1902 Encyclopedia > Lhasa, Tibet


LHASA, often written LASSA, for many centuries the chief city of Tibet. Though the place is of great celebrity, the accounts of it are scanty, and information has to be sifted from authorities differing considerably in age. Till recently the latitude even of Lhasa has been stated with variations extending over 1 1/2 degrees, whilst the longitude has naturally been still more uncertain. The Jesuit Grueber, who was at Lhasa in 1661-62, made the latitude 29º 6'. In the maps of Tibet sent from China by the Jesuits, and engraved on five separate sheets in Du Halde, it is about 29º 40'. D’Anville, in his Carte Générale du Thibet, chiefly based on these last, but modified to suit other data, reverted nearly to Grueber’s figure ; Giorgi in his A!phabetum Tibetanum states it at about 30º 30'. Klaproth, stretching every datum to cracking point, to suit his fantasies about the course of the great river of Tibet, made it 30º 45' !at. (and 91º 50' long.); our last and highest authority, Pundit Nain Singh, gives (from a mean of twenty observations) 29º 39' 17", a result which closely confirms the Jesuit record. The longitude according to the protraction of the same explorer's route is 90º 57' 13".1 The height above the sea, by repeated observation of the boiling point, is stated at 11,700 feet (but the report of Nain Singh, on his second visit, gives 11,910). The city stands near the middle of a tolerably level plain, which is surrounded on all sides by hills, and extends about 13 miles from cast to west and about 7 miles from north to south. It lies half a mile to the north of a considerable river called the Kichu Tsanpu, or Tsang-chu, flowing here from east-north-east (called by the Mongols, according to Klaproth, Galjao-Muren, or "Turbulent River"), and joining the great Tsanpu (or upper course of the Brahmaputra) some 35 miles to the south-west.

The hills round the city are absolutely barren, and without growth of any kind except an occasional bush of so-called "Tartar furze." There are, however, gardens scattered over the plain round the city, and these are planted with trees of some size (it would seem cedar, willow, and cypress). Four defiles in the encompassing hills, by which the approaches to the city pass, are defended by as many forts. We may quote the description of Hue, which, though a little vague, is vivid, and is the only passage affording anything like a picture of this city, so difficult of access :

"The sun was about to set as we completed our descent of the innumerable zigzags of the mountain path. Issuing into a wide valley, we beheld on our right Lhasa, the famous metropolis of the Buddhist world. The multitude of aged trees which encircle the city as with a girdle of foliage, the lofty white houses, terminating in flat roofs surrounded by turrets, the numerous temples with their gilt canopies, the Buddhala [Potala], crowned by the palace of the Dalai Lama,—all unite to give Lhasa a majestic and imposing appearance."

The meaning of the name Lhá-Sa is "God’s ground." Formerly it used to be known to the Mongols as Barontala, the "right side" or western region; now, according to Hue they call it Monhe Dhot or Dehot, "Eternal Sanctuary."2 In eastern Turkestan it seems to be best known as Jo, a name which properly refers to the great central temple of which we shall speak.

The city is nearly circular in form, and according to Nain Singh less than a mile in diameter. It was walled in the latter part of the 17th century, but the walls were destroyed during the Chinese occupation in 1722. The population has been estimated at 40,000 to 80,000; the last estimate perhaps including the great population of monks and students in the convents near the city.3

The chief streets of the city are wide and straight, and in dry weather tolerably clean, but the inferior quarters are unspeakably filthy, and are rife with evil smells and large mangy dogs.4 Part (much the greater part, according to Nain Singh) of the houses are of clay and sun-dried brick, but those of the richer people of stone and brick. All, however, are frequently white-washed, the doors and windows being framed in bands of red and yellow. In the suburbs there are houses entirely built of the horns of sheep and oxen set in clay mortar. This construction, according to Huc, is very solid and highly picturesque. The houses generally are large, and of three stories at least. The owner of the house, with his family, occupies the upper story, whilst the two lower floors swarm with tenants. Externally the lower part of Tibetan houses generally presents lofty dead walls pierced by a few airholes only; above these rise tiers of windows with projecting balconies, and over all flat broad-eaved roofs at varying levels. According to Desideri, in the better houses there are often spacious and well-finished apartments, the principal halls, the verandas, and terraces being often paved with a composition of coloured fragments of stone set in a cement of resin, &c., which with much beating and rubbing becomes like a surface of polished porphyry. In every house there is a kind of chapel or shrine, carved and gilt, on which are set images and sacred books, and before them lamps and incense, with the usual offerings of barley, fruits, &c.

Lhasa is not only the nucleus of a cluster of vast monastic establishments, which attract students and aspirants to the (so-called) religious life from all parts of Tibet and Mongolia, and the seat of a quasi papacy, but is also a great place of pilgrimage, so that the streets and public spaces swarm with visitors from every part of the Himalayan plateau, and from all the steppes of Asia between Manchuria and the Balkash Lake, who come to adore the living Buddha, to seek the purgation of their sins and the promise of a happy transmigration, and to carry away with them holy relics, blessed rosaries, and all the miscellaneous trumpery which is set forth to catch the money of idle people in Asia and Europe, whether they are pilgrims or frequenters of mineral waters;5 whilst as usual a great traffic arises quite apart from the pilgrimage. The city thus swarms with crowds attracted by devotion and the love of gain, and presents an astonishing diversity of language, costume, and physiognomy; though, in regard to the last point, varieties of the broad face and narrow eye greatly predominate. Much of the retail trade of the place is in the hands of the women. Huc’s account of the curious practice of the Lhasa women in plastering their faces with a dark-coloured unguent is well known, but it does not rest on his authority alone.

During the month of December especially traders arrive from western China by way of Tatsienlu (Tachindo of the Tibetans), bringing every variety of silk-stuffs, carpets, china-ware, and tea ; from Siningfu (commonly in Tibet and Turkestan called Siling, Ziling, or Zling, a circumstance that has caused sundry misapprehensions) come silk, gold lace, Russian goods, carpets of a superior kind, semiprecious stones, horse furniture, horses, and a very large breed of fat-tailed sheep; from eastern Tibet musk in large quantities, which eventually finds its way to Europe through Nepal; from Bhutan and Sikkim, rice; from the latter also tobacco; besides a variety of Indian and European goods from Nepal and Darjiling, and charas (resinous exudation of hemp) and saffron from Ladak and Kashmir. The merchants, who arrive in December, leave Lhasa in March, before the setting in of the rains renders the rivers impassable.

The tea importation from China is a large matter, on which an interesting paper has been written by Mr E. Baber. The tea is of the coarsest quality, derived from straggling and uncared-for trees, allowed to grow to a height of 10 feet or more, and the coarsest produce of these. This is pressed into bricks or cakes, and carried by porters. The quantity that pays duty at Tatsienlu is about 10,000,000 lb, besides some amount smuggled. No doubt a large part of this comes to Lhasa. Tea is an absolute necessary to the Tibetan; be is miserable without it.

The chief industries of Lhasa are the weaving of a great variety of stuffs from the fine Tibetan wool; the making of earthenware (said to be of very good quality), and of the wooden porringers (varying immensely in elaboration and price) of which every Tibetan carries one about with him ; also the making of certain fragrant sticks of pastille much valued in China and elsewhere.

It is curious that Tibet, though using coined money, seems never, strictly speaking, to have had a coinage of its own. Till nearly the end of last century the coinage had for a long time been derived from Nepal. That valley prior to the Gorkha domination (1768) was under three native dynasties (at Bhatgaon, Patan, and Khatmandu), and these struck silver rnohurs, as they were called, of the nominal value of half a rupee. The coins were at first not struck specially for Tibetan use, but were so afterwards. These latter bore (obverse) a Nepalese emblem surrounded by eiglit fleurons containing the eight sacred Buddhist jewels, and (reverse) an eight-petalled flower surrounded by eight fleurons containing the names of the eight jewels in Tibetan characters. Ingots of Chinese silver were sent from Lhasa with a small proportion of gold dust, and an equal weight in mohurs was returned, leaving to the Nepal rajahs, between gold-dust and alloy, a good profit. The quality of these coins (weighing about 81 grains Troy) was low, and at last deteriorated so much that the Tibetans deserted the Nepal mints. The Gorkhas, after becoming masters of Nepal, were anxious to renew the profitable traffic in coin, and in this view sent a deputation to Lhasa, with a quantity of coin to be put in circulation. Put the Gorkhas were mistrusted, and their coin refused. A coinage was then issued (it would appear once only) in Tibet for domestic use, modelled on an old Khatinandu pattern, and struck by Nepalese artists (see fig. 1). The Gorkhas, however, in 1788 and following years continued to strike coins of progressively debased quality, which were rude imitations of the old Nepalese mintage (see fig. 2), and to endeavour to force this currency on the Tibetans, eventually making the departure of the latter from old usage a pretext for war and invasion. This brought the intervention of the Chinese, who drove the Gorkhas out of Tibet (1792), and then began to strike silver coins for Lhasa use, bearing Chinese and Tibetan characters (see fig. 3). For practical use these Tibeto-Chinese coins (of which 2 1/2=1 rupee, and which are known as naktang, i.e., nagskyang, "cash"), are cut into aliquot parts by the guidance of the figures on them. Large lumps of Chinese silver, stamped with the imperial seal, are also used. But of late years there has been an enormous influx of Anglo-Indian rupees, so that these have become practically the currency of the country, even to the frontier of China, and are now counted, instead of being valued as bullion. They are called Peiling ch’ranka, or chanka (probably Hind. tank_), "English (Firinghi? coins." Those that bear a crowned head of the queen are called Lama heads, the crown being taken for a wandering lama’s head-gear. This great influx of rupees indicates a very considerable amount of trade with India. And, in spite of the extraordinary difficulties of the road eastward from Lhasa, quantities of trifling European articles find their way even to Tatsienlu on the Chinese frontier. Mr Baber found quarter-rupees very popular as buttons, British army buttons very common, corkscrews offered for sale (though no one knew their use), and tin-plates very common, stamped with the heads of Napoleon III., Mr Gladstone, and other celebrities.

The permanent population embraces, besides Tibetans of the country, settled families of Chinese and Kashmiris in considerable numbers, as well as people from Bhotan and Nepal, from Ladak and even from Patna. The Kashmiris and many of the other foreigners are Mohammedans, and much of the trade is in their hands. Desideri, a century and a half ago, speaks also of Armenians and even "Muscovites." The Chinese have a crowded burial-ground at Lhasa, tended carefully after their manner. The Kashmiris, who are called Khach’hé, are an important body, and have their mosque, and a provost, at once civil and religious, who is recognized by the Government. With their turbans, their fine Caucasian features, and their heards, they strikingly contrast with the mass of other nationalities. The Nepalese (called at Lhasa, according to Huc, Pe-bún) supply all the mechanic’s and metal-workers. There are among them excellent gold and silversmiths; and they make the elaborate gilded canopies crowning the temples, which form so notable a feature of Lhasa. Huc describes a striking custom among the native population. Every evening, as light begins to fail, they leave off business, and form groups in the streets all sit down and begin to chant prayer in a low voice. "The combination of religious music arising from these numerous companies produces an aggregate of vast and solemn harmony, which is exceedingly moving."

In the middle of the city is an open space or place, in which markets are held; this is densely thronged in the afternoon and evening. On the north side, overlooking this place, is a great building which is the residence of the Gyalbo, or so-called king of Tibet. It was built at great cost by the dissolute Lama who was set up by the crafty regent Sangje Gyampo, and put to death by the Calmuck prince Latsan or Jengbiz Khan in 1706-7 (see infra) ; and, as the Lama used to divert himself there with the dances of the ladies of Lhasa, the palace is known as the Trasi-khang or "dancing house" (so Desideri ; the word trasi cannot be identified).

Immediately west of the place stands the great temple and convent of Labrang (bLa-brang, "Lama-house"), regarded as the umbilicus and centre of all Tibet, and from which all the main roads are considered to radiate. This is not merely the great metropolitan convent, sanctuary, and church-centre of Tibet, the St Peter’s or Lateran (if Lamaism, but contains the palace of the government and seat of civil administration. It is believed to have been founded by the Tibetan Constantine, Srong-dran-gampo, in the 7th century, as the shrine of one of those two very sacred Buddha images which were associated with his conversion, and with the foundation of the civilized monarchy in Tibet. From this image, called Jo, or Jú, it is known to the Mongols as the Jo Erdeni ("the precious Lord") or Jo Shakyamuni (to the Chinese as Ta-shao-sz’, "house of the great Jú"), and hence as Ju or Jo simply, a name used in eastern Turkestan (as already noticed) and probably in Mongolia, as a synonym of Lhasa. The temple appears to be known also as Lhasai Chhod-khany, "offering-house of Lhasa," and among Indian and Nepalese visitors as Mâchendra Nâth.1 The Potala as a sacred centre is modern, whilst the Labrang attaches itself to the whole thread of Tibetan history and religion. On one of the walls of this temple is a picture of the famous "Master of the Law," Hwen T’sang, the travelling doctor of Buddhism (see vol. xii. p. 418), whose journeys have in the revolution of the ages become so familiar to European students, as a mine of information on the geography and history of India during a period so clouded as the 7th century. He is represented with three of his disciples. And before the gate of the Labrang, stand several monuments of antiquity, especially that famous obelisk spoken of below, which bears the inscribed record of the treaty of peace concluded in 822 between Thi-de-srong-tsan, king of Tibet, and the emperor Mo-tsung of China, Before this obelisk the apostate from Lamaism, Langdharma., brother and successor of the last-named king, was standing in proud contemplation, when a fanatic recluse, who had been stirred by a vision to avenge his persecuted faith, shot him with an arrow in the forehead.

The main building of the Labrang is three stories high. The entrance, facing eastward, forms a portico supported on six great timber columns, richly carved and gilt, whilst the walls are painted with the history of Sakya. Great folding-doors, covered with reliefs in bronze and iron, lead to the ante-hall, and from this a second gate to the cella (so to call it) of the temple. On each side of the gate, two and two, stand colossi of the spirit-kings of the four points of heaven. Within is a great basilica, divided into naves and aisles by many pillars, whilst along each wall, north and south, are chapels or sanctuaries, fourteen to a side.

At the west end steps ascend to a quadrangular choir or chancel, on each side of which also are three chapels, and at the extremity a rectangular apse (if it may be called so), and in it is the altar or graded throne, on which stands the great image of Sakya, seen through a lattice of silver gilt,—the higher shelves or offsets of the altar being beset with small figures in precious metals of deotas and saints, and the lower ones with lamps burning josticks, platters holding offerings of butter and meal, flowers modelled from butter, &c. In the choir to the right (i.e., looking from the altar) is the elevated and stepped throne of the Grand Lama, laid with splendid cushions, succeeded by the nearly equal throne of the Teshu Lama of Shigatzé, and then by the seats of other ecclesiastical potentates reborn and elected, in order ; on the left of the Buddha throne: opposite the Grand Lama’s, and of equal height, there is said now to be a throne for the emperor of China, then, at a lower level, that of the so-called king of Tibet, whilst the ministers of state follow opposite the inferior lamas.

In a space shut in with silver lattice, on the south side of the chancel-steps, are seen fourteen or fifteen great disks of silver, set with precious stones, on which are embossed fundamental Buddhist symbols, such as their system of cosmogony, the circle of transmigration, the births of Sakya, &c.

The great nave or central aisle of the basilica is truly hypaethral, but on the second and third apparent floors it is encompassed with colonnades or verandas, from which the women and the laity look down upon the lamas engaged in chanting the services or in other functions. The sanctuary or chancel itself towers above the rest of the building, and is crowned with a rectangular canopy or pavilion of gilt metal, which rises to a ridge serrated with fantastic figures. This canopy rests on columns which are also gilt, and from its eaves and angles hang bells that tinkle with everv breeze, whilst the pillars beneath the eaves are crowned with a great frieze of basreliefs embossed in gilt metal.

This ancient temple contains a vast accumulation from tbe ages of gold and silver vessels, lamps, rcliquaries, and precious bric-a-brac of every kind, which is annually exposed to view in the spring festivities. The daily offices in the Labrang are attended by crowds of worshippers, and a sacred way which leads round it is constantly traversed by devotees who perform the circuit as a work of merit, always in a particular direction.

Besides the convent-cells, halls of study, and magazines of precious lumber, buildings grouped about the Labrang are occupied, as we have said, by the civil administration, e.g., as treasuries, customs office, courts of justice, &c. ; and there are also private apartments for the Grand Lama and other high functionaries. No woman is permitted to pass the night within the precinct.

Another great and famous temple is the Ramo-chhé ("large pen or fold"), at the north end of the city. This is also regarded as a foundation of Srong-dsan-gampo, and is said to contain the body of his Chinese wife, and the second of the primeval palladia, the image that she brought with her to the Snow-land; whence the Mongols and Chinese call it the temple of the little Jú. The lamas of this convent, as well as of that next to be mentioned, are noted for their pretensions to and practice of magical arts, one of the degrading characteristics of the lama forms of Buddhism. The orthodox "yellow" sect indeed profess to distinguish between lawful and unlawful magical formulae, and to give degrees only in the former. The lamas of Ramo-chhé have also the ill repute of cultivating that species of doctrine which is connected, like their magic, with Tantric mysticism, and which professes to destroy sensual passion by the contemplation of its representations. The walls of the convent are defiled with a series of sculptures of gross obscenity.2

Another convent within the city is that of Moru, also near the north end, remarkable for its external order and cleanliness, and, though famous like the last as a school of orthodox magic, noted also for the printing-house in the the inmates of which are sorcerers of the ruder kind, who seem really to represent the rude medicine-men of the superstitions which preceded Buddhism in Tibet. As the vulgar will not dispense with their marvels (knife-swallowing, firebreathing, cutting off their own heads, and the like), every great orthodox monastery in Tibet keeps one of these conjurors, who does not belong to the fraternity of the house, but lives in a particular part of it, bearing the name of Choi-chong (Ch’hos-skyong) or "protector of religion," and is allowed to marry. These practitioners of the black art possess no literature, but hand down their mysteries from father to son. Their fantastic equipment, their frantic bearing, and their cries and howls seem to identify them with the grossest Shamanist devil-dancers,—strongly remote in externals from the gentle and cultivated persons in the higher ranks of the Lama Church, of whom we read in Turner or Huc. Other monasteries in or near the city are the Chumuling at the north-west corner; the Tankyaling at the west of the city; the Kontyaling, about a mile west of the city, at the foot of a low isolated hill called Chapochi. Three miles south, beyond the river, is the Chochuling. These four convents are known as "The Four Ling."

Leaving the city by the side of the Ramoch’hé, we see on our left the famous Potala with its many edifices crowning and seeming to grow out of a rocky hill, which rises like an island from the plain. It forms altogether a majestic mountain of building. At the south base of the rock is a large space inclosed by walls and gates , with great porticoes on the inner side. This swarms with lamas, its nooks with beggars basking in the sun. A series of tolerably easy staircases, broken by intervals of gentle ascent, leads to the summit of the rock. The whole width of this is occupied by the palace. The central part of this group of buildings rises in a vast quadrangular mass, in four stories, to a great height, terminating in a gilt canopy similar, it would seem, to that on the Labrang. Here on the lofty terrace is the Grand Lama’s hall of audience, and from this great height he looks down upon the crowds of his votaries far below, thronging the plain, and streaming to kneel before the sacred hill. The monastic buildings attached to the palace temple are said to contain cells for ten thousand monks. Other palatial buildings, towers, chapels, chodtens (chaityas), pavilions, gleaming with gold and silver, Buddhas and other idols, cluster round and crown the three peaks of Potala. The palace itself is said to be painted externally with red and white stripes. The walls and ceilings of all the chief apartments and temples are covered with rich silks. We give an engraving of it (fig. 4), extracted from a Chinese view of Lhasa, published by Klaproth in the work quoted at the end. The Potala has every appearance of having been drawn from the reality. Two avenues bordered with trees of considerable size lead from the city to the foot of Potala. "You see there constantly," says Huc, "a great number of foreign pilgrims, passing between their fingers the beads of their long Buddhist rosaries, with lamas of the court splendidly attired, and mounted on richly caparisoned horses. There reigns in the neighbourhood of the Potala great and incessant movement; but for the most part everybody is grave and silent; religious thoughts appear to occupy the minds of all." It would seem that between the palace and the city runs a stream which is crossed by a bridge called "The Bridge of Glazed Tiles."

On the north side of the rock a wide and easy road descends winding. By this, which has a parapet along the edge, it is lawful to ride. Not far from the base is a garden-palace in the middle of a lake which is surrounded by trees and shrubberies. This palace, called Lu-khang, is described by Desideri as of attractive style, and circular in form, with a loggia or portico running all round, and adorned with paintings. Here the dissolute Lama who built it, at the end of the 17th century, used to give himself up to dissipation with the women of Lhasa. Several other villas or gardens of the Tibetan pope are mentioned; in one of them the Panch’hen-Rinpoch’he (or Teshu Lama) is received when he visits Lhasa, and the two living Buddhas drink tea together there. It is in the numerous gardens round the town that those large trees grow of which Huc speaks as giving Lhasa such a green girdle of foliage. There is no natural wood.

No country in the world—not even Spain or Italy in the last century—has so abounded in convents and monks as Tibet. The district of Lhasa alone is said to contain thirty great convents, besides many smaller establishments, and a notice of Lhasa would be incomplete without some mention at least of the great monastic establishments which stand within a few miles of the city, and constitute an essential element in its existence. These are not single masses of building like the great convents of Europe. The temple (Lha-khang) is the focus of the whole. Round this are gathered numerous houses detached from one another, though not far apart, and generally three stories in height. In each of these are various apartments, each assigned to a monk of some authority and dignity, with several younger members or novices under his immediate direction. Each house has a little garden, and a quantity of vases in which plants are grown. Library, storehouse, hostel, occupy other buildings, and a varying multitude of the peculiar Buddhist objects of adoration which we know as dagobas or chaityas, as well as of masts with sacred flags and streamers. The whole is usually enclosed in a lofty and solid wall. These establishments have undoubtedly a vast population, though we can hardly accept specific figures, in which indeed authorities do not agree. Huc says the inmates of each of the three great convents which we are about to name amiounted to 15,000; Nain Singh states them at 7700, 5500, and 3300 respectively ; the former numbers seem excessive, the latter artificial; but no doubt the real numbers are large. In the Labrang they show a copper kettle holding more than one hundred buckets, which was used to make tea for the lamas who took part in the daily temple service.

The three great convents in the vicinity, all claiming to be foundations of Tsongkhapa, the mediaeval reformer and organizer of the modern orthodox Lama Church, are the following:—

1. Bre-bung (written Bras-sPungs, "the Rice-Heap," so called from the shape of the hill on which it stands), called by Nain Singh Debang, is 5 or 6 miles from Lhasa, west of the city, at the entrance to the plain from the side of Shigatzé and Nepal. In the middle of the convent buildings rises a kind of pavilion , brilliant with colour and gilding, which is reserved for the Dalai Lama, when he visits Brebung once a year, and expounds to the inniates. The place is greatly frequented by the Mongol students who come toLhasa to graduate, and is known in the country as the Mongol convent.

2. Sera ("The Golden") is 2 or 3 miles from the city on the acclivity of the hills which border the valley on the north, and close to the road by which pilgrims enter from Mongolia. The hill is planted with holly and cypress, and from a distance the crowd of buildings and temples, rising in amphitheatre against a background of trees, forms a pleasing picture. In the recesses of the hill, high above the convent, are scattered cells of lamas adopting the solitary life. There are three great temples rising in many stories, the walls of which are entirely covered with gilding, whence the convent’s name. In the chief of these temples is preserved the famous Dorjé of Buddha, i.e., the Vajra or Thunderbolt (of Indra properly), or Adamant, the symbol of the strong and indestructible, which the priest grasps and manipulates in various ways during prayer. From this dorjé, according to one etymology at least, comes the name of the Himalayan sanatarium Dorjiling or Darjeeling. The emblem is a bronze instrument, shaped much like a dumb-bell with pointed ends, and it is said by Koeppen to have been one of the later lama borrowings from Sivaism. The original is carried solemnly in procession to Labrang during the New Year’s festival. In Sera P. Basideri found shelter during the capture of the city by the Dzungar Khan in 1717, spoken of below.

The hill adjoining Sera is believed to be rich in silver ore, but it is not allowed to be worked. On the summit is a spring, and a holy place of the Lhasa Mohammedans, who resort thither. Near the convent there is said to be gold, which is worked by the monks. "Should they… discover a nugget of large size, it is imme-diately replaced in the earth, under the impression that the large nuggets . . . germinate in time, producing the small lumps which they are privileged to search for" (Nain Singh).

3. Galdan.—This great convent is 10 or 12 miles east of Lhasa, on the other side of the KichuTsangpo river. It is the oldest monas-tery of the "Yellow" sect, having been founded by Tsongkhapa, and having had him for its first superior. Here his body is said to be preserved with miraculous circumstances, and here are other relics of him, such as the impression of his hands and feet in hard butter.

Samayé (bSam-yas) is another famous convent intimately con-nected with Lhasa, but it lies some 36 miles south-east on the left bank of the great Tsangpo. It was founded by Padma Sambhava (Ur-ghien of the Tibetans), the apostle who came from Udayâna in the 8th century as the great reviver of Buddhism, and was at the head of the old Red sect. It is visited by the Dalai Lama once a year. It is surrounded by a very high circular stone wall, 1 1/2 miles in circumference, with gates facing the four points of the compass. On this wall Nain Singh, who was here on his last journey (1874), counted 1030 chaityas of brick. One very large temple (Lha-khang) occupies the centre, and round it are four smaller but still very large temples. Many of the idols are of pure gold, and the wealth is very great. The interiors of the temples are covered with beautiful writing in enormous Nagari characters, which the vulgar believe to be the writing of Sakya himself.

Lhasa Festivities.—The greatest of these is at the new year. This lasts fifteen days, and is a kind of lama carnival, in which masks and mummings, wherein the Tibetans take especial delight, play a great part. The celebration commences at midnight, with shouts and clangour of bells, gongs, chank-shells, drums, and all the noisy repertory of Tibetan music; whilst friends exchange early visits and administer coarse sweetmeats and buttered tea. On the 2d day the Dalai Lama gives a grand banquet, at which the Chinese and native authorities are present, whilst in the public spaces, and in front of the great convents, all sorts of shows and jugglers’ performances go on. Next day a regular Tibetan exhibition takes place. A long cable, twisted of leather thongs, is stretched from a high point in the battlements of Potala slanting down to the plain, where it is strongly moored. Two men slide from top to bottom of this huge hypothenuse, sometimes lying on the chest (which is protected by a breast-plate of strong leather), spreading their arms as if to swim, and descending with the rapidity of an arrow-flight. Occasionally fatal accidents occur in this performance, which is called "the dance of the gods"; but the survivors are rewarded by the court, and the Grand Lama himself is always a witness of it. This practice occurs more or less over the Himalayan plateau, and is known in the neighbourhood of the Ganges as Barat. It is employed as a kind of expia-tory rite in cases of pestilence and the like. And exactly the same performance is described as having been exhibited in St Paul’s Churchyard before King Edward VI., and again before Philip of Spain, as well as, about 1750, at Hertford and other places in England (see Strutt’s Sports, &c., 2d ed., p. 198).

The most remarkable celebration of the new year’s festivities is the great jubilee of the Monlam (sMon-lam, "prayer"), instituted by Tsongkhapa himself in 1409. Lamas from all parts of Tibet, but chiefly from the great convents in the neighbourhood, flock to Lhasa, and every road leading thither is thronged with troops of monks on foot or horseback, on yaks or donkeys, and carrying with them their breviaries and their cooking-pots. They descend like swarms of bees upon the city, and those who cannot find lodging bivouac in the streets and squares, or pitch their little black tents in the plain. The festival lasts six days, during which there reigns a kind of saturnalia, and the town is abandoned to these crowds of monks. Unspeakable confusion and disorder reign, whilst gangs of lamas parade the streets, shouting, singing, and coming to blows. The object of this great disorderly gathering is, however, supposed to be devotional. Vast processions take place, with mystic offerings and lama-music, to the Labrang and Moru convents; the Grand Lama himself assists at the festival, and from an elevated throne beside the Labrang receives the offerings of the multitude, and bestows his benediction.

On the 15th of the first month multitudes of torches are kept ablaze, which lighten up the city to a great distance, whilst the interior of the Labrang is illuminated throughout the night by innumerable lanterns shedding light on coloured figures in bas-relief, framed in arabesques of animals, birds, and flowers, and representing the history of Buddha, and other subjects, all modelled in butter. The figures are executed on a large scale, and, as described by Huc, who witnessed the festival at Kunbum on the frontier of China, with extraordinary truth and skill. These singular works of art occupy some months in preparation, and on the morrow are thrown away. On other days horse-races take place from Sera to Potala, and foot-races from Potala to the city. On the 27th of the month the holy Dorjé is carried in solemn, procession from Sera to the Labrang, and to the presence of the Lama at Potala.

Of other great annual feasts, one, in the fourth month, is assigned to the conception of Sakya, but appears to connect itself with the old nature-feast of the entering of spring, and to be more or less identical with the Hûlî of India. A second, the consecration of the waters, in September-Oc-tober, appears, on the confines of India, to be associated with the Dasehra.

On the 30th day of the second month there comes off a strange ceremony, akin to that of the scapegoat (which is not unknown in India). It is called the driving out of the demon. A man is hired to perform the part of demon (or victim rather), a part which sometimes ends fatally. He is fantastically dressed, his face mottled with white and black, and is then brought forth from the Labrang to engage in quasi-theological controversy with one who repre-sents the Grand Lama. This ends in their throwing dice against each other (as it were for the weal or woe of Lhasa). If the demon were to win the omen would be appalling; so this is effectually barred by false dice. The victim is then marched outside the city, followed by the troops, and by the whole populace, hooting, shouting, and firing volleys after him. Once he is driven off, the people return, and he is carried off to the Samayé convent. Should he die shortly after, this is auspicious ; if not, he is kept in ward at Samayé for a twelvemonth.

Nain Singh, whose habitual accuracy is attested by many facts, mentions a strange practice of comparatively recent origin, according to which the civil power in the city is put up to auction for the first twenty-three days of the new year. The purchaser, who must be a member of the Bre-bung monastery, and is termed the Jalno, is a kind of lord of misrule, who exercises arbitrary authority during that time for his own benefit, levying taxes and capricious fines upon the citizens.

Climate, &c.—Pundit Nain. Singh, who lived at Lhasa continuously from 26th January to 21st April (1866), made indoor observations of the thermometer from 9th to 23d February hourly, with the exception of eight hours of sleep (11 p.m. to 7 A.m.); and the extreme variation in the record is from 26º (February 2d, 11 A.M.) to 45º·75 (February 22d, 2 p.m.). He also mentions that the river (Kichu Tsangpo) which flows by Lhasa was frozen in December,—the great river (Brahmaputra being open and passed by boats. Water kept in the warmest part of a house froze, and burst the vessels holding it. It is not easy to draw very precise conclusions from these facts, but they perhaps indicate a somewhat less severe winter than that of Ladak, where the true air temperature is reckoned by Captain H. Strachey to range between zero and 30º Fahr. In other respects the Pundit’s account of the climate does not differ materially from those we possess of western Tibet. He says, besides, that strong and high winds are very pre-valent, especially during March and April; but snow fell only twice in the three months of his stay, and not deeper than 3 inches. The fall on the surrounding hills was some-what heavier, but apparently it did not lie, for in general hardly any snow was to be seen from the city. Should the snowfall in Lhasa ever exceed a foot, it is regarded as an evil omen. What little Desideri says is to like effect. The cold, he says, was never hurtful to health, and he had often spent the night (in winter apparently) under the open sky, without suffering. Lightning, which occurs only in connexion with the summer rains, is never known to strike houses or to kill.

It begins to be warm in May, and the sun’s power rapidly grows most oppressive. There is a distinct rainy season at Shigatze (July to September), and this appears to extend to Lhasa, though the information is not very precise. Nain Singh was told that earthquakes are unknown in the Lhasa province. Cholera is said to be unknown; but dysentery is often violent, and rapidly fatal. Cough and chest diseases are not prevalent, nor are skin diseases common, in spite of the filthy habits of the people. The most dreaded of all diseases is smallpox. Inoculation is habitually used. Ophthalmia is very prevalent and severe.

History.—The seat of the princes whose family raised Tibet to a position among the powers of Asia was originally on the Yarlung river, in the extreme east of the region now occupied by Tibetan tribes. It was transplanted to Lhasa in the 7th century by the king Srong-dsan-gampo, conqueror, civilizer, and proselytizer, the founder of Buddhism. in Tibet, the introducer of the Indian alphabet. On the three-peaked crag now occupied by the palace--monastery of the Great Lama this king is said to have established his fortress, whilst he founded in the plain below temples to receive the sacred images, brought respectively from Nepal and from China by the brides to whom is own conversion is attributed.

Tibet endured as a conquering power some two centuries, and the more famous among the descendants of the founder added to the city. This-rong-de-tsan (who reigned 740-786) is said to have erected a great temple-palace of which the basement followed the Tibetan style, the middle story the Chinese, and the upper story the Indian—a combination which would aptly symbolize the elements, that have moulded the culture of Lhasa, such as it is. His son, the last of the great orthodox kings, in the next century, is said to have summoned artists from Nepal and India, and among many splendid foundations to have erected a sanctuary (at Samayé) of vast height, which had nine stories, the three lower of stone, the three middle of brick, the three uppermost of timber. With this king the glory of Tibet and of ancient Lhasa reached its zenith, and in 822 an obelisk recording his treaty on equal terms with the Great T’ang emperor of China was erected in the city. There followed dark days for Lhasa and the Buddhist Church in the accession of this king’s brother Langdharma, who has been called the Julian of the Lamas. This king rejected the doctrine, persecuted and scat-tered its ministers, and threw down its temples, convents, and images. It was more than a century before Buddhism recovered its hold, and its convents were rehabilitated over Tibet. The country was then split into an infinity of petty states, many of them ruled from the convents by warlike ecclesiastics; but, though the old monarchy never recovered, Lhasa seems to have maintained some supremacy, and probably never lost its claim to be the chief city of that con-geries of principalities, with a common faith and a common language, which was called Tibet.

The Arab geographers of the 10th century speak of Tibet, but it is without real knowledge, and none speak of any city that we can identify with Lhasa. The first passage in any Western author in which such identification can be probably traced occurs in the narrative of Friar Odorico of Pordenone (c. 1330). This remarkable traveller’s route from Europe to India, and thence by sea to China, can be traced satisfactorily, but of his journey boineward through Asia the indi-cations are very fragmentary. He speaks, however, on this return journey of the realm of Tibet, which lay on the confines of India proper:—"The folk of that country dwell in tents made of black felt. But the chief and royal city is all built with walls of black and white, and all its streets are very well paved. In this city no one shall dare to shed the blood of any, whether man or beast, for the reverence they bear a certain idol that is there worshipped. In that city dwelleth the Abassi, i.e., in their tongue the pope., who is the head of all the idolators, and who has the disposal of all their benefices such as they are after their manner."

We know that Kublai Khan had constituted a young prince of the Lama Church, Mati Dhwaja, as head of that body, and tributary ruler of Tibet, but besides this all is obscure for a century. This passage of Odoric shows that such authority continued under Kublai’s descendants, and that some foreshadow of the position since occupied by the Dalai Lama already existed. But it was not till a century after Odoric that the strange heredity of the dynasty of the Dalai Lamas of Lhasa actually began. And in the first two centuries of its existence the residence of' these pontiffs was rather at Brebung or Sera than at Lhasa itself, though the latter was the centre of devout resort. A great event for Lhasa was the conversion, or reconversion, of the Mongols to Lamaism (c. 1577), which made the city the focus of sanctity and pilgrimage to so vast a tract of Asia. It was in the middle of the 17th century that Lhasa became the residence of the Dalai Lama. A native prince, known as the Tsanpo, with his seat at Shigatzé, had made himself master of southern Tibet, and threatened to absorb the whole. The fifth Dalai Laina, Navang Lobsang, called in'the aid of a Calmuck prince, Gushi Khan, from the neighbourhood of the Koko-nur, who defeated and slew the Tsanpo and made over full dominion in Tibet to the Lama (1643). The latter now first established his court, and built his palace, on the rock-site of the fortress of the ancient monarchy, which apparently had fallen into ruin, and to this he gave the name of Potala.1

In the time of this Dalai Lama, Lhasa was visited for the first time by European travellers. In 1624 Antonio d’Andrada, a Portu-guese Jesuit, had penetrated to Tibet through the Gangetic Hima-laya, and returned the following year with a coadjutor. But the place which be reached was Caparangue in the kingdom of Cogue, as he calls it, i.e., Chaprang in the province of Gugé on the Tibetan Sutlej and he never got nearer Lhasa. In June 1661 the Jesuit fathers, Albert D’Orville and John Grueber, started from Peking, and, by the way of Siningfu and the Koko-nur, reached Lhasa, where they stayed a month, and then went on through Nepal to India. The extracts from Grueber’s narrative, given by Athanasius Kircher in his China Illustrata (Amst., 1667), are accompanied by a drawing of Potala which, though meagre, appears to be genuine, and is the only European representation in existence of that Tibetan Vatican.

The founder of Potala died in 1682, and his death was followed by events which brought on a time of trouble. He had appointed as "regent" or civil administrator (Tisri, or Deba), one supposed to be his own natural son. This remarkable personage, Sangje Gyamtso, of great ambition and accomplishment, still renowned in Tibet as the author of some of the most valued works of the native literature, concealed the death of his master, asserting that the latter had retired, in mystic meditation or trance, to the upper chambers of the palace. The government continued to be carried on in the Lama’s name by the regent, who leagued with GaIdan Khan of Dzungaria against the Chinese (Manchu) power. It was not till the great emperor Kang-hi was marching on Tibet that the death of the Lama, sixteen years before, was admitted. A solemn funeral was then performed, at which 108,000 lamas assisted, and a new incarnation was set up in the person of a youth of fifteen. This young man was the scandal of the Lamaite Church in every kind of evil living and debauchery. But it was under him and the regent Sangje Gyamtso that the Potala palace attained its present scale of grandeur, and that most of the other great buildings of Lhasa were extended and embellished. In 1705-6 a Calmuck prince, Latsan Khan, great grandson of Gushi Khan, taking the renowned name of Jenghiz Khan, made himself master of Tibet, and put to death both the crafty regent and the dissolute lama whom he had set up. The Dzungarians crossed the northern desert in 1717, and stormed Lhasa, but were in turn driven out by the army of Kang-hi in 1720, and from that time the Chinese power, though, as elsewhere, it has been at times severely shaken, has never quite lost its hold of Tibet.

It was in the midst of these troubled times (1708) that a Capuchin mission entered Lhasa. It was unfortunate in the death of its successive heads, and from about 1712 it was abandoned for several years, but after an interval the Capuchins reappeared, twelve in number, reaching Lhasa by Nepal in 1720. Nothing almost was heard of them till the head of the mission, P. Orazio della Penna, appeared at Rome in 1735 to report that nine were dead, and to ask reinforcement. He returned with nine more, carrying presents to the Grand Lama and the so-called "king of Tibet." In 1742 he reported his safe arrival, and that the presents were well received. Called to Nepal, where there was a branch of the mission, he died there in 1747. We possess some of the results collected by this mission in an excellent short treatise on Tibet by P. Orazio himself, as well as in the extraordinary hodge-podge of crude philology, rubbish, and valuable facts (like fossils imbedded in a bank of mud), the Alphabetum Tibetanum of the Augustine monk Ant. Giorgi (Rome, 1762). The mission seems to have been expelled from Tibet in 1754, and found refuge for a time in Nepal. Some fifty volumes, the relics of the mission library, were in 1847 recovered froin Lhasa by Mr Bryan Hodgson, through the courtesy of the Grand Lama himself, and were transmitted as an offering to Pope Pius IX., then in the first bloom of reputation.

In 1716, moreover, two Jesuits, P. Ipolito Desideri of Pistoia, and P. Freyre, a Portuguese, reached Lhasa by way of Kashmir, Ladak, and the enormous journey from Ladak by the holy lakes and the valley of the Tsanpu. Desideri remained at Lhasa till April 1721, witnessing the capture of Lhasa successively by Dzungar and Chinese. Of the moderation of the latter, and their abstinence from all out-rage or plunder, he speaks highly. His departure was due to con-troversies between the Jesuits and Capuchins at Rome, which caused an order to be issued for his retirement from Tibet. An interesting letter from him, dated April 10, 1716, is printed in the Lettres Édi-fiantes, Rec. xv., but a large MS. volume of his observations during his residence in Tibet is still unpublished. The next European visitor was Samuel Van de Putte of Flushing, an LL. D. of Leyden, whose thirst for travel carried him through India to Lhasa, where he is said to have resided a long time, to have acquired the language, and to have become intimate with some of the lamas. After travelling from Lhasa to Peking with a lama mission he returned, again by Lhasa, to India, and was an eye-witness of the sack of Delhi by Nadir Shah in 1737. Unhappily he ordered his papers to be burnt after his death, and the knowledge that such a traveller must have accumulated died with him. We pass on to 1811-12 when the first (and last) English visit to Lhasa occurred. The traveller was Thomas Manning, a Cambridge man of Caius College who had been long devoted to Chinese studies, the "friend M." of Charles Lamb, from whom "Elia" professes to have got that trans-lation of a Chinese MS. which furnished the immortal dissertation on roast pig. After residing some years at Canton, Manning went to Calcutta, bent on reaching the interior of China through Tibet, since from the seaboard it was sealed. He actually did reach Lhasa, stayed there about five months, and had several interviews with the Dalai Lama, but was compelled to return to India. He never published anything regarding his journey, and the very fact of its occurrence was known to few, when his narrative was printed, through the praiseworthy zeal of Mr C. Markham, in 1876. The man had given the reins to his own eccentricities till he seemed to have lost all power of seriousness, and the account, though containing some passages of great interest, is most disappointing.

The next travellers to reach Lhasa were Huc and Gabet, French Lazarist priests, who travelled from China the route followed by Grueber and by Van do Putte, via Siningfu, and reached Lhasa 29th January 1846. On the 15th of March they were sent off under escort by the rugged road to Sz’-chuen. Huc’s book, Souvenirs d’un Voyage, &c., is probably still well known, and deserves to be so, for it is one of the most delightful among books of travel. Huc was indeed, not only without science, perhaps without accurate knowledge of any kind, but also without that geographical sense which sometimes enables a traveller to bring back valuable contributions to geographical knowledge though unable to make instrumental observations. He was, however, amazingly clever as a narrator and sketcher of character ; and, in this his first work, his ambition to shine had not gained the upper hand as it did fatally in later works. It was Ke-shen, a well-known Chinese statesman, disgraced for making peace with the English at Canton in 1841, and who was then on a special deputation to Lhasa, who ostensibly expelled them. The Tibetan regent, with his enlightened and kindly spirit, is painted by Huc in most attractive colours, and Mr.Markham expresses strongly the opinion that the native authorities were most willing to receive strangers, whilst the jealousy that excluded them was Chinese only. Recent experiences of attempts to enter Tibet contradict this view. The lamas, whose rule seems to have become more and more grasping and oppressive, appear to be sen-sible that their system would easily fall to pieces, and are violently opposed to the passage of Europeans across the Tibetan frontier.

Our latest narrative of a visit to Lhasa is that of the late Pundit Nain Singh, trained as an explorer in the. Indian survey department. He reached the city in the course of two most remarkable journeys. In the first, after an ineffectual attempt by Nepal, be travelled by the Manasarowar Lake, and the road thence eastward, parallel to the course of the Tsanpu, reaching Lhasa 10th January 1866, and leaving it 21st April 1867. On the second journey (1874) he started from Ladak, crossing the vast and elevated plateau by the Tengri-nor and other great lakes, and again reaching Lhasa 18th November. Between these two journeys Lhasa had also been visited by another native explorer in 1872.1 Nain Singh, by his extraordinary surveys, and by repeated observations of latitude on his first visit, has fixed for us the position of Lhasa. But he also has given an account of his journeys, and of his residence there, which, though brief, is full of intelligence and interest, and appears to be thoroughly trustworthy. This enterprising and deserving man was, on the completion of his journey in 1875, rewarded by the Indian Government with a pension and grant of land, and afterwards received the gold medal of the Roy. Geog. Soc. and the Companionship of the Star of India. He died early in 1882.

See Koeppen, Die Lamaische Hierarchie und Kirche (Berlin, 1859) being the 2d vol. of Die Religion des Buddha; Giorgi, Alpha-betum Tibetanum, Rome, 1762 ; Huc, Souvenirs d’un Voyage, &c., Paris, 1850, vol. ii. ; Desc. du Tubet (Wei-tsang-thou-chy), edited by Klaproth, Paris, 1831; Pundit Nain Singh (Colonel Montgomerie’s Report) in Journ. Roy. Geog. Soc., vol. xxxviii. 129 sq.; Tibet (Bogle and Manning), by C. Markham, C.B. (2d ed. 1879); MS. narrative of P. Ipolito Desideri (copy in possession of Hakluyt Soc.). Also articles, by Dr A. Campbell in Journ. As. Soc. Bengal, vol. xxiv. p. 215 by the late Wilfrid Heeley, B.C.S., in Calc. Review, vol. lix. p. 1; by Col. H. Yule, in Blackwood’s Mag., March 1852, and in the Times, May 15, 1876 ; paper on "Chinese Tea Trade with Tibet," by E. C. Baber, printed in Suppt. to Gazette of India, November 8, 1879; "The Silver Coinage of Tibet," by M. Terrien de la Couperie, in Numism. Chron., 3d ser., vol. i. (H. Y.)


FOOTNOTES (page 497)

(1) This is corrected to the latest value of Madras longitude, viz., 80º 14' 51".

(2) The first word of this phrase is certainly the Mongol mungke, "eternal." The second is probably a clerical error for dchot, which may represent the Jo of the next sentence, which is literally (Tib.) "master, lord," and is applied to very sacred images.

(3) Nain Singh says that a census in 1854 gave "9000 women and 6000 men, exclusive of the mititary and the priests." But these words are subject to too many doubts for precise interpretation.

(4) The Chinese have a proverb as to the three products of Lhasa being dogs, drabs, and lamas.

(5)Among articles sold in the Lhasa bazaars are numerous fossil bones, called by the people "lightning bones," and believed to have healing virtues.

FOOTNOTES (page 499)

(1) So in Nain Singh’s narrative. But the word is properly Mats-yendranâth, which is the name of a saint adored by the Nepalese Buddhists, and identified with Padmapani, the fourth Dhyâni Bodhisatva of their system (see Hodgson in Journ. Roy. As. Soc., xviii. 394),

(2) It was in this convent that P. Desideri studied the religion of the lamas. "From March to July," he says, "I set myself, I will not say to read, but rather to devour the chief books of the Kaa-n-ghiur, and to take in a complete knowledge of all that pertains to that false religion."

FOOTNOTE (page 502)

1 This name is absurdly explained by Abbé Huc as Buddha-la="hill of Buddha." This is not even a possible etymology, for, whilst the actual term Buddha seems never to be used untranslated in Tibet, one may discern from Huc's own book that la means, not "a hill," but "a pass" over mountains. The name seems to be really taken from the classical traditions of the Buddhists. Potala, "the harbour" (the Pattala of the Greeks, the modern Hyderabad on the Indus), was in legend the royal seat, for more than a hundred generations, of the Sakya progenitors of Gautama Buddha (see Csoma de Körös in Journ. As. Soc. Bengal, ii. 390.

FOOTNOTE (page 503)

1 See Walker’s Report for 1873-74.

The above article was written by Col. Henry Yule, C.B.

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