The official diary of the Gould mission to Lhasa sent by the British government. Read more about the mission diary.
Already there are signs of the early Lhasa spring. The ravens are now in pairs and on the last day of the month two were seen carrying beaks' of wool to line their nest on the craggy northern face of the Hospital Hill.
The Tibetan great tit has started his 'See-Saw' note-that of his English cousin being also the first sign of spring. The gulls, ducks and bareheaded geese are assembling in flocks preparatory to their departure for their nesting grounds by the vast brackish lakes away to the North of Lhasa; and it is time they went too, as-much to the discomfort of the fish-practically all the ponds and smaller streams have dried up leaving only the Kyi chu, still as big as most English rivers, but a mere remnant of the swollen brown torrent, inundating miles of country, which we knew in August.
The little Tibetan Mouse Hare, though he was occasionally seen on sunny days even when the shade temperature failed to rise above freezing point, is now seen busily searching for something edible among the withered', stunted grass.
Now that there is no grazing to tempt the pack-animals to dally by the way, and no rain to spoil their leads, there is much traffic on the trade routes. Any day you can see trains of mules, donkeys and yaks carrying the rough Tibetan wool down to India; and, approaching the city, loads of brick tea sewn in compact square packages, bundles of dried yak- dung for fuel- and striped vak-hair bags of barley-flour, which with the salt buttery Tibetan tea forms the staple diet of all the poorer classes. There are also many travellers on the road; most of them are coming to the City to celebrate the Tibetan New Year (February 12th by our calendar). You may see the headman of a neighbouring village wearing a hat consisting of a complete fox- skin wrapped round his head, and a long fleece-lined home-spun garment reaching to his ankles. Often he rides with a child on the pommel of his saddle. Behind him rides his wife dressed similarly but with a high-crowned green hat with fur-lined earflaps. As protection against the wind and duststorms her face is completely swathed in a cotton scarf, and if it were visible it would be seen to be smeared all over with yellow kutch as a further protection against the elements.
Most of the travellers are nomads from the Chang Thang or the Hor and Kham Provinces. They wear a single voluminous garment of sheep-skin hitched up with a girdle to facilitate walking. Unlike the inhabitants of Lhasa these men have their hair fairly short-that is to say in a tousled black mop - and they usually go hatless. While the womenfolk have hair done in the most intricate fashion and often adorned with a variety of strange ornaments. Many of them wear on top of their heads several pieces of amber exactly resembling a cake of ochre-coloured cured soap surmounted by a coral the size of a cherry. One woman - who had come eight days' journey from the North of Lhasa with yak loads of juniper wood – had her hair divided in the middle, and each half plaited into innumerable minute tresses and then looped to her belt by a long string of turquoise coral beads. On the back of the head, between the two lots of plaits, was a bit of cloth about a foot in length and half that width, arranged with lines of white shells, bone buttons, and, more still, a row of brass buttons including one of a British soldier. In addition to all this she wore over her forehead, a rosette as big as a saucer of different coloured beads. At any time of the day these nomads are to be seen doing the 'Holy Walk’ round Lhasa. In one place they have to turn several huge prayer wheels; further on just below immense painted Buddha carved on the cliff, they must put their foreheads to the rock, which is now polished to marble smoothness by the attentions of the faithful. In another place they must crawl through a hole formed by a boulder which leans up against the cliff. Nearby there is a deep hole worn in the rock since each pilgrim, as he passes, must put his finger there.
January 15th, Friday.
Richardson, Dagg and Chapman lunched with the Lobsang Jungme Khenchung, a monk official who was for many years Tibetan Trade Agent at Gyantse. A great friend of the late Dalai Lama, he held, at one time, very high rank.
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 XIII p.1