Part 1 of 2Chapter 2: Tibet Discovered (1773-92)
Images of Travel
The love of mountains came in with the rights of man ... It seems as if the philosophers fancied they had found a fragment of the genuine Arcadia still preserved by the Alpine barrier against the encroachments of a corrupt civilization and mountains came in for some of the admiration lavished upon the social forms which they protected.
-- (L. Stephen )
1773 was a momentous year for the British East India Company: it found itself reluctantly at the centre of two wars. The dumping of a shipment of its tea into the waters of Boston harbor by protesting colonists, on 16 December 1773, precipitated the American Revolution. Whilst this famous war of independence was being fought by troops of the British Crown, the company's own soldiers were engaged in the little-known first Anglo-Bhutanese War. If this date marked the beginning of modern America, it also saw the birth of Tibet as a landscape in modern Western fantasies. As a result of this border war, the East India Company despatched George Bogle to Tibet in May 1774. Bogle, the offspring of a well-to-do Scottish commercial family, had been in India for four years when at the early age of twenty-eight he was selected to go on this journey by his friend and mentor Warren Hastings, Governor of Bengal. His journey to Tibet was followed in 1783, by that of Captain Samuel Turner, who also represented the East India Company. The accounts written by these two men are classics of eighteenth-century travel.
Other Europeans had previously visited Tibet. The legendary medieval journeys of Marco Polo, Friar Odoric, and other idiosyncratic individuals were followed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries by the systematic missionary activity of Jesuit and Capuchin monks.  But the encounter between Britain and Tibet in the last quarter of the eighteenth century marked the beginning of something new; the sustained creation of Tibet as an important imaginal landscape for Western cultures. Echoes of an older, almost medieval, geographical imagining continued to be heard throughout the creation of this 'new' Tibet, but the journeys of Bogle and Turner coincided with a revolution in British geopolitical awareness.
Only two years before Bogle's entry into Tibet, Cook had returned from his epic voyage into the South Pacific. A new age of scientific exploration had begun.  At exactly the same time, the European -- and in particular the British -- relationship to mountain landscape was reaching a new pitch of intensity. In the Alps, de Saussure was spearheading the final breakthrough from 'mountain gloom to mountain glory', from the old distrust of mountains to a new aesthetic of Romanticism and sensual realism.  The eighteenth and nineteenth-century British imagination constantly reflected Tibet and the Himalayas in the mirror of the Alps. Alpine travel was assumed to be the exemplary form of mountain experience throughout the nineteenth century. As we shall see, only in the early twentieth century were the Himalayas to come into their own and shrug off continual Alpine comparison.
In the final quarter of the eighteenth century, landscape aesthetics was also poised between an allegiance to Classical formalism and a desire for Romantic realism. Such a tension existed between the spontaneity and enthusiasm of Bogle's account and the restraint exercised by Turner. The sense of an individual quest is constantly present in Bogle's diary; in this way it points forward to the early nineteenth century. But for Turner this unusual journey seemed to be nothing but an extremely interesting and curious duty. A flavor of the 'Grand Tour' lingered over both accounts and seemed to turn Tibet into a mere extension of it.
This attitude towards their journeys to Tibet is only to be expected. The 'Grand Tour' gave secular Europe the first sustained alternative to the almost abandoned medieval fantasy of pilgrimage. It provided a complex, precise, systematic, coherent, prestigious and exemplary model for the imagination of travel.  Its influence was extensive and profound. Ancient cultural locations became sacred sites, geographical features became views, tracks and roads became routes. But thrown out with the medieval passion for pilgrimage went popular, lower-class travel. Unless in the role of servants, soldiers, artisans, and so on, representatives of the peasant masses in Britain did not generally go on extensive journeys in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries -- in other words, they traveled for employment and not as the aristocrats and bourgeoisie were fashionably doing, in search of significant places and landscapes.
Alpine landscape initially belonged to the 'Grand Tour' only as an unpleasant, unfortunate section of the route, best accomplished as fast as possible and preferably with the blinds down. However, by the late eighteenth century the Alps had radically changed the British imagination of travel. All the evocative power of 'the sublime', which had been gathering strength for a century, was suddenly focused upon, and concentrated into, these mountains. Although initially they were to be admired leisurely and at a distance, by the late eighteenth century the Alps had many explorers climbing to their summits.
The 'Grand Tour' had long been considered routine and stale by the late eighteenth century, and Alpine travel was well advanced in providing Britain with an exciting and alternative imaginative map. At one stage on his journey Turner commented playfully, upon a Tibetan woman singing, 'I am not ashamed to own that the song she sang, was more pleasing to my ear, than an Italian air.'  Both Bogle and Turner would have grown up in the atmosphere of the 'Grand Tour', but would also have been aware of the 'Alpine Experience'. In some way, too, they would have realized that they were participating in the radically new domain of scientific global exploration.
The obsessive fervor towards exploration that gripped the Victorian era's imagination would have seemed remote and alien to these two eighteenth-century gentlemen travelers. Bogle, for example, was instructed by Hastings to plant some potatoes at every halting place on his journey through Bhutan and into Tibet.  At least three deductions can be made about this unusual task. The narrowness of the commercial imagination is matched by the thoroughness of Hasting's curiosity. In addition it tells of the insignificance of Bogle's actual journey to Tibet compared with those of later travelers, who would have been content just to go there without any specific reason. But both journey and destination were secondary objectives for Bogle and Turner. Tibet was only one place among many possible goals. Afghanistan, Assam or Burma would all have been similarly curious places to visit in the course of one's employment and duty. Also, the going was not as valued as much as the arriving. Travel for its own sake was still relatively uncommon. Such an attitude is revealed when at one point on his journey Turner writes: 'Being indolently disposed and prompted merely by curiosity, I strolled among the houses.'  Bogle comments in a similarly offhand manner; 'I may as well describe this temple while I am here.' Later nineteenth-century travelers would, by contrast, be furiously observing, noting, measuring and collecting images of the place and the route.
There also seemed to be no urgency about publishing the two journals. Turner was unsure about public interest in his journey, and the journal was published only in 1800, seventeen years after his return. Bogle's was not published until 1876, almost a century after he left Tibet. Another journal, written by Kirkpatrick outlining his journey to Nepal in 1793, was not published until 1811, and it was only with extreme reticence that the author sought publication.  Indeed, in Kirkpatrick's case the services of 'a literary gentleman' were sought, eventually to no avail in order to prepare the manuscript 'properly' to meet the 'public eye'. In other Words, travel accounts had to be 'literary'; there was still doubt about interest in the journey itself.
British contact with Tibet also coincided with the spread of European power over the globe; this brought the West face to face with extensive unknown races and customs. Eighteenth-century ethnographic speculations by Rousseau, Voltaire and others were based upon the increasing number of accounts by global travelers.  Questions about race, species, the geographical influence on culture, geological history, the nature of civilization and individual freedom, dominated the closing years of the century.  The accounts by Bogle and Turner take their place firmly within these debates and concerns.
The British involvement with Tibet witnessed a struggle over the imaginative relationship to natural and cultural landscapes that was to continue right up until the present day. The incident and circumstances that led to the first British-Tibetan contact struck up a rich and complex theme upon which variations were to be played over the next hundred and fifty years.
A border incident between the Bhutanese and the British East India Company led to the first of a series of small wars that Britain was to wage for over a century in the mountainous northern frontier of India. Eventually these were to culminate, in 1904, with the 'invasion' of Tibet. The first contact with the small Himalayan country of Bhutan had been made in 1766 by James Rennell whilst pioneering the great survey of India.  The East India Company's help had been requested by the Newars of Nepal, who were struggling against the aggressive expansion of the Gurkhas. Trans-Himalayan trade had been disrupted by Gurkha expansion and 'the Company' sent a small expedition into Nepal to intervene. It was a failure, and from that moment the Gurkhas became a permanent feature of British Himalayan involvement. Subsequently, in 1773, Cooch Behar appealed to 'the Company' for help against the invading Bhutanese. A small force was despatched to the malarial swamp and jungle region that provided Bengal with its northeast frontier. Despite extensive losses through sickness, the Company's forces were successful in defeating the Bhutanese. The ruling Gurkhas in neighbouring Nepal, alarmed at the expansion of British power, asked the Panchen Lama, the second most influential figure in Tibet, to intervene.  He sent a letter and gifts to Hastings; these were received in Calcutta on 29 March 1774. Hastings was quick to seize upon this opening into the unknown and enticing northern land, and within two months sent a mission to Tibet headed by George Bogle. Bogle spent five months at the Panchen Lama's residence in Tashilhumpo, and the contours of Tibet as a place in the British imagination began to take shape. From that moment, frontier concerns were to become a defining characteristic of Tibet's image in the West.
Warren Hastings's Tibet: Lists and Diaries
"This is the story of the Hitchhiker's Guide To the Galaxy, perhaps the most remarkable, certainly the most successful book ever to come out of the great publishing corporations of Ursa Minor. More popular than The Celestial Home Care Omnibus, better selling than Fifty-three More Things To Do in Zero Gravity, and more controversial than Oolon Colluphid's trilogy of philosophical blockbusters, Where God Went Wrong, Some More of God's Greatest Mistakes, and Who is This God Person Anyway? And in many of the more relaxed civilizations on the Outer Eastern Rim of the Galaxy, the Hitchhiker's Guide has already supplanted the great Encyclopaedia Galactica as the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom, for though it has many omissions and contains much that is apocryphal, or at least warrantly inaccurate, it scores over the older, more pedestrian work in two important respects. First, it is slightly cheaper and, secondly, it has the words: DON'T PANIC inscribed in large, friendly letters on the cover.
To tell the story of the book, it is best to tell the story of some of those whose lives it affected. A human from the planet Earth was one of them, though, as our story opens, he no more knows his destiny than a tea leaf knows the history of the East India Company. His name is Arthur Dent, he is a six-foot-tall ape descendant, and someone is trying to drive a bypass through his home."-- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
The Panchen Lama's letter was impressive, and Turner referred to it as 'an authentic and curious specimen of the Lama's good sense, humility, simplicity of heart, and, above all of that delicacy of sentiment and expression which could convey a threat in terms of meekness and supplication'.  This letter and the accompanying gifts were studied assiduously by Warren Hastings for any clues about their land of origin. From his meditations Tibet emerged as a place of conciliation, diplomacy, and cultural sophistication. Obviously this was not a land of rude, illiterate primitives. Tibet clearly considered itself an authority in the Himalayas, but the British still had to determine the exact nature of its power. A complex web of allegiances spun its threads over the region between Nepal, Bhutan, China and Tibet. The elegance and calm self-assurance of the Panchen Lama's letter heightened Warren Hastings's curiosity.
The gifts, too, were revealing:
gilded Russian leather stamped with the Czar's double-headed eagle, and Chinese silk, which suggested external commerce; small ingots of gold and silver, purses of gold dust, and bags of musk, which seemed evidence of internal wealth; and Tibetan wool cloth, which together with the well-made chests in which the gifts had come, indicated a knowledge of arts and industries. 
Hastings concluded that the country and government of Tibet
are represented as a simple, well-disposed people, numerous and industrious, living under a well-regulated government, having considerable intercourse with other nations, particularly with the Chinese and northern Tartars, and possessing at home the principal means of commerce, gold and silver in great abundance. 
Whilst it was not the Arcadian utopia of the newly discovered South Pacific Islands, Tibet promised to become an important place in the confident, youthful and adventurous -- yet well-regulated -- imagination of commercial capitalism. In another letter Hastings wrote of the 'length of the journey and the natural difficulties ... the severity of the climate and the rudeness of the country'.  Right from the start, the landscape and the culture of Tibet seemed to be at opposite polarities: the one as barren and harsh as the other was rich and sophisticated.
The letter and gifts from the Panchen Lama did not fall into an imaginative vacuum; indeed, they activated ancient rumors and vague fragments of knowledge that had been steadily accumulating over the centuries. Hastings's primary concern was with trade, but he also instructed Bogle to determine 'the nature of the road between the borders of Bengal and Lhasa, and of the countries lying in between; the communications between Lhasa and the neighboring countries, their government, revenue and manners'.  Whilst Tibet had an approximate location, it was still almost without any coherent shape in the British imagination.
Hastings also gave Bogle a list of ten items, as a private commission. A pair of shawl goats was his first request, followed by a pair of yaks. The third request was for 'fresh ripe walnuts for seed ... and any other curious or valuable seeds or plants, the rhubarb and ginseng'. His next demand was for 'any curiosities, ... or what else may be acceptable to persons of taste in England. Animals only that may be useful unless any that may be remarkably curious'. The fifth item concerned Tibetan government, especially revenue collection. Then Bogle was instructed to keep a diary, a running commentary on whatever seemed to be significant. Next Hastings wanted Bogle to ascertain 'what countries lie between Lhasa and Siberia, and what communication there is between them'. The same instruction was also directed towards Tibet's position with regard to China and Kashmir. Trade between Tibet and Bengal came next, followed by a delightful request; 'Every nation excels others in some particular art or science. To find out this excellence of the Bhutanese.' Then, almost as an afterthought, Bogle was instructed to ascertain the course of the Brahmaputra. 
What do we make of this remarkable document, the instructions given to the first British visitor to Tibet in modern times? First of all, it is a list, and draws our attention to the important place that lists occupy in travel discourse. They are sometimes written, sometimes memorized and frequently a source of worry: what to see; what to take; what to do; what not to do; where to stay; where to go; where not to go; what to buy and bring back; how much things cost. The linear nature of travel discourse (route, chronological sequence) evokes this list mentality. In addition, those items that do not appear on the list are as important as those that do. In Hastings's instructions we find that Bogle's attention is not drawn to religion, to military matters, to Tibetan history, to details of the Tibetan landscape. Things rather than landscapes or mysteries are uppermost in Hastings's mind: things for trading, things that are productive or unusual such as animals, plants, manufactures, paintings, food, buildings, coins. The blend of enthusiastic commercialism and restrained 'scientific' curiosity in these lists contrasts with the intense geographical and religious focus that was to characterize subsequent Tibetan travel discourses. In Hastings's private commission to Bogle, ethnographic concerns (manners, customs, and so on) are really included only in item number six; in the injunction to keep a very general, spontaneous and unstructured diary.
This era believed itself to be at the beginning of a new 'scientific' exploration. Explorers such as Cook, Humboldt and Banks took pride in this radical departure from mere gentlemen travelers, traders, pilgrims or soldiers. Strict observation and empirical data were foremost in their aims. Yet the casual diary was to gain importance in travel accounts throughout the nineteenth century. The generalized, personal diary format contrasted with the attempt to regulate, specialize and isolate scientific observations. In Hastings's injunctions and in the subsequent accounts by Bogle and Turner, the diary sections, whilst only item number six on the agenda, nevertheless expressed the growing presence of the subjective and Romantic imagination. These diaries follow a different fantasy in relation to the natural world than that taken by the concern for objectivity and scientificity which simultaneously was also making its presence felt.  As we shall see, the diary format gradually became increasingly central in travel accounts.
Diaries express a different kind of knowledge about a place from that found in reports for specialized intellectual disciplines. Whereas the latter seek abstraction and distance, the former desire immersion and involvement. The tension between these two forms of knowledge, these two types of imaginative processes, was to become intense by the mid-nineteenth century. Subsequently they were to become alienated from each other, and two kinds of travel writing emerged: specialized, single-purpose, scientific accounts: and generalized travel diaries. The former became identified with professionals, the latter with amateurs and litterateurs.  The former quickly lost their connection with travel or even scientific expeditions and came to be regarded as 'objective' accounts. Their role in a creative and imaginative process became submerged beneath an urgent desire for facts, literal truths and explanatory theories. Ethnographic accounts, for example, are rarely situated within the genre of travel texts; instead they have come to be read as a form of objective reporting. The presence of the reporter remains hidden beneath a theoretical certainty and a compulsive thirst for hard data. However, as Fabian points out,
when modern anthropology began to construct its Other in terms of topoi implying distance, difference and opposition, its interest was above all ... to construct ordered Space and Time -- a cosmos -- for Western society to inhabit, rather than 'understanding other cultures', its ostensible vocation'. 
The diary perspective, by contrast, came to be known as the travel text, in which the presence of the traveler is well to the fore -- indeed, is the narrative's raison d'etre. But in Hastings's injunctions to Bogle such an absolute split between these differing orders of knowledge had not yet occurred.
Hastings's instructions were accompanied by a document equally as interesting as the private commission: a memorandum on Tibet. Hastings, perhaps the first example of a modern Tibetophile, compiled a brief summary of all extant knowledge on the country.  It is a distillation of medieval rumors, seventeenth-and eighteenth-century accounts by Catholic missionaries, and the information supplied by two lama surveyors trained by French geographers in Peking in 1717 and incorporated into the 1736 atlas of Jean Baptiste Bourgignon d'Anville.  Hastings's memorandum gathered the strands of the past, and led them into the context of modern imaginings on Tibet. It was an attempt to give a coherent shape to the place of Tibet, to define its contours.
The memorandum is only four pages long: the opening half page deals with Tibetan history. The power of the lamas and their relation to China takes up the next full page. Another page on Tibetan religion is followed by one-third of a page each on China and Tartary, on polyandry and on geography. Hastings writes: 'The history, government and religion of Tibet are no doubt more interesting objects of inquiry than its climate or topographical and physical characters; yet these, too, are highly curious.  He draws comparison with the Incas, that other ancient, high-altitude civilization in the Andes -- indeed, in these early accounts, comparisons between the Himalayas and the Andes were common.  But despite the low priority given to Tibetan geography (especially surprising in view of the obsession it was to become in barely fifty years' time), Hastings began the memorandum with the observation: 'Tibet is a cold, high, mountainous country'. Half a page later he comments; 'The Caucasus formed a barrier at the south that protected reciprocally both Hindustan and Tibet from any dangerous hostilities in that quarter .'
Tibet, from the very beginning was imagined geographically: cold, high, mountainous, isolated, enclosed. Similarly, right from the start, Tibet as a place meant religion and religious power. Despite Hastings's failure to focus Bogle's specific attention on religious and geographical questions in his direct instructions, they make up nearly two-thirds of his memorandum. He writes, without comment, that the Dalai Lama's' excrements are sold as charms at a great price among all the Tartar tribes of this region'.  We can detect here the beginning of that fascination which was to play such a powerful role in subsequent Tibetan exploration. This fascination is enhanced by Hastings's thoughts on polyandry, which take up a further third of a page -- a surprisingly large amount in such a short paper.Europe and Asia: an Archaeology of Imaginative Landscapes
Hastings's memorandum makes continual reference to the 'Chinese', 'Tartars' and 'Moghuls', and reminds us that this creation of Tibet was taking place within a much wider context of global imaginings and global imperialism. By the eighteenth century, the world had already been divided and imagined many times before. It was already an archaeological mosaic of imaginative places and landscapes. The reference to the Tartars in Hastings's memorandum, as well as in Bogle's and Turner's accounts, was a late residue of medieval European fantasies of Asia and the East. It connected this late-eighteenth-century, Classical creation of Tibet back to a totally different conception of European identity.
For most of its history, Britain had been one of the European countries most removed from the Orient, or the East. Historically and geographically it was remote from direct contact with Islam, and from the eastern border struggles experienced by the Hungarians, Russians, Poles, Austrians, Italians and Spanish. For example, whilst the Tartars were remote from Britain both in time and space, for Russia they were intensely immediate. The history of Russia had been dominated by the Mongols and Tartars;  imperial Russian expansion into Central Asia throughout the eighteenth century had made them anything but a remote and archaic memory. Turner's journey to Tibet, for example, coincided with the Russian annexation of the Crimean Tartars. The expansionist Russian struggles may have reversed the ancient domination, but for them no discontinuity lay between the Tartars as old oppressors and as newly subjugated peoples.
For Britain, on the other hand, the Tartars lay on the other side, not just of the Himalayas but of a historical discontinuity. The fact that they had never been a real threat meant that they were to become an ideal bearer of Romantic projections in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This historical and geographical discontinuity heightened the sense of the Tibetans' Otherness in the British imagination. In the eighteenth century, however, the Tartars still evoked, even for the British, the medieval European fear of unstoppable warriors streaming out from Central Asia under leaders such as Genghis Khan. So we find Turner exclaiming with surprise after an act of kindness towards him by a Tibetan: 'I take pleasure in recording this striking instance of tenderness and attention, so different from the ferocity commonly annexed to our ideas of a Tartar.' 
The references by Hastings, Bogle and Turner to the presence of precious metals in Tibet are also echoes of ancient fantasies. The Greek historian Herodotus wrote of large ants in the desert to the north of India that created sandhills rich with gold.  For many Europeans Tibet had the reputation of being something of an Asian El Dorado. Tibet was also caught up, however slightly, in the medieval fantasy of the lost Christian kingdom of Prester John. Turner, in a passage rich with imaginative resonances, also related Tibet to Ancient Egypt because of their shared ritual use of lion imagery:
Between (Egypt] ... and Tibet, there seemed at some time or other, to have existed a frequent communication; and Egypt appeared even now to merit respectful mention, whenever they named it. From hence perhaps they have derived their veneration for the sovereign of brutes. 
He then goes on to connect Tibet with an even earlier milieu:
If the lion ever existed in a state of nature here, it must have been at the same time with those vast monsters, whose bones are found in huge heaps in various parts of Tartary and Siberia at this day, and clearly point to some great convulsion and change, in the order of our globe. 
Such ruminations on global catastrophes, when combined with Egyptian speculations, were attempts to locate Tibet precisely within a new imaginal landscape that was emerging among the British. The close of the eighteenth century was marked by a rise of enthusiasm for both geology and Egyptology. In both cases Europe was reconstructing the history of the world and at the same time redefining itself. Such a process would reach its full development only much later, in the next century.
In these texts by Hastings, Bogle and Turner, we are confronted by an archaeology of imaginative landscapes. Sometimes their presence is revealed only by a single clue, such as a word or a phrase, but these details are doorways into ancient landscapes.
The most recent past, out of which modern Europe was struggling to reimagine itself, was dominated by the great medieval Moghul and Ottoman Empires. Whilst these were still forces to be reckoned with, their decay was obvious and the waning of their power inevitable in the face of aggressive Western expansion in Asia. 
In the late eighteenth century, future global politics seemed likely to be dominated by Russian imperial aggrandizement, by British colonial and commercial expansion, but above all, especially in the case of Tibet, by the largest, the most remarkable and enduring empire of all, the Chinese. The Celestial Empire was still unknown, revered and a force in Eastern politics. Its internal stagnation and decay lay hidden behind its closed frontiers. One cannot appreciate the Tibetan landscape that was forming in the imagination of eighteenth-century Britain without simultaneously understanding the era's fantasy of China.
In 1730, only fifty years before Bogle's journey, the Capuchin monk Francesco Orazio Della Penna, in his report on Tibet, had commented upon the Tibetans: 'They are also dirty and nasty, and without refinement; but from their intercourse with the Chinese in 1720 they have begun to be a little more cleanly and civilized.'  By comparison, when Bogle left Tibet in 1775 he exclaimed in a letter to his sister:
Farewell, ye honest and simple people! May ye long enjoy that happiness which is denied to more polished nations; and while they are engaged in the endless pursuits of avarice and ambition, defended by your barren mountains, may ye continue to live in peace and contentment, and know no wants but those of nature. 
A fundamental tension in eighteenth-century Western fantasies about non-European peoples is expressed here. On the one hand Europe was fascinated by the Chinese culture -- ancient, orderly, refined, sophisticated, restrained. China seemed a vast land of harmony, peace, aesthetics and tranquility, the very apogee of civilization. For example, whilst Bogle remarked that 'The manners of the Tibetans are in general very engaging', he also commented that a Tibetan friend, 'by a long residence at the Court of Peking, has improved upon them'. 
Della Penna, in his enthusiasm for China, was merely expressing a sentiment about Chinese civilization that had been forged into common currency by earlier Catholic missionaries to the East. Chinese aesthetics -- especially interior decorating, gardening, decoration, fashion, and so on -- became immensely popular for a while in eighteenth-century Europe. 
On the other hand, this was also the time of Rousseau and the fantasy of the 'Noble Savage'. Baudet comments: 'The eighteenth century was one of those centuries that wished to escape from itself and from the heavy burden imposed by a thousand years of culture.'  Hence, he continues, it 'experiences a perpetual longing for the uncivilized'. Cook's return from his epic voyage in 1771, with tales of a Pacific island paradise, Tahiti, seemed to confirm the ideas of those who felt that European culture was burdened by guilt, hypocrisy, ambition and other diseases of civilization. In Tibet these two worlds, the natural and the cultured, seemed to meet. In these early travel texts, Tibet's relation to China was used to express this tension between simplicity and sophistication, between two conflicting images of Utopia.Locating Tibet
Turner commented that it would be advantageous to discover 'the contiguity of Tibet to the western frontier of China (for though we knew not where they were joined, yet we knew that they did actually join) ...'  The rapidity of European global expansion in the eighteenth century outstripped available geographical knowledge and made old global contours redundant. It demanded an entirely new division of the world, one that was far more precise, systematic, rational and ordered. It is no coincidence that this was the period of the great map-makers: Cook set out to map the vast unknown South Pacific in 1767; Rennell initiated the immense Survey of India in 1765.  The ostensible reason for this rush of cartographic activity was the demand by the new global commercialism for accurate and reliable charts, routes and communications, but the next two centuries of scientific mapping were to create an entirely new sense of global inclusiveness. It was an imagination of frontiers, routes, wealth, power. Above all by remapping (classifying, defining, measuring) the globe, Europe sought to redefine itself and its position in the world. By locating Tibet in relation to China, Britain was attempting to locate itself, not just geographically but imaginatively.
The old global landmarks of Tartary, Muscovy, Byzantium, the Celestial and Ottoman empires, were becoming imaginative residues, and were clearly inadequate for eighteenth-century commercial navigation. Nevertheless they gave the emerging global vision an imaginative history: they located it within time. History, ethnography and mapping became global in the eighteenth century and fortified European identity, culture and sense of place.  Tibet, along with other distant landscapes, helped the eighteenth-century Europeans to get their bearings, to know themselves better. It provided them with a mirror for reflection and self-criticism. Bogle, for example, wittily observed that 'the Tibetans have great faith in fortune-telling, which indeed seems to be common to all mankind, except our European philosophers, who are too wise to believe in anything.'  Later he exclaimed: 'Let no one who has been at a public school in Europe cry out against the Tibetans for cruelty.'  Unlike Turner, Bogle was always prepared to use Tibet as a springboard for criticism of Europe. In particular he was bitter about European self-satisfaction. Whilst observing monks debating he wrote, with measured irony:
They were carried on with much vociferation and feigned warmth, and embellished with great powers of action, such as clapping hands, shaking the hand etc. These gestures are no doubt very improper and ridiculous, because they are quite different from those used by European orators, who are the true standards of what is just and what is graceful. 
For Bogle the Tibetan way of life had to be encountered on its own terms. Hence when confronted by some strange food he wrote: 'It is far from unsavoury, when one can get the better of European prejudices.'  For both Bogle and Turner, every culture had its own customs, ceremonies, manners and values. They did not travel to evaluate the Tibetans, except as a commercial proposition, and nearly all critical reflection was directed back at European self-righteous insularity.
The empirical precision of eighteenth-century mapping did not preclude its imaginative dimension. Turner proclaimed, with commendable exactitude,
Teshoo Loomboo, or Lubrong, the seat of Teshoo Lama, and the capital of that part of Tibet immediately subject to his authority, is situated in 29° 4' 20" north latitude, and 89° 7' east longitude, from Greenwich. 
However, he was locating Greenwich just as much as Tibet -- indeed, he was gathering the landscapes of the world around it. Remoteness became a measurable and empirical fact as Greenwich moved to the centre of the global map. Tibet became remote from, yet also connected to, Britain.
Within this eighteenth-century global redistribution of imaginative and material power, Chinese hegemony was unquestioned. In a sense it was the only extant established world empire. Russian expansion was still only a distant concern. For instance, Turner discovered that commercial overtures had been made by the Russians towards Tibet, but only with a limited degree of success because China jealously guarded its imperial rights.  As yet, British expansionist aspirations were too unformed for the Russian presence in Tibet to be a threat. The main concern was China. Following the spectacular Chinese defeat of the Gurkhas in Tibet and then in Nepal, a British observer nervously exclaimed: 'This government now beheld for the first time, the extraordinary spectacle of a numerous Chinese force occupying a position which probably afforded it a distant view of the valley of the Ganges, and of the riches of the East India Company's possessions.'  A regular commercial interchange with the mysterious and powerful Chinese Empire was one thing, but having the Chinese camped on the frontier of British Bengal was quite another. For the time being, an Asiatic power still had hegemony in Asia, but Europe was steadily moving towards its own unique form of geopolitics.
Geographically and imaginatively for Britain, Tibet lay 'somewhere' between China, India, Siberia and the expanse of Central Asia.  Baudet writes of the eighteenth century; 'East and West still had no separate identity.'  The various images of the Other -- the exotic, the primitive, and so on -- were all jumbled up geographically, all available for any indiscriminate use. The 'Orient' had scarcely arrived, but by the close of the eighteenth century the imaginative landscapes of the globe were beginning to acquire that systematization, orderliness and categorization so characteristic of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  British exploration of Tibet coincided exactly with this new revisioning of the globe. It drew extensively upon the linguistic discoveries in Sanskrit and Arabic, the beginnings of 'scientific' ethnography -- by the French in Egypt, by the British in India.  But Tibet, unlike most of the 'Orient', was studied less as a 'textual universe' and more as a visual display, as an integral place. The Frontier as a Place
1. Setting Out
Whilst Tibet was a place of curiosity and interest for a few Europeans in the late eighteenth century, it was not yet the object of all-consuming fascination it was to become in less than a hundred years. So Bogle, on receiving his instructions to travel to Tibet, remarked:
I was glad of the opportunity which this journey through a country hitherto unfrequented by Europeans would give me of showing my zeal for the Governor's service, at the same time that it gratified a fondness I always had for traveling, and would afford me some respite from that close and sedentary business in which I had for some years been engaged. 
Tibet was not yet a place, it was still only an unfamiliar geographical location. Exploration, too, was not yet a heroic venture necessitating arduous preparations. Bogle's response was merely one of pleasure, but even the cause of his delight was not specifically Tibet itself, rather the prospect of visiting a place unknown to Europeans and of excelling in his duty to the Company. His hopes lay not with any athletic mountain mysticism, so common among later aspirations to reach Tibet, but simply with getting away from his desk job and into the outside world. His expectation was not of mountain adventures but of convivial travel.2. Approaching the Frontier
Nevertheless, the entry into Tibet was still an event of significance. It is an occasion that we will encounter throughout Tibetan travel literature. Even at this early stage, Tibet lay on the other side of a frontier, and to enter it one had to cross a threshold. Turner wrote of the 'enormous height, and vast extent of the mountains' -- the 'Mons Imaus', the 'Himaloya', the 'Bod-la'.  When he first saw this mountain range directly, he exclaimed:
The vastness and obscurity of this enormous boundary, remote and indistinct as it appeared when it first burst upon the sight in ill-defined and fantastic shapes, could not but excite very powerful emotions in the mind; and I looked upon the formidable barrier I had to pass with mingled awe and admiration. 
It was these unbelievable mountains, not Tibet, that initially evoked the awe of the British and other Europeans. Bogle commented, in a similarly dramatic way, 'The chain of mountains which stretches along the northern frontier of Bengal, 18 miles distant, seemed over our heads.'  Tibet did not simply lie over the other side of these vast unexplored mountains but somehow partook of them, of their Otherness, of their mystery and power.
These mountains did not just separate Tibet and India, but created a qualitative difference in the way each place was imagined. Turner, for example, wrote that the 'strangeness, prevailing between Bengal and Bootan' was almost equal to that of the mountains that lay inbetween.  The mountains were a zone of transformation, of transition between one mode of imagining and another. Whilst sacred space must have a clearly defined boundary, this boundary or frontier is a place in its own right.  The Himalayan range was such a place of fascination, of awe, of mystery, for these eighteenth-century travelers and for others who followed. In their accounts the apparently simple action of crossing from one imaginative space to another became far more complex. The frontier was first approached and then entered. Within the boundary-place travelers were suspended between two imaginings. Leaving it, they then crossed the final threshold and entered the land on-the-other-side. Each of these three movements has an imaginative quality all its own. In the case of these early British travelers it was the direct experience of this boundary-place that colored their perception of the unknown place on-the-other-side. For later travelers, however, Tibet had itself become a place of fascination, and this sacred landscape then affected in its turn the experience of the mountain frontier. Fantasies about the one reinforced fantasies about the other.3. Entering the Frontier
Upon entering the Himalayan range, Bogle paused at a vantage point for a last view of Bengal: 'It is impossible to conceive any change of country more abrupt or any contrast more striking.'  After gazing at the extensive plains of Bengal he exclaimed:
Whether it be that I am partial to hills or not, I beheld the opposite part of the prospect with much greater pleasure. The rapid descent, the deep glens, the hills covered with trees the most lofty and luxuriant, the town of Buxa-Duar immediately below at a great distance, and behind nothing but mountains with their tops hid in the clouds. 
The mountains, whose immense height was to be greeted with disbelief when it was estimated a few years later, marked an abrupt break, a discontinuity that was geographical cultural and imaginative.4. The Passage across the Threshold
Whilst Tibet was by no means the sacred landscape it was later to become in Western fantasies, nevertheless the moment of entry for Bogle and Turner was replete with pregnant symbolism. As they stepped out from the frontier, and crossed over the last summit before Tibet, both were confronted by the plain of Phari. There was a certain irony in this first glimpse of Tibet. The expectation was of mountainous country, yet by comparison with what they had just come through, Tibet seemed quite flat. Bogle complained that this plain, whilst surrounded by hills and mountains, was 'on every account abundantly bleak, and bare and uncomfortable'.  Even the Tibetans seemed less robust and well-built than the people of the mountain frontier. 
Also, by one of those quirks of fate that seem to occur in history, the route by which Britain first gained access to Tibet entered that country at a place set aside for funerals. Bogle commented: 'The first object that strikes you as you go down the hill into Tibet, is a mount in the middle of the plain. It is where the people of Pari-jong expose their dead.'  Turner, nine years later made exactly the same observation. Bogle also happened to arrive just as a body was being carried to the hill: 'Eagles, hawks, ravens, and other carnivorous birds were soaring about in expectation of their prey.' 
When considering these kinds of phenomena it is tempting to endow them with deep symbolic significance, with a presentiment far beyond that of mere chance. So, Tibetans are Tartars; the word 'Tartar' comes from Tartarus, the river of the Netherworld; and here guarding the threshold of that landscape is a scene of desolation and death, etc., etc. Obviously such an approach could be facile, yet we must tread carefully. Bogle's and Turner's attention was drawn to this phenomenon. At that precise moment of entry they selected that specific feature to focus upon. Both men quickly seized the opportunity to deliver a short resume on Tibetan burial practices. Bogle's was well informed and discussed the general variations in this custom, whereas Turner was obviously quite struck solely by the one immediately in front of him. Is it significant that the first paragraphs written directly about Tibet by British travelers should be devoted to the unusual funeral rites of that country?
Travel journals create places rather than discover them. They construct these places from selective perceptions, from unequal weight given to various themes and from the manner in which all these are then placed in relationship to each other. From such a perspective, these first moments, these first glimpses, are crucial. We can often look back at the initial moments in a new place -- a country, a town, or a work situation -- and smile at our first impressions. They may have an intuitive truth about them, a crisp freshness, yet they subsequently seem to belong to a different world once we become familiar with the new environment. Such initial impressions and observations clearly tell us as much about our own fantasies as about the place itself. The question, then, is not what Bogle and Turner saw, but what they selected to be of significance; not what was presented to them, but what they chose to comment upon, and in what order. As we have seen right from the start, even before British travelers had reached Tibet, it was imagined as a place of difference. If it was not yet a place of mystery and fascination (qualities which became dominant only in a later cultural milieu), then at least Tibet represented an extreme of Otherness. It was a truly unknown place. The bizarre funeral -- which, as Turner remarked, 'is in direct opposition to the practice of almost all other nations' -- was an ideal signifier for eighteenth-century British fantasies about Tibetan Otherness. 
For the next two weeks, Bogle made his way towards his planned rendezvous with the Panchen Lama. Such was the subsequent intensity of this encounter that it overshadowed this first part of his journey, yet these two weeks marked his entry into Tibet. Unlike the long period of close personal contact with Tibetans and his almost uneventful and settled life, these initial weeks were full of constant travel and of hasty but perceptive glimpses along the route. In rapid succession we are introduced to most of the themes that were to fascinate Europeans for the next hundred and fifty years --funerals, dogs, diplomacy, bureaucracy, religion, polyandry, national character, dirt, landscape views and lamaistic power. The Imagination of Mountains
From the inception of British involvement, Tibet and its religion were imagined geographically. Landscape, culture and place were inextricably enmeshed. Whilst Tibetan religion was given a geographical basis, mountain landscape was given a spiritual basis.
In these travel texts, the passages of landscape description are critical for understanding the prevailing attitude towards nature. In the days before photography, such word-images were the main resource of explorer-travelers, but it would be a mistake to read these descriptive passages (sketches and photographs too) as if they were merely objective accounts of the landscape. They express an imaginative relation to the environment and reveal the fantasies of the author as much as they depict the object of description. We are used to discussing landscape paintings in terms of artistic style -- Rococo, Romantic, Expressionist, Impressionist, Cubist, Surrealist, and so on. Passages of word-painting (as it later became known) must also be read stylistically in terms of their root-metaphors. In the early eighteenth century, for example, it was generally believed that natural landscape could not improve the mind and hence was not so worthy of artistic portrayal as mythological and biblical themes.  Such a devaluation continued to exert its presence right through the century. Landscape painting continued to be placed low on the scale of artistic values until the success of the Romantic revolution; hence we find an ambivalence in Bogle's and Turner's accounts. The actual passages of evocative landscape description are surprisingly few as compared with later travel texts. Also, most of them are restrained attempts at an objective realism. Bogle wrote:
On the former part of the journey there were nothing but glens, now there are valleys. But the sides of the mountains are more bare; there are few large trees, mostly fir; the road is more level except at two or three places ... 
Alternatively, the budding sciences of botany and geology were used for landscape description: 'pine-apples, mango tree and saul timber are frequently to be met with in the forests or jungles. Find many orange trees towards the foot of the hills, ...'  Or again, 'The mountain is composed in some places of clay; but for the most part it consists of a flinty stone, striated with talc, and intermixed with marble.'  Such descriptive passages highlight the eclectic 'scientific' curiosity towards nature so characteristic of these early travelers. However, they are generally only lists of things. Only vague attempts are made to compose them into a coherent story. (The discovery of the concept of 'environment', for example, as an organizing schema lay some years in the future.)
But here, amidst these sober, restrained and studied appraisals, we come across glimpses of other landscape aesthetics. Turner exclaimed:
The prospects, between abrupt and lofty prominences, were inconceivably grand; hills, clothed to their very summits with trees, dark and deep glens, and the tops of the highest mountains, lost in the clouds, constituted a scene of extraordinary magnificence and sublimity. 
He was invoking the sublime, the Romantic imagination of landscape. The essence of such a perspective depended upon four factors; an immense scale; a sense of natural power; contrasting extremes; and a dynamic verticality. Only nine years earlier, Bogle had been slightly hesitant about revealing his feelings about the landscape. Almost apologetically, he commented:
Whether it be that I am partial to hills or not, I beheld the opposite part of the prospect [the mountains rather than the plains] with much greater pleasure. The rapid descent, the deep glens, the hills covered with trees the most lofty and luxuriant ... and behind nothing but mountains with their tops hidden in the clouds. 
Similar themes echo through both Bogle's and Turner's accounts. Both travelers, whilst passing through the mountain frontier, experienced something entirely new, something largely outside European sensibility. Even in Europe, the Alps were only just beginning to attract travelers and explorers rather than mere mountain-viewers and sightseers. It has been said that in 1755 the fashion of climbing mountains and reviewing glaciers had not yet been introduced into Switzerland, but by 1783 the first rush of travelers and sightseers had occurred.  The European imagination was just beginning to accommodate itself fully to the Alps. The Himalayas, like the Carpathians, the Rockies and the Andes, were to demand another, future revolution in landscape aesthetics.
In another passage Turner writes;
The weather was serene, the atmosphere clear, and the sun shone full upon the distant mountains. In the rear of all swelling high above the rest, the mountains of Ghassa were distinctly visible, clothed in perpetual snow, whose smooth unsullied surface was nobly contrasted by the deeply shaded rocky eminences in the foreground. A few luminous and fleecy clouds hung on the border of the horizon, which as they verged towards the snow assumed a darker and thicker appearance, adding much to the effect of this beautiful view. 
Here is delight in variety and contrast -- high/low, light/dark. This contrast reveals a certain ambivalence towards the landscape mountains. These high summits had traditionally been imagined as the dwelling-places of both malevolent and benevolent supernatural beings. In Bogle's and Turner's accounts, the dark glens, the deep shadows, were integral to their mountain aesthetics.  The image had not yet been irrevocably split into pure peaks and unwholesome valleys, but the beginnings of such a one-sided attitude can be detected in the passage from Turner quoted above, where the 'unsullied' snow increases in nobility when contrasted with the darker regions of the landscape.
Each of these three descriptions of mountain views provides evidence of the new Romanticism, with its emphasis on expansiveness and an uplifting emotional response to landscape. There was still a human scale to such a mountain appreciation: one was filled with the sense of the sublime.  But the barren immensity and the a-human Otherness of the Himalayas still eluded even this radically new aesthetic. Bogle continually complained about the incessant 'bleak bare hills' and their failure to inspire a fine prospect.  Turner similarly wrote: 'The country now opened and improved ... and the view of the trees and houses, afforded a very grateful change from the dreariness of our late prospects.'  Later, he commented: 'I took an opportunity to ascend the rock, but my expectations were by no means realized by the view I had from it. Bare narrow valleys, naked hills, and a biting frosty air, impressed my senses with a picture inhospitable, bleak, sterile in the extreme.'  Such awful barrenness had clearly not yet acquired its connotations of majesty, nor of revealing God's power and human insignificance. 
The picturesque is still encountered in these passages, and frequently Bogle and Turner retreated to its safe familiarity:
The banks of the river are lined with willows and the surrounding mountains have some timbered trees, inter-mixed with the fir and pine; whilst a number of single houses and some monasteries, having orchards and hanging fields of corn about them, ornament the finely romantic views, with which we were delighted from every part of this valley. 
Such an evaluation of landscape was well established and was familiar territory to the late-eighteenth-century traveler.
The illustrations in Turner's account, drawn by his companion, Samuel Davis, reveal a mixture of naturalism and Rococo artificiality.  An illustration showing the Palace of Punukka in Bhutan, for example, has two small figures in the foreground -- one lying relaxed under a tree, the other walking unhurriedly by the side of a lake. Such a view is an embodiment of the Rococo pastoral dream; warm, romantic landscapes, and tranquility. In Kirkpatrick's book, an illustration of Kathmandu is similarly elegaic and Arcadian. Small figures are sitting in groups; travelers leisurely cross a bridge or stand in conversation by the river's edge. These illustrations followed established formulae: the clouds are obviously decorative, the mountains are clearly hovering between a realism derived from close observation and a certain vague boldness of outline used purely for effect. 
In these sketches there is also the unmistakable orderliness and geometric regularity so dear to the eighteenth century. Irregularity was abhorred. Turner wrote: 'Bootan presents to the view nothing but the most misshapen irregularities.' He then continued:
Tibet ... strikes a traveler, at first sight, as one of the least favored countries under heaven ... It exhibits only low rocky hills, without any visible vegetation, or extensive arid plains, both of the most stern and stubborn aspect. 
Such aesthetics were also applied to Tibetan architecture: 'the windows, regular, flat-roofed and of good appearance from without; within, irregular and smoked'.  At one point Turner was refreshed by a welcome display of 'regularity and softness of feature, that is seldom seen in the wild but sublime scenery of Bootan'. 
There are therefore four contending landscape aesthetics in these journals; the Classic (formal regular); the Picturesque (intimacy, delight, variety); the Romantic (uplifting, emotional sublime); and the Naturalistic (close attention to detail, objective, representative). Any land form which could not be encompassed by one of these four perspectives was either depreciated or simply ignored, but these were early days in Europe's involvement with mountains. Significantly, in these eighteenth-century texts, no direct comparisons were made with the Alps. Only with increasing Alpine familiarity in the nineteenth century do we find them constantly invoked as Europeans attempted to come to terms with the aesthetic challenge posed by the more immense Himalayas.
The late eighteenth century was a time of transition and evolved its own synthesis of restrained Romantic-Picturesque. Turner wrote:
We were presented with many beautiful and highly romantic views. The sides of the mountains thinly clothed with unthrifty pines, rapid flow and hollow roar of the river, partly concealed by clustering trees, enclosed in high verdant banks, which rose, as they receded, into bold rocks, with here and there a fir stirring from a crevice, whilst other ridges appeared completely covered with them, served to combine the most striking features of wild nature in her barren, as well as her most luxuriant dress. 
At this point we can see the basis being laid for a genuine, if somewhat restrained, mountain mysticism. Critical developments in this process included the emancipation of landscape from the evaluations of a dogmatic theology, the increasing attention given to detailed observation (encouraged by the popularity of geology, geography and botany, as well as by the close encounter between mountaineer and landscape), and the sudden availability of a variety of mountain ranges for the purposes of comparison (Alps, Carpathians, Himalayas, Rockies, Andes).  The earlier love of the picturesque and of geometric formality began to be supplemented by a desire for direct attention to details -- either outwardly, towards the objective sensual landscape, or inwardly, towards the experiential response.