1936 - 1937 Mission Diary

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

18th September, Friday, Lhasa.

see photographs below

The Tibetan Government entertained us to lunch in our garden at the Dekyi Lingka. They have been waiting for Mr. Gould to recover and fortunately he was quite well enough to attend today.

Until the Cabinet have given the official Government Lunch no one, not even the Regent, can invite the Political Officer to a party.

As usual the Kashag's time and ours did not agree on their first visit they were an hour early; on the second an hour late, this time they arrived half an hour before they were expected. We were entertained before and during the meal by an orchestra of stringed instruments and a flute, and by dancing girls. The band was led by a blind man who is so popular with the Lhasa officials that he enjoys the exceptional privilege of smoking, even in the presence of the cabinet. (Smoking is officially prohibited in Lhasa and although observance of this ban is not very strict, it is still rare to see anyone smoking in public.)

The musicians went at it with great persistence and their efforts seemed to improve as the party progressed. To their music danced three 'girls', one about 50, the other two quite young. The dancing consisted simply of stamping on a plank in time to the music, varied by an occasional gesture with the hands and arms (which were hidden, out of respect, by long sleeves) and by occasional bursts of shrill singing. Not really very exciting for us and, to judge by the solemn expression of the girls, not very exhilarating for them. The dancers were of so low an order of society that they could not dare to look openly at the Political Officer nor at the Great Powers of the Earth, as the Shapes are called. The Political Officer ranks with the Prime Minister, who is the successor of the ancient Kings of Tibet; above him is only God Incarnate, at present in the form of the Regent; below come the Cabinet Ministers; and, a step lower, such lesser dignitaries as Secretaries of State and Commanders in Chief.

The lunch consisted of the usual large number of appetising snacks, including sea slugs and sharks' fins, and ending up with a bowl of rice into which one puts a selection from the various dishes. We were well looked after by three of the famous chang girls of Lhasa. Their duty is to pour out chang (barley beer) and to see that it is drunk. Today's team were very smartly dressed and quite good looking. They are servants of leading Lhasa families and were commandered for the occasion by the Tibetan Government. The party lasted from 1 P. M. to 6 P. M. and, we are told, was much more intimate and lacking in restraint than, the usual Government Lunches.

Author: Hugh Richardson [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 VI p.3

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