1998.285.156.2 (Lantern Slide)
Sir Charles Bell
March 1st 1921
Lhasa > Lubu
81 x 81 mm
St Antony's College, Oxford.
Sir Charles Bell's Mission to Lhasa 1920-21
Royal Central Asiatic Society
Manual Catalogues - Bell's List of Illustrations entry: "[No. of chapter] XXVI. [Subject of Chapter] Ceremonial and Etiquette. [Subject of Illustration] H133 (n) Ya-so's for Maids of Honour with two assistants (left). [Remarks] L.127 (Y. in L.)
Notes on print/mount - '36' has been written in blue-black ink. This slide seems to have been used as slide 36 in the lecture 'A Year in Lhasa', which was first presented at the Royal Geographical Society on 3rd December 1923. The text, with a lesser number of images, was later published in The Geographical Journal of February 1924. Bell may also have presented this lecture on other occasions about which we have no information at present. [MS 24/8/2004]
Other Information - Cultural Background: There was often a great deal of confusion in the minds of western visitors of Tibet as to the role performed by women at rituals such as this, as well as more generally at social gatherings, especially when a principal duty was the pouring of alcohol. Many British officers referred to them disrespectfully as 'chang girls'. However, such duties, especially at such an important ceremony such as this, would only be given to high-ranking women of the aristocracy and was considered an honour. Bell tried to understand some of the complexities of this social role, as revealed in his Diary entry for 8th October 1921, in which he relates a discussion he had recently had: "I ask Shesur about the custom of employing ladies, as trung-shu-ma , to pass beer at dinner parties. He says that they are employed both on account of their rank and their sex. They can press the guests to drink when servants could not pressure to do so, and being of the feminine sex can crack jokes with the guests and press them more insistently than any man could do. It should be added that it is the object of every host and hostess to make their guests drink as much as possible, and, best of all, to make them thoroughly dunk. This is considered an auspicious event, and the party is then looked on as an entire success. // If a guest is so drunk that he cannot rise from his seat, a khata will often be put round his neck as a confinement. // In return for their services these ladies receive a present, sometimes of money, but more often an article of dress, eg: a shirt [Tibetan script] or an apron ( pang-den )" [Diary Vol. XIII, pp.24-5]
For Citation use:
The Tibet Album. "Yaso's Maids of Honour at Preparation of Camp at Lubu" 05 Dec. 2006. The Pitt Rivers Museum. <http://tibet.prm.ox.ac.uk/photo_1998.285.156.2.html>.
For more information about photographic usage or to order prints, please visit the The Pitt Rivers Museum.
© The Pitt Rivers Museum