Samye Monastery

Samye Monastery

1998.285.547 (Glass negative)

Image for comparison


Raw Image


Reflective scan

Key Information


Willoughby Patrick Rosemeyer? Unknown Tibetan photographer?


Sir Charles Bell

Date of Photo



Tsangpo Valley Region > Samye

Accession number


Image Dimensions

138 x 88 mm

View of Samye Monastery from above

Further Information

Photographic Process

Negative glass plate gelatin , Copy Negative

Date Acquired

Donated 1983

Donated by

St. Antony's College, Oxford

Copy difference

Copy Neg


Sir Charles Bell's Mission to Lhasa 1920-21

Photo also owned by

Sir Charles Bell; Royal Central Asiatic Society

Revised Photographer

Not Bell?

Previous Catologue Number


Previous Pitt Rivers Museum Number


Related Collections

British Library, Oriental and India Office Collections

Manual Catalogues -

Manual Catalogues - Bell's List of Illustrations entry: "[No. of chapter] XXXII. [Subject of Chapter] The Religion. [Subject of illustration] P.398 (gl) (ea) Sam-ye Monastery. [Remarks] See I,5"

In Negative - Although there is extensive silvering of the emulsion and other markings such as fingerprints, it appears that there has also been an attempt to write across the image on the emulsion side with the words 'Samye monastery'. This script is not visible on the non-emulsion side of the plate, nor on the contact print currently used in the PRM collection [MS 29/7/2004]

Contemporary Publication -

Contemporary Publication - Published in 'The Religion of Tibet', Bell, C. A., Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1931, facing p.37:"The monastery of Sam-ye". [PG 27/4/2004]

Other Information - Background: Richardson visited Samye in 1949 and describes the site in High Peaks, Pure Earth , London, Serindia Publications, 1998, p. 315-6. "About twenty-six miles downstream [of Gong-dkar Rdzong] on the north bank [of the Tsangpo] is Bsam-yas (1949), "Beyond Imagining", the oldest, most famous, most beautiful and most numinous of Tibetan monasteries. Founded in 779 by Padmasambhava and the Indian pundit Santaraksita under the patronage of the King Khri Srong-lde-brtsan, it was conceived as the realization of an ideal universe in the form of a mandala. The spacious precinct is surrounded by a high wall representing the ocean, with a differently shaped temple at each of the cardinal points for continents and smaller island temples on either side. Some way inside the wall are four large mchod-rten , each in the colour appropriate to its geogaphical position - red at the south-west, black at the north-west, blue at the north-east, and white at the south-east. At the centre, enclosed in a high wall piercwed by doors on the east, south, north and west, stands, foursquare, the great dbu-rtse or gtsug-lag-khang , the symbol of Mount Me-ru, the centre of the universe. ..."

Other Information - Photographer: This image, which is a copy of a print, was probably not taken by Bell. Bell wanted to visit Samye whilst in Tibet, as he reveals in his Diary for 17th May 1921. He comments he visited the Dalai Lama, following a period of illness for His Holiness, and they discussed Bell's future plans:"The D[alai] L[ama] asked me what places I was going to see nowadays. I mentioned that I had thought of going to Sam-ye. He said that if I went I should go for the 14th, 15th and 16th of the 5th Tibetan month, when there were ceremonies there and many people went. He said it would be very hot, being sandy there and with hardly any trees" [Vol. X. p.57]. However, there is no mention of him visiting Samye before his departure. Furthermore, Bell seems not to have used Postcard-sized negatives for his own images. This may have been taken by Willoughby Patrick Rosemeyer who, as a telegraph officer, visited Lhasa many times after 1922, used this kind of negative and gave images to Bell. Alternatively, it may have been taken by an unknown Tibetan photographer who gave the image to Bell for reference [MS 24/02/2006]

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

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