Zimchongpa's 'coiling snake' display at Monlam Torgyap

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2001. (Print)

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Key Information


Hugh E. Richardson


Hugh Richardson

Date of Photo

March 6th 1937


Lhasa > Jokhang (main entrance from Doring house)

Accession number


Image Dimensions

175 x 119 mm

Zimchongpa infantry performing the 'coiling snake' at the end of their display of prowess at the Monlam Torgyap outside the main entrance to the Jokhang.

Further Information


Dancing , Performing , Ritual Activity

Photographic Process

Print silver , Enlargement

Date Acquired

Donated August 2001

Donated by

The executors of the estate of Hugh E. Richardson


Hugh E. Richardson

Other Information

Notes on print - 'Ancient armour. Gzim chungba in mail armour helmets archer shields. Foot soldiery of traditional militia in ceremony at New Year" and '2' in a circle (in pencil) and 'V.A.' (in red ink) in the bottom right hand corner not in Richardson's hand. [KC 28/7/2006]

Manual Catalogues -

Manual Catalogues - Notes on negative index - Folio 37. 'FINAL DISPLAY'. [KC 17/7/2006]

Manual Catalogues -

Manual Catalogues - Richardson's hand list: Negative album No.1 'New Year Ceremonies at Lhasa'. The Smon-lam gtor-rgyag Ceremony on 24th of 1st month for driving out evil. Nos. 31 - 37. 'The Gzim-sbyong nga perform theire exercises. They are divided into two wings, each with its commander. The leaders challenge each other in a dance; the soldiery chant challenges to each other as they line the street, one wing on either side. Eventually they fire their muskets and (no 37) finish up with a strange circular dance'. [KC 17/7/2006]

Technical Information - This image seems to have been taken with a Zeiss Super Ikonta C camera. This was a 6x9 format camera but came with a film plane mask that enabled 6x4.5 images to be taken. This enabled 16 images to be taken on a roll of 120 film as opposed to 8 without the mask [MS 6/10/2005]

Research publication -
Hugh E. Richardson, Ceremonies of the Lhasa Year , 1993, London: Serindia Publications, p.44. "The Zimchongpa perform their "coiled snake" display at the Monlam Torgya." [KC 23/10/2006]

Other Information - Background: See Hugh E. Richardson, Ceremonies of the Lhasa Year , 1993, London: Serindia Publications, pp 39-49 for a description of the Monlam Torgya ( mon lam gtor rgyag) ceremony. "The ceremony of Monlam Torgya is the longest and the most spectacular event of the New Year celebrations. It is the high point of the Yaso's tenure of office and the day for which the Tsisher was the preparation. It brings together religious and secular elements and marks the formal end of the Monlam Chenmo. ... (p. 39) Then the Zimchongpa march nosily up to the forecourt of the Jokhang. Some line the Barkhor while others form up in two files in the centre of the road. They take it in turn to display their martial prowess, singing war songs about Penden Lhamo as they do so. The bowmen brandish their bows and the swordsmen make a great show of fencing. Then those with firearms taunt the opposing rank, challenging them with abusive language much enjoyed by the onlookers. ... (p. 41) ... Finally they trot off, one file in a zig-zag movement, the other running round in a circle until they form a compact mass, known as the coiling snake." (p.44) [KC 23/10/2006]

Other Information - Dates

Other Information - Dates: In a letter to his parents dated November 6th 1936, Hugh Richardson commented that he was investigating buying a new Zeiss Super Ikonta camera [Hugh Richardson Manuscript Archive, Bodleian Library, MS. Or. Richardson 3 folio 46]. On March 29th 1937 he comments in a further letter to his parents that it would probaby be better to use the larger image frame [MS Or Richardson 3 folio 82]. This has assisted the dating of this image to 1937 [MS 6/10/2005]

For Citation use:
The Tibet Album. "Zimchongpa's 'coiling snake' display at Monlam Torgyap" 05 Dec. 2006. The Pitt Rivers Museum. <http://tibet.prm.ox.ac.uk/photo_2001.>.

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