Hugh Richardson on Mount Gyamberi

Hugh Richardson on Mount Gyamberi

1998.131.263 (Print black & white)

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Key Information


Frederick Spencer Chapman


Frederick Spencer Chapman

Date of Photo

September 27th 1936

Named Person

Hugh Richardson


Lhasa Area > Gyamberi

Accession number


Image Dimensions

115 x 167 mm

Hugh Richardson at the summit of Gyamberi, the mountain overlooking Drepung Monastery. Also known as Mount Gephelri, Gephelutse or Gyemphel Utsi. Image shows Richardson standing on the mountain top with a vast panorama of mountains in the far distance, and the Potala and Chakpori in the centre right of the image. Summit covered with cairns left by pilgrims over many years, even centuries. It Is One Of The Most Sacred Mountains In The Lhasa area. Many Ceremonies in Lhasa take their starting point as the time When The Sun Lights Up The Summit. An Important Ceremony Of Juniper Offerings Is Held Here And An Auspicious Celebration For The Buddha's birthday. Chapman calls Gyemphel Utsi 'Holy Hill'.

Further Information

Photographic Process

Print gelatin silver

Date Acquired

Donated 1994

Donated by

Faith Spencer Chapman


British Diplomatic Mission to Lhasa 1936-37

Photo also owned by

Frederick Spencer Chapman

Previous Catologue Number

CU.17 [view film roll]

Previous Pitt Rivers Museum Number


Other Information

Notes on print/mount - 'C-U-17' has been written on the back of the print in pencil. A small white sticker has also been attached on the left hand side on the back of the print on which 'Z6' has been written in red/pink ink [MS 15/2/2005]

Manual Catalogues -

Manual Catalogues - Caption in Chapman's hand-written list of negatives made whilst on the Mission to Lhasa, 1936-7 [See PRM Manuscripts Collection]: 'Track down Holy HIll [Gyamberi] and Lhasa below (better than 10 [CU.10]'; PRM Manuscripts Collection: ‘List of Tibetan Prints and Negatives’ - Book 1, From Gangtok to the Natu La August 1936: ‘35/1 - Lines of stones marking the way up a holy hill which Lhasa officials must climb on a certain day in the year. Lhasa and the Potala can be seen in the distance’ [MS 16/03/2006]

Research publication - Clare Harris and Tsering Shakya (eds.) 'Seeing Lhasa: British Depictions of the Tibetan Capital 1936-1947' [Chicago: Serindia Publications, 2003, p. 28.

Other Information - Description: Chapman did not use this image to illustrate the entry in the official Mission Diary for September 27th 1936, but the journey he describes on this day provides the context in which this photograph was taken. The text in the Diary for the journey is as follows:"As far as possible, Sunday is kept as a holiday. Morgan, Chapman, Nepean and Richardson climbed of [ sic ] 17,450ft overlooking Drepung Monastery. It is a very holy place called Gyenbay Ri. A kind of 'via sacra' marked out with stones leads along a steep ridge to the summit which is covered with cairns and prayer flags. We were told that the Dalai Lama and every monk must climb the hill on certain occasions. Those who are too old for much effort go up on yaks. Only the yaks belonging to the Dalai Lama are allowed to graze on so sacred a mountain". Chapman also described the visit to this mountain top in his populist publication Lhasa the Holy City [London: Chatto & Windus, 1938]. In this account he gives additional information about the flora of the region, in which he was greatly interested. He stated: "Only the Dalai's yaks may graze on this mountain, and only his doctors may collect herbs here. It was certainly an excellent place for plants. I found a small patch of a rare blue gentian with hairy leaves ( Gentiana amphicratea ), also several unusual aconites, a rare swertia, and other plants which I found in no other locality near Lhasa. A remarkable Via Sacra , bordered by lines of stones and cairns, led along the last mile of the grassy ridge to the summit, which was covered with literally hundreds of cairns, many of them eight or ten feet high. From here we could see far down the valley of the Kyi Chu, and it was noticeable that this valley is quite level right up to the very foot of the spurs which rise, one after another, so precipitously from its sides. Several snowy peaks were visible in the extreme distance, but we could not identify them" [ibid., pp.259-60] [MS 26/3/2005]

Other Information - Related Images

Other Information - Related Images: Images prefixed with 'CU' comprise a group of negatives containing images of gentians, lammergeyers, and vultures, Hugh Richardson and cairns, Gyamberi [‘Holy Hill’], Norbhu, Trimon, Tsarong, Ringang, Gould, Tendong, chang girls. They all seem to have been taken on September 27th - 28th 1936 [MS 16/03/2006]

Other Information - Cultural Background

Other Information - Cultural Background: people go to the top of the peak at occasions such as New Year and burn dried juniper offerings to purify the environment and on the 4th day of the 6th Tibetan month there is a festival at which all the young people and camp for the night on the mountain: becomes a forum for a festival. This gathering is often used as marker in Tibetan folk songs connected with lovers' trysts etc. [TS 31/1/2005]

For Citation use:
The Tibet Album. "Hugh Richardson on Mount Gyamberi" 05 Dec. 2006. The Pitt Rivers Museum. <>.

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