Nechung Oracle in procession during Monlam Torgya

Nechung Oracle in procession during Monlam Torgya

2001. (Film negative)

Image for comparison


Raw Image

Key Information


Hugh E. Richardson


Hugh Richardson

Date of Photo

April 10th 1937?


Lhasa > Jokhang (main entrance from Doring house)

Accession number


Image Dimensions

54 x 43 mm

The Nechung Oracle, the State Oracle of Tibet, leaves the Jokhang to begin his procession around the Barkhor during Monlam Torgya. He is on the left beneath a ceremonial umbrella. Monk spectators line the street. The oracle is in trance and is being led by attendant monks as other monks precede him holding various ritual implements.

Further Information


Worshipping , Ritual Activity , Performing

Photographic Process

Negative film nitrate

Date Acquired

Donated August 2001

Donated by

The executors of the estate of Hugh E. Richardson


Hugh E. Richardson

Manual Catalogues -

Manual Catalogues - Notes on negative album - '1' 'Chipsha: Dzonggyab [rdzong rgyab]: Torgyap [gtor rgyag] ----- [illegible]' is written in white in Richardson's hand. Notes inside negative album: white label with Richardson's name and address in St. Andrews. [KC 8/7/2006]

Manual Catalogues -

Manual Catalogues - Notes on negative index - Folio 68. [blank]. [KC 17/7/2006]

Manual Catalogues -

Manual Catalogues - Richardson's Hand List: Negative album No.1 no 64. 'The Gnas-chung oracle appears from the Jo-khang where he has a special room. He is in a trance and dances in front of the Jo-khang and the Dalai Lama's room and then rushes after the Gtor-ma. (The Gtor-ma is carried to the outskirts of the city, followd by the troops, a body of monks, and the Gnas chung oracle. It is burnt there, and the troops fire two ancient cannon of Tibetan make, with leather barrels, at a target on a hill on the other side of the river. I have no photographs of that part of the ceremony). [KC 24/7/2006]

Other Information - Setting

Other Information - Setting: The figure under the ceremonial parasol ( gdugs zhabs) is the Nechung oracle ( gnas chung sku rtan or gnas chung chos rgyal ). The oracle and his retinue is following the Torma votive offering around the Barkor, one of the oldest pilgrimage routes in Lhasa which circumambulates the Jokhang Temple. [TS 8/2/2005]

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]

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. (p. 39) ... A loud burst of oboes and cymbals and some hectic activity at the door of the Jokhang signal the appearance of the Oracle who rushes out in a state of possession grasping his sword and bow. After gyrating round the courtyard, he sets off down the Barkor supported by two stalwart monks, in pursuit of the torma . [KC 24/7/2006]

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. "Nechung Oracle in procession during Monlam Torgya" 05 Dec. 2006. The Pitt Rivers Museum. <>.

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