Hugh E. Richardson
June 29th 1944
Lhasa Area > Nechung
55 x 85 mm
Donated August 2001
The executors of the estate of Hugh E. Richardson
Hugh E. Richardson
Notes on print - 'Lha sdur at Gnas-chun' and 'Comparison or assembly of oracles connected with gnas chung' (in pencil) is written on the reverse of print in Richardson's hand and 'Velox' in an oval is stamped in black. [KC 21/9/2006]
Manual Catalogues - Notes on Richardson's typed handlist: 'Album A - Nos. 58-64 - Scenes at a ceremony at Gnas-chung, held once every twelve years, called Lha-bsdur. [A] comparison of gods - at which a number of minor oracles assemble and show their powers' [MS 24/11/2005]
Other Information - Setting: The Lhabdur ceremony centres around the going into trance under possession of Pehar, the main spirit protector of Tibet, of eight oracle priests, including Nechung Oracle himself. The ceremony only occurs once every twelve years. This image seems to have been taken towards the end of the ceremony, when all the onlookers are allowed to rush forward and give offering scarves etc. [MS 24/11/2005]
Other Information - Description: Richardson wrote a description of this ceremony in Ceremonies of the Lhasa Year [London: Serindia Publications, 1993, p.92-3]: "Many people come out from Lhasa and are allowed into the courtyard and to sit or stand on the balconies surrounding it which are decorated with bright hangings. The visiting oracle-priests sit in tents on the south side while all round it stand the retinues of the Nechung and other oracles in various dress of armour, brocade robes, magician's hats and curious masks with their trident-headed banners. ... After they have finished, the noise intensifies and is joined by the shrilling of oboes and cornets as the Nechung Oracle comes on to the steps of the temple in a state of possession. All the other oracle-priests crowd into the courtyard and also enter a trance. The onlookers swarm all round the oracles offering scarves and there is so much noise, confusion, waving of brightly coloured banners and so on that it is difficult to see what is going on" [ibid. pp.92-3] [MS 24/11/2005]
Other Information - Dates: This photograph has been identified through a caption on the related print as being ' Gnas chung Lha bsdur or Lha bsdus ', which is the ceremony of 'Comparison of the Gods at Nechung'. In his book Ceremonies of the Lhasa Year [London: Serindia Publications, 1993] Hugh Richardson states that this ceremony is not an annual event but takes place only on the eighth day of the fifth month during the monkey year of each twelve-year cycle in the Tibetan calendar. This means that the image must have been taken on either June 23rd 1920, in which case the image was not taken by Richardson (nor could it have been taken by Sir Charles Bell or Rabden Lepcha as they did not arrive in Lhasa until November 1920), on June 12th 1932 in which case again it could not have been taken by Richardson, or on June 29th 1944. Richardson was in Lhasa at this time and on June 18th 1944 received a visit from his “particular friend, the State Oracle”, with whom he established a close friendship. Furthermore, the contact prints are of a type (both size and type of paper) that was typical for images taken by Richardson during the period 1944-50 [Hugh Richardson Archive, Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, MS Or Richardson 3 folio 250]. [MS 24/11/2005]
For Citation use:
The Tibet Album. "Lhadur ceremony at Nechung Monastery" 05 Dec. 2006. The Pitt Rivers Museum. <http://tibet.prm.ox.ac.uk/photo_2001.59.9.64.2.html>.
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