The official diary of the Gould mission to Lhasa sent by the British government. Read more about the mission diary.
Any stranger visiting the Deyki Linka this morning might well have imagined either that the Pied Piper had just passed by or that we were starting a school. Actually we were having a Children's Party; and by lunch time about seventy of the sons and daughters of the Lhasa officials had arrived. They came on horseback, either independently, preceded and followed by red-hatted servants, or sharing the saddle with a nurse or, groom. The youngest child, Mary, Jigme's daughter, was only three, but the majority were in their 'teens. They wore silk or broadcloth robes down to their ankles and high-crowned hats with fur-lined ear flaps. Mrs. Jigme and Mrs. Ringang came to help with the organization: the former was especially useful as she speaks perfect English. As soon as the children arrived they went upstairs for tea and Christmas cake; it was lucky that a good many were late, as there were more than we had expected and it was difficult to find a seat for every body in our small room.
At about one O'clock the cinema show started. Rin-tin-tin, Charlie Chaplin, Aeroplanes, the Grand National, Jubilee Procession-it must have been a bewildering experience for children who had never been away from Lhasa, never even read a book (other than the Tibetan scriptures), much less previously seen a cinema show. After three hours of this we persuaded them, with some difficulty, to go upstairs for 'supper'. We were much struck to see how charmingly they behaved to each other: if a child was unable to master the difficulties of spoons and forks his neighbour helped him; when one boy split his curry into his lap, the others laughed with him - not at him - and immediately helped to clear it up.
Then followed the great event of the day, the Christmas Tree. Admittedly a synthetic one, made by tying fronds of evergreen onto a carefully selected poplar; but nevertheless when the children came down to our darkened dining room, at one end of which the tree glowed like a miracle, lit with electric bulbs of every colour, glistening with tinsel and festooned with Teddy Bears, Humpty-Dumpties, Scarlet Soldiers and other things entirely new to them, they, gasped with astonishment and delight.
Then Norbhu, disguised as Father Christmas, but made more familiar by the addition of helmet-like monks hat, made a speech in Tibetan explaining the tree and wishing them all a Happy Christmas. After that each child was given a present, and at six O'clock they set off to ride home.
We heard afterwards that on the way, home the chief topic of conversation was whether there would be another Mission at Lhasa next Christmas!
Author: Frederick Spencer Chapman [see handwritten annotations in Diary by Hugh Richardson in MS. Or. Richardson 2, Bodleian Libary, Department of Oriental Collections, University of Oxford]
Page Reference: Pt XI p.2