Three nomad girls

Three nomad girls

BMR. (Album Print black & white)

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Other Version of this Photo in Frederick Spencer Chapman collection

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Key Information


Frederick Spencer Chapman


Hugh E. Richardson

Date of Photo

January 15th 1937


Lhasa Area >

Accession number


Group of three nomad girls from Eastern Tibet, probably Kham, wearing sheepskin coats with tinder pouches at the waist. Their hair is probably braided into 108 plaits, an auspicious Buddhist number and as typically done by Khampa women, and decorated with turquoise and coral hair ornaments.

Further Information

Photographic Process

Print gelatin silver


British Diplomatic Mission to Lhasa 1936-37

Photo also owned by

Donated to the British Museum in 1986 by Hugh E. Richardson

Previous Catologue Number

2.4 [view film roll]

Related Collections

F. S. Chapman Collection in the Pitt Rivers Museum

This Image also appears in another collection


Other Information

Notes on print/mount - The number '2/4' has been written on the centre back of the print in pencil. This relates to the numbering system that Chapman adopted for images taken whilst on the British Mission to Lhasa in 1936-37. A very small '8' has also been written in pencil in the top left hand corner [MS 2/4/2005]

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]: '3 nomad women' [MS 18/03/2006]

Other Information - Related Images

Other Information - Related Images: Images prefixed with '2' comprise a group of negatives including images of Khampa people, Kinchung, a shuttle cock game and images of the Regent’s palace. They all seem to have been taken between January 15th and 27th 1937 [MS 18/03/2006]

Other Information - Related Images

Other Information - Related Images: The girl in the centre of this photograph can also be seen in close-up in 1998.131.289 & 1998.131.290 [MS 2/4/2005]

Other Information - Cultural Background

Other Information - Cultural Background: Other images with a '2' prefix are used to illustrate the official Mission Diary for this month. Furthermore, it seems that it was during January 1937 that Chapman took a particular interest in photographing and recording in text the various groups of nomads that were coming to Lhasa to pay their taxes at the Potala, to make pilgrimage and to participate in the New year festivities that would take place in early February. They were frequently to be found on the Linghkor Sacred Way around Lhasa at this time of year and Chapman paid much attention to the styles of women's head dress that he encountered. On January 7th Chapman rose early to photograph nomads encamped on the outskirts of Lhasa, although this photograph was taken in the city itself on another occasion. [MS 18/03/2006]

Other Information - Description: In the introduction to the Mission Diary Part XIII (January 15th to 31st) Chapman wrote: "Most of the travellers are nomads from the Chang Thang or the Hor and Kham provinces. They wear a single voluminous garment of sheepskin hitched up with a girdle to facilitate walking. Unlike the inhabitants of Lhasa these men have their hair fairly short - that is to say in a tousled black mop - and they usually go hatless. While the women-folk have their hair done in the most intricate fashion and often adorned with a variety of strange ornaments. Many of them wear on top of their heads several pieces of amber exactly resembling a cake of ochre-coloured soap, surmounted by a coral the size of a cherry." He wrote a similar description in his book
Lhasa the Holy City [London: Chatto & Windus, 1938; reprint, London: Readers Union Ltd., 1940]: "Some women wear two lumps of amber as big as plums on top of their heads, and usually a few turquoises or corals between. Sometimes strips of black, green, or scarlet cloth are sewn onto the border and sleeves of the sheep-skin garment. This is very effective" [1940, p.159] [MS 2/4/2005]

Other Information - Cultural Background

Other Information - Cultural Background: The young women are wearing amber, coral and turquoise head dresses. Around their waists they are wearing me chag, which are pieces of metal decorated with turquoise and other stones. The metal edge is attached to a pouch containing a flint and some tinder. The flint is used against the metal edge to start fires [TS 31/1/2005]

For Citation use:
The Tibet Album. "Three nomad girls" 05 Dec. 2006. The British Museum. <>.

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