Tomb of the 13th Dalai Lama in Potala

Tomb of the 13th Dalai Lama in Potala

1998.131.317 (Film negative)

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Photographer's handlist

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Key Information


Frederick Spencer Chapman


Frederick Spencer Chapman

Date of Photo

November 22nd 1936


Lhasa > Potala > 13th Dalai Lama's Tomb >

Accession number


Image Dimensions

112 x 85 mm

Three storey chorten containing the tomb of the 13th Dalai Lama in the Potala Palace. Silver butter lamps and other offerings surround the shrine. The chorten is encased in gold and inlaid with precious stones and surrounded by gifts from China, Mongolia and Tibet

Further Information

Photographic Process

Negative film nitrate

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.18.26 [view film roll]

Previous Pitt Rivers Museum Number


Other Information

In Negative - The number '26' has been scratched into the negative in the bottom right hand corner [MS 11/4/2005]

Technical Information - This image was probably taken with a quarter plate Zeiss Nixe film or film pack camera as the negative is quarter-plate sized. See Chapman
Lhasa The Holy City, [London: Chatto & Windus, 1938] for a description of the still and cine cameras that Chapman used as Mission photographer [MS 25/2/2005]

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]: 'Lower part of last D.L.’s shrine - butter lamp and details of shrine' [MS 18/03/2006]

Other Information - Related Images

Other Information - Related Images: Images prefixed with 'C.18' comprise a group of negatives containing images of the mission personnel, the Dalai Lamas’ tombs and the Potala. They seem all to have been taken November 22nd 1936 [MS 18/03/2006]

Other Information - Description: Chapman wrote a relatively extensive description of this tomb and the structural alterations that its construction had necessitated upon the Potala itself in his book Lhasa the Holy City [London: Chatto & Windus, 1938; reprinted London: Readers Union Ltd., 1940]. Chapman wrote: "The main chorten is encased in gold embossed with different designs and plentifully encrusted with precious stones. In some places valuable charm boxes, turquoise ear-rings, onyx and coral snuff-boxes, strings of amber and pearls, and innumerable unset gems have been let in to form designs on the gold background. On several shelves in front are displayed more precious presents, gifts from the ancient and noble families of Tibet and from the rich monasteries of China and Mongolia. Here are rare porcelain vases, exquisite examples of cloisonne work, chalice-like vessels of solid gold, meticulously wrought metal-work, alabaster models of temples, and glass cases containing curiously fashioned flowers with leaves and petals of china. On the eastern wall of the room are pigeon-holes containing holy books with carved wooden covers, many small images, and filigree charm-boxes such as are carried by travellers. // In front of the shrine burn several enormous butter-lamps of solid silver. They stand four feet high, and the bowls, with a tow of burning wicks floating in the fat, are more than two feet in diameter. Each wick has melted a little lake for itself in the congealed butter. White scarves had been thrown up on to the chorten by pilgrims, and there were vases of artificial and real flowers in different parts of the shrine, while the square wooden pillars surrounding the tomb and supporting the roof are covered by long brocade strips of different colours, each hanging over the next like the scales of a fish. Although certain details of the tomb, such as teh crystal globes hanging from the ceiling and a coloured biscuit-tin on one of the shelves, struck a false note, the general impression is a fitting tribute to the memory of this revered ruler" [1940, pp. 179-80] [MS 11/4/2005]

For Citation use:
The Tibet Album. "Tomb of the 13th Dalai Lama in Potala " 05 Dec. 2006. The Pitt Rivers Museum. <>.

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