The official diary of the Gould mission to Lhasa sent by the British government. Read more about the mission diary.
To celebrate New Year's Day we invited the following to a luncheon party: the Prime Minister; the four Shappes- or Cabinet Ministers - Lanchunga, Bhondong, Tendong and Kalon Lama; the Yapshi Kung, or Grand Duke; Tsarong Dzasa, and Chikyap Khempo, the head of the Ecclesiastical party. Unfortunately the last named was unable to attend; he is a man of great age who suffers from rheumatism. Ringang, one of the boys who were sent by the late Dalai Lama to Rugby, came to assist Rai Bahadur Norbhu with the interpreting. The guests arrived in reversed order of precedence: in Tibet, as in other countries, the more important a man is, the later he can afford to be. Tsarong came first, then, twenty horsemen in all, the Cabinet arrived. In front were half a dozen servants in dark broadcloth robes enlivened by wide flat hats tasselled with scarlet; as is the custom for servants of high officials each wore a turquoise and gold earing five or six inches long and, half way down his pigtail, a turquoise and gold charm box as big as a tangerine. The servants were followed by a group of secretaries, dressed similarly except that they wore small circular flat-topped hats perched on top of their heads, in colour, shape and texture resembling half a sponge. Then, apparently unconcerned by the cloud of dust raised by their retainers, came the Shappes, in order of seniority. The lay Ministers wore long yellow silk robes lined and, edged with fur, wide flat hats covered with black fox fur and surmounted by a jewelled ornament, and stiff boots coloured like a Union Jack. Kalon Lama, the monk official, wore a loose fitting mulberry-coloured robe over his yellow silk, while his hat, instead of' being flat, had a yellow Peak rising above the furred border. Each Minister had splendid trappings on his horse or mule and, as an emblem of his high rank, two scarlet tassels hanging from the animal's neck. Minor officials, servants and grooms brought up the rear of the procession. Finally (for the Duke's clock was wrong and he didn't arrive until the middle of the afternoon) came the Prime Minister, with eight servants of his own. Except in detail of jewellery he was dressed as his Ministers.
On arrival the first act of the Cabinet was to hand to Norbhu a sealed packet made of coarse Tibetan paper, together with the customary white silk scarf of greeting. This turned out to be the permission for an Everest Expedition in 1938. The Cabinet had been considering the question for some weeks and it struck us as an act of the greatest courtesy to hand over the permit so' unostentatiously as a New Year's present.
To begin with our guests went upstairs, and over a cup of tea the usual compliments were exchanged.
Gould. - I hope you are in good health.
Guest. - Yes, thank you, and you?
Gould. - Very well thank you; I hope you had no trouble on the way here.
Guest. - None, thank you. Don't you find the Tibetan winter cold? . . . and so on.
After a six or seven course luncheon we went out into the garden for coffee while Dagg prepared the cinema projec-tor, and the room was darkened. In the shelter of our walled garden the sunshine was as warm as one could want. Watching the lammergeyers and vultures wheeling slowly to and fro against a deep blue sky it was difficult to realise we are living at about twelve thousand feet above sea level and passing through the coldest period of the Tibetan winter. One reason for our feeling of comfort and good cheer was to be found in the activities of the Chang Girls. Normally these girls, resplendent with turquoise ornaments and coral and pearl headdress, wait the guests and keep their glasses full of chang. They also force guests to drink by jogging their arms and saying 'tunda nang-ro-nang’ (empty it, please). In really obstinate cases they are allowed to use a pin - even on the Prime Minister himself. But on this occasion most of us were drinking whisky, and once the girls had mastered the art of using a soda-water syphon there was no stopping them; and on more than one occasion they attempted to fill up the glass with neat whisky.
Out in the garden we had the Lhasa Band and dancers. The former consists of two Chinese fiddlers one of them blind, a bearded Ladaki who plays a flute, and a Tibetan with another curious stringed instrument. The blind fiddler, incidentally, enjoys the privilege of being allowed to smoke even the presence of the Cabinet. The dancers, three women dressed like the Chang Girls but less smartly, kept time with the band by stamping on a board, waving their arms about and singing traditional Tibetan melodies.
The cinema show lasted for two hours. The most popular feature was a film of the Jubilee. The Prime Minister remarked upon the extraordinary cleanness of London. One of our guests expressed surprised that the King couldn't afford amblers to pull his coach. (In Tibet everyone who can afford it rides an ambler; one reason for this is that the jolting of a trotting horse shakes the stones out of their jewelled ornaments)
The cinema show was followed by tea in the garden, and when our guests went home at six O'clock we really felt that the day had been a success.
Author: Frederick Spencer Chapman [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 XII p.1
Ladakhi lute player in Lhasa BandEnlarge
Norbhu and Sonam Tobden with Everest permitEnlarge
Norbhu and Sonham with Everest permitEnlarge
Women at Dekyi Lingka party, New Year 1937Enlarge
Woman at Dekyi Lingka party, New Year 1937Enlarge
Young Tibetan woman in head dressEnlarge
Four Cabinet Officials with TsarongEnlarge