Khampa dancers and musician

Khampa dancers and musician

1998.131.257 (Print black & white)

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Raw Image


Photographer's handlist

[view record]

Key Information


Frederick Spencer Chapman


Frederick Spencer Chapman

Date of Photo

November 10th - 12th 1936


Lhasa > Dekyi Lingka

Accession number


Image Dimensions

202 x 260 mm

Group of three male dancers and a woman, left, wearing the dress typically seen worn in central Tibet. These dancers are likely to be performing by invitation in the grounds of the British Mission residence in the Dekyi Lingka. The musician and dancers appear to be in a row but are all moving. The men are wearing loose-fitting, long-sleeved jackets and wide, billowing trousers of the kind commonly seen in the eastern part of Kham district called Bathang. The men are all wearing long, fringed belts around their waists, which emphasise movement when dancing

Further Information


Dancing , Performing

Photographic Process

Print gelatin silver , Enlargement

Date Acquired

Donated 1994

Donated by

Faith Spencer Chapman


British Diplomatic Mission to Lhasa 1936-37

Photo also owned by

Frederick Spencer Chapman

Previous Catologue Number

C.12.11 [view film roll]

Previous Pitt Rivers Museum Number


Other Information

Notes on print/mount - The caption 'Kampa Dancers' has been written on the back of the print in pencil [MS 15/2/2005]

Manual Catalogues -

Manual Catalogues - Caption in Chapman's hand-written list of negatives made whilst on the Mission to Lhasa, 1936-7 [See PRM Manuscripts Collection]: 4 in line dancing woman (and fiddle) on right [MS 16/03/2006]

Other Information - Description: Chapman gives a description of these performers in his publication Lhasa the Holy City (London: Chatto & Windus, 1938; reprint, London: Readers Union Ltd., 1940, p.272): "Another form of entertainment was provided by troupes of dancers who appeared from time to time at the Dekyi Lingka. One group, known as the Khampa Dancers - since this form originated in the Kham - were skilful acrobats. These were professional players who toured southern Tibet and even went down to Gangtok and Kalimpong. The troupe consisted of a sour-looking but handsome girl who played, alternately, a Tibetan fiddle and a drum or gong similar to those used in the monasteries; and three wild looking men, one of whom clashed small cymbals. The tallest of these was a retired bandit; he was short of his right hand, having it cut off as a punishment. The men wore white balloon shirts tied in at the ankles and, hanging from the belt, a fringe of plaited cords. // Playing their instruments and singing as they danced, the troupe would start stepping backwards and forwards with arms swinging in time to the measure. Gradually they would gather speed until they were whirling round in a circle with outstretched arms and long sleeves flying, so that first one hand and then the other swept the ground" [MS 15/2/2005]

Other Information - Related Images

Other Information - Related Images: These same people can also be seen in 1998.131.255 & 1998.131 256 [MS 15/2/2005]

Other Information - Related Images

Other Information - Related Images: Images prefixed with 'C.12' comprise a group of negatives containing images of Ladakhi men, Ngagchen Rimpoche, Mir/Amir Khan (the mission cook), football match, Dagg, Kham dancers, Nechung, Drepung, the Potala and the sand track approaching it. They all seem to have been taken between October 28th and November 15th 1936. Chapman has also included this image in a sub-group he titles 'Kampa Dancers and Mummers' in his handlist from the Mission [MS 16/03/2006]

Other Information - Cultural Background

Other Information - Cultural Background: The trouser style is the same as people referred to as Bathang in the south east of Kham region would wear. They would come to Lhasa possibly on pilgrimage and would perform to raise money. The woman is not wearing Khampa or Bathang dress but the ordinary dress of central Tibet. The instrument she is playing is called pi wang. The tassels on the men's dress is used to enhance the dramatic effect of their acrobatic dances; for the same reason the trousers are very baggy to exaggerate the shapes and movement of the dance [TS 31/1/2005]

For Citation use:
The Tibet Album. "Khampa dancers and musician" 05 Dec. 2006. The Pitt Rivers Museum. <>.

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