Sonam Rabten

Sonam Rabten

1998.131.499 (Print black & white)

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Key Information


Frederick Spencer Chapman


Frederick Spencer Chapman

Date of Photo

January 10th - 14th 1937?

Named Person

Sonam Rabten Ringang


Lhasa Area >

Accession number


Image Dimensions

191 x 125

Ringang's elder brother Sonam Rabten, the Minister of Agriculture, sitting on a tiger skin with thangka and auspicious hangings adorning the wall behind him. He is seated on a low seat behind an elaborately decorated table with a silver

Further Information

Photographic Process

Print gelatin silver

Date Acquired

Donated 1994

Donated by

Mrs Faith Spencer Chapman


British Diplomatic Mission to Lhasa 1936-37

Photo also owned by

Frederick Spencer Chapman

Previous Catologue Number

4.3 [view film roll]

Previous Pitt Rivers Museum Number



'Lhasa Mission 1936, Diary of Events', P. Neame, H. Richardson, F. S. Chapman, Government of India Political Department [Note: photographs for October 18th - November 4th 1936 are not included as their relationship to text is not detailed; see Mission Diary text for details of images] [view list of illustrations]

Other Information

Notes on print/mount - The back of the print is covered in crop and reproduction instructions. The caption 'Ringang's elder brother - the Minister of Agriculture' has been written on the back in pencil, as has the reference '4/3' [MS 30/03/2006]

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]: 'v. Fat Ringang sitting'; PRM Manuscripts Collection: ‘List of Tibetan Prints and Negatives’ - Book 2: ‘31/1 - Ringang’s elder brother, ex-general now minister of agriculture and champion beer drinker of Lhasa’ [MS 30/03/2006]

Exhibition - This image appeared in the 2003 Temporary Exhibition at the Pitt Rivers "Seeing Lhasa: British Depictions of the Tibetan Capital 1936-1947"

Research publication - Clare Harris and Tsering Shakya (eds.), 'Seeing Lhasa: British Depictions of the Tibetan Capital 1936-1947', Chicago: Serindia Publications, 2003, p. 43.

Biographical Information - Sonam Rabten, the Minister of Agriculture. Ringang’s elder brother Sonam Rabten, who had been the mipon (mayor) of Lhasa in the 1920s and became the Tibetan Minister of Agriculture in 1936, sitting on a tiger skin with thangkas and auspicious wall hangings behind him. He was a 4th rank official and as an ex-military man, often talked to the British and specifically Colonel Neame about the Tibetan military situation. He was also one of the officials who went to meet the 14th Dalai Lama upon his recognition, suggesting that he must have moved up the ranks by 1939. Spencer Chapman recorded his impressions of the man thus: “Once seen, the elder Ringang is not easily forgotten, being the very embodiment of Falstaff. He is of enormous size, and is perpetually out of breath and perspiring. His face is continuously wreathed in smiles, and he is the champion drinker of chang in all Tibet, having the rare and enviable accomplishment of being able to pour a glass of beer straight down his throat without swallowing” (1938:84) [CH 2003]

Other Information - Related Images

Other Information - Related Images: Images prefixed with '4' comprise a group of negatives showing images of people including Ringang and Rumba. They seem probably to have been taken between January 10th - 14th 1937, although this requires further clarification [MS 30/03/2006]

For Citation use:
The Tibet Album. "Sonam Rabten" 05 Dec. 2006. The Pitt Rivers Museum. <>.

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