Tse Gutor ceremony

Tse Gutor ceremony

1998.131.603.3 (Print black & white)

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Key Information


Frederick Spencer Chapman


Frederick Spencer Chapman

Date of Photo

February 10th 1937


Lhasa > Potala > Deyang shar

Accession number


Image Dimensions

196 x 131

Entrance to the Potala from the Eastern Courtyard, the Deyang Shar, prior to Tse Gutor ceremony held at the end of the Tibetan New Year. Spectators gathered around the perimeter. Monks of Namgye Tratsang gather close to the stairway prior to the entrance of the dancers. The monks band is gathered together in the tent seen on the right of the image. Officials can be seen in the bottom right of the image

Further Information

Photographic Process

Print gelatin silver

Date Acquired

Donated 1994

Donated by

Mrs Faith Spencer Chapman


British Diplomatic Mission to Lhasa 1936-37

Photo also owned by

Frederick Spencer Chapman

Previous Catologue Number

B.17 [view film roll]

Previous Pitt Rivers Museum Number



'Lhasa Mission 1936, Diary of Events', P. Neame, H. Richardson, F. S. Chapman, Government of India Political Department [Note: photographs for October 18th - November 4th 1936 are not included as their relationship to text is not detailed; see Mission Diary text for details of images] [view list of illustrations]

Other Information

Notes on print/mount - The reference 'OB 17' has been written on the back of the print in pencil, as has the name 'Spencer Chapman', although not in Chapman's hand. '10' in a circle has been written in pencil in the bottom right corner of the back of the print, and a sticker with '80' in red ink has been stuck in the top left corner on the back [MS 04/04/2006]

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]: '1/2 Group of brocaded monks’; PRM Manuscripts Collection: ‘List of Tibetan Prints and Negatives’ - Book 3: ‘4/3 - Senior monks gather round to bless the ceremonies. The central staircase in background is reserved for the Dalai Lama only’ [MS 04/04/2006]

Other Information - Description: Entry in Mission Diary for February 10th 1936: "Today we were invited by the Tibetan Government to witness the first of the ceremonies connected with the Tibetan New Year. // With sound reasoning the Tibetans hold that before you can hope to celebrate and [ sic ] auspicious New Year, all the evil influences which have accumulated during the Old Year must be driven out. Accordingly on the 29th day of the last month a devil dance takes place in the great Eastern Court of the Potala. // All officials from the Regent down are present, those of the higher ranks in the rooms in the high Western facade above the triple steps which lead down into the court. // The red, black, and yellow pelmets over the windows flap and belly in the chilly north wind. Three blasts of the great silver trumpets herald the approach of the Lama band who take up their places with their drums, cymbals and trumpets in a gaily embroidered tent which occupies all the Northern side of the court" ['Lhasa Mission, 1936: Diary of Events', Part XIV pp. 1-2, written by Richardson] [MS 04/04/2006]

Other Information - Cultural Background

Other Information - Cultural Background: The “Tse Gutor” masked dance ceremony takes place at the end of the Tibetan calendar and is designed to purge the sins of the past year. At the Potala it is performed by the monks of Namgye Tratsang who undergo training for many years. Richardson gives a detailed account of this event in “Ceremonies of the Lhasa Year”: “The chief is the Chinese priest Hashang, a huge heavily padded figure in a scarlet robe and with a massive, smiling bald-headed mask. With him are two tiny child-like figures, two more in the dress of Indian sadhus, and two with death’s head masks” (1993:116 – 123) Then two more masked dancers arrive - one representing Shinje the lord of the dead and protector of the Buddhist faith and the other, the stag-headed Tsamuntri. Other dancers portray wrathful protector deities such as Dorje Jigje (with a bull’s head), Tamdrin (the horse-headed), a red masked Mahakala and the black-faced Lhamo. [CH 2003]

Other Information - Related Images

Other Information - Related Images: Images prefixed with 'B' comprise a group of negatives containing images of Jigme and the Tsarong family, dancers and monks taken on February 10th and 14th 1937 [MS 04/04/2006]

Other Information - Location: This photograph seems to have been taken from the balcony directly above the entrance to the eastern courtyard. The Mission had been offered use of the balcony above this one but, as this was better for photographic purposes, Gould apparently allowed the Chinese delegation to use the higher level. Chapman and Doctor Morgan were in charge of photography on this occasion and Chapman comments that he set up seven cameras (presumably a combination of cine and still) to record the proceedings [see ['Lhasa: The Holy City', F. Spencer Chapman, London: Chatto & Windus, 1938, p. 301] [MS 06/04/2006]

For Citation use:
The Tibet Album. "Tse Gutor ceremony" 05 Dec. 2006. The Pitt Rivers Museum. <http://tibet.prm.ox.ac.uk/photo_1998.131.603.3.html>.

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