Man on pole at Namdrotagtse ceremony by Potala

Man on pole at Namdrotagtse ceremony by Potala

1998.131.540.3 (Print black & white)

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Raw Image


(Contact Print)

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Key Information


Frederick Spencer Chapman


Frederick Spencer Chapman

Date of Photo

February 13th 1937


Lhasa > Potala

Accession number


Image Dimensions

91 x 61

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. Crowds gather round to watch the ritual as the man stands on the top of the pole preparing to position himself to spin round

Further Information


Ritual Activity

Photographic Process

Print gelatin silver , Enlargement

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.7 [view film roll]

Previous Pitt Rivers Museum Number



'Lhasa Mission 1936, Diary of Events', P. Neame, H. Richardson, F. S. Chapman, Government of India Political Department [Note: photographs for October 18th - November 4th 1936 are not included as their relationship to text is not detailed; see Mission Diary text for details of images] [view list of illustrations]

Other Information

Notes on print/mount - The back of the print is covered in crop marks and reproduction instructions. The reference 'O/D/7' has been written on the back of the print in pencil [MS 02/04/2006]

Manual Catalogues -

Manual Catalogues - It seems that this image may be identified as 'D.7' 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 Man standing’; PRM Manuscripts Collection: ‘List of Tibetan Prints and Negatives’ - Book 3: ‘11/2 - Acrobat on top of pole during New Year celebrations. In the old days men used to slide down a pole from the top of the Potala. But the last Dalai Lama stopped this’ [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. "Man on pole at Namdrotagtse ceremony by Potala" 05 Dec. 2006. The Pitt Rivers Museum. <>.

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