1936 - 1937 Mission Diary

The official diary of the Gould mission to Lhasa sent by the British government. Read more about the mission diary.

December 4th, Friday

see photographs below

Bhondong Sbappe and Kalon Lama, both members the Kashag came to lunch. Today it is cold and wintry, and a bitter wind is raising dust storms.

The Yapshi Kung, with his wife and large family, came to dinner. These dinner parties, preceded and followed by film shows, are now a great feature of our life here.

Tonight’s party was typical. Our guests, having been invited for six o'clock, arrived an hour early. Gould and Richardson were drafting telegrams, Nepean and Dagg were engaged with wireless work, Chapman was cutting a film and our only sitting room was festooned with innumerable strips of film.

However, Norbhu held the fort till we were ready. The party consisted of the Duke, a lean, very short-sighted but very charming old aristocrat in his long yellow silk Shappe's robe; his wife, a shy, rather florid woman wearing her hair looped up over a coral-studded triangular crown with immense turquoise earrings, a charm box and a striped brown and red apron over an exquisite dragon patterned Chinese silk dress; several grown up sons and daughters, one of the former being a favourite of the Regent and four small children. After drinks - we find Tibetans drink Cinzano rather reluctantly, or lemonade - we went downstairs for the first part of our performance. Here it was at once apparent that something unusual was afoot. It transpired that Norbhu had told three or four of the Potala monks that we were having a cinema show and that they could come. But about thirty monks, reinforced by as many soldiers from the neighbouring Norbhu Lingka barracks, had gate-crashed the room; and while several monks had already taken the chairs reserved for our guests the rest of the crowd completely blocked all ways of approach. As soon as the monks had been forced to sit on the floor and our guests - though somewhat crowded - had taken their seats we started, as some of them had never before seen films, with something familiar to them, a film we have taken of the Potala and the Lhasa bazaar. This was followed by Rin-Tin-Tin in 'The Night Cry'. This film has been a tremendous success in Lhasa; it, is, simple, moving, and of a subject with which they are familiar, nor does it leap from subject to subject as is the way of modern films. By the end of the fifth reel the women were weeping on each other's shoulders and imploring Rin-Tin-Tin to bite the villain's nose. After a Charlie Chaplin to restore their emotions we went upstairs to dinner while the uninvited monks and soldiers were ejected.

At dinner, to make the most of the small room, we sat, backs to the wall, on high Tibetan cushions while a variety of hors d'oeuvres-like dishes were served on the usual low Tibetan tables. Our guests proved less able to accustom themselves to foreign food than ourselves; but when Gould appeared with an armful of crackers the spirit of the party improved, and we were amazed to see a four-year old girl fearlessly holding a firework, while her brother, aged six, who had been told to behave exactly as his father, smoked a cigarette with apparent enjoyment.

At eight O'clock bedecked with paper hats, we went downstairs to continue our film show. Colour films of Tibet, more Charlie Chaplin, the Hendon Air Pageant 1929, colour films of Sikkim, yet more Charlie Chaplin; then after a few more reels of Tibet, what would they like for the last reel? After some deliberation, well perhaps they would like to see a Charlie Chaplin. And so at eleven O'clock the party ended, and after a final drink our guests mounted their ponies and rode home through the clear Tibetan night.

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 X p.2

previous (2nd December) entry next (7th December) entry