, and these bring to the house various kinds of presents.

Boys’ amusements are much like those in Japan. In winter, for instance, they play at snow-balling, and in summer their favorite sport is wrestling. Throwing stones to a distance, pitching at a target with a stone, skipping, either singly or in company, hitting from a distance a small piece of hardened clay with another piece, or the striking out from a circle marked on the ground a silver piece placed in its centre by means of a stone or any other hard object—these are some of the popular games of boys. Sometimes both boys and girls join in theatricals. Ball-games are now and then seen, but not often. Horse-riding too is a great amusement for boys, but only the sons of rich families can indulge in this. Poorer boys have to con[483]tent themselves with mounting on improvised horses, such as rocks or logs of wood.

The Tibetan girls do not differ much from those of other countries in preferring quiet and refined games to the rough sports of their brothers. Dolls are a favorite amusement, and then singing, which is either theatrical (Aje-lhamo) or religious (Lama-mani). The latter is associated with an interesting custom, and is an imitation of “Lama-mani,” who go about the country singing or reciting in quaint plaintive tones the famous deeds of the Buḍḍha, or high priests, or even great warriors. These Lama-manis do not use instruments, but possess pictures illustrating the popular historical accounts of those mighty persons. The Tibetan girls sing those pieces, in imitation of the recitation of the minstrels, one girl acting as conductor and the rest of the juvenile company reciting in chorus, with now and then a religious chant interposed.

I may mention here that Lama-manis are quite numerous in Tibet. In winter and when the field work is suspended, they go on tour in the provinces, but about the month of May, when the field-work is resumed and the provincials are busy with it, the minstrels return to Lhasa and ply their trade there. Their arrival at the capital generally coincides with the appearance of the red dragon-flies, so these flies are popularly known by the rather respectable name of ‘Lama-mani.’


The Care of the Sick.

The tending of sick persons is a task assigned to women in Tibet, and the peculiar notions prevailing about the treatment of patients makes this task doubly onerous. Tibetan doctors strictly forbid their patients to sleep in the day-time, and so those who tend them have to follow this injunction of the doctors and keep the unfortunate patients awake. The patients are not allowed to lie in bed but are made to remain leaning upon some supports specially prepared for them. One or more nurses sit by their sides to give them any help they need, and above all to prevent them from going to sleep. These nurses cannot long stand the strain of constant watching, and therefore they are relieved in turn, to resume the task after they have taken more or less rest. The nurses faithfully attend to their duty, are very quiet so as not to annoy the patients, wakeful as they are, and above all to satisfy any of their wants, to comfort and humor them, and also to keep the rooms clean. This cleaning must be judged strictly by a Tibetan standard, for viewed from the Japanese standpoint it hardly deserves the name. The patients are also kept comparatively clean, considering the general filthy habits of the Tibetans. The effect of this insanitary condition at once makes itself felt to the olfactory sense of a foreigner who is accustomed to more perfect arrangements at home, for as soon as he enters the room a peculiar offensive smell greets his nose.

But the most important and tiresome part of the nursing duty is to keep the patient awake, and sometimes nurses are specially appointed to attend to this work. These nurses keep beside them a bowl containing cold water and[485] one or two wooden sprinklers. When the patient is about to fall asleep, a nurse sprinkles water on his face, and this has the effect of preventing sleep. When this water-sprinkling fails, the nurse embraces the patient from behind and slightly presses him forward. Sometimes they call the patient by name and cause him to recover consciousness. The patient is thankful for the trouble taken by the nurses, being well aware that they do it in obedience to the doctor’s orders, and from their wish to ensure his recovery.

The idea that a patient must not be allowed to sleep in the day-time is strongly impressed on the minds of Tibetans, both professional and non-professional. The doctors enjoin both on him and on the nurses to observe this point strictly as the first essential for his recovery, and any person who comes to visit him first of all gives a similar warning. “Don’t allow him to fall asleep,” repeats the visitor to the nurses, and reminds them that they are principally responsible for carrying out faithfully this cardinal necessity in the treatment of the patient.

When a patient dies, the neighbors suspect that his nurses may not have been strict enough, and must have suffered him to fall asleep!

I tried to find out the reasons that have brought about this strange medical custom, and it was easy for me to make enquiries, having been obliged to play the part of a quack doctor through the earnest importunities of the simple-minded Tibetans. So far as I could ascertain from those enquiries, the idea seems to be that patients suffering from some diseases are liable to develop more fever when they sleep in the day-time, while patients suffering from a local disease, resembling dropsy, not unfrequently die while asleep or while in a state of coma. It seems to have been derived from some cases that occurred some time in the past, the unscientific doctors of Tibet having jumped to a[486] general conclusion from certain specific occurrences. I need hardly add that this non-sleep prescription is efficacious (if ever it is efficacious at all) for the Tibetans only. When at times I suffered from disease while in Lhasa I slept as freely as I wished, and of course I found myself feeling all the better for it.

The fact is that, in Tibet, superstition plays a far more important part than medicine in the treatment of diseases.

People believe that a disease is the work of an evil spirit which enters the body of a person, and therefore they conclude that that spirit must first be exorcised before a patient may be entrusted to the care of a doctor. There being various kinds of evil spirits, some high Lama must be consulted in order to determine which particular one has possessed a given patient. A priest before whom the matter is brought consults books on demonology, then pronounces that the disease is the work of such and such an evil spirit, and that for exorcising him such and such a service must be performed.

The consulting priest may specify the name of a Lama when the service to be read is one of importance, but when it is an ordinary one it may be performed by any Lama. At the same time the consulting priest issues directions about medical treatment—that a doctor should be called in after the service has been performed for so many days, or that such and such a doctor should be invited simultaneously with the religious performance, or that medical aid may be dispensed with altogether.

These directions are given orally when the Lama who issues them is one of secondary position, but when he is one of exalted rank the directions are written by one of his attendants and the sheet is authenticated by the mark of his own seal.

The Tibetans put implicit faith in the directions issued by such high Lamas, and follow them literally. For[487] instance, when the Lama directs them not to seek the aid of medicine, say for the first five days, and orders the patient only to perform the rites of exorcism during that period, they are sure to do so. A patient, who might have recovered had the aid of medicine been at once invoked, may then die, but his family will never blame the Lama for it. They will rather hold him in greater respect than before, attributing to him an extraordinary power of foresight. They will say that he had foreseen the hopelessness of the patient’s case, and therefore told them not to take the unnecessary trouble of calling in the aid of a doctor until after the lapse of five days. The reverend priest knew, they think, that the patient would die by that time. Anybody who should dare to hold the Lama responsible for the death of the patient would run a serious risk of being denounced by the faithful believers as a heretic and as a person of depraved mind. Even those who at heart condemn the mischievous and fatal meddling of the priests in the case of diseases prudently keep silence, for fear of calling down upon themselves the wrath of the fanatical populace.

To speak the truth, the Tibetan doctors hardly deserve to be trusted. The word ‘doctor’ as applied to them is a gross outrage on the noble science, for they possess merely the knowledge (and this too of a very shallow kind) of the primitive medicine of ancient India. As even that knowledge is the result of oral instruction transmitted from father to son for many generations, and not acquired from studying medical works or from investigation, the Tibetan ‘doctors’ are utterly incompetent for the important function assigned to them.

The doctors practically possess only one stock medicine, which is the root of a certain poisonous herb called tsa-tuk in Tibet. Being a strong stimulant it is fatal in a large dose, and even a limited quantity causes a[488] temporary paralysis of the different parts of the body and sometimes violent diarrhœa. A change of any kind is likely to be taken as a hopeful sign by patients, and so the Tibetan doctors always use more or less of this drug for all kinds of illness, just as the Japanese doctors were accustomed to use liquorice-root in olden days.

Knowing as I do how untrustworthy and even dangerous the prescriptions of Tibetan doctors are, I sometimes thought that if the choice between the two evils had to be made I should rather recommend to sick people an exclusive reliance on prayers and faith-cure instead of on the risky medicines prepared by these quacks.


Outdoor Amusements.

There are various methods of feasting in Tibet, but the one which appeals most strongly to the fancy of the people and is, I think, the most refined, is the Lingka. This is a sort of garden party held in woody places situated in the outskirts of the city of Lhasa.

The Tibetans seldom behave respectably and with courtesy when they meet in a social reunion; too frequently on such occasions disputes or even quarrels are liable to occur. But in a Lingka party all those who participate in it behave with decorum, and even people who are generally regarded as quarrelsome characters appear genteel and affable in deference to the best tradition of the country. A Lingka carried out by a party of warrior-priests is sufficiently animated, but very seldom do they mar the occasion with unseemly quarrels.

The places where this refined amusement is held are, as before mentioned, situated very close to the city, and are found in all directions except the south, where flows a river. In the remainder of the circuit woods and groves are scattered here and there, and also patches of velvety lawns. Some of the groves are enclosed and are attached to the private villas of wealthy people, but there are plenty of groves and lawns which are left open to the public.

These lawns and groves present a charming appearance in spring, and the people of Lhasa, after having been chained to the town through the desolate and dreary scenes of winter, feel themselves inspired with a new life when they meet again on turf which is resuming its vigor and putting on a new coat of velvet. There are peach-trees with their buds about to burst open, while by the streams[490] may be seen willow-trees with their elegant pendant twigs covered with fresh green leaves.

The whole city of Lhasa finds its heart beating with a new life, as it were, in agreeable harmony with the fascinating surroundings of nature. The season of pure and innocent amusements has arrived, and the people, urged on by the natural cravings of their hearts, sally forth to the fields in small parties or large, and enjoy themselves with picnics.

The picnic outfit comprises baked flour, fried vegetables or meats, cheese, raisins, dried peaches, dried animal flesh, sacks of liquor and tea-sets. There are two kinds of native liquors, one being made of barley or wheat and the other of rice. Of the two the former is used to a greater extent than the latter. The barley liquor is brewed in a very simple way. A certain quantity of barley, generally at the rate of one sho of the grain to five sho of the liquor, is roasted, then left to cool, and while it is being cooled a quantity of malt is added, and the mixture is put in a jug and kept in a warm place. In three days the mixture is converted into yeast, and to it water is added and thoroughly stirred. The liquor is then ready, and it is ladled out as occasion requires, or the whole watery portion is strained and put in another vessel. In brewing a superior kind of the liquor, only about two sho of water is added to one sho of the grain and the strained liquid is left to ripen for some weeks. This superior liquor is used only by wealthy people.

The ordinary barley liquor is very weak and does not intoxicate unless a large quantity is drunk. The climate too being comparatively cool and the atmosphere very dry, the fumes of the liquor soon disappear even when a man has imbibed a large quantity.

So, prepared with all those provisions, the parties spread their mats on the turf, and enjoy themselves to their hearts’ contents from nine in the morning to six in the afternoon.



Let us suppose that a carpet is laid on the velvety lawn in a wood, and that there are liquors and delicacies to which the party will help themselves. There will also be singing and dancing. Dancing is generally accompanied by vocal music, and it occupies in the eyes of Tibetan people a very important place on the programme of a public function of this kind. Everybody appears to think that there is nothing more enjoyable in life than the art of cadenced steps and graceful postures. Even the country people who from lack of opportunities cannot learn the art, appreciate and enjoy it just as well as the inhabitants of cities. Strangers like myself do not see any great merit in the Tibetan dancing, but to their eyes it is certainly amusing. In short, the picnic is a source of most refined relaxation to the Tibetans, for on such occasions they sing and dance, they drink the best of liquors and eat the best of delicacies, their enjoyment very much enhanced by the exquisite environment. Here[492] flows a limpid current drawn from the river Kichu and on its banks are gambolling and running children and adults. There stand majestic snow-capped peaks with their slopes covered with verdant forests. Lhasa indeed seems to justify at such time its classic name of the ‘Ground of Deities’.

The above description applies to a picnic given by people of the higher classes, but their inferiors also have picnics of their own.

The picnics got up by people of the lower classes are of course less refined, and the amusements include the drinking of liquors, gambolling, and maybe wrestling. Tibetan wrestling possesses a peculiarity of its own, quite distinct from that prevailing in Japan. The wrestlers generally keep apart from their antagonists and do not tug and close in as do their confrères of Japan. Very seldom does a Tibetan wrestler aim at throwing down his antagonist, the contest consisting in the use of the arms. The picnickers also amuse themselves with competitions of stone-flinging, which is a favorite game of the warrior priests, and sometimes they try a foot-race. Dancing is a favorite item of amusement in the picnics of the vulgar folks also, and it does not differ much in form from that of people of the higher circles, though it somewhat lacks elegance and at times it even strikes one as scandalous. Still, one beautiful point about the picnics even of the lower people is that very seldom does a quarrel or any such unseemly incident mar the sweet pleasure of the occasion, and it is evident that the changsa of the lingka exerts upon them a high moral influence and indirectly leads them to good. Whether for people of the higher circles or for their inferiors, among the changsas the lingka is the purest and most refined of their amusements and is the one most conducive to fraternal feeling and good fellowship.


Russia’s Tibetan Policy.

Before proceeding to give an account, necessarily imperfect, of Tibetan diplomacy, I must explain what is the public opinion of the country as to patriotism. I am sorry to say that the attitude of the people in this respect by no means does them credit. So far as my limited observation goes, the Tibetans, who are sufficiently shrewd in attending to their own interest, are not so sensitive to matters of national importance. It seems as if they were destitute of the sense of patriotism, as the term is understood by ordinary people. Not that they are totally ignorant of the meaning of “fatherland,” but they are rather inclined to turn that meaning to their own advantage in preference to the interest of their country. Such seems, in short, the general idea of the politicians of to-day.

The Tibetans are more jealous with regard to their religion. A few of them, a very limited few it is true, seem to be prepared to defend and promote it at the expense of their private interest, though even in this respect the majority are so far unscrupulous as to abuse their religion for their own ends. In the eyes of the common people, religion is the most important product of the country, and they think therefore that they must preserve it at any cost. Their ignorance necessarily makes them fanatics and they believe that any one who works any injury to their religion deserves death. The Hierarchical Government makes a great deal of capital out of this fanatical tendency of the masses. The holy religion is its justification when it persecutes persons obnoxious to it, and when it has committed any wrong it seeks refuge under the same holy name. The Government too often works mischief in the[494] name of religion, but the masses do not of course suspect any such thing—or even if they do now and then harbor a suspicion, they are deterred from giving vent to their sentiments, for to speak ill of the religion is a heinous crime in Tibet.

I have already stated how in general the Tibetan women are highly selfish and but poorly developed in the sense of public duty. One might naturally suppose that the children born of such mothers must be similarly deficient in this important point. I thought at first that the Tibetan men were less open to this charge than their wives and sisters, but I soon found this to be a mistake. I found the men not much better than the women, and equally absorbed in their selfish desires while totally neglecting the interests of the State. A foreign country knowing this weak point, and wishing to push its interests in the Forbidden Land, has only to form its diplomatic procedure accordingly. In other words, it has merely to captivate the hearts of the rulers of Tibet, for once the influential Cabinet Ministers of the Hierarchical Government are won over, the next step will be an easy matter. The greedy Ministers will be ready to listen to any insidious advice coming from outside, provided that the advice carries with it literally the proper weight of gold. They will not care a straw about the welfare of the State or the interest of the general public, if only they themselves are satisfied.

However, foreign diplomatists desiring to succeed in their policy of gaining influence over Tibet must not think that they have an easy task before them. Gold is most acceptable to all Tibetan statesmen, but at times gold alone may not carry the point. The fact is that Tibet has no diplomatic policy in any dignified sense of the word. Its foreign doings are determined by sentiment, which is necessarily destitute of any solid foundation, but[495] is susceptible to change from a trivial cause. A foreign country which has given a large bribe to the principal statesmen of Tibet may find afterwards that its enormous disbursements on this account have been a mere waste of money, and that the recipients who were believed to have been secured with golden chains have broken loose from them, for some mere triviality. It is impossible to rely on the faith of the Tibetan statesmen, for they are entirely led by sentiment and never by rational conviction.

The Muscovites seem to conduct their Tibetan policy with consummate dexterity. Their manœuvres date from a long time (at least thirty years) back, when Russia’s activity towards Tibet began to attract the public attention of the Powers concerned. Russia has selected a highly effective instrument in promoting her interest over Tibet.

There was a Mongolian tribe called the Buriats, which peopled a district far away to the north-east of Tibet towards Mongolia. The tribe was originally feudatory to China, but it passed some time ago under the control of Russia. The astute Muscovites have taken great pains to insinuate themselves into the grateful regard of this tribe. Contrary to their vaunted policy at home, they have never attempted to convert the Mongolians into believers of the Greek Church, but have treated their religion with a strange toleration. The Muscovites even went farther and actually rendered help in promoting the interests of the Lamaist faith, by granting its monasteries more or less pecuniary aid. It was evident that this policy of Russia originated from the deep-laid plan of captivating the hearts of the priests, whose influence was, as it still is, immense over the people. From this tribe quite a large number of young priests are sent to Tibet to prosecute their studies at the principal seats of Lamaist learning. These young Mongolians are found at the religious centres of Ganden, Rebon, Sera, Tashi Lhunpo and at other places.[496] There must be altogether two hundred such students at those seats of learning; several able priests have appeared from among them, one of whom, Dorje by name, became a high tutor to the present Dalai Lama while he was a minor.

This great priest obtained from the Hierarchical Government some twenty years ago the honorable title of “Tsan-ni Kenbo,” which means an “instructor in the Lamaist Catechism.” There were besides him three other instructors; but he is said to have virtually monopolised the confidence of the young Lama Chief. Nor was this confidence misplaced, so far as the relation of teaching and learning was concerned, for the Mongolian priest surpassed his three colleagues both in ability and in learning, and as he omitted no pains to win the heart of his little pupil, the latter was naturally led to hold him in the greatest estimation and affection.

The Tsan-ni Kenbo returned home when, on his pupil’s attaining majority, his services as tutor were no longer required. It is quite likely that he described minutely the results of his work in Tibet to the Russian Government, for it is conceivable that he may have been entrusted by it with some important business during his stay at Lhasa. Soon the Tsan-ni Kenbo re-visited Lhasa, and this time as a priest of great wealth, instead of as a poor student, as he was at first. He brought with him a large amount of gold, also boxes of curios made in Russia. The money and the curios must have come to him from the Russian Government. The Dalai Lama and his Ministers were the recipients of the gold and curios, and among the Ministers a young man named Shata appears to have been honored with the largest share. The name of the Tsan-ni Kenbo had been remembered with respect since his departure from Lhasa, and his re-appearance as a liberal distributor of gifts completed his triumph.


The Dalai Lama was now ready to lend a willing ear to anything his former tutor represented to him, while the friendship between him and the young Premier grew so fraternal that they are said to have vowed to stand by each other as brothers born. The astute Tsan-ni did not of course confine his crafty endeavors to the higher circles alone; the priest classes received from him a large share of attention, due to the mighty influence which they wield over the masses. Liberal donations were therefore more than once presented to all the important monasteries of Tibet, with which of course the priests of these monasteries were delighted. In their eyes the Tsan-ni was a Mongolian priest of immense wealth and pious heart, and the idea of suspecting how he came to be possessed of such wealth never entered their unsophisticated minds. So they had nothing but unqualified praise for him. When at rare intervals some inquisitive priests asked the Government officers about the origin of the Tsan-ni’s fortune, the latter would inform them with a knowing look that the Mongolian Lama was regarded with something like regal respect by his countrymen, who vied with each other in presenting gold and other precious things to that venerable priest. There was nothing strange about his acquisition of wealth. And so the Government and priesthood placed themselves at the feet of the Tsan-ni and adored him as their benefactor.

The Zaune’s programme of ‘conquest’ was really comprehensive and included a general plan intended for the masses. It was based on an old tradition of Tibet and involved no extra disbursements on his part. It must be remembered that a work written in former times by some Lama of the New Sect contained a prophetic pronouncement—a pronouncement which was supported by some others—that some centuries hence a mighty prince would make his appearance somewhere to the north of Kashmīr,[498] and would bring the whole world under his sway, and under the domination of the Buḍḍhist faith. Now Kashmīr and the places near it are districts of great natural beauty and delightful situation, and Buḍḍhism once attained a high prosperity in them, before they were subdued by the Muhammadan conquerors. This would-be “prophet” must have concluded a priori that as the faith had once prevailed there, therefore it must one day recover its original prosperity. Starting from this peculiar surmise the prophet jumped to the conclusion that the place, from its advantageous natural position, must in some remote future make its power felt through the world, and that this would be achieved by some powerful prince.

This announcement alone was not sufficiently attractive to awake the interest of the Tibetans, and so the unborn prince was represented as a holy incarnation of the founder of the national religion of Tibet, Tsong-kha-pa, and his Ministers were to be incarnations of his principal disciples, as Jam yan Choeje, Chamba Choeje and Gendun Tub. The prophet went into further details and gave the name of the future great country as “Chang Shambhala;” Chang denoting “northward” and “Shambhala” the name of a certain city or place, if I remember rightly, to the north of Kashmīr. With a precision worthy of Swift’s pen, the prophet located the new Buḍḍhist empire of the future at a distance some three thousand miles north-west of Buḍḍhagayā in Hinḍūsṭān, and he even described at some length the route to be taken in reaching the imaginary country. This utopian account has obtained belief from a section of the Tibetan priest-class, and some of them are said to have undertaken a quest for this future empire, so that they might at least have the satisfaction of inspecting its cradle. Now the Tibetan prophet bequeathed us this important forecast with the idea that when the Tibetan religion[499] degenerated, it would be saved from extinction by the appearance of that mighty Buḍḍhist prince, who would extend his benevolent influence over the whole world. I should state that this announcement is widely accepted as truth by the common people of Tibet.

The Tsan-ni Kenbo was perfectly familiar with the existence of this marvellous tradition, and he was not slow to utilise it for promoting his own ambitious schemes. He wrote a pamphlet with the special object of demonstrating that “Chang Shambhala” means Russia, and that the Tsar is the incarnation of Je Tsong-kha-pa. The Tsar, this Russian emissary wrote, is a worthy reincarnation of that venerable founder, being benevolent to his people, courteous in his relations to neighboring countries, and above all endowed with a virtuous mind. This fact and the existence of several points of coincidence between Russia and the country indicated in the sacred prophecy indisputably proved that Russia must be that country, that anybody who doubted it was an enemy of Buḍḍhism and of the august will of the Founder of the New Sect, and that in short all the faithful believers in Buḍḍhism must pay respect to the Tsar as a Chang-chub Semba Semba Chenbo, which in Tibetan indicates one next to Buḍḍha, or as a new embodiment of the Founder, and must obey him.

Such is said to be the tenor of that particular writing of the Tsan-ni Kenbo. It seems to exist in three different versions, Tibetan, Mongolian and Russian. I have not been able to see a copy, but it was from the lips of a trustworthy person that I gathered the drift of the exposition given in the pamphlet. Indeed the Tsan-ni’s pamphlet was preserved with jealous care by all who had copies of it, such care as is bestowed by a pious bibliographer on a rare text of Buḍḍhist writing. I knew several priests who undoubtedly possessed copies of[500] the pamphlet, but I could not ask permission to inspect them, for fear that such a request might awake their suspicion. The one from whom I confidentially obtained the drift of the writing told me that he found in it some unknown letters. I concluded that the letters must be Russian.

Tsan-ni Kenbo’s artful scheme has been crowned with great success, for to-day almost every Tibetan blindly believes in the ingenious story concocted by the Mongolian priest, and holds that the Tsar will sooner or later subdue the whole world and found a gigantic Buḍḍhist empire. So the Tibetans may be regarded as extreme Russophiles, thanks to the machination of the Tsan-ni Kenbo.

There is another minor reason which has very much raised the credit of Russia in the eyes of the Tibetans; I mean the arrival of costly fancy goods from that country. Now, the fancy goods coming from British India are all cheap things which are hardly fit for the uses for which they are intended. The reason is obvious; as the Tibetans cannot afford to buy goods of superior quality, the merchants who forward these to Tibet must necessarily select only those articles that are readily marketable. The goods coming from Russia, on the other hand, are not intended for sale; they are exclusively for presents. Naturally therefore the goods coming from Russia are of superior quality and can well stand the wear and tear of use. The ignorant Tibetans do not of course exercise any great discernment, and seeing that the goods from England and Russia make such a striking contrast with each other they naturally jump to the conclusion that the English goods are trash, and that the people who produce such things must be an inferior and unreliable race.

I heard during my stay in Tibet a strange story the authenticity of which admitted of no doubt. It was kept as a great secret and occurred about two years ago. At[501] that time the Dalai Lama received as a present a suit of Episcopal robes from the Tsar, a present forwarded through the hands of the Tsar’s emissary. It was a splendid garment glittering with gold and was accepted, I was told, with gratitude by the Grand Lama. The Tsar’s act in giving such a present to him is open to a serious charge. If the Tsar presented the suit as a specimen of an embroidered fabric, then that act amounted to sacrilege, for the Bishop’s ceremonial robe is a sign of a high religious function, and when a person receives it from the superior Head of the holy church it means that that person has been installed in the seat of a Bishop. On the other hand if the Tsar presented the suit from religious considerations his act is equally inexplicable and deserves condemnation, for he must have been perfectly aware that Lamaism is an entirely distinct religion from the State religion of Russia, and that the chief of the Tibetan religion therefore has nothing to do with such an official garment. It was really a strange transaction. On the part of the recipient there were extenuating circumstances. The fact is, he must have been entirely ignorant as to the real nature of the present. He must have accepted it merely as a costly garment with no special meaning attached to it. I am certain he would have rejected the offer at once had he had even a faint inkling of its nature. He was therefore a victim of ignorance and perhaps of imposition, for the Tsan-ni Kenbo, who knew all about this present, must have made some plausible explanations to the Dalai Lama when the latter asked him about it. Shata, the Premier and bosom friend of the Tsan-ni, probably played some part in the imposture.


Who is Shata? Shata, whose name I have before mentioned, is the eldest of the Premiers, and comes from one of the most illustrious families of Tibet. His house stood in hereditary feud with the great monastery Tangye-ling[502] whose head, Lama Temo Rinpoche, acted as Regent before the present Dalai Lama had been installed. At that time the star of Shata was in the decline. He could not even live in Tibet with safety, and had to leave the country as a voluntary exile. As a wanderer he lived sometimes at Darjeeling and at other times in Sikkim. It was during this period of his wandering existence that he observed the administration of India by England, and heard much about how India came to be subjugated by that Power. Shata therefore is the best authority in Tibet about England’s Indian policy. His mind was filled with the dread of England. He was overawed by her power and must have trembled at the mere idea of the possibility of her crossing the Himālayas and entering Tibet, which could hardly[503] hope to resist the northward march of England, when once the latter made up her mind to invade the land. He must have thought during his exile that Tibet would have to choose between Russia and China in seeking foreign help against the possible aggression of England. Evidently therefore he carried home some such idea as to Tibetan policy when affairs allowed him to return home with safety, that is to say, when his enemy had resigned the Regency and surrendered the supreme power to the Dalai Lama. Shata was soon nominated a Premier, and the power he then acquired was first of all employed and abused in destroying his old enemy and his followers. The maladministration and unjust practices of which those followers had been guilty during the ascendancy of their master furnished a sufficient cause for bringing a serious charge against the latter. The poor Temo Rinpoche was arrested for a crime of which he was innocent, and died a victim to his enemy, as already told.

Shata is an unscrupulous man and is resourceful in intrigues. But he is nevertheless a man of vigorous mind and does not hesitate about the means, when once he makes up his mind to compass anything.

He is the best informed man in Tibet, comparatively speaking, in diplomatic affairs, and so he must possess a certain definite view about the foreign policy of Tibet, and his pro-Russian tendency must have come from his strong conviction, though this conviction rested on a slender base. This tendency was of course stimulated and encouraged by the Tsan-ni Kenbo, who did not neglect to work upon the other’s inclination when he saw that it was highly favorable to him. Shata on his part must have rendered help to his Mongolian friend when the latter wished to offer the strange present to the Dalai Lama. I do not say that the other Ministers approved of Shata’s acts in this significant transaction, or even of his pro-[504]Russian policy. On the contrary some of them may have deprecated both as being opposed to the interests of Tibet. But they could hardly speak out their minds, and even if they did they could not restrain Shata, for the simple reason that the executive authority practically rests in the hands of the Senior Premier. He very seldom consulted his colleagues, still less was he inclined to accept advice coming from them. Under the circumstances they must have connived at the acceptance of the bishop’s apparel, even if they knew about it.

China’s loss of prestige in Tibet since the Japano-Chinese war owing to her inability to assert her power over the vassal state has much to do with this pro-Russian leaning. China is no longer respected, much less feared by the Tibetans. Previous to that war and before China’s internal incompetence had been laid bare by Japan, relations like those between master and vassal bound Tibet to China. The latter interfered with the internal affairs of Tibet and meted out punishments freely to the Tibetan dignitaries and even to the Grand Lama. Now she is entirely helpless. She could not even demand explanations from Tibet when that country was thrown into an unusual agitation about the Temo Rinpoche’s affair. The Tibetans are now conducting themselves in utter disregard or even in defiance of the wishes of China, for they are aware of the powerlessness of China to take any active steps against them. They know that their former suzerain is fallen and is therefore no longer to be depended upon. They are prejudiced against England on account of her subjugation of India, and so they have naturally concluded that they should establish friendly relations with Russia, which they knew was England’s bitter foe.

It is evident that the Dalai Lama himself favors this view, and it may safely be presumed that unless he was favorably disposed towards Russia he would never have[505] accepted the bishop’s garment from the Tsar. He is too intelligent a man to accept any present from a foreign sovereign as a mere compliment.

The Dalai Lama’s friendly inclination was clearly established when in December, 1900, he sent to Russia his grand Chamberlain as envoy with three followers. Leaving Lhasa on that date the party first proceeded towards the Tsan-ni Kenbo’s native place, whence they were taken by the Siberian railway, and in time reached S. Petersburg. The party was received with warm welcome by that court, to which it offered presents brought from Tibet. It is said that on that occasion a secret understanding was reached between the two Governments.

It was about December of 1901 or January of the following year that the party returned home. By that time I had already been residing in Lhasa for some time. About two months after the return of the party I went out on a short trip on horseback to a place about fifty miles north-east of Lhasa. While I was there I saw two hundred camels fully loaded arrive from the north-east. The load consisted of small boxes, two packed on each camel. Every load was covered with skin, and so I could not even guess what it contained. The smallness of the boxes however arrested my attention, and I came to the conclusion that some Mongolians must have been bringing ingots of silver as a present to the Dalai Lama. I asked some of the drivers about the contents of the boxes, but they could not tell me anything. They were hired at some intermediate station, and so knew nothing about the contents. However they believed that the boxes contained silver, but they knew for certain that these boxes did not come from China. They had been informed by somebody that they came from some unknown place.

When I returned to the house of my host, the Minister of Finance came in and informed him that on that day a[506] heavy load had arrived from Russia. On my host inquiring what were the contents of the load, the Minister replied that this was a secret. I took a hint from this talk of the Minister and left the room. I had however by good chance discovered that the load came from Russia, and though I could not as yet form any idea about the contents, I tried to get some reliable information.

Now I knew one Government officer who was one of the worst repositories imaginable for any secret; he was such a gossip that it was easy to worm out anything from him. One day I met him and gradually the trend of our conversation was turned to the last caravan. I found him quite communicative as usual, and so I asked him about the contents of the load. The gentleman was so far obliging, that he told me (confidentially, he said) that another caravan of three hundred camels had arrived some time before, and that the load brought by so many camels consisted of small fire-arms, bullets, and other interesting objects. He was quite elated with the weapons, saying that now for the first time Tibet was sufficiently armed to resist any attack which England might undertake against her, and could defiantly reject any improper request which that aggressive power, as the Tibetans believe her to be, might make to her.

I had the opportunity to inspect one of the guns sent by Russia. It was apparently one of modern pattern, but it did not impress me as possessing any long range nor seem to be quite fit for active service. The stock bore an inscription attesting that it was made in the United States of America. The Tibetans being ignorant of Roman letters and English firmly believed that all the weapons were made in Russia. It seems that about one-half of the load of the five hundred camels consisted of small arms and ammunition.

The Chinese Government appears mortified to see Tibet endeavoring to break off her traditional relation with[507] China, and to attach herself to Russia. The Chinese Amban once tried to interfere with the Tsan-ni Kenbo’s dealings in Lhasa, and even intended to arrest him. But it was of no avail, as the Tibetan Government extended protection to the man and defeated the purposes of the Amban. On one occasion the Tsan-ni was secretly sent to Darjeeling and on another occasion to Nepāl, and the Amban could never catch hold of him. It appears that the British Government watched the movements of the Tsan-ni, and this suspicion of England against him appears to have been shared by the Nepāl Government.

Apparently therefore the Russian manœuvres in Tibet have succeeded, and the question that naturally arises is this: “Is Russia’s footing in Tibet so firmly established as to enable her to make with any hope of success an attempt on India with Tibet as her base?” I cannot answer this question affirmatively, for Russia’s influence in Tibet has not yet taken a deep root. She can count only on the Dalai Lama and his Senior Premier as her most reliable friends, and the support of the rest who are simply blind followers of those two cannot be counted upon. Of course those blind followers would remain pro-Russian, if Russia should persist in actively pushing on her policy of fascination; but as their attitude does not rest on a solid foundation they may abandon it any time when affairs take a turn unfavorable for Russia. For it must be remembered that by no means the whole of the higher classes of Tibet are even passive supporters of the policy marked out by the Dalai Lama and his trusted lieutenants. On the contrary, there are some few who are secretly suspicious of the motives of Russia. The Tsar, they think, may be the sovereign who is the incarnate Founder, but his very munificence towards Tibet may have some deep meaning at bottom. That munificence may not be for nothing; if it is, then Russia must be regarded as a country[508] composed of people who are quite godly—a very rare thing in this world of give and take, where selfishness is a guiding motive. Is it not more reasonable and safer to interpret these repeated acts of outward friendship as coming from her ambitious design to place a snare before Tibet and finally to absorb the country? Such ideas are, I say, confined to only a very limited section, and are exchanged in whispers between confidential friends. They do not seem to have reached the ears of the Dalai Lama and the Senior Premier. But those ideas already contain in them a germ of a dangerous nature, which at some favorable opportunity may develop into a powerful anti-Russian movement. Russia therefore will experience a keen disappointment if she considers her footing in Tibet firmly planted beyond any fear of shaking, and neglects to keep watch over the state of affairs in that country. If she neglects this, all the gold she has disbursed in the shape of presents and bribes will prove so much mere waste.


Tibet and British India.

The Tibetans are on the whole a hospitable people, and the unfavorable discrimination made against England is mainly attributable to mutual misunderstanding. On the part of England that misunderstanding led to the adoption of a rough and ready method instead of one of ingratiation, and so England is singled out as an object of abhorrence by Tibet. England had opportunities to score a greater success in Tibet than that achieved by Russia, and had she followed the Russian method her influence would now have extended far beyond the Himālayas. Instead, she tried to coerce Tibet, and so she failed. It is like crying over spilt milk to speak of this failure at present, but I cannot help regretting it for the sake of England. She would have saved much of the trouble and money she has subsequently been obliged to give in consequence of her too hasty policy, occasioned by her ignorance of the temper of the Tibetans and the general state of affairs in their country. As it was, since England sent her abortive expedition of force, the attitude of Tibet towards that Power has become one of pronounced hostility. The revelation of the secret mission of Saraṭ Chanḍra Ḍās and the serious agitation that occurred in Tibet, including the execution of several noted men, such as the virtuous Sengchen Dorjechan and others, has completely estranged the Tibetan Government from England. That revelation has had a far-reaching effect that has involved the interests of other countries, for it confirmed the Tibetan Government in its prejudice in favor of a exclusory policy. Tibet has been closed up entirely since that time, not only against British India, but even against Russia and Persia. The[510] Lama believers of India even are prohibited from entering the country. Such being the case, should England ever wish to transact any business with Tibet she would be obliged to do so by force.

Not that England neglects to take measures calculated to win the favorable opinion of the Tibetans. The Indian Viceroy is, for instance, endeavoring to convey friendly impressions to such of the Tibetans as may happen to come to frontier places, such as Darjeeling or Sikkim. Thus the children of those Tibetans are at liberty to enter any Government schools without paying fees, while boys of a hopeful nature are patronised by the Government and are sent at Government expense to higher institutions. At present there are quite a number of Tibetan lads who, after graduation from their respective courses, are employed by the Indian Government as surveyors, Post Office clerks or teachers. Then the privilege of carrying on the business of palanquin-bearers, quite a lucrative occupation, is practically reserved for the Tibetans, at least at Darjeeling. Not even natives of India, still less people of other countries, are easily allowed to start this business. The Indian Police officers too are quite indulgent towards the Tibetans, and never deal with them so strictly as with the Indian natives.

The Tibetans residing at Darjeeling are therefore quite satisfied with their lot. Most of them feel sincerely grateful towards the British Government and are ready to repay it with friendly service. The longer they remain under the British protection, the stronger grows this sentiment. They are impressed with the treatment of the British Government, its straightforwardness, veracity and benevolence, in contrast to the merciless dealings of the Government at home, which inflicts shocking punishments for even minor offences. They are well aware that the Lama’s Government cuts off a man’s arms or extracts[511] his eye-balls for larceny, or similar minor crimes, while in India capital punishment is very seldom inflicted even on offenders of a grave character; the humane treatment of criminals by the British Government is a thing that can hardly be dreamed of by the people of Tibet. The roads in India are an object of marvel to the Tibetans who arrive there for the first time. The presence of free hospitals, of free asylums, of educational institutions, the railways, telegraphs and telephones—all these are objects of wonder and marvel to those Tibetans, and it is not strange that most of them become the more disinclined to return home the longer they live in India. In the presence of these evidences of material greatness, the Tibetans naturally come to the conclusion that a Government which can afford to establish and maintain such splendid structures must be immensely rich, and they therefore begin to nurture the hope of having such a wealthy and great Government over them, and of sharing in its prosperity. This sentiment seems to be especially strong among those of the higher classes, who have seen India, and it is shared by their inferiors who know that greatness only from hearsay.

The policy of indirectly winning the goodwill of the Tibetans, so far pursued by the Indian Government, has failed, however, to produce any perceptible effect on the Government circles of Tibet. They are too far engrossed with personal interests to be open to any great extent to indirect suasion of a moral nature. They are far more inclined to gain advantage for themselves directly from offers of bribes than to profit by an exemplary model of administration. The main reason why they are favorably disposed towards Russia is because they have received gold from that country; it was never by the effect of any display of good administrative method that Russia has succeeded so well. In short, these greedy Tibetan officials offer their friendship to the highest bidders, and they do[512] not care at all whence the gold comes so long as they grasp a large sum. The policy of the British Government therefore rests on a pedestal set a little too high to be understood and appreciated by the majority of the official circles of Tibet.

The attitude of the priesthood towards England is a puzzled one. They are puzzled to determine whether they should denounce the English as devils incarnate, or respect them as the incarnations of saints. The benevolent arrangements made by them, such as establishing philanthropic institutions, laying of railroads and such like, lead the sceptical Lamas to think that Englishmen must understand the ways of Buḍḍhism and be a godly race. But when they think that these same Englishmen did not scruple to annex other people’s land to their own dominions, their favorable impression about Englishmen receives a sudden and complete check. These two conflicting notions seem to have taken a deep hold on their minds, and they try to solve the puzzle without compromising their two convictions. They explain that there must be two distinct kinds of Englishmen in India, one benevolent and godly and the other infernal and quite wicked. Otherwise, they think, such a marvellous phenomenon as that witnessed in India could hardly have been possible.

The same priests held a strange notion about the late Queen. They believed her to be an incarnation of the patron Goddess of the Cho-khang temple in Lhasa, and therefore endowed with a supernatural power of subjugating and governing the whole world. Because of this occult affinity the Queen entertained, they believed, a fraternal feeling towards Tibet, but some of the courtiers about her were wicked and obstructed her benevolent intentions, just as the great Buḍḍha himself had among His disciples some wicked and incorrigible characters. The Tibetans, they said, must get rid of those pernicious persons for the Queen.


When the news of the death of the Queen reached Tibet, the people, while mourning for her, at the same time rejoiced, for they thought that their Panden Lhamo, the Goddess in question, was once more restored to them.

I may add that I was frequently asked by the literates and other men of learning of my own impression about British India, for they knew that I had visited Buḍḍhagayā and other places in India. On such occasions I merely confined myself as much as possible to general remarks, for I feared that any accurate explanation might awake their suspicions about my supposed personality.

The existence of the Siberian railway can hardly be expected to give any great help to Russia, if ever the latter should be obliged from one reason or another to send a warlike expedition to Lhasa. The distance from the nearest station to Lhasa is prohibitive of any such undertaking, for the march, even if nothing happens on the road, must require five or six months and is through districts abounding in deserts and hills. The presence of wild natives in Amdo and Kham is also a discouraging factor, for they are people who are perfectly uncontrollable, given up to plunder and murder, and of course thoroughly at home in their own haunts. Even discipline and superior weapons would not balance the natural advantages which these dreadful people enjoy over intruders, however well informed the latter may be about the topography of the districts. Russia can hardly expect to subdue Tibet by force of arms. It was in consideration of this fact that the Tsan-ni Kenbo has been endeavoring to impose upon the Tibetans that audacious fiction about the identity of the Tsar’s person with that of the long dead Founder of the New Sect, so that his master might accomplish by peaceful means what he could hardly effect by force.


However, even the Tsan-ni’s painstaking efforts appear to have fallen short of his expectations, and there is a danger of a reaction setting in against him.

It must be remembered that the sentiment of the common people towards China still retains its old force, even though they know that the power of their old patron has considerably declined lately. They are well aware that Tibet has been placed from time immemorial in a state of vassalage to China, that Prince Srong-tsan Gambo who first introduced Buḍḍhism into Tibet had as his wife a daughter of the then Emperor of China, while the Tibetans believe that the present Emperor of China is an incarnation of a Buḍḍhist deity (the Chang-chub Semba Tambe yang in Tibetan) worshipped on Mount Utai, China. And so both from tradition and prejudice and from present superstition, the mass of the people, who are conservative, cannot but regard China with a lingering sentiment of respect and attachment, and the position which China still occupies in the niches of their hearts can hardly be supplanted by Russia, even when the Tsan-ni Kenbo ingeniously represents her as the country indicated in the Tibetan Book of Prophecy.

As I have mentioned before, some few of the influential Government officials do not seem to approve of the Tsan-ni’s movement. They even suspect that Russia might have some sinister object in view when she presented gold and other valuable things to the Dalai Lama and others. Tibet has no newspapers, but even without that organ of public opinion the public become acquainted sooner or later with most important occurrences, and so it stands to reason that the unfavorable view which is secretly entertained by a limited number of thoughtful men must have leaked out one way or other to at least a section of the public. The result is that not a small number of priests have begun to side, though not as an organised[515] movement, with these prudent thinkers, and therefore to rebel against Shata and his faction. The priests of the colleges and the warrior-priests seem to be particularly conspicuous in this reactionary movement. Indeed the fact is that Shata has never been a persona grata with those young men since the tragedy of Temo Rinpoche, and so they were inclined to view anything done by the crafty author of that tragedy with suspicious eyes. Then again the thoughtful portion of the college-priests never tolerated the Nechung oracles. They despised the oracle-priests as not much better than men of unsound mind, as drunkards, and corrupters of national interests. The very fact that Shata patronised this vile set further estranged him from the college-priests.

Under the circumstances, something like a reaction seems already to have set in against the pro-Russian agitation ingeniously planned by the Tsan-ni Kenbo. It remains to be seen what steps Russia will take towards Tibet to prevent the Lama’s country from slipping away from her grasp.

In reviewing the relations that formerly existed between British India and Tibet, it must be stated first of all that British India was closely connected with Tibet many years ago. At least Tibet’s attitude toward the Indian Government was not embittered by any hostile sentiment. In the eighteenth century, during the Governor-Generalship of Warren Hastings, he sent George Bogle to make commercial arrangements between the two countries. This gentleman resided a few years at Shigatze. Then Captain Turner also lived at the same place as a commercial agent for some time. After that time India did not send any more such commissioners, but till about twenty-four years ago the Indian natives were permitted to enter Tibet unmolested. They were generally pilgrims or priests bent on visiting the sacred places. Quite a large number of such Indians[516] must have entered Tibet. Prior to the exploration of Saraṭ Chanḍra Ḍās it was not an uncommon sight, I have been told, to see a party of naked priests, each carrying a water-vessel made of gourd, and iron tongs, and with faces smeared with ashes, proceeding towards Tibet. Though official relations had ceased between Tibet and India, their people therefore were bound together by some friendly connexions till quite recently. It is not unlikely that if the Indian Government had made at that time some advances acceptable to Tibet, it would have succeeded in establishing cordial relations with the latter.

The exploration of Saraṭ Chanḍra Ḍās disguised as an ordinary Sikkimese priest, and the frontier trouble that followed it, completely changed the attitude of Tibet towards India and the outer world and made it adopt a strict policy of exclusion. The publication of the results of that exploration directed the attention of the Indian Government to the question of delimiting the boundary between Sikkim, its protectorate, and Tibet. It was at that time that the Tibetan Government adopted most indiscreet measures at the instance of a fanatical Nechung, and proceeded to build a fort at a frontier place which distinctly belonged to Sikkim. The Tibetan Government is said to have at first hesitated to follow that insidious advice, but the Nechung was clamorous and declared that his presence in the fort would disarm any troops which the Indian Government might send against it. Tibet therefore, continued the fanatic, need not be afraid of the Indian Government and must proceed to construct a fort with all promptitude. He argued that the presence of a fort would go far towards promoting Tibet’s cause in settling the boundary dispute and the fort would become the permanent boundary mark.

Accordingly the fort was built at a place that was beyond the legitimate boundary line of Tibet. Soon the Indian[517] troops arrived and, ‘infidels’ as they were, they made short work of it, in utter defiance of the terrible anathema hurled by the indomitable Nechung against them. The stronghold was carried by assault by the invaders. The crumbled stone walls standing on a hill at a place about twenty miles on this side of Nyatong, which marks the boundary between Sikkim and Tibet, indicate the site of this short-lived stronghold built by the Tibetan Government. Now in building a fort in a place which the Tibetans themselves knew to belong to Sikkim, they may have reasoned with self-complacency that as Sikkim formerly belonged to Tibet, therefore they might not improperly revive their original claim on, at least, a portion of that district now under the jurisdiction of England. Of course England could never concur in such an arrangement, and the trouble between her and Tibet at last culminated in war. This was about sixteen years ago. The issue of that war was from the first a foregone conclusion, and the troops sent by the Indian Government easily put to rout the fighting men of Tibet. The latter held better positions, but they lacked discipline, training and good weapons, while they had the further disadvantage of being commanded by would-be generals and captains who did not care to lead their men in person, but contented themselves with issuing orders and leaving them to be carried out anyhow. Needless to add that the orders could never be carried out, but were invariably frustrated by the invaders. The Tibetan generals and captains escaped unhurt, for the simple reason that they had never exposed themselves to danger. After issuing orders, they always remained in the camp and spent their time in gambling, leaving their soldiers to be killed or wounded on the field. Thus the war ended with some heavy casualty returns on the Tibetan side, and far shorter returns on the part of the invaders.


As the result of this war the frontier line was drawn through Nyatong, and though the Indian Government would have been justified in extending it further down to Chumbi Samba, it did not push its claim so far.

Apparently the action of the Indian Viceroy of that time was crowned with success, but when this complication is viewed with an eye to a longer and more permanent end, I cannot approve of the measures adopted by him. He should I think, have adopted a course of leniency instead of one of stern punishment, and should have endeavored by some clever manœuvres, not excluding a rather liberal disbursement of secret service funds, to win the good-will of the ruling circles of Tibet. I think the result would have been far more advantageous for the future success of England than recovering at the point of the bayonet a barren tract covering only thirty miles in area. Who knows but that the influence of England might have been firmly established in Tibet by this time if that patronising policy had been adopted then, and that Englishmen might not be free to come and reside in and about Lhasa to enjoy the pure atmosphere and cool and healthy climate of that district?


China, Nepal and Tibet.

It requires the erudition and investigations of experts to write with any adequacy about the earlier relations between China and Tibet. I must therefore confine myself here only to the existing state of those relations.

Tibet is nominally a protectorate of China, and as such she is bound to pay a tribute to the Suzerain State. In days gone by, Tibet used to forward this tribute to China, but subsequently the payment was commuted against expenses which China had to allow Tibet, on account of the Grand Prayer which is performed every year at Lhasa for the prosperity of the Chinese Emperor. As a result of this arrangement, Tibet ceased to send the tribute and China to send the prayer fund.

The loss of Chinese prestige in Tibet has been truly extraordinary since the Japano-Chinese War. Previous to that disastrous event, China used to treat Tibet in a high-handed way, while the latter, overawed by the display of force of the Suzerain, tamely submitted. All is now changed, and instead of that subservient attitude Tibet regards China with scorn. The Tibetans have come to the conclusion that their masters are no longer able to protect and help them, and therefore do not deserve to be feared and respected any more. It can easily be understood how the Chinese are mortified at this sudden downfall of their prestige in Tibet. They have tried to recover their old position, but all their endeavors have as yet been of no avail. The Tibetans listen to Chinese advice when it is acceptable, but any order that is distasteful to them is utterly disregarded.


While I was staying in Lhasa a yellow paper, containing the Chinese Emperor’s decree issued at the termination of the Boxer trouble, was hung up in the square of that city. The decree was addressed to all the eighteen provinces of China and all her protectorates. It warned the people under pain of severe penalty against molesting and persecuting foreigners, as they, the people, were too frequently liable to do from their ignorance of the state of affairs abroad and their misunderstanding of the motives of the foreigners who came to their respective districts. These foreigners, the decree continued, have really come to engage in industrial pursuits or in diffusing religion, and for other purposes beneficial alike to the people and themselves. In order to promote these aims of mutual benefit, the middle kingdom has been opened so as to allow foreigners freedom of travelling to any place they wish, and so, concluded the decree, this policy of welcome and hospitality should be adopted in all the provinces and protectorates.

Two other decrees of like import arrived afterwards and were similarly posted up, and I thought at that time that the allies must have entered Peking, and that this decree must have been issued as a result of the conclusion of peace between the Powers and China.

The decree, however, failed to produce any particular impression on the Tibetans. I asked a high Government official what Tibet was going to do with the order set forth in the decree, and whether the Tibetan Government, in the face of that injunction, could refuse, for instance, to allow Englishmen to enter the country. The official scornfully replied that his Government was not obliged to obey an order which the Chinese Emperor issued at his own pleasure. And besides it was highly doubtful whether the Emperor, who was an incarnation of a high saint, could have issued a decree of that nature, which he must have known to be utterly opposed to the interests and traditional[521] policy of Tibet. It was more probably clandestinely issued by some wicked men near the Emperor’s person, as a result of bribes received from foreigners. It did not deserve to be trusted, much less to be obeyed, declared my Tibetan friend.

Whatever be the motive, therefore, the Tibetans are utterly indifferent to most of the decrees coming from China, and treat them like so many gamblers’ oaths, neither more nor less.

Whether it be from polygamous customs or from other causes, the fact remains, though it is not possible to prove it by accurate statistical returns, that the population of Nepāl is rapidly increasing. It must be remembered that the Government takes great pains to increase its population, in order to expand its interests both at home and abroad, and, probably under the impression that polygamy is conducive to that end, it is encouraging this questionable practice. In Nepāl therefore even a man who can hardly support his family has two or three wives, and one who is better off has many more. Apparently this policy is attended with success, so far as the main object aimed at is concerned, for I have never seen so many children anywhere as I saw in Nepāl, where every family consisted of a large number of boys and girls.

Be the cause what it may, the beneficial effect of this steady advance of population is plainly visible in that country, where almost every nook and corner of available land is brought under tillage, where woods are tended with extreme care, and even the remote forests inhabited by wild beasts are made to contribute their share to the stock of lumber, of which a large portion is annually exported to lower India. Already the population of Nepāl appears to be too large for the limited area of the country, and so a considerable emigration is taking place. Thus we find the[522] Nepālese serving in the army of the Indian Government, or pursuing trade or opening up wild lands in Sikkim or at Darjeeling. Above all the Nepālese seem to cast their longing glances towards Tibet as the best field for their superfluous population; for Tibet, while possessing an area about twelve-fold that of Nepāl, is far more thinly populated. They even seem to be prepared to go through the ordeal of war, if necessary, to secure that best outlet for their needy population, which cannot find sufficient elbowroom at home. Perhaps the Nepāl Government has that contingency in view in maintaining, as it does, a standing army which is evidently far above its home requirements in numerical strength.

In Nepāl the military department receives appropriations which are quite out of proportion to those set apart for peaceful matters, as education, justice and philanthropy. Indeed the Nepāl troops, the famous Gurkhas, may even rival regular British troops in discipline and effectiveness; they may perhaps even surpass the others in mountain warfare, such as would take place in their own country. Certainly in their capacity of enduring hardships and in running up and down hills, bearing heavy knapsacks, they are superior to the British soldiers. They very much resemble the Japanese soldiers in stature and general appearance, and also in temperament. The one might easily be mistaken for the other, so close is the resemblance between the two. In short, as fighters in mountainous places the Gurkhas form ideal soldiers; and it seems as though circumstances will sooner or later compel Nepāl to employ for her self-defence this highly effective force. Russia is at the bottom of the impending trouble, while Tibet supplies the immediate cause.

The Russianising tendency of Tibet has recently put Nepāl on her guard, and when intelligence reached Nepāl that Tibet had concluded a secret treaty with Russia, that[523] the Dalai Lama had received a bishop’s robe from the Tsar, and that a large quantity of arms and ammunition had reached Lhasa from S. Petersburg, Nepāl became considerably alarmed, and with good reason. For with Russia established in Tibet, Nepāl must necessarily feel uneasy, as it would be exposed to the danger of absorption. The very presence of a powerful neighbor must subject Nepāl to a great strain which can hardly be borne for long.

It is not surprising to hear that Nepāl is said to have communicated in an informal manner with Tibet and to have demanded an explanation of the rumors concerning the conclusion of a secret treaty between her and Russia, adding that if that were really the case then Nepāl, from considerations of self-defence, must oppose that arrangement even if the opposition entailed an appeal to arms. What reply Tibet has made to this communication is not accurately known, but that Nepāl sent an informal message to this effect admits of no doubt.

Nepāl may be driven to declare war on Tibet should the latter persist in pursuing her pro-Russian policy, and allow Russia to establish herself in that country; and it is quite likely that England may be pleased to see Nepāl adopt that resolute attitude. She may even extend a helping hand, for instance by supplying part of the war expense, and thus enabling Nepāl to prosecute that movement. The reason is obvious, for England has nothing to lose but everything to gain from trouble between Nepāl and Tibet, in which the former may certainly be expected to win. But even if Nepāl is victorious her victory will bring her only a small benefit, and the lion’s share will go to England; Nepāl therefore would be placed in the rather foolish position of having taken the chestnuts from the fire for the British lion to eat. The present Ruler of Nepāl is too intelligent a statesman not to perceive that—judging at least from my personal observations, when I was allowed to see the Ruler, the[524] Cabinet Minister. He knows that it would be far better for his countrymen to content himself with the reality of benefit rather than with the glory of a successful but necessarily costly war. He should confine himself to making some arrangements with Tibet by which the Nepālese may be enabled to enter, or settle in Tibet, and to carry on profitable undertakings there. If once his countrymen establish their influence in Tibet by virtue of economic undertakings, then they may regard with comparative complacency any advance of Russian influence in Tibet, for Nepāl would be in a position to counteract that influence by peaceful means or even by war if necessary.

Thus, it is hardly likely that Nepāl will go to extreme measures towards Tibet, even if England should cleverly encourage her.

It must be remembered that the relations between the two countries are not yet strained. The Tibetans do not seem to harbor any ill-feeling towards their neighbors beyond the mountains, nor do they regard them as a whole with fear, though they do fear the Gurkhas on account of their valor and discipline. The Tibetan Government also seems to be desirous of maintaining a friendly relation with Nepāl. For instance, when on one occasion the Ruler of Nepāl sent his messenger to Tibet to procure a set of Tibetan sūṭras, the Dalai Lama, who heard of that errand, caused a set to be sent to Nepāl as a present from himself, which is now kept in the Royal Library of Nepāl.

The Nepāl Government, on its part, appears to be doing its best to create a favorable impression on the Tibetans. The Ruler, it must be remembered, is not a Buḍḍhist but a Brāhmaṇa; still, he pursues the policy of toleration towards all faiths, and is especially kindly to Buḍḍhists. The Buḍḍhists from Tibet who are staying in Nepāl enjoy protection from the Government, and the Ruler not unfrequently makes grants of money or timber when Buḍḍhist[525] temples are to be built in his dominion. The care bestowed by the Ruler on the Buḍḍhists is highly appreciated by their friends at home, and Nepāl is therefore favorably situated for winning the hearts of the Tibetan people. It is easily conceivable that with a judicious use of secret service funds Nepāl might easily establish her influence in Tibet. This, however, cannot be readily expected from that country, as internal conditions now are, for order is far from being firmly established in that little kingdom, and domestic troubles and administrative changes occur too frequently. Even the Prime Minister, who wields the real power, has been assassinated more than once, while changes have very frequently taken place in the incumbency of that post. Nepāl is at present too deeply absorbed in her internal affairs, and cannot spare either energy or money for pursuing any consistent policy towards Tibet. Thus, though the military service of Nepāl is sufficiently creditable, her diplomacy leaves much to be desired.


The Future of Tibetan Diplomacy.

Tibet may be said to be menaced by three countries—England, Russia and Nepāl, for China is at present a negligible quantity as a factor in determining its future. The question is which of the three is most likely to become master of that table-land. It is evident that the three can never come to terms in regard to this question; at best England and Nepāl may combine for attaining their common object, but the combination of Russia with either of them is out of the question. Russia’s ambition in bringing Tibet under her control is too obviously at variance with the interest of the other two to admit of their coming to terms with her, for Russia’s occupation would be merely preparatory to the far greater end of making a descent on the fertile plains on the south side of the Himālayas by using Tibet as a base of operation. As circumstances stand, Nepāl has to confine her ambition to pushing her interests in Tibet by peaceful means. This is evidently the safest and most prudent plan for that country, seeing that when once that object has been attained her interest would remain unimpaired whether Tibet should fall into the hands of England or into those of Russia. After all, therefore, the future of Tibet is a problem to be solved between those two Powers. At present Russia has the ears of an important section of the ruling circles of Tibet, while on the other hand England has the mass of the Tibetan people on her side. The Russian policy, depending as it does on clever manœuvres and a free use of gold, is in danger of being upset by any sudden turn of affairs in Tibet, while the procedure of England being moderate and matter-of-fact is more lasting in its effect. Which policy[527] is more likely to prevail cannot easily be determined, for though moderation and practical method will win in the long run, diplomacy is a ticklish affair and must take many other factors into consideration. At any rate England is warned to be on the alert, for otherwise Russia may steal a march upon her and upon Lhasa.

If the Russian troops should ever succeed in reaching Lhasa, that would open up a new era for Tibet, for the country would passively submit to the Russian rule. The Tibetans, it must be remembered, are thoroughly imbued with the spirit of negative fatalism, and the arrival of Russian troops in Lhasa would therefore be regarded as the inevitable effect of a predetermined causation, and therefore as an event that must be submitted to without resistance. The entry of those troops would never rouse the patriotic sentiment of the people. But the effect of this imaginary entry would constitute a serious menace to India. In fact, with Russia established in the natural strongholds of Tibet, India, it may be said, would be placed at the mercy of Russia, which could send her troops at any moment down to the fertile plains below. Thus would the dream of Peter the Great be realised, and of course the British supremacy on the sea would avail nothing against this overland descent across the Himālayas. Some may think that what I have stated is too extravagant, and is utterly beyond the sphere of possibility. I reply that any such thought comes from ignorance of the natural position of Tibet. Any person who has ever personally observed the immense strength which Tibet naturally commands must agree with me that its occupation by Russia would be followed sooner or later by that of India by the same aggressive power.

The question naturally arises: “Will Tibet then cease to be an independent country?” It is of course impossible to come to any positive conclusion about it, but from what[528] I have observed and studied I cannot give a reassuring answer. The spirit of dependence on the strong is too deeply implanted in the hearts of the Tibetan people to be superseded now by the spirit of self-assertion and independence. During the long period of more than a thousand years, the Tibetan people has always maintained the idea of relying upon one or another great power, placing itself under the protection of one suzerain State or another, first India and then China. How far the Tibetans lack the manly spirit of independence may easily be judged from the following story about the Dalai Lama, who is unquestionably a man of character, gifted with energy and power of decision, who would be well qualified to lead his country to progress and prosperity did he possess modern knowledge and were he well informed of the general trend of affairs abroad. He is thoroughly familiar with the condition of his own people, and has done much towards satisfying popular wishes, redressing grievances and discouraging corrupt practices. If ever there were a man in Tibet whose heart was set on maintaining the independence of the country, it must be the Dalai Lama. So I had thought, but my fond hope was rudely shaken, and I was left in despair about the future of Tibet.

This supreme chief of the Lama Hierarchy has recently undergone a complete change in his attitude towards England. Formerly whenever England opened some negotiation with Tibet, the Dalai Lama was overcome by great perturbation, while any display of force on the part of England invariably plunged him into the deepest anxiety. He was often seen on such occasions to shut himself up in a room and, refusing food or rest, to be absorbed in painful reflexions. Now all is changed, and the same Dalai Lama regards all threats or even encroachments with indifference or even defiance. For instance,[529] when England, chiefly to feel the attitude of Tibet and not from any object of encroachment, included, when fixing the boundary, a small piece of land that had formerly belonged to Tibet, the Dalai Lama was not at all perturbed. Instead of that he is said to have talked big and breathed defiance, saying that he would make England rue this sooner or later. His subjects, it is reported, were highly impressed on this occasion and they began to regard him as a great hero.

For my part this sudden change in the behavior of the supreme Lama only caused me to heave a heavy sigh for the future of Tibet. It cruelly disillusioned me of the great hopes I had reposed in his character for the welfare of his country. The reason why the Grand Lama, who was at first as timid as a hare towards England, should become suddenly as bold as a lion, is not far to seek. The conclusion of a secret treaty with Russia was at the bottom of the strange phenomenon. Strong in the idea that Russia, as she had promised the Dalai Lama, would extend help whenever his country was threatened by England, he who had formerly trembled at the mere thought of the possibility of England’s encroachment began now to hurl defiance at her. He may even have thought that the arrival of a large number of arms from Russia would enable Tibet to resist England single-handed. In short, the Dalai Lama believed that Russia being the only country in the world strong enough to thwart England, therefore he need no longer be harassed by any fear of the latter country.

With the Dalai Lama—perhaps one of the greatest Lama pontiffs that has ever sat on the throne—given up shamelessly, and even with exultation, to that servile thought of subserviency, and with no great men prepared to uphold the independence of the country, Tibet must be looked upon as doomed. All things considered therefore, unless some miracle should happen, she is sure to be absorbed by[530] some strong Power sooner or later, and there is no hope that she will continue to exist as an independent country.


The “Monlam” Festival.

Monlam literally means supplication, but in practice it is the name of the great Tibetan festival performed for the benefit of the reigning Emperor of China, the offering of prayers to the deities for his prosperity and long life. The festival commences either on the 3rd or 4th of January, according to the lunar calendar, and closes on the 25th of the month. The three days beginning on New Year’s Day and ending with the 3rd are given up to the New Year’s Festival, and from the following day the great Monlam season sets in.

In order to make arrangements for the coming festival, the priests are given holiday from the 20th of December. Holiday however is a gross misnomer, for the days are spent in profane pleasures and in all sorts of sinful amusements. The temples are no longer sacred places; they are more like gambling-houses—places where the priests make themselves merry by holding revels far into the night. Now is the time when the Tibetan priesthood bids good-bye for a while to all moral and social restraints, when young and old indulge themselves freely to their heart’s content, and when those who remain aloof from this universal practice are laughed at as old fogeys. I had been regularly employing one little boy to run errands and to do all sorts of work. In order to allow him to enjoy the season, I engaged another boy on this occasion. I might have dispensed with this additional boy altogether, for as the two boys never remained at home, and even stayed away at night, it was just as if I had had no boy at all. And so for days and days religion[532] and piety were suspended and in their places profanity and vice were allowed to reign supreme.

The wild season being over—it lasts about twelve days—the Monlam festival commences. This is preceded by the arrival of priests at Lhasa from all parts of Tibet. From the monasteries of Sera, Rebon, Ganden and other large and small temples, situated at a greater or less distance, arrive the contingents of the priestly hosts. These must number about twenty-five thousand, sometimes more and sometimes less, according to the year. They take up their quarters in ordinary houses, for the citizens are under obligation to offer one or two rooms for the use of the priests during this season, just as people of other countries are obliged to do for soldiers when they carry out manœuvres in their neighborhood. And as in the case when soldiers are billeted, so the priests who come from the country are crowded in their temporary abodes. Some of them are even obliged to sleep outside, owing to lack of accommodation, but they do not seem to mind the discomfort much, so long as snow does not fall. Besides the priests, the city receives at the same time an equally numerous host of lay visitors from the country, so that the population of Lhasa during this festival season is swollen to twice its regular number, or even more. In ordinary days Lhasa contains about fifty thousand inhabitants, but there must be at least a hundred thousand on this special occasion. I ought to state that formerly, and before the time of the present Dalai Lama, the arrival of the Monlam festival was signalised not by the inflow of people from the country but by the contrary movement, the temporary exodus of the citizens to the provinces. Since the accession of the present Grand Lama the direction of the temporary movement has been reversed, and the festival has begun to be celebrated amidst a vast concourse of the people instead of amidst a desolate scene. This apparent anomaly[533] was due to the extortion which the Festival Commissioners practised on the citizens.

This function is undertaken by two of the higher priests of the Rebon Monastery, the largest of the three important establishments, who take charge of the judicial affairs of the temple during the term of one year, and are known by the title of Shal-ngo. The appointment to the post of Shal-ngo was and still is an expensive affair for its holder, for he must present to the officials who determine the nomination bribes amounting to perhaps five thousand yen. As soon as the post has been secured at such a cost the Shal-ngo loses no time in employing it as a means of recovering that sum, with heavy interest, during his short tenure of office and especially during the two festival seasons of Monlam and Sang-joe, over which the two Commissioners exercise absolute control. They set themselves to collect enough to enable them to live in competence and luxury during the rest of their lives. Driven by this inordinate greed, the dealings of the Commissioners are excessively strict during those days. Fines are imposed for every trivial offence; the citizens are frequently fined as much as two hundred yen, in Japanese currency, on the pretext of the imperfect cleansing of the doorways or of the streets in front of their houses. The parties engaged in a quarrel are ordered to pay a similarly heavy fine, and without any discrimination as to the relative justice of their causes. Then too the festival seasons are a dreadful time for those who have debts not yet redeemed, for then the creditors can easily recover the sum through the help of the Commissioners, provided they are prepared to give to them one-half the sum thus recovered. On receipt of a petition from a creditor, the greedy officials at once order the debtors and their friends to pay the money on pain of having their property confiscated. The whole proceedings of the Festival Commissioners, therefore, are not much[534] better than the villainous practices of brigands and highwaymen. It is not to be wondered at that at the approach of the festivals the citizens began in a hurry to lock away their valuable property in the secret depths of their houses, and then leaving one or two men to take charge during their absence, left the city for the country, the houses being given over as lodgings for the[535] priests. During the Monlam season, therefore, there did not remain in the city even one-tenth of its ordinary population.


The shark-like practices of the Shal-ngos are not confined to the festival seasons or to the citizens; on the contrary, they prey even on their brother-priests for the purpose of satisfying their voracious greed, and extort money from them. The Shal-ngos are like wolves in a fold of sheep, or like robbers living with impunity amidst ordinary law abiding people. That such gross abuses and injustice should have been allowed within the sacred precincts of a monastery is really marvellous, but it is a fact. The Shal-ngos’ extortions from the citizens were checked when the present Dalai Lama ascended the throne, and the citizens were thus enabled to live in peace and to participate in the festival during the Monlam season, but the sinful practices of the Legal Commissioners in other quarters are still left uncurtailed.

An interesting story is told which shows how the Shal-ngos are abhorred and detested by the Tibetans. A certain Lama, superstitiously believed to possess a supernatural power of visiting any place in this world or the next and of visiting Paradise or Hell, was once asked by a merchant of Lhasa to tell him with what he, the Lama, had been most impressed during his visits to Hell. The Lama replied that he was surprised to see so many priests suffering tortures at the hands of the guardians of Hell. However he continued with an air of veracity, the tortures to which ordinary priests were being subjected were not very extreme, and they were therefore allowed to live in their new abode with less suffering. But the tortures inflicted on the Shal-ngos of Rebon monastery were horrible; they were such that the mere recollection of them caused his hair to stand on end. Such is the story told at the expense of these Lama sharks, and indeed from the way in which they act[536] during their short tenure of the office, Hell, and the lowest circle in it, seems to be the only place for which they are fit.

Lhasa puts on her cleanest and finest appearance with the advent of this season. The filth and garbage that have been left accumulating during the preceding months are carried away, the gutters are cleaned, and the public are no longer allowed to drop dirt about or in any way to pollute the streets.

The grand service is performed at the magnificent three-storied edifice which is so conspicuous in Lhasa, namely the Cho Khang, the celebrated Buḍḍha’s Hall. During the service this hall is packed to overflowing with priests and pious believers, and there is not space left to move one’s elbows. Not infrequently, therefore, casualties are said to happen.

The service is performed three times a day, first from five to seven in the morning, then from ten to a little before one and lastly from three to about half past four in the afternoon. The second service is the most important one for the priests who attend the ceremony, as it is accompanied by monetary gifts. The gifts come either from philanthropic folk or from the Government, and range on each occasion from twenty-four sen (Japanese) to seventy-two sen. The gifts generally amount during the period of the Festival to about ten yen for ordinary priests. This sum is considerably larger on a special occasion, as when a Dalai Lama is enthroned or dies, when it may increase to about twenty yen.

The receipts of the higher Lamas during this season are far greater—often one thousand, two thousand or even as much five thousand yen.

On the other hand all the priests who arrive in Lhasa to attend the ceremony are required to pay their own lodging expenses, at the rate of twenty-five to fifty sen a day. For a room or set of rooms better furnished than[537] usual the charge may be three to five yen, and of course only aristocratic priests can afford to hire such rooms. The lodging of the priests is somewhat exclusive, and they are forbidden to stay at houses selling liquors, or containing many females.

During this season, besides the Festival Commissioners who are the Lama sharks of the year, a special office for supervising priests, called Khamtsan-gi Giken, is created, commissioned with the duty of controlling the conduct of the priests. Quarrels are, however, very rare during the season, though from the ordinary behavior of priests they might naturally be expected to occasion such troubles. At any rate the priests maintain decorum externally. They are expected to attend the three services performed each day, and they are not allowed to attend the ceremony at their own temples, even when those temples are situated near the city. They must live in the city, and remain there, unless under exceptional circumstances, such as illness. The attendance at the three services is not compulsory, yet it is very rarely neglected, for a distribution of gifts is very often made at each service.


On January 15th, according to the lunar calendar, the most magnificent ceremony is carried out at night. The offerings are arranged around the Buḍḍha’s Hall, and the most conspicuous object among them is a triangular wooden frame with sharp apex, the structure measuring about forty feet high and thirty feet long at the base. Two dragons in an ascending position are fixed to the two sides, while about the middle of the frame the “Enchanted Garden” is represented, peopled either with figures of the Buḍḍha teaching human beings or of Princes and other important dignitaries. These figures are all made of butter. Besides human figures there are figures of several of the alleged birds of paradise, such as are mentioned in Buḍḍhist books. All these are of Tibetan[539] workmanship, and creditably executed, probably as a result of long experience. I should add that the butter figures are all finely painted and even gilded, and as the butter takes color easily the effect produced is very splendid, when those highly decorated and painted figures are seen by the light of butter-lamps or torches that are burning at a suitable distance from the figures. There must be as many as a hundred and twenty such ornamental structures around the Hall, while the lamps and torches that are burning are quite countless. Indeed, it seemed to me as if some gorgeous scene such as we imagine to exist only in Heaven had been transplanted to earth on that particular occasion. To the Tibetans the scene as exhibited on this particular night marks the high-water level of all that is splendid in this world, and it is therefore quoted as an ideal standard in speaking of anything that is uncommonly magnificent.

This offering ceremony concludes at about two o’clock the following morning, and two hours later the decorated figures are removed, for they are in danger of being melted when exposed to the rays of the sun. The ceremony, it must be remembered, is attended only by a limited number of priests, probably three hundred at the utmost out of the twenty-five thousand who are present in the city to attend the Monlam festival. The privilege of inspecting this yearly show is therefore regarded as a great honor by the Tibetan priests.

The reason why this magnificent display is denied to the inspection of the majority of priests and to the whole of the populace is because formerly, when it was open to universal inspection, uncontrollable commotion attended by casualties used to mar the function. And so the authorities decided about thirty years ago to perform it in this semi-private manner.

The ceremony begins at about eight in the evening and closes, as before mentioned, at about four the following[540] morning. The function is sometimes inspected by the Dalai Lama, while at other times he does not come, as was the case when I had the good fortune to witness it in the company of the ex-Finance Minister. The Amban however does not omit to attend the ceremony. He was attired in the gorgeous official garments of China, and sat in a carriage lit up inside with twenty-four tussore silk lanterns in which were burning foreign-made candles. On his head he wore the official cap befitting his rank. The procession was preceded by a cavalcade of Chinese officers also in their gala dresses, and behind the carriage followed another train of mounted guards. It was really a fine scene, this procession of the Chinese Amban as it passed through the streets lit up with tens of thousands of butter-lamps; only I thought that the sight was too showy and that it lacked the element of solemnity.

After the procession of the Amban followed the trains of the high priests, then high lay officials and last of all the Premiers. On that occasion only two of the four Premiers attended, the other two being unable to be present.

The Premiers come to the function in order to inspect the offerings, which are contributed by the Peers and the wealthy as a sort of obligation. Butter decorations are expensive things, costing from three hundred to two thousand yen in Japanese currency, according to their magnitude and the finish of the workmanship; and here were over one hundred and twenty such costly decorations arranged as offerings, and that only for one evening. I believe no such costly butter decorations are to be seen anywhere else in the world.


During the festival I remained as before under the hospitable roof of the ex-Minister, and though through the favor of my host I inspected the offering ceremony, I did not attend the prayer services. The former I saw from[542] mere curiosity and as an outsider. The scene on the occasion was sufficiently enjoyable; I went first to the quarters assigned to the warrior-priests and observed that these young men were spending their time in their own customary way even during the time of the service, singing songs, trying feats of arms, or engaged in hot disputes or even open quarrels. All at once the clamor ceased and order was restored as if by magic, and the young priests were seen demurely reciting the service; they had noticed some subordinates of the Festival Commissioners coming towards them in order to maintain order. Those subordinates were armed with willow sticks about four feet long and fairly thick—sticks which were green and supple and well suited for inflicting stinging blows.

Then I moved on to the quarters where the learned priests were intently engaged in carrying out the examination held for the aspirants to the highest degrees obtainable in Tibet. The examination was oral and in the form of interrogations put to the candidates by the examination committee, the latter being composed of the most celebrated theologians in the three colleges. The candidates too were not unworthy to be examined by such divines, for those only are qualified to apply for permission to undergo the examination who have studied hard for twenty years, and have acquired a thorough knowledge of all the abstruse points in Buḍḍhist theology and have made themselves masters of the art of question and answer. The learned discourses delivered by examiners and examinees awoke in me high admiration. The forensic skill of the two parties was such as I had rarely seen anywhere else. The examiners put most tortuous questions to entice the candidates into the snare of sophistry, while the latter met them with replies similarly searching and intended to upset the whole stratagem of the querents. So forcible and[543] exciting were the arguments offered by both parties that they might be compared, I thought, to a fierce contest such as might take place between a lion and a tiger.

The examination was indeed an exhibition of a truly intellectual nature, and was attended not only by the committee and candidates but by almost all the learned theologians and their disciples. These strangers were sitting round the examination tables and freely criticised the questions put and replies made. They even raised shouts of applause or of laughter, whenever either convincingly refuted his antagonist or was worsted in the argument. I observed the laughter to be especially contagious and the merry sound raised by two or three men in the strangers’ quarters would spread to all the others in the hall, till the walls resounded with the loud “ha, ha, ha” coming from several thousand throats.

Every year during the Monlam season sixteen candidates selected from the three colleges are given the degree of Lha Ramba, meaning ‘Special Doctor,’ and this degree is the most honorable one open to Tibetan divines. Only those of exceptional acquirements can hope for it.

On the occasion of the Choen joe festival also, sixteen candidates of the secondary grade are sent from the universities to pass the examination for the Tso Ramba degree. Then there are inferior degrees, which are granted by the monasteries to the young priests studying there. There are two such degrees, one called Do Ramba and the other Rim-shi. Sometimes divines of great erudition are found among the holders of the Do Ramba degree, men even more learned than the ‘Special Doctors.’ The fact is that the examination for the highest degree is expensive, when one wishes to procure that title at one jump and without previously obtaining the intermediary Do Ramba.

It is not rare, therefore to find among the Do Ramba men theologians whose learning can even outshine that[544] of the proud holders of the highest degree, for there are often men who from pecuniary considerations only are withheld from attempting the examination. The holders of the Do Ramba degree therefore differ considerably in learning, but this cannot be said of those holding the other title of Rim-shi, the latter being in nine cases out of ten of mediocre learning. This degree is easily procurable for a certain sum of money when one has studied five or six years at the monasteries of Rebon and Ganden, and so the young priests from the country generally avail themselves of this convenient transaction and return home as proud holders of the Doctor’s title, and as objects of respect and wonder for their learning among the local folk. In Tibet therefore, as in other parts of the world, cheap Doctors flaunt their learning, and pass for prodigies among the simple-minded people of the country.

The Doctors of the highest grade are unquestionably theologians of great erudition, for knowledge of the ordinary Buḍḍhist text-books is not enough for the aspirants to that title; they must study and make themselves at home in the complete cycle of Buḍḍhist works. Perhaps the Tibetan first class Doctors possess a better knowledge of Buḍḍhist theology and are more at home in all its ramifications than are the Japanese Buḍḍhist divines; for though there are quite a large number of theologians in Japan who are thoroughly versed in the philosophy and doctrine of their own particular sects it cannot boast so many divines whose knowledge completely covers the whole field of Buḍḍhist philosophy.

During the festival I frequently went to the Hall to see the function as a curious observer, but for the rest I devoted my time to prosecuting my studies under a Lhakhamba Doctor and the learned Mae Kenbo of the Sera monastery. Thus while the other priests were attending to their worldly business of making money, I detached myself from society[545] and was absorbed in study. I had the more reason to devote myself to this self-imposed task, for the time I had fixed for my departure from Tibet was drawing nearer. Not that I had hitherto neglected the main object which prompted me to undertake this self-assigned expedition to Lhasa; on the contrary, even when I was obliged, from unavoidable circumstances, to act the part of an amateur doctor and prescribe treatment to Tibetan patients, I never suspended my study; I either read Buḍḍhist works or attended lectures.

On March 4th of the solar calendar (January 24th of the Tibetan almanac) the sword festival was celebrated at Lhasa. I had the good fortune to witness this performance also, though the function is not open to general inspection. I observed it from the window of a certain Peer, an acquaintance of mine, whose house fronted the Buḍḍha’s Hall.

I may call the Sword Festival a sort of Tibetan military review. At any rate the regulars in and about Lhasa participated in it, and also the special soldiers temporarily organised for the occasion. They were all mounted, and numbered altogether perhaps two thousand five hundred men. They were quaintly accoutred, and seemed to be divided according to the colors of the pieces of cloth attached to the back of their helmets and hanging down behind. I saw a party of about five hundred troopers distinguished by white cloths, then another with purple cloths, while there was a third which used cloths of variegated dyes. But irrespective of the different colors, they were all clad in a sort of armor and carried small flags also of different colors. Some were armed with bows and arrows and others with guns, and the procession of the gaily attired soldiery was not unlike the rows of decorated May dolls arranged for sale in Tokyo on the eve of the Boys’ Festival in Japan.


The proceedings began with a signal gun. As the booming sound subsided the procession of soldiery made its appearance and each division went past the Grand Lama’s seat constructed on an elevated stand to the west of the Hall. With the termination of this march-past a party of about three hundred priests, carrying a flat drum each with a long handle and with the figure of a dragon inscribed upon its face, came out of the main edifice. Each of them carried in his right hand a crooked drum-stick. This party took its stand in a circle in front of the Hall. Next marched out the second party of priests all gorgeously attired in glittering coats and brocade tunics, each carrying a metallic bowl used in religious services. I must mention that the function demands of the soldiery and priests the washing of their bodies with warm water on the preceding evening, and so on that particular occasion those Tibetans, careless and negligent of bodily cleanliness at other times, are for the first time in the year almost decently clean.

The metallic-bowl party was arranged in a row around the drum party, and soon the signal for the service was given by one of the bowl-men who was apparently a leader. It was a peculiar signal, and consisted in striking on the bowl and starting a strange dancing movement. On this the two parties beat their drums and bowls in some sort of tune. After this had gone on for some time the whole party burst out into a chorus of ominous howls, not unlike the roar of the tiger. As the thousand priests composing the two parties all howled to the fullest extent of their throats, the noise made was sufficiently loud.

After the howling parties had completed their part in this ceremony, out marched a party of Nechung priests, those oracle-mongers of Tibet to whom reference has been made more than once already. The oracle-mongers’ party was heralded by a number of sacred-sword-bearers[547] in two rows, about a dozen in each. The sword carried measured about four feet in length and was set off with pieces of silk cloth of five different colors. The sword-bearers were followed by the bearers of golden censers and other sacred caskets or vessels. Then followed the oracle-monger, dressed cap-à-pie in all the glittering fashion which Tibetan ingenuity alone could devise. He was clad in gold brocade and wore head-gear of the same cloth. He behaved like a man stricken with palsy, was supported right and left by an assistant, and his eyes were shut. Gasping like a fish out of water and walking with a tottering gait not unlike that of a man who has lost his power of locomotion through too much liquor, the Nechung slowly emerged from the Hall. By the ignorant populace he was greeted as an object of veneration, but there were seen not a small number of priests and laymen who looked upon this peculiar appearance of the Nechung with eyes of undisguised disgust.

The part assigned to this Lama fanatic is one of semi-divine character, he being required to act as a guardian angel, to prevent any mishaps occurring during the ceremony of the ‘Sword Festival’.

Last of all slowly marched forth the procession of the Ganden Ti Rinpoche. I saw him under a capacious and highly decorated awning which is the same sort of umbrella as that of the Grand Lama. He was attired in the ceremonial robe befitting his rank of Ti Rinpoche. His appearance was highly impressive and even those priests who had viewed the oracle-mongers with well-deserved scorn were seen in attitudes of sincere respect. That was also my sentiment as my eyes met him; for he truly impressed me as a living Buḍḍha. To the Ti Rinpoche was entrusted the most important function in this ceremony, the hurling of the sacred sword in order to avert any evil spirits that may obstruct the prosperous reign of the[548] Chinese Emperor. With this sword-hurling the ceremony was brought to a close.

Though in principle this ceremony concludes the Monlam, in practice it comes to an end only on the following morning and with a custom of practical utility—that of carrying stones to the banks of the river Kichu which flows by Lhasa, and is often liable to overflow and flood the city. The stones required for this purpose are brought by the country people, and are sold at ten or twenty sen a piece, and each priest or citizen who attends the ceremony buys one or two such stones and conveys them to the banks either on his own back or by hired carriers. The stones thus conveyed to the banks are supposed to possess the effect of atoning for their sins. The banks must acquire great strength in consequence of this stone-piling.


The Tibetan Soldiery.

The standing army of Tibet is said to consist of five thousand men, but from my own observation I think this number somewhat exaggerated. In any case, it is hardly sufficient to protect a country containing six millions of inhabitants against foreign invasion and civil commotion. However, in Tibet social order is not kept by soldiers, nor by the despotic power of the ruler. Religion is the force that keeps the country in good order. The mass of the people would never take arms against the Pope whom they believe to be a living Buḍḍha. This idea is so thoroughly infused into them that there have been really very few cases of rebellion in Tibet, hence there is no necessity for a great number of soldiers. The history of the country testifies that civil commotions take place only when the chief Lama has died, and the new master is too young to take up the Government for himself, and so leaves the entire business to the Agent and Ministers, who abuse their power, or when the regent tyrannises over and offends the people. But when the master is old enough to manage the affairs of the country he is revered as a living Buḍḍha, against whom no one protests. Minor difficulties may arise, but they are easily settled without recourse to arms. The real causes that have made Tibet feel the necessity of having a standing army have been her two quarrels with Nepāl and one with British India. Since then Tibet has ever had a regular army, distributed as follows: at Lhasa one thousand men, at Shigatze two thousand, at Tingri, an important fort on the Nepāl frontier, nominally five hundred but possibly only three hundred (there are several hundred Chinese soldiers here), five hundred at Gyantze, five hundred at Dam, and[550] another five hundred at Mankham, making five thousand in all. The Chinese soldiers stationed in the country number two thousand altogether, and are distributed equally at the four places—Lhasa, Tingri, Shigatze, and Tomo. Every five hundred Tibetan soldiers are under a chief called De Bon. The lower officers are one for every two hundred and fifty, one for every twenty-five and one for every five.

The Tibetan soldiers receive only one bushel of barley a month as salary. They have no regular barracks to live in together, but live in ordinary residences which, however, are built at the cost of the citizens. They are scattered throughout the city, and keep stores or carry on any kind of trade, as do the common people. They are obliged to do some kind of work, for they cannot keep their wives and children on the one bushel of barley a month. But they are free from house-rent, and I have often heard the citizens complain of the burden of building houses for the soldiers. The Chinese soldiers also live in ordinary houses like the Tibetans, and are exempt from rent.

In return for his paltry remuneration, the Tibetan soldier has to be drilled four or five times a month, and to be present at the great manœuvres once a year. The manœuvres are held in the vicinity of a little village called Dabchi, which lies about two miles north of Lhasa on the road leading to the Sera monastery. In the village there is a shrine of Kwanti (a Chinese war-God) whom the Tibetans call Gesergi Gyalpo (saffron king), and who is much revered as a God for driving away evil spirits, though the Chinese settlers form the greater proportion of his actual worshippers. Close by there is another temple called by the name of the village, in which live priests who take the services at the Kwanti shrine. Many objects of interest are kept in the shrine, but the most curious things are the images of blue demons, red demons, and other inhabitants of hell, all arranged as if they were retainers of Kwanti.[551] North of this shrine there is a high mound about one furlong square, with an arsenal standing in the centre. Thence spreads a vast plain five miles to the north, half a mile to the west and five miles to the east. This is the scene of the great parade. Soldiers are summoned from all parts of the country to attend the parade, which is usually held towards the end of September or the beginning of October, when the barley harvest is over, and the crops safely out of harm’s way. The first two days are reserved for the Chinese soldiers and the following two for the Tibetan. The review is honored by the presence of the Amban and of the higher Tibetan officers, who give prizes in money ranging from fifty cents to five dollars, or silver medals, to any soldiers who have displayed notable ability. In Tibet archery is still considered an essential art of warriors, yet artillery has recently been introduced, and is taught by Chinese officers or by Tibetans who have been educated in India. The Tibetan artillery does not amount to much.

My own observations lead me to suspect the valor of the Chinese and Tibetan soldiers, and I doubt whether they can claim to have any more strength than the ordinary citizens. Among the Chinese soldiers pale countenances are very common, and though the Tibetan soldiers look stouter, in courage I can see no difference. The cause of their insignificance is to be traced to the difficulty they have in living upon their small pay. The warrior-priests are far more soldier-like than the regular soldiers; they have no wives nor children to take care of, and have therefore nothing to fear. They are indeed far more estimable than the professional soldiers, whose first business in time of war is to plunder the natives instead of serving the country. This is all because the soldiers have families, a fact which in my opinion is the greatest hindrance to warlike purposes. The Tibetans are emotional by nature, and out of such[552] people, especially when they also have to support families, it is no easy task to make a brave army.

One exception must be made—the people of Kham. Outwardly wild, they are natural soldiers. In this district all the inhabitants, not excluding the women, may be called fighters. Their usual vocations are trading, farming, and cattle-raising, but their favorite profession is robbery. This is the business most admired by all; they deem it a great honor to defeat other tribes and kill as many foes as they can. In Kham they have robber-songs as we have war-songs: songs in which the people take much delight, even the children singing the lively airs to which they are fitted; and as there are no war-songs in Tibet the robber-songs of Kham are substituted for them. Here is one:

Upon those boundless plateaux, green with grass;
Along those sloping tortuous pathless paths;
Amidst those pointed hornlike rocky steeps
My charger iron-hoofed I bestride
With daring valor to attack my foes.
When hail-storms rage their fiercest round my head,
With all their stones like bullets pelting me,
And when tempestuous snow-drifts roll in rage,
Like mighty greedy waves engulfing me,
I fear not—nay these perils great I like
To brave; for, clad in iron boots my feet,
I headlong rush, stout-hearted as I am,
Unwed, assured of final victory.
My wife, my children and my parents dear
Are not my refuge here; I trust not them;
My refuge only is my spirit brave
Adventurous, that can resist and stand
Against misfortunes and e’en dangers dire.

These songs all begin with A, la, la, la; la, la, la, mo and end with la, la, mo, la; la, la, la, mo. Once when I met a Tibetan soldier of my acquaintance, I asked why they used robber-songs instead of having war-songs of their own. He was a talkative kind of man and proceeded to explain in an oratorical tone.


“As you well know, the meaning of the songs is very good and noble; it is the courage praised in songs like these that strengthens a country. But even good songs, when used for robbery, are indeed wicked weapons, and the singers thereof great sinners. They are the same songs, but how great is the difference in their results! In one case they promote, and in the other they destroy, humanity and righteousness.”


Tibetan Finance.

I shall next briefly describe the finance of the Tibetan Government. It must be remembered, however, that this subject is extremely complicated and hardly admits of accurate explanation even by financial experts, for nobody except the Revenue Officials can form an approximate idea of the revenue and expenditure of the Government. All that I could get from the Minister of Finance was that a considerable margin of difference existed according to the year. This must partly come from the fact that taxes are paid in kind, and as the market is necessarily subject to fluctuation even in such an exclusive place as Tibet, the Government cannot always realise the same amount of money from the sale of grain and other commodities collected by the Revenue authorities. Of course anything like statistical returns are unknown in Tibet, and my task being hampered by such serious drawbacks, I can only give here a short account of how the taxes are collected, how they are paid and by what portion of the people, and how the revenue thus collected is disbursed, and such matters, which lie on the surface so that I could easily observe and investigate them.

The Treasury Department of the Papal Government is called Labrang Chenbo, which means the large Kitchen of the Lama. It is so-called, because various kinds of staples are carried in there as duty from the land under his direct jurisdiction, and from landlords holding under a sort of feudal tenure. As there are no such conveniences as drafts or money orders, these staples have to be transported directly from each district to the central treasury, whatever the distance. But the taxpayer has one solace:[555] he can easily obtain, on his way to the treasury, the service of post-horses, such service on such occasions being compulsory. The articles thus collected consist of barley, wheat, beans, buck-wheat, meal and butter. But from districts in which custom-houses are established various other things, such as coral gems, cotton, woollen and silk goods, raisins and peaches are accepted. Other districts pay animal-skins, and thus the large Kitchen is an ‘omnium gatherum.’ Truly a strange method of collecting taxes!

One peculiarity in Tibet is the use of an abundant variety of weights and measures; there are twenty scales for weighing meal, and thirty-two boxes for measuring grain. Bo-chik is the name given to a box of the average size, and it measures about half a bushel. But tax-collectors use, when necessity arises, measures half as large or half as small as these, so that the largest measure holds three quarters of a bushel, while the smallest holds a quarter. The small ones are generally used to measure the staples from provinces such as the native place of the Dalai Lama, or such as have personal relations to some high officials of the Government. Thus, though a favored district is supposed to pay the same number of bushels as the others, it pays in reality only one-half of what the most unfortunate district has to pay. Nor is the measure used for one district a fixed one; it may change from year to year. Suppose one of the most favored districts has produced a great rascal, or rebel, or has done anything that displeases the Government. The whole people of that district are responsible for it; they are obliged to pay by the largest measure, that is, twice as much as they did in the preceding year. Thus the various kinds of offences make it necessary to have thirty-two varieties of measures and twenty of weight. It is to be noted however that when the Government has to dispose of those stuffs, it never[556] uses the larger measures, though if too small ones are used, it certainly causes complaints on the part of the buyers; hence the middle-sized ones are mostly used. All expenses of Government, such as salaries for priests and officers and wages for mechanics and tradesmen in its service are paid with an average measure.

The chief expense of the Government is, as I have stated before, that for the service of the Buḍḍha Shākyamuni. The money used for the repairing of temples and towers, and for the purchase of stone lanterns and other furniture amounts to a large sum; but by far the greater proportion is spent for butter, which is used instead of oil for the myriads of lights which are kept burning day and night. The stands arranged in rows in the temple of the Buḍḍha in Lhasa alone number no less than two thousand five hundred and in some special cases ten thousand or even a hundred thousand lamps are lighted, all of them burning butter of a high price. In Tibet the substitution of vegetable oil for mal is considered, not exactly sin, but at least a pollution and desecration of Buḍḍha; not a few Lamas leave a clause in their wills that rapeseed oil should not be offered for their souls after death. In front of the image of the Buḍḍha in Lhasa are placed twenty-four large light-stands of pure gold. These and some others have big oil-holders, large enough to hold five gallons of mal. Almost all the mal used for the service of the Buḍḍha is furnished by the Treasury of the Government, though a small part of it is offered by religious people.

Costly mal used, in former times, to be offered by Mongolians, to the great relief of the Papal Treasury, but the offering has recently been stopped entirely. The burdens of the Tibetan people themselves have been proportionately increased, but as the fixed rate of the tax cannot be increased the bigger measures are used more frequently.


In each province there are two places where the collection of taxes is made for the Government, one of which is the temple, and the other the Local Government office; for the people are divided into two classes: (1) those who are governed by the temple and (2) those who are governed by the Local Government. They pay their taxes to the Central Government through their respective Governors. In each local district, there is what is called a Zong. This was originally a castle built for warlike purposes, but in time of peace it serves as a Government office, where all the functions of Government are carried on, so taxes are also collected there. The Zong is almost always found standing on the top of a hillock of about three hundred feet and a Zongpon (chief of the castle), generally a layman, lives in it. He is the chief Governor of the district and collects taxes and sends the things or money he has gathered to the Central Government. The Zongpon is not paid by the Central Government directly, but subtracts the equivalent of his pay from the taxes he has collected. The Central Government does not send goods or money to the Local Government except on such few occasions as need special help from the national Treasury. The people under the direct jurisdiction of the Central Government are sometimes made to pay a poll-tax. The people who belong to the nobility and the higher class of priests are of course assessed by their landowners, but there is no definite regulation as to their payment to the Central Government; the people of some districts pay, while others are exempt.

Part of the work done by the Tibetan Minister of the Treasury is the management of the subscriptions of the people. Everything offered to the Buḍḍhist Temple and given to the priests at the time of the Great Assembly is at once paid into the Treasury, to be given out only by the order of the Minister of that department. Another business taken by the Minister[558] is the household expenses of the Pope. These expenses are not fixed, and the Pope can draw out as much as he pleases within the limit of usage, and his own moderation. It is said that since the accession of the present Pope both the expenditure and the revenue have been greatly increased. The Minister of the Treasury has also to pay all the salaries of officials and priests in the service of the Papal Government. These expenses for salaries are very small, as compared with those of other countries, but the officials and priests derive an additional income from the land in their own possession.

Officers and priests in Tibet can each borrow fifteen hundred dollars from the Government at an interest of five per cent a year and they can lend it again at fifteen per cent, which is the current rate of interest in Tibet, though usurers sometimes charge over thirty per cent. Thus any officer can make at least ten per cent on fifteen hundred dollars without running much risk. If an officer or priest fails to repay the loan the amount is not subtracted from his next year’s loan. Compound interest is unknown in Tibet however long the debtor may prolong his payment; it is forbidden by the law. Another subsidy given by the Government is six dollars extra pay per annum to each priest of the Three Great Temples. In this connexion it must also be stated that the Three Great Temples just mentioned receive a vast amount of mal from the Government.

The supplementary resources of the Pope’s revenue are subscriptions from the members and laymen, the leases from meadow-lands in his personal possession, and profits acquired by his own trading, which is carried on by his own caravans. The Pope’s caravans must be distinguished from those of the Treasury Department.

The Treasury of the Grand Lama is called Che Labrang, which means the Lama’s kitchen on the hill, because the[559] Lama’s palace is located on a hill. It is called Potala and the place is a castle, a temple, and a palace at once. As a castle it has no equal in Tibet, in view of the strength of its fortifications; as a temple, it can look down upon all other lamaseries of the country for elegance and gaudiness. As a palace, of course there is no building that surpasses it. But in spite of all this, there is a deplorable defect in its water supply. Within the high walls that defend the dwellers from the attacks of an enemy there is no well or spring whatever. The people have to go far away to get a bucket of water from a well which can only be reached by descending a hundred and fifty feet of stone steps and crossing another hundred and fifty feet of level ground. To reach the top of the hill one has to climb another three hundred feet, making the journey three quarters of a mile altogether. It is of course no easy work for the residents to carry water so far, and there are therefore many workers who make it their business to do this for them, charging about twelve cents per man a month. The aristocratic priests, who bear the title of Namgyal Tatsang, live in one part of the castle and number one hundred and sixty-five. They represent the highest type of the Tibetan priesthood and are all selected with great care, even physique and physiognomy being taken into consideration. They live in good style at the Pope’s personal cost.

The property of the Grand Lama, after his death, is divided in the following way: One-half of the property (in fact a little more than half) has to be divided among his relatives in his native place, and the remaining half is distributed as gifts among the priests of the Great Temples and those of the New Sect. In the case of an ordinary priest, if he leaves property worth five thousand dollars about four thousand is used in gifts to the priests and for the expense of lights, and almost all the remaining[560] thousand is used for his funeral expenses, leaving perhaps three hundred to his disciples. In cases when a priest leaves very little money, his disciples are obliged to borrow money to supply the want of gifts and money for lights in his honor—a custom entirely foreign to the laity.


Future of the Tibetan Religions.

The Tibetans are essentially a religious people. Foreigners call them superstitious, and indeed my own observation also testifies that their faith is veritably a mass of superstition. Yet it would be inaccurate to say that there is no truth in their religion. A small but precious jewel is often found among useless rubbish; wise men will not throw away the jewel along with the rubbish, even though it may not be found at the first glance. I can find at least two precious things in the creed of the Tibetans. One of them is that they recognise the existence of a superhuman being who protects us. They are also sure of the possibility of communication with this being by dint of religious faith. It is true that they have several unreasonable rites of worship, which may be compared to the rubbish round the jewel, but in the midst of them they know that Buḍḍha is all love, that He removes calamities from us, and makes us happy at length. They also recognise the existence of deities subject to the emotions of anger, and ready to punish those that offend them; but even ignorant Tibetans know the difference between the Gods and the Buḍḍha, the former to be feared, and the latter simply an object of gratitude.

The other precious thing I can point out is their belief in the law of cause and effect. According to this law, each deed is rewarded according to its deserts; whatever vices one commits will be followed by suffering; on the other hand, every man shall enjoy the result of the good that he has done. They also believe that the law of cause and effect is everlasting, the seed making the fruit, and the fruit the seed, and so on for ever. In the same way, they[562] think, our mind is imperishable, and often reproduced in the world. Thus far their faith is worthy enough, but the doctrine of transmigration, of which they have a too firm conviction, is apt to lead to superstition. The Tibetans often really think such and such Lamas have been born again in such and such places. But the precious Buḍḍhist creed that one’s mind and body are everlastingly in accordance with the law of cause and effect and self-compensation is so thoroughly taught to every Tibetan from his childhood by his mother, that the home lessons of the Tibetan children almost always take the form of sermons on their mythology and miscellaneous stories connected with Buḍḍhism. In sooth, Buḍḍhism is so deeply ingrained in the country that no other religion can exist in Tibet, unless it be explained by the light of Buḍḍhism. Thus, the Old Bon religion has been greatly modified and has indeed entirely lost its original form and been replaced by the New Bonism, which resembles the Ryōbu Shinto of Japan, in which the Sun God is interpreted as the incarnation of Buḍḍha; but the Tibetan goes further than the Ryōbu Shintoist did. By Bon is meant Shinnyo or Truth, or rather the incarnation of Shinnyo, and it is considered to be one branch of Buḍḍhism.

One of the things which most struck me was that Muhammadanism is found in Tibet, mostly among the Chinese and the descendants of the immigrants from Kashmīr. They number about three hundred in Lhasa and Shigatze, cling pertinaciously to their doctrines, and have two temples in the suburbs of Lhasa, with two cemeteries on the side of a distant mountain. One of the temples is for the Musulmāns from Kashmīr, and the other for the Chinese. It is rather strange to see the calm existence of Muhammadanism in a country where Buḍḍhism is so predominant. One thing that the Musulmāns in Tibet say is very striking. They declare that[563] according to their religion there exist previous and future worlds, but that man is reborn as man, never as a lower animal, as Buḍḍhism says, and that the final destiny of the human soul is the Kingdom of Heaven or Hell. I once argued with some of the Muhammadans that no such doctrine as transmigration is to be found in the Koran, in which mention is made of the future world, but none about the past. Then I suspected that it might have been adopted from the Christian religion, for in the bible the subject is just touched on. But I doubted whether any doctrine of that sort had ever been pronounced upon by the Muhammadan Kalifate. When they heard me speak thus they simply said: “There is, there really is, the doctrine of future and previous worlds in the Muhammadan religion,” and they said it with a straight face. They really seemed to think so, but I think it a modification derived from Buḍḍhism.

Of late Christian missionaries have been trying to introduce their religion into Tibet, and I can but admire their undaunted spirit. But the country does not admit any foreigners, so their utmost efforts have no effect on the interior. They attempt therefore to convert the Tibetans who come to Darjeeling, or those who live about Sikkim. For these purposes hundreds of thousands of dollars have already been spent, and the bible and many other religious books have been translated into the Tibetan language. There are also many books written in Tibetan against Buḍḍhism. As soon as Darjeeling was opened to foreigners, the first pioneers to the town were the Christian missionaries, and ever since they have been preaching their religion with utmost zeal.

Notwithstanding all their endeavors, Christian missions have been so far a failure. The so-called members are false members, and the more earnest are not genuine Tibetans, but Sikkimese who pretend to be Tibetans.[564] It can truly be said that there is not a single Tibetan from the interior of the country who really believes in Christianity, though there are a few who declare themselves Christian because they can thus get a living. Go to the house of a reputed Christian and you will always find in some inner room of his house the image of Buḍḍha, before which butter-lamps are burned in secret day and night. When he goes out he pretends to be a Christian, and on Sunday he carries his bible and goes to church! Such a Christian of course quickly turns his back upon Christ when his pocket is full, or he is not likely to receive any more. The missionaries make a mistake if they think that they can easily convert a Buḍḍhist into a Christian; for the reverse is the case. Let me state some fundamental differences between Christianity and Buḍḍhism. By the ‘Enlightenment’ of Buḍḍhism one obtains absolute freedom; the greatest spiritual freedom is to be attained by one’s self, while in Christianity there is an infinite power called God who prevents one from attaining absolute freedom. Again the nature of cause and effect is not clear in the Christian religion. I read in the bible “A good tree will bear good fruits and a bad tree will bear bad fruits.” Therefore I cannot say that the doctrine of cause and effect is not alluded to at all in this religion, but its scope is limited. If they would extend the text and make it applicable to previous and future lives, then I think they might open the way for Christianity to reach the Tibetans. Furthermore the sentence “Thy faith has saved thee” of Christ means exactly what Buḍḍha meant: “Of one’s own deeds, one’s own reward.” But it seems to me that the true meaning of the words of Christ is not fully developed and that its application is far too narrow. I think this is one cause of the unpopularity of Christianity among the Tibetans, who have a very deep belief in the theory of[565] “receiving according to one’s own deeds.” These are the chief reasons, I believe, why Christianity obtains so few followers among the Tibetans after so many years of hard work by scores of missionaries at the cost of millions of dollars.

To sum up what we have seen: The predominant religion at present is Buḍḍhism, and the others are the Bon, the Muhammadan and the Christian. We have seen how the old pre-Buḍḍhist Bon religion has been transformed into the New Bon, which is now looked upon as a sect of Buḍḍhism, and how the Muhammadan religion existing within a very small sphere of influence has shown a gradual approach to Buḍḍhism, though unnoticed by themselves. As to the Christianity of Tibet, it does not seem probable that it can flourish in this land unless the present sectarian prejudices of the Churches are entirely removed and a new form and attitude be given it, so as to adapt it to the Tibetan people. The present Tibetan Buḍḍhism is corrupt and on the road to decay; still it has some jewels in it, and is almost naturally inherent in every Tibetan, and it is probable that it will continue to be predominant in the country by its own vis inertiae until a great man comes to the front to undertake the work of religious reformation and to restate the truths of the Great Freedom of Buḍḍha.


The Beginning of the Disclosure of the Secret.

On the 30th of April 1901, Tsa Rong-ba, who had left for India in the preceding year, came back. He was a Tibetan merchant, to whom I had entrusted the letters to my teacher Saraṭ Chanḍra Ḍās at Darjeeling and to a Lama called Shabdung of the same town. He had also been trusted with the business of posting a letter to my native country. As soon as he arrived he at once sent for me, but his messenger could not find me at Sera, for I was at the treasury-minister’s on that day, and it was rather late when I heard of his return. So early the next morning I started for his house, expecting to receive answers from my old acquaintances in Darjeeling. After exchanging a few happy words he said to me: “At the time when I reached Darjeeling, both your teacher and the Lama were away. So I had to carry the letters with me all the way to Calcutta. On my way home, when I came back to Darjeeling I found both of them at home, and handed them the letters. Saraṭ told me to call on him again two days after to receive his answer. But I could not see him again, because I had bought a large quantity of iron by the secret order of the Government, and if the fact had become known to the Indian Government I should have been arrested. Therefore I could not stay long at Darjeeling and determined to start the next day without securing an answer from Saraṭ. But here is the answer from Lama Shabdung, who wrote it on the same day.” Saying this he handed me a letter. In the letter, it was stated that the letter to my teacher had been handed to him and another to my home had been registered. He also thanked me for my present to him.[567] (In Tibet it is customary to annex some present to a letter, and if nothing suitable can be found, they enclose a piece of thin silk cloth, a ‘Kata,’ and as I had acted in accordance with this custom when I sent my letter to him, he thanked me for that, and as a return present sent me some European sugar and a few other things). As we talked I heard of the Transvaal war and various other items of news from Darjeeling.


The 13th of May (the 4th of April by the Tibetan calendar) was a grand day for Lhasa, for on that day the Grand Lama Panchen Rinpoche, or the second Pope of Tashi Lhunpo in the city of Shigatze in the Tsan Province was to come up to Lhasa. He had completed his twentieth year and was qualified to receive what in Tibetan is called the Nyen-zok, which means investiture or ‘the deliverance of the Commands’. He was now coming to the capital to receive the ceremony from the Pope Tubten Gyam Tso in Lhasa. The ceremony is regarded as one of great importance, in nowise second to the “Nyen-zok” day of the investiture or ‘the Deliverance of the Commands of the Order’ of the Pope himself. The citizens, men and women, young and old, all went out to welcome the young prelate to Lhasa and I was also present in the crowd, accompanied by Li Tsu-shu, a Chinese apothecary, and his children. The procession of the day was magnificent and as splendid as was expected, but was not much different from that which I saw at Shigatze. On our way back I met Tsa Rong-ba, who invited me to tea at his house. I accepted, and was sitting comfortably in his house, when a Tibetan gentleman came in. The man was introduced to me as the Chief of the Pope’s caravan, by the name of Takbo Tunbai Choen Joe. He also worked (as I learned afterward) as an agent of the Government for buying iron and other articles as Tsa Rong-ba did, and they were old acquaintances. As soon as he entered the house he stared at me with his sharp eyes for a long time. As[569] I looked at him I judged him to be a black-hearted man, but at the same time I recognised the presence of great smartness.

Presently he came close to me. In the room were Tsa Rong-ba and his wife, and I saw that the greatest danger was brewing. But here I must diverge to tell a long story. Tsa Rong-ba had looked upon me with great hope, as my influence increased, because he thought if I became a family doctor of the Pope he would derive therefrom great benefit and profit, and when he returned from India he found my fame as a doctor greatly increased. Some people had exaggerated my reputation; if I cured only three patients they would call it fifty, and went even so far as to say that none could compete with me in the art of medicine. Besides, he knew that I lodged with the Minister of the treasury, and that I had also several friends among the higher officials and priests. These considerations made him think me quite reliable. While he was in Calcutta he heard much of the just and brave actions of the Japanese, also that in the war between Japan and China, the Japanese were not selfish, but had in view the benefit of China; at least I heard him often say so. Thus his confidence in the Japanese in general and in myself had been still more increased.

Next, to speak of the intruder Takbo Tunbai Choen Joe, he was the clerk of a great merchant named Takbo Tunba, and had often been to Peking, sometimes in charge of the Pope’s caravan. At the time of the Boxer Trouble he was in China and once unfortunately all his goods had been captured by some Japanese soldiers. He explained to them that the goods captured did not belong to the Chinese Government—on which suspicion they had been seized—and begged to have them returned, but all in vain. They were going to carry everything away. Then he hastened to the Japanese general at headquarters, and complained that he was a Tibetan and the goods had[570] neither been brought for, nor were being carried for the Chinese Government, and besought the general that they should be given back. The general, seeing that he was a Tibetan, immediately wrote a note in Chinese and in some peculiar characters (undoubtedly Japanese) signed his name and handed it to him telling him to take it to the soldiers. He did as he was told, and the goods which had been seized were returned with no loss whatever. This event and other experiences made him think that the Japanese were in the habit of acting justly and righteously. At any rate he had spoken highly of the Japanese when he told the above story to Tsa Rong-ba. When Tsa Rong-ba heard the story and knew that the Choen Joe was an admirer of the Japanese as he himself was, he thought it might do no harm to discover to him the person of the Japanese Lama; he even thought it would be profitable for himself to do so, but I never dreamed that such a fancy had taken possession of his mind.

The Choen Joe, who was keenly gazing at me, suddenly cried out: “You are very strange,” to which I did not reply a word. Then he continued: “At first I thought you were a Mongolian, but I found my judgment mistaken. Nor are you to be taken for a Chinaman. Of course, you are not a European. Of what nationality in the world are you then?” I was about to reply to this impertinent question, when I was interrupted by Tsa Rong-ba who spoke in a knowing way: “This gentleman is a Japanese.” Just a few words, and all was over. It was the first time my nationality had been mentioned in Lhasa. A very annoying truth had been uttered, but I could not deny the impeachment, so continued silently looking into the chief’s face, and wondering what would be the next word I should hear from him. Then with a look as if relieved from some uneasiness he turned to the