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Tibet Collection

History Archive - Tibet Collection

TIBET, or Thibet, a country of central Asia. It is the highest country in the world, comprising table-lands averaging over 16,500 ft. above the sea, the valleys being at 12,000 to 17,400 ft., the peaks at 20,000 to 24,600 ft., and the passes at 16,000 to 19,000 ft. It is bounded on the N. by Turkestan, on the E. by China, on the W. by Kashmir and Ladak, and on the S. by India, Nepal and Bhutan. It has an area of over 1,000,000 sq. m., and an estimated population of about 3,000,000, being very sparsely inhabited.

Tibet was long a terra incognita to Europeans. It is difficult of access on all sides, and everywhere difficult to traverse. Its great elevation causes the climate to be rather arctic than tropical, so that there is no gradual blending of the climates and physical conditions of India and Tibet, such as would tend to promote intercourse between the inhabitants of these neighbouring regions; on the contrary, there are sharp lines of demarcation, in a mountain barrier which is scalable at only a few points, and in the social aspects and conditions of life on either side.

No great armies have ever crossed Tibet to invade India; even those of Jenghiz Khan took the circuitous route via Bokhara and Afghanistan, not the direct route from Mongolia across Tibet. Added to this was the religious exclusiveness of the Tibetans themselves. Thus it was no easy matter for the early European travellers to find their way into and explore Tibet.

The first Englishman to enter Tibet was George Bogle, a Writer of the East India Company, in 1774, on an embassy from Warren Hastings to the Tashi lama of Shigatse. In 1783 Lieut. Samuel Turner was dispatched on a mission similar to that of Bogle, and reached Shigatse. In 1811-1812 the first 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 translation of a Chinese MS. which furnished the 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 its occurrence was known to few, when his narrative was printed, through the zeal of Mr (afterwards Sir) C. Markham, in 1876. The account, though containing some passages of great interest, is disappointing.

Manning was the only Englishman known to have reached the sacred city without the aid of an army. But the Abbé Huc states that William Moorcroft, an Englishman who made a journey into Tibet in the neighbourhood of Lake Manasarowar in 1812, and another into Kashgar in 1824, lived in Lhasa for twelve years disguised as a Mussulman. He was supposed to have died on the Afghan frontier in 1825 on his second journey; but if Huc's story is true he reached Lhasa in 1826, and did not leave it till 1838, being assassinated on his homeward journey, when maps and drawings were found on him, and his identity was for the first time suspected by the Tibetans. During the 19th century Europeans were systematically prevented from entering the country or speedily expelled if found in it.

In 1844—1846 the French missionaries, Evariste Régis Huc and Joseph Gabet, made their way to Lhasa from China. They travelled from China the route followed by Grueber and by Van de Putte, via Siningfu, and reached Lhasa on the 29th of January 1846. On the 15th of March they were sent off under escort by the rugged road to Szechuen. Huc's book, Souvenirs d'un voyage, &c., is one of the most delightful 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.

It was Ke-shen, a well-known Chinese statesman, who was disgraced for making peace with the English at Canton in 1841, and 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 Markham expressed the opinion that the native authorities were then willing to receive strangers, while the jealousy that excluded them was Chinese only. The brothers Henry and Richard Strachey visited Manasarowar Lake in 1846 and 1848 respectively. In 1866 the Abbé Desgodins travelled through portions of eastern Tibet and reached Chiamdo (in Kham), but was prevented from approaching any closer to Lhasa.


Tibet by Lawrence Waddell, Thomas Holdich, Albert de Lacouperie, and Osbert Howarth, 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 26. pp. 916-928.

Available Books


Image Name
Panorama Profiles [II]
Panorama Profiles [VI]
The Peaks and Glaciers of the Sasser Pass in Nuba Tibet [I]
Tibetan Goat
A Tibetan Spy in the Disguise of a Beggar approaching the Author's Camp
Title Page
Ancient Jain Temple
Illustrations of the Meterology of India and High Asia [I]
Magnetic Survey of India and High Asia [I]
Tooloomerbo Green River
Sport and Travel in Both Tibets [Map]
A Perilous Crossing
The Salt Lake Tsomognalari in Pangkong Western Tibet
A Race for the Kata
Interior of Tibetan Temple
A Shrine of Curious Buddha Images
Illustrations of the Meterology of India and High Asia [IV]
Hurree Purbut
Crossing the Marsemik La
The Summit of Kanchinjinga in the Himalaya of Sikkim
The Jhilum or Behut in the Panjab
The Salt Lake Kiuk Kiol in the Karakash Valley Turkistan
The Drift Sands in the Interior of the Sindh Sager Duab Panjab
"Chakzal, Chakzal" - the Tibetan Salutation
Seventh Bridge, Sirinugger
A. Henry Savage Landor and the Four Men who accompanied him on his Ascent to 23,490 feet above Sea-Level
Tibetan Soldier at Target Practice
The Sacrifice of a Yak
Ascent to the Nui Pass
Part III Colored Wrapper
Thibetian Monuments and Wall of Inscribed Stones, Road to Egnemo
The Nui Glacier
A Nepalese Woman
The Flats of the Hiron Valley from the Barer Plateau near Kattingi Central India
A Balancing Feat
Moraine of Glacier and Mountains, showing how Clouds form on the Snow-Lin
Antelope Plain
Author's Camp, Nepal
Elongated Shadows on a Sea of Mist
Panorama Profiles [V]
An Old Lady and her Prayer-Wheel
Panorama Profiles [IV]
A Moment of Suspense
Magnetic Survey of India and High Asia [III]
Tibetan Lady
Tibetan Women cleaning Wool
Erecting Chokdens (Cairns) on the Savage Pass
Devil's Dance
Back Cover
The Summit of Parisnath in Bahar
Panorama Profiles [I] the Himalaya of Bhutan Sikkim and Nepal
Snow Trout (14,500 Feet Above Sea Level)
Title Page
Back Cover
Rocks of all Sizes rolled with great Force down the Mountain Side
Routes in High Asia
Tibetan Dogs
Birth of Krishsna
Facsimile of a Bhutia Map
The Buddhist Monastery Himis near Leh in Ladak
Cane Suspension Bridge Over the Temshang River in the Khassia Hills
Tibetan Man spinning Wool
Calling Two Followers lost in the Storm
Tibetan Boy in his Gold-embroidered Hat
Tundook Ii and Goatherd
The Salt Lake Tso Gam in Eastern Ladak Tibet
The Jhils of Bengal at High Water
The Lumpa Basin and Charles Landor Glacier
Over The Zogi La
Illustrations of the Meterology of India and High Asia [III]
Within an Ace of being precipitated some 6500 feet on to the Glacier below
Alluvial High Ground On the Western Border of the Sindh Sager Duab Panjab
Burhel Ovis Nakura
A Nepalese Shoka
Author's Tents, A Camp in Nepal
The Salt Lake Tsomoriri in Rupchu Western Tibet
Clouds forming on the Snow-Line
Solomon's Throne
Red Lamas
Yaks and Ponies conveying Wool across the Frontier
A Tibetan Camp of Black Tents
Sketch Map of Glaciers and Peaks in Nepal
Flying Prayers and a Mani Wall
A Phantom Lion of Gigantic Proportions
A Sea of Mist
The Valley of the Yarkand River Downwards from Dera Bullu in Turkistan
The Mahanadi River in the Rainy Season Central Bengal
A Tibetan Girl


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