Officials at Namdrotagtse ceremony by Potala

Officials at Namdrotagtse ceremony by Potala

1998.131.536.1 (Contact Print)

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Other Version of this Photo in Hugh E. Richardson collection

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Key Information


Frederick Spencer Chapman


Frederick Spencer Chapman

Date of Photo

February 13th 1937


Lhasa > Potala

Accession number


Image Dimensions

60 x 91

New year ceremony of Namdrotagtse, the 'Sky Dancing Rope Game' or Chakhen Tagshur, or 'Sliding down the rope like a bird'. Performed on 2nd day of the 1st month, King's New Year, at the foot of the Potala. Just after midday the officials descend the Potala steps to see the ritual

Further Information


Ritual Activity

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

D.6 [view film roll]

Previous Pitt Rivers Museum Number


This Image also appears in another collection


Other Information

Notes on print/mount - The contact print has been made using Velox paper and the trade name in an oval is visible on the back of the print. The batch development number '631' has been printed on the back of the print in red ink [MS 02/04/2006]

Manual Catalogues -

Manual Catalogues - It seems that this image may be identified as 'D.6' from circumstantial evidence. This number is not written on either of the contact prints. Caption in Chapman's hand-written list of negatives made whilst on the Mission to Lhasa, 1936-7 [See PRM Manuscripts Collection]: '1/2 Officials coming thro’ the crowd'; PRM Manuscripts Collection: ‘List of Tibetan Prints and Negatives’ - Book 3: ‘11/3 - Official coming down the Potala steps to watch the acrobat. A way was first cleared by dragging a dead yak down’ [MS 02/04/2006]

Other Information - Related Images

Other Information - Related Images: Images prefixed with 'D.' comprise a group of negatives containing images of the Potala and dancers at the Potala, Norbu Lingka animals, dance at Nechung. They seem to have been taken between February 13th - 16th 1937 [MS 02/04/2006]

Other Information - Description: Mission Diary entry for February 13th 1937: "Soon after midday all the officials came down the wide southern steps of the Potala to see the pole trick. All the morning the people of Lhasa have been assembling to see this acrobatic feat, the performance of which is a tax annually imposed upon different villages of Tibet. By midday several thousand people have collected. On the flat top of a neighbouring roof are a group of ladies of quality dressed in sombre coloured silk robes ... Sitting on the ample steps of the Potala are the poorer people ... // Suddenly there is a stir above and a couple of men come rushing down the steps dragging by its legs the carcass of a yak with its sharp-horned head swinging from side to side and effectively clearing a way for the officials, some of whom, having seen this performance many times before, ride away through the crowd. At the foot of the steps a crazy looking pole held together with yak-hide thongs has bee erected. It is about fifty feet in height. All at once there is a hush, and a man looking and probably feeling singularly like a sacrifice is swung astride a rope preparatory to being hauled up to the top. While he is only just above the heads of the crowds he starts chanting, and drinks a cup of tea which is handed up to him. On the summit of the pole is a small platform, on which there is just room to stand, and a vertical rod of iron. To begin with the man, chanting all the time, stands for a moment on the platform, but a strong wind makes this precarious and he is obviously not too confident. Then, tying a bobbin-shaped piece of wood on to his stomach, he fits this over the top of the metal rod and starts to spin round and round. After he has repeated this several times he is allowed to return to terra firma where he bows down three times and offers thanks that his ordeal is safely over" ['Lhasa Mission, 1936: Diary of Events', Part XIV p. 5, written by Chapman] [MS 02/04/2006]

For Citation use:
The Tibet Album. "Officials at Namdrotagtse ceremony by Potala" 05 Dec. 2006. The Pitt Rivers Museum. <>.

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