The official diary of the Gould mission to Lhasa sent by the British government. Read more about the mission diary.
Our big dining room was utilized for unpacking the numerous presents which have to be given to all the high Tibetan officials from the Regent down. This morning all the silverware was unpacked, put on display, allotted to different Tibetans, and repacked ready to present to them. The presents ranged from magnificent highly ornamental silver tea services with heavy silver tray and four silver candlesticks to match, intended for the Tashi Lama, a similar set less the candlesticks for the Regent less ornate tea services, etc., down to a large number of silver and chromium wrist watches.
Most of the day was spent in receiving numerous visitors, who made full ceremonious calls in their best silk robes. Each lot of visitors is alotted a time to all, and each is entertained to tea, sweet biscuits, cake and liqueurs. The favourite liqueur is creme-de-menthe closely followed by benedictine. The servants are kept busy clearing and preparing fresh tea all the morning and afternoon. As it is polite to drink tea and eat a little with each visitor, these continuous snacks are trying to the digestion.
The timing was a little difficult as we discovered our time was an hour (more or less) behind the Lhasa time. But there seems some doubt as to the source of Lhasa time, some say it comes from the telegraph office and some say from a sun dial in the Potala. In any case it is a variable quantity.
The most magnificent sight was the arrival of three Shapes (cabinet ministers) of the Kashag (cabinet). They wear most beautiful yellow silk robes, and gilded and brocade hats with red silk fringes, and a jewelled knob on top. They are accompanied by beautifully dressed attendants, and servants The three of them sat cross legged on a divan in the first floor reception room, and we all sat round the room while Dzasa Norbhu (dressed with equal resplendence in accordance with his Tibetan rank) interpreted.
The shapes gravely bowed, nodded, or smiled in unison at each turn of the conversation.
A striking personality who called in the afternoon was Dzasa Tsarong who came with his wife, the latter wearing magnificent turquoise jewellery; Tsarong has been a Shape but is not now in the cabinet, although he still wields great influence.
Depon (general) Jigme called. He is .a son of Raja Tering whom we met at Gyantse. He had a sad tale to tell of the lack of training of the Tibetan troops and as he spoke English Neame was able to discuss military questions direct. The troops are used on any other Job but military training. Now owing to fear of communists, Chinese, etc., endeavour is being made to train 300 machine gunners. But the instructors were trained by our troops at Gyantse 4 years ago, did not further work on machine guns for 3 years, until they are now called on to teach raw beginners. Naturally progress is almost nil, as the instructors have forgotten all they ever learnt.
The day's list of callers is as follows:
Dronyer of Tendong Shape.
The Kashag (Cabinet).
Depon Jigme (Tering).
Kusho Chango pa (Ringang).
Tsarong Dzasa and his wife.
Kalon Lama Shape.
Shape is cabinet minister (second grade official), Dzasa is third grade, Depon is General.
Some of us went for a ride in the evening round the Potala, whose southern aspect is indeed magnificent and impressive.
Author: Philip Neame [see handwritten annotations in Diary by Hugh Richardson in MS. Or. Richardson 2, Bodleian Libary, Department of Oriental Collections, University of Oxford]
Page Reference: Pt IV p.1
Neame Potala North face and reflectionEnlarge