Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

That's French for "the ancient system," as in the ancient system of feudal privileges and the exercise of autocratic power over the peasants. The ancien regime never goes away, like vampires and dinosaur bones they are always hidden in the earth, exercising a mysterious influence. It is not paranoia to believe that the elites scheme against the common man. Inform yourself about their schemes here.

Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:55 am

CHAPTER LVI. Tibetan Punishments.

One day early in October I left my residence in Lhasa and strolled toward the Parkor. Parkor is the name of one of the principal streets in that city, as I have already mentioned, and is the place where criminals are exposed to public disgrace. Pillory in Tibet takes various forms, the criminal being exposed sometimes with only handcuffs, or fetters alone, and at others with both. On that particular occasion I saw as many as twenty criminals undergoing punishment, some of them tied to posts, while others were left fettered at one of the street crossings. They were all well-dressed, and had their necks fixed in a frame of thick wooden boards about 1⅕ inches thick, and three feet square. The frame had in the centre a hole just large enough for the neck and was composed of two wooden boards fastened together by means of ridges, and a lock. From this frame was suspended a piece of paper informing the public of the nature of the crime committed by the exposed person, and of the judgment passed upon him, sentencing him to the pillory for a certain number of days and to exile or flogging afterwards. The flogging generally ranges from three hundred to seven hundred lashes. As so many criminals were pilloried on that particular occasion, I could not read all the sentences, even though my curiosity was stronger than the sense of pity that naturally rose in my bosom when I beheld the miserable spectacle. I confess that I read one or two of them, and found that the criminals were men connected with the Tangye-ling monastery, the Lama superior of which is qualified to succeed to the supreme power of the pontificate in case, for one reason or[375] another, the post of the Dalai Lama should happen to fall vacant. The monastery is therefore one of the most influential institutions in the Tibetan Hierarchy and generally contains a large number of inmates, both priests and laymen.

Shortly before my arrival in Lhasa this high post was occupied by a distinguished priest named Temo Rinpoche. His steward went under the name of Norpu Che-ring, and this man was charged with the heinous crime of having secretly made an attempt on the life of the Dalai Lama by invoking the aid of evil deities. Norpu Che-ring’s conjuration was conducted not according to the Buḍḍhist formula, but according to that of the Bon religion. A piece of paper containing the dangerous incantation was secreted in the soles of the beautiful foot-gear worn by the Dalai Lama, which was then presented to his Holiness. The incantation must have possessed an extraordinary potency, for it was said that the Grand Lama invariably fell ill one way or another whenever he put on these accursed objects. The cause of his illness was at last traced to the foot-gear with its invocation paper by the wise men in attendance on the Grand Lama.

This amazing revelation led to the wholesale arrest of all the persons suspected of being privy to the crime, the venerable Temo Rinpoche among the rest. Some people even regarded the latter as the ring-leader in this plot and denounced him as having conspired against the life of the Grand Lama in order to create for himself a chance of wielding the supreme authority. At any rate Temo Rinpoche occupied the pontifical seat as Regent before the present Grand Lama was installed on his throne. Norpu Che-ring was the Prime-Minister to the Regent, and conducted the affairs of state in a high-handed manner. Things were even worse than this, for it is a fact, admitting of no dispute, that Norpu was oppressive, and mer[376]cilessly put to death a large number of innocent persons. He was therefore a persona ingrata with at least a section of the public, and some of his enemies lost no time in giving a detailed denunciation of the despotic rule of the Regent and his Prime-Minister as soon as the present Grand Lama was safely enthroned. Naturally therefore the former Regent and his Lieutenant were not regarded with favor by the Grand Lama, and such being the case, the terrible revelation about the shoes was at once followed by their arrest, and they were thrown into prison.

All this had occurred before my arrival. When I came to Lhasa Temo Rinpoche had been dead for some time, but Norpu Che-ring was still lingering in a stone dungeon which was guarded with special severity, because of the grave nature of his crime. The dungeon had only one narrow hole in the top, through which food was doled out to the prisoner, or he himself was dragged out whenever he had to undergo his examinations, which were always accompanied with torture. Hope of escape was out of the question, and the only opportunity offered him of seeing the sunshine was by no means a source of relief, for it was invariably associated with the infliction of tortures of a terribly excruciating character. The mere description of it chilled my blood. The torture, as inflicted on Norpu Che-ring, was devised with diabolical ingenuity, for it consisted in driving a sharpened bamboo stick into the sensitive part of the finger directly underneath the nail. After the nail had been sufficiently abused as a means of torture, it was torn off, and the stick was next drilled in between the flesh and the skin. As even criminals possess no more than ten fingers on both hands the inquisitor had to make chary use of this stock of torture, and took only one finger at a time, till the whole number was disposed of. Such was the treatment the ex-Prime-Minister received at his hands.

Norpu Che-ring bore this torture with admirable fortitude; he persisted that the whole plot originated in him alone and was put in execution by his own hands only. His master had nothing to do with it. The inquisitors’ object in subjecting their former superior and colleague to this infernal torture was to extort from him a confession implicating Temo Rinpoche, but they were denied this satisfaction by the unflinching courage of their victim. It is said that this suffering of Norpu Che-ring had so far awakened the sympathy of Temo Rinpoche himself that the latter tried, like the priest of noble heart that he was, to take the whole responsibility of the plot upon his own shoulders, declaring that Norpu was merely a tool who carried out his orders, and that therefore the latter was entirely innocent of the crime. Temo even advised his steward, whenever the two happened to be together at the inquisition, to confess, as he, that is Temo, had done.

The steward, on his part, would reply that his master must have made that baseless confession from the benevolent motive of saving his, the steward’s life, but that he was not so mean and depraved as to seek an unmerited deliverance at the cost of his venerable master’s life. And so he preferred to suffer pain rather than to be released, and baffled all the attempts of the torturers. By the time I reached Lhasa Norpu had already endured this painful existence for two years, and during that long period not one word even in the faintest way implicating his master had passed his lips. From this it may be concluded that Temo had really no hand in the plot. At the same time it must be remembered that Temo was an elder brother of Norpu, and the fraternal affection which the latter entertained towards the other might therefore have been too strong to allow of his implicating Temo, even supposing that the late Regent was really privy to the plot. Be the real circumstances what they might, when[379] I heard all these painful particulars, my sympathy was powerfully aroused for Norpu, whatever hard words others might utter against him; for the mere fact that he submitted so long to such revolting punishments with such persevering fortitude and with such faithful constancy to his master and brother, appealed strongly to my heart.

The pilloried criminals whom I saw on that occasion were all subordinates of Norpu Che-ring. Besides these, sixteen Bon priests had been executed as accomplices, while the number of laymen and priests who had been exiled on the same charge must have been large, though the exact number was unknown to outsiders. The pilloried criminals were apparently minor offenders, for half of them were sentenced to exile and the remaining half to floggings of from three hundred to five hundred lashes. The pillory was to last in each case for three to seven days. Looking at these pitiable creatures I felt as if I were witnessing a sight such as might exist in the Nether World. My heart truly bled for the poor, helpless fellows.

Heavy with this sad reflexion I proceeded further on, and soon arrived at a place to the south of a Buḍḍhist edifice; and there, near the western corner of the building, flooded by sunshine, I beheld another heart-rending sight. It was a beautiful lady in the pillory. Her neck was secured in the regulation frame, just as was that of a rougher criminal, and the ponderous piece of wood was weighing heavily upon her frail shoulders. A piece of red cloth made of Bhūtān silk was upon her head, which hung very low, for the frame around her neck did not allow her to move it freely. Her eyes were closed. Three men, apparently police constables, were near by as guards. A vessel containing baked flour was lying there, and also some small delicacies that must have been sent by relatives or friends. All this food she had to take from the hands of one or other of the three rough attendants, for her own hands were manacled. She was none other than the wife of Norpu Che-ring, whose miserable story I have already told, and was a daughter of the house of Do-ring, one of the oldest and most respected families in the whole of the Tibetan aristocracy.


When her husband was arrested, he was at first confined in a cell less terrible than the stone dungeon to which he was afterwards transferred. But this early and apparently more considerate treatment only plunged his family into greater misery. His wife was told that the jailer of the prison in which her husband was incarcerated was not overstrict and that he was open to corruption, and what faithful wife, even though Tibetan, would resist the temptation placed before her under such circumstances, of trying to seek some means of gaining admission to the lonely cell where her dear lord was confined? And so it came to pass that Madame Norpu bribed the jailer, and with his connivance was often at her husband’s side; but somehow her[381] transgression reached the ears of the government, and she also was thrown into prison.

On the very morning of the day on which I came upon this piteous sight of the pillory, she was led out of the prison, as I heard afterwards, not however for liberation, but first to suffer at the gate of the prison a flogging of three hundred lashes, and then to be conducted to a busy thoroughfare to be pilloried for public disgrace.

Poor woman! she seemed to be almost insensible when I saw her, and the mere sight of her emaciated form and death-pale face aroused my strongest sympathy. The sentiment of pity was intensified when I saw a group of idle spectators, among whom I even noticed some aristocratic-looking persons, gazing at the pillory with callous indifference. They were heartless enough to approach her place of torture and read the judgment paper. The sentence, as I heard it read aloud by these fellows, condemned her to so many whippings, then to seven days pillory, and lastly to exile at such-and-such a place, there to remain imprisoned, fettered and manacled. The spectators not only read out the sentence with an air of perfect indifference, but some of them even betrayed their depravity by reviling and jeering at the lady: “Serve her right,” I heard them say; “their hard treatment of others has brought them to this. Serve them right.” These aristocrats were giving sardonic smiles, as if gloating over the misery of the house of Norpu Che-ring.

Really the heartless depravity of these people was beyond description, and I could not help feeling angry with them. These same people, I thought, who seemed to take so much delight in the calamity of the family of Norpu Che-ring, must have vied with each other in courting his favor while he was in power and prosperity. Even if it were beyond the comprehension of these brutes to appreciate the meaning of that merciful principle which bids us “hate the offence[382] but pity the offender,” one would have expected them to be humane enough to show some sympathy towards this woman who was paying so dearly for her excusable indiscretion. But they seemed to be utterly impervious to such sentiments, and so behaved themselves in that shameful manner. I, who knew that political rivalry in Tibet was allowed to run to such an extreme as to involve even innocent women in painful punishment, felt sincerely sorry for the Lady Norpu, and returned to my residence with a heavy heart. My sentiment on that particular occasion is partially embodied in this uta that occurred to me as I retraced my heavy steps:

You, everchanging foolish herds of men,
As fickle as the dew upon the trees,
To blooming flowers your smiling welcome give;
Why should your tears of pity cease to flow
When blooms or withering flowers pass away?

On my return, when I saw my host, the former Minister of Finance, I related to him what I had seen in the street, and asked him to tell me all he knew about the affair. He fully shared my sympathy for the unfortunate woman.

While Norpu Che-ring was in power, my host told me, he was held in high respect. Nobody dared to whisper one word of blame about him and his wife. Now they were fallen, and he felt really sorry for them. It was true, he continued, that some people used to find fault with the private conduct of Norpu Che-ring, and the former Minister could not deny that there was some reason for that. But Temo Rinpoche was a venerable man, pure in life, pious and benevolent, and had met with such a sad end solely in consequence of the wicked intrigues of his followers. My host was perfectly certain that Temo Rinpoche had absolutely no hand in the plot. He said that he could not talk thus to others; he could be confidential to me alone.

Tortures are carried to the extreme of diabolical ingenuity. They are such as one might expect in hell. One[383] method consists in drilling a sharpened bamboo stick into the tender part of the tip of the fingers, as already described. Another consists in placing ‘stone-bonnets’ on the head of the victim. Each ‘bonnet’ weighs about eight pounds, and one after another is heaped on as the torture proceeds. The weight at first forces tears out of the eyes of the victim, but afterward, as the weight is increased, the very eye-balls are forced from their sockets. Then flogging, though far milder in itself, is a painful punishment, as it is done with a heavy rod, cut fresh from a willow tree, the criminal receiving it on the bared small of his back. The part is soon torn open by the lashing, and the blood that oozes out is scattered right and left as the beater continues his brutal task, until the prescribed number, three hundred or five hundred blows as the case may be, are given. Very often, and perhaps with the object of prolonging the torture, the flogging is suspended, and the poor victim receives a cup of water, after which the painful process is resumed. In nine cases out of ten the victims of this corporeal punishment fall ill, and while at Lhasa I more than once prescribed for persons who, as the result of flogging, were bleeding internally. The wounds caused by the flogging are shocking to see, as I know from my personal observations.

A prison-house is in any case an awful place, but more especially so in Tibet, for even the best of them has nothing but mud walls and a planked floor, and is very dark in the interior, even in broad day. This absence of sunlight is itself a serious punishment in such a cold country.

As for food, prisoners are fed only once a day with a couple of handfuls of baked flour. This is hardly sufficient to keep body and soul together, so that a prisoner is generally obliged to ask his friends to send him some food. Nothing, however, sent in from outside reaches the[384] prisoners entire, for the gaolers subtract for their own mouths more than half of it, and only a small portion of the whole quantity gets into the prisoners’ hands.

The most lenient form of punishment is a fine; then comes flogging, to be followed, at a great distance, by the extraction of the eye-balls; then the amputation of the hands. The amputation is not done all at once, but only after the hands have been firmly tied for about twelve hours, till they become completely paralysed. The criminals who are about to suffer amputation are generally suspended by the wrists from some elevated object with stout cord, and naughty street urchins are allowed to pull the cord up and down at their pleasure. After this treatment the hands are chopped off at the wrists in public. This punishment is generally inflicted on thieves and robbers after their fifth or sixth offence. Lhasa abounds in handless beggars and in beggars minus their eye-balls; and perhaps the proportion of eyeless beggars is larger than that of the handless ones.

Then there are other forms of mutilation also inflicted as punishment, and of these ear-cutting and nose-slitting are the most painful. Both parties in a case of adultery are visited with this physical deformation. These forms of punishment are inflicted by the authorities upon the accusation of the aggrieved party, the right of lodging the complaint being limited, however, to the husband; in fact he himself may with impunity cut off the ears or slit the noses of the criminal parties, when taken in flagrante delicto. He has simply to report the matter afterwards to the authorities.

With regard to exile there are two different kinds, one leaving a criminal to live at large in the exiled place, and the other, which is heavier, confining him in a local prison.

Capital punishment is carried out solely by immersion in water. There are two modes of this execution: one by[385] putting a criminal into a bag made of hides and throwing the bag with its live contents into the water; and the other by tying the criminal’s hands and feet and throwing him into a river with a heavy stone tied to his body. The executioners lift him out after about ten minutes, and if he is judged to be still alive, down they plunge him again, and this lifting up and down is repeated till the criminal expires. The lifeless body is then cut to pieces, the head alone being kept, and all the rest of the severed members are thrown into the river. The head is deposited in a head vase, either at once, or after it has been exposed in public for three or seven days, and the vase is carried to a building established for this sole purpose, which bears a horrible name signifying “Perpetual Damnation.” This practice comes from a superstition of the people that those whose heads are kept in that edifice will forever be precluded from being reborn in this world.

All these punishments struck me as entirely out of place for a country in which Buḍḍhist doctrines are held in such high respect. Especially did I think the idea of eternal damnation irreconcilable with the principles of mercy and justice, for I should say that execution ought to absolve criminals of their offences. Several other barbarous forms of punishment are in vogue, but these I may omit here, for what I have stated in the preceding paragraphs is enough to convey some idea of criminal procedure as it exists in the Forbidden Land.

I stayed in Lhasa till about the middle of October 1901, when I decided to return to Sera. My host kindly placed at my disposal one of his horses and on this I jogged towards my destination. The snow had been falling since the previous evening, and already the road was covered with a thick layer of its crystal carpet. It was the first snow of the season. On the road from Lhasa to Sera,[386] by Shom-khe-Lamkha (priest’s road), there is a river about half a mile on this side of Sera. This river dries up in winter, and on the day I am speaking of its bed was covered with snow. There I noticed a party of five or six young priestlings of Sera, absorbed in the innocent sport of snowballing. This highly amused me, calling forth in my mind’s eye the sights I had frequently come across at home, and reminding me that human nature is, after all, very much alike the world over. And so these little fellows were pelting each other with soft missiles, running and pursuing, shouting and laughing, forgetting for once the stern reprimanding voices of their exacting masters, and I amused myself with composing an uta, as follows.

On yonder fields of snow the children play,
And fight with snow-balls in great glee.
They throw and scatter these amongst themselves,
And in these heated contests melts the snow.

While I was watching the snow-fight, a burly fellow coming from the direction of Lhasa overtook me and began to stare at me. I at once recognised in him one of my old acquaintances, the youngest of the three brothers whom I accompanied on the pilgrimage round Lake Mānasarovara, who gave my face a sharp parting smack, as already told. He seemed to be quite astonished, even frightened, when he saw me, his whilom companion of humble attire, now transformed into an aristocratic-looking personage, such as I must have appeared to him. At any rate he avoided my eyes, and was about to walk off with hurried steps, when I bade him stop, and asked him if he had forgotten my face. The man could not but confess that he had not, and told me that he was going to Sera. I made him come along with me, and treated him quite hospitably at my quarters in the monastery, besides giving him a farewell present on parting. When I thanked him for all the trouble he had taken for[387] me during our pilgrimage, the man bowed his head as if in repentance, and even shed tears, no doubt of remorse. Before taking his departure he told me that his brothers were living together at their native place, and that they were all doing well.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:56 am

CHAPTER LVII. A grim Funeral and grimmer Medicine.

It was just previous to the grand monthly catechising contest that I returned to the Sera monastery. While I was busy with preparation, and in eager expectation of taking part in this important function, one of my acquaintances died and I had to attend his funeral. Incidentally therefore I took part in a ceremony which is perhaps unique in the world. I may observe here that in Tibetan funerals neither a coffin nor urn is used in which to deposit the corpse. It is simply laid on a frame made of two wooden poles, with a proper space between and two cross pieces tied to them. The rectangular space thus described is filled in with a rough sort of network of ropes, and over the netting is spread a sheet of cloth for the reception of the corpse. Another piece of cloth, pure white in color, is thrown over the corpse, and that completes the arrangement. The whole burden is then carried on the shoulders of two men, who insert their heads between the projecting ends of the two longer poles.

Generally a funeral is performed on the third or fourth day after death, the interval being spent in observances peculiar to Tibet. First of all a properly qualified Lama is consulted as to the auspicious day for performing the ceremony; then as to the special mode of funeral and the final disposal of the corpse. The Lama consulted gives his instructions on all these points after referring to his books, and bids the relatives of the deceased read such and such passages in the Sacred Texts, conduct the funeral ceremony on such and such day, and take the bier from the house at such and such an hour of the day.[389] The priest also advises on the mode of burial, of which there are four in vogue; the four modes being distinguishable from each other by the agencies to be brought into service, namely: water, flame, earth, and birds of the air. This last corresponds to the “air-burial” of Buhism.

Of the four kinds of burial, or more properly modes of disposing of corpses, the one generally regarded as the best is to leave the corpse to the vultures, known under the name of Cha-goppo in Tibet; then comes cremation; then water-burial, and last land-burial. This last method of interment is never adopted except when a person dies from small-pox. In this particular case alone the Tibetans observe some sanitary principles, though probably by mere accident and not from any conviction, for they think that this dreadful epidemic is likely to spread if the corpse of a person stricken down by small-pox is left for birds or consigned to a river. Though cremation is considered as a superior way of disposing of dead bodies, the process is by no means easy in a country where faggots are scarce, for the dried dung of the yak is hardly thought proper for the purpose. Hence cremation is confined to the wealthier class only. Water-burial generally takes place near a large stream; but, in consigning a dead body to the water, it is first thoroughly dismembered, and thrown into the water piece by piece. This troublesome course is adopted from the idea that a dead body thrown in whole will not speedily disappear from sight.

These four processes of disposing of corpses originate from Hindu philosophy, according to which human bodies are believed to consist of four elements, earth, water, fire and air, and it is thought that on death they should return to these original elements. Land-burial corresponds to the returning to earth, cremation to fire, water-burial to water, and the bird-devouring[390] to the air, of which birds are the denizens. The bodies of Lamas are mostly disposed of by this last process, while those of a few privileged persons only, such as the Dalai Lama, sub-Dalai Lama and other venerable Lamas, believed to be incarnations of Bodhisattvas, are given a special mode of burial.

‘Air-burial’ was chosen for the friend whose funeral I attended, and I shall briefly describe how this ‘burial’ was performed. Leaving the college at Sera, the cortège proceeded eastward till it reached the bank of a river near which, in a small valley formed between two contiguous hills, stood a big boulder about twelve yards high. The top of this stone was level and measured about fifteen feet square. This was the ‘burial-ground’ for this particular kind of interment. On the summits of the surrounding hills, and even on the inaccessible parts of the rock itself, were perched a large number of vultures, with their eyes glistening with greed. They are always waiting there for ‘burials’. When the bier was placed upon this rock, the white sheet was taken off, and the priest who had come, with the rest of the mourners and sympathisers, began to chant their texts to the accompaniment of drums and cymbals. At the same time one man approached the corpse with a broadsword, with which to ‘dress’ it. In ‘dressing’ the abdomen was first cut open and the entrails removed. Next all the various members of the body were severed, after which some other men, including a few priests, undertook the finishing work of final ‘dressing’, which consisted in separating the flesh and bones, just as butchers do with slaughtered cattle. By this time the vultures had gathered in a flock round the place, and big pieces, such as the flesh of the thighs, were thrown to them and most voraciously[392] did they devour them. Then the bones had to be disposed of, and this was done by first throwing them into one of the ten cavities on the rock, and pounding the heap with big stones. When the bones had been fairly well pulverised a quantity of baked flour was added to the mass, and this dainty mixture was also given to the birds. The only thing that remained of the dead body was the hair.


The Tibetans may practically be considered as a kind of cannibals. I was struck with this notion while witnessing the burial ceremony. All the cloths used in the burial go as a matter of course to the grave-diggers, though they hardly deserve this name, as their duty consists not in digging the grave but in chopping the flesh of the corpse and pounding the bones. Even priests give them help, for the pounding business is necessarily tedious and tiresome. Meanwhile the pounders have to take refreshment, and tea is drunk almost incessantly, for Tibetans are great tea-drinkers. The grave-diggers, or priests, prepare tea, or help themselves to baked flour, with their hands splashed over with a mash of human flesh and bones, for they never wash their hands before they prepare tea or take food, the most they do being to clap their hands, so as to get rid of the coarser fragments. And thus they take a good deal of minced human flesh, bones or brain, mixed with their tea or flour. They do so with perfect nonchalance; in fact, they have no idea whatever how really abominable and horrible their practice is, for they are accustomed to it. When I suggested that they might wash their hands before taking refreshment, they looked at me with an air of surprise. They scoffed at my suggestion, and even observed that eating with unwashed hands really added relish to food; besides, the spirit of the dead man would be satisfied when he saw them take fragments of his mortal remains with their food without aversion. It has been stated that the Tibetans[393] are descendants of the Rākshasa tribe—a tribe of fiendish cannibals who used to feed on human flesh; and what I witnessed at the burial convinced me that, even at the present day, they retained the horrible habit of their ancestors.

The enemy of Tibet and of Lamaism is now represented in effigy, but before cutting it to pieces, it is used to convey to the people a vivid conception of the manner in which devils attack a corpse, and the necessity for priestly services of a quasi-Buddhist sort to guard it and its soul.

Some days previous to the commencement of the play, an image26 of a young lad is made out of dough, in most elaborate fashion, and as life-like as possible. Organs representing the heart, lungs, liver, brain, stomach, intestines, etc., are inserted into it, and the heart and large blood-vessels and limbs are filled with a red-coloured fluid to represent blood. And occasionally, I am informed on good authority, actual flesh from the corpses of criminals27 is inserted into the image used in this ceremony28 at the established church of Potala.

This effigy of the enemy is brought forth by the four cemetery-ghouls,29 and laid in the centre of the square, and freely stabbed by the weapons, and by the gestures and spells of the circling hosts of demons, as in the illustration here given.

The necromantic power of the Lamas is here shown much in the same way as in the Burmese sacred play at Arakan.30 On three signals with the cymbals, two Indian monks (Acaryas) come out of the monastery, and blow their horns and go through a series of droll antics, and are followed by two or more Lamas who draw around the effigy on the pavement of the quadrangle a magic triangle and retire. Then rush in the ghosts, death-demons, "figures painted black and white to simulate skeletons, some in chains, others bearing sickles or swords, engaged in a frantic dance around the corpse. They were apparently attempting to snatch it away or inflict some injury on it, but were deterred by the magic effect of the surrounding triangle and by the chanting and censer-swinging of several holy men in mitred and purple copes. . . .

"A more potent and very ugly fiend, with great horns on his head and huge lolling tongue, ran in, hovered threateningly over the corpse, and with a great sword slashed furiously about it, just failing by little more than a hair's-breadth to touch it with each sweep of the blade. He seemed as if he were about to overcome the opposing enchantment when a saint of still greater power than he now came to the rescue. The saint approached the corpse and threw a handful of flour on it, making mystic signs and muttering incantations. This appeared from his mask to be one of the incarnations of Buddha. He had more control over the evil spirits than any other who had yet contended with them. The skeletons, and also he that bore the great sword, grovelled before him, and with inarticulate and beast-like cries implored mercy. He yielded to their supplications, gave each one a little of the flour he carried with him, which the fiends ate gratefully, kneeling before him; and he also gave them to drink out of a vessel of holy water."32

This usually concludes one day's performance.33 On the following day adoration is paid to the Jina, by whom unreformed Lamas seem to intend St. Padma-sambhava. And mustard-seed is blessed and thrown at the enemy with singing, dancing, and incantations. And then occurs the ceremony of stabbing the enemy by the phurbu or mystic dagger.

our ghouls bring in an object wrapped in a black cloth, and placing it on the ground, dance round it with intricate steps, then raising the cloth disclose a prone image of a man, which has been made in the manner previously described.

Then enter the demon-generals and kings, including the demon Tam-din, and they dance around the image. They are followed by the fiendesses, including the twelve Tan-ma, under Devi. These are followed by the black-hat devil-dancers, and these are, in the established church version, held to represent the Lama who assumed this disguise to assassinate king Lan-darma. The four guards now hold the door to prevent entry of any enemies or evil spirits. The black-hats dance round thrice and are succeeded by the god of Wealth, fiendesses, and butchers, the five great "kings,"34 and their queens and ministers, also the state sorcerer of Na-ch'un, and his eight-fold attendants.35

Then enters a fearful fiend named "The holy king of Religion,"36 with the head of a bull, holding in his right hand a dagger with silk streamers, and in his left a human heart (in effigy) and a snare, attended by a retinue of fiends and fiendesses, bearing weapons and dressed in skins,37 human beings, tigers and leopards; and the last to enter are tiger-skin-clad warriors with bows and arrows. This part of the Demon-king can only be taken by a monk of the purest morals, and the costly dress which this actor wears at the play at Potala is one presented by the emperor of China.

The King-devil, surrounded by his fiendish hordes, dances and makes with dagger the gesture of "The Three"; he stabs the heart, arms and legs of the figure, and binds its feet by the snare. He then rings a bell, and seizing a sword, chops off the limbs and slits open the breast and extracts the bleeding heart, lungs and intestines.

A troupe of monsters, with the heads of deer and yaks, rush in and gore the remains and scatter the fragments with their horns and hands to the four directions.38

Underling fiends now collect the fragments into a huge silver basin shaped like a skull, which four of them carry to the Demon-king in a pompous procession, in which the black-hat devil-dancers join. The Demon-king then seizes the bleeding fragments, and, eating a morsel, throws them up in the air, when they are caught and fought for by the other demons, who throw the pieces about in a frantic manner, and ultimately throwing them amongst the crowd, which now takes part in the orgie, and a general melee results, each one scrambling for morsels of the fragments, which some eat and others treasure as talismans against wounds, diseases and misfortunes.

-- The Buddhism of Tibet, or Lamaism: with its mystic cults, symbolism and mythology, and in its relation to Indian Buddhism, by Laurence Austine Waddell

While the burial ceremony is going on, a religious service is also conducted at the house of the deceased, and when the ceremony is over, those who have attended it call at the house of the bereaved family, where they are feasted by its members. I noticed that at this entertainment intoxicants are served only to the laity. This discrimination is not observed, however, in the country districts.

I shall next describe the mode of burying a Dalai Lama or a high-priest.

When a person of high distinction dies, his body is put in a big box and marsh salt is copiously sprinkled over it till it is thoroughly imbedded in this alkaline padding. All this while, religious chanting goes on, accompanied by the music of flutes, pipes and other instruments. The box is then kept in a temple for about three months, during which time offerings are made regularly, as when the deceased was yet alive, and his disciples keep vigil over it by turns. Before the coffin lights are kept burning in several golden burners containing melted butter, while holy water is offered in seven silver vessels. Flowers of the season are also offered with other things. Every one allowed to worship near the remains is expected to make some offering in kind, accompanied by a small sum of money. By the time the three months have elapsed, all the watery portion of the corpse has been absorbed by the salt, and it has become hard and dry. It seems to me (though I am not quite sure) that the Tibetan salt contains a large percentage of soda or other alkalies; at any rate it is somewhat different from the[394] salt found in Japan. Perhaps some special ingredients are mixed in the salt, when it is used for packing a corpse.

Be that as it may, when it is taken out of the coffin the corpse is thoroughly hardened, and has all its parts shrunk up, owing to the loss of all fluid elements, and the eyes are sunk in their sockets. Then follows the process of ‘dressing’ the hardened corpse. The ‘dressing’ in this case is made with a compound of a certain kind of clay and pulverised particles of white sandalwood, and also probably certain drugs of foreign production. This compound is carefully spread over all parts of the body. It is finally gilded, and a ‘natural’ image is the result. This image is put in a tabernacle enclosed in a small outer structure, which is highly decorated, and the whole thing, image and all, is kept in a shrine. Such shrines are found in many parts of Tibet; in the premises of the Tashi Lhunpo monastery at Shigatze five such edifices are found, their roofs resplendent with gold. In construction these roofs very much resemble the double roof of a palace or similar building in China, and of course the decoration and size of the edifice and tabernacle are different according to the rank of the canonised Lamas, some of these structures being inlaid with gold and others with silver.

At any rate, these images are objects of veneration to the Tibetans; both priests and ordinary people visit and worship them. This peculiar mode of embalming high Lamas has been wittily commented upon by a certain Chinaman, who remarks that the practice is inconsistent with the strong prejudice which Tibetans possess against earth-burial, as this mode of burial, according to their superstition, sends the dead person to hell. For the treatment accorded to the dead body of a Grand Lama, or other distinguished priest, is in fact a sort of earth-burial, in that the corpse is not given to birds or consigned to rivers or[395] flames, but is preserved in clay after it has been salted and hardened.

Now I come to the most wonderful medicines in the world. The first is the salt used in packing corpses. This salt is considered as an article of great virtue, and accessible only to a limited number of the privileged class. It is distributed only among aristocratic people, and among priests of distinction.

Only the wealthy merchants and great patrons of temples may hope, through some powerful influence, to obtain a small quantity of this precious dirt. The salt is a panacea for the Tibetan, who swallows a small dose either by itself or dissolved in water for all kinds of ills that flesh is heir to—from a slight attack of cold to a serious case of fatal disease. Whatever medical quality this loathsome compound possesses, one thing is certain—that it exercises a powerful influence upon the untutored minds of the ignorant Tibetans, and so excellently serves the purpose of “mental cure”. The salt medicine reminds me of the existence in Tibet (and happily nowhere else) of another sort of panacea equally abominable. The mere mention of the real nature of this second series of so-called medicines, would, instead of curing the people of other countries, infallibly make them sick, as the essential ingredients are nothing less than the excreta, both liquid and solid, of the Grand Lama or other high priests. These are mixed with other substances and are made into pills, which are gilded over and sometimes colored red. These pills, known under the name of Tsa Chen-norpu (precious balls) are not on sale, they being accessible to ordinary people only through some powerful influence, and even then only by paying for them a large sum of money. The Tibetan is glad, however, to procure these pills at any cost, for he is under a fond delusion that they possess a most effective curative power. They are kept as something[396] like a family treasure, and are used as the last resort, when all other means of treatment have failed. When, by some accident, a patient despaired of by doctors recovers after he has been dosed with a few of the ‘precious pills,’ the people of course extol their merit to the skies; while if he dies, his case is regarded as having been beyond cure, and the pills remain therefore the object of undiminished faith. To do justice to this superstition, I ought to add that the common Tibetans are kept entirely in the dark as to the ingredients of the pills; they are taken as medicines prepared by the Grand Lama himself according to a certain secret formula, and the shocking secret is known only to a select few, who are entitled to attend the Dalai Lama’s court.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:57 am

CHAPTER LVIII. Foreign Explorers and the Policy of Seclusion.

During the first decade of November, 1901, I returned to Lhasa to enjoy as before the hospitality of the ex-Minister. At that time the Finance Minister of the day was somewhat less occupied, and being, as I stated before, a nephew of the nun who was mistress of the house where I was a guest, and a gentleman of refined and affable manners, he used often to call on and be invited to sit with the ex-Minister, the nun and myself, and to take part in our chats. Sometimes I called upon the Minister of the day in his apartments to talk with him. On one occasion our conversation touched on the subject of a British female missionary, who attempted to visit Lhasa.

“I wonder why British people are so desirous to come to our country,” observed the Minister in the course of our talk. “I cannot at all understand their motive. For instance, a British woman arrived some eight or nine years ago at a place called Nakchukha on the boundary between Tibet and China. She came there with two servants determined to enter Tibet.”

It at once occurred to me that the Minister was referring to the case of one Miss Annie R. Taylor, a missionary, who attempted to travel from northern China to Darjeeling via Lhasa. My host did not know, or could not remember, her name, but I knew it very well, having been told of her bold venture while I was staying at Darjeeling, where I accidentally met with one of the guides who had accompanied her. But I prudently kept what I knew to myself, and listened to the Minister as one eager to hear a strange and interesting story. The Minister went on to tell me how the lady was stopped by the natives of[398] the place from proceeding further. It was very fortunate that the chieftain of the local tribe was a man of a merciful turn of mind, as otherwise she would have been murdered there and then. A report on the matter was soon forwarded to Lhasa by the magistrate of the district, and my host was then ordered by his Government to hasten to the spot, and deal with the foreign adventuress in a suitable manner. In other words his commission was to cause the lady at once to quit Tibetan soil. The Minister took with him two of his servants, besides a number of coolies, the party altogether numbering about thirty.

Arrived at Nakchukha, he at once caused the lady to be brought to him; but when he saw her, he at first could not understand what she was saying, for although she spoke Tibetan, it was in a dialect differing from that in vogue at Lhasa. At last he succeeded in gathering the drift of what she had to say, which was to this effect. She had come to Tibet in order to acquaint herself with the sacred teachings of Tibetan Buḍḍhism. With that object she wanted to make a pilgrimage to Lhasa and to return home by way of Darjeeling. She then showed to the Minister a passport she had obtained from the Emperor of China. The Minister told her that personally he highly appreciated the lady’s purpose, but he was under strict orders from the Grand Lama’s Government to forbid the entrance of the lady and of any other foreigner within his dominions. Should she, in disregard of this intimation, dare to push her way into the interior, she would be sure to meet with some terrible mishap, perhaps death, for the Grand Lama’s Government could not extend its protection to a foreigner who, in defiance of its well-meant warning, should attempt a journey through the wild districts of Tibet. His Government did not like the idea of being entangled needlessly in trouble with another country, and therefore absolutely demanded the withdrawal of the lady from[399] Tibet. As a messenger of the Grand Lama’s Government, especially despatched for this purpose, he must ask the lady to retrace her steps. The Minister dwelt on this point courteously but firmly.

The lady on her part equally remained unyielding in her original declaration, and persisted on repeating her request, not for one or two days only, but even for four or five days in succession. When the Minister pointed out how foolhardy she was in her desire, and why she should rather return the way she had come under the protection of the Grand Lama’s Government, which would, in that case, escort her back as far as some safe place, the lady demanded an explanation as to why a person, possessing a passport obtained from the Emperor of China, could not travel through Tibet, which was a protectorate under that Emperor. The Minister admitted the suzerainty of the Chinese Emperor, but said that, at the same time, they were not obliged to obey the Emperor’s will in everything, and that especially in the matter of seclusion they were determined to oppose even the Emperor, should he try by force to set aside this traditional policy. He further added, as he told me, that if the lady should still persist in her intention, he would be constrained to put her two Tibetan guides under arrest, and punish them according to the laws of the land. This punishment would be waived, however, if the lady desisted from her purpose and withdrew from Tibet.

After all these protracted negotiations, the lady was at last induced to give up her point, and in about half a day’s time after their last meeting she came to acquaint him with the change in her resolution. As it was ascertained that the lady and her guides were subject to much discomfort, having suffered robbery on the way, the Minister kindly gave her some necessaries before she left Tibet for China.

After having narrated all these things the Minister once more gave vent to his feeling of wonder at the inexplic[400]able eagerness which foreigners were wont to show in their desire to visit his country. I for my part replied discreetly that neither did I know why they should wish to enter it, but that I had heard that such attempts on the part of foreigners were not a novelty. The Minister himself knew that cases of strangers making attempts similar to that of the British lady were not rare, and our conversation next turned to this part of Tibetan history.

The first authentic story of the arrival of a foreigner in Tibet is recorded in the year 1328, when a priest of Pordenone, named Friar Odoric, entered Tibet as a propagandist of the Roman Catholic Church. His attempt failed, chiefly because the Tibetans of the time had nothing in particular to learn from Odoric, for Tibet possessed many priests of its own, who were able to perform many things differing little from those recorded of Jesus Christ in their miraculous character. Indeed Odoric himself seems to have profited by what he saw in Tibet, instead of imparting anything new to the natives. He took notes of many wonderful things performed by Tibetan priests, and took them home, but he burnt most of those notes, for fear that their publication might compromise the interests of his own religion. So only a fragment of the account of his travels was preserved.

Some persons attribute this destruction of his own notes by Odoric to the inaccuracies which he had subsequently discovered, and claim that he destroyed them in order not to mislead future generations. This explanation has generally been accepted in preference to the other—that the Tibetan Buḍḍhism of the fourteenth century possessed a larger number of miracles than those of Christianity. That the latter was the more correct explanation of the two may be inferred, however, from the fact that the Roman Catholic Church, while devoting great energy to propagating its doctrines in China, kept[401] itself aloof from Tibet, having come to the conclusion that that country was beyond its evangelising power.

In 1661 two brothers named Grueber and D’Orville, probably Frenchmen, entered Tibet. It is doubtful whether they proceeded as far as Lhasa, though it is stated that they went from Pekin to Lhasa and thence through Nepāl to India. When Warren Hastings was the Viceroy of India, he conceived the idea of establishing a regular trade connexion between India and Tibet, and dispatched a commissioner, named George Bogle, to the latter country in the year 1774. Bogle was accompanied by his wife. He failed to reach Lhasa, but remained at Shigatze, and his account of the journey is still extant in print. In 1781 Hastings again dispatched a commissioner, this time under Captain Turner, who stayed in Tibet for two years. Only one English explorer reached Lhasa from India. That man was Thomas Manning, and it was in 1811.

About that time trade between India and Tibet had grown active, but with the termination of Hasting’s viceroyalty and his return to England the trade began to flag for lack of encouragement, till it ceased altogether. All channels of communications have since that time become almost closed between the two countries. Meanwhile other Christian missionaries had begun pushing on their work with great activity, even up to Lhasa, which they entered freely, and also to other places, some of them not far from that city, and this movement on the part of foreign propagandists put the Grand Lama’s Government on its guard. Coming down as late as 1871, a Russian Colonel named Prejevalsky entered Tibet across its eastern border through Kham, and reached a place about five hundred miles from Lhasa. But he was compelled to return thence homeward, at the bidding of Tibet’s hierarchical Government. Apparently he at first passed through the Chinese region of Tibet, but was stopped as soon as he had set his feet in the[402] Dalai Lama’s dominions. This Russian Officer, undaunted by his first failure, next tried to enter Tibet from the north, and this time he reached a place about one hundred and seventy miles from Lhasa on the boundary line between the Chinese and the Tibetan territories, but was again obliged to withdraw.

In 1879 an Englishman named Captain Hill entered Tibet from the direction of Ta-chien-lu, but he also had to withdraw from Ba-lithang on the boundary between the Chinese and Tibetan dominions. It was at this place also that the Japanese priests, Messrs. Nōmi and Teramoto, were driven back. My host the Minister once incidentally referred to Mr. Nōmi’s attempt, and said that two priests from a country named Japan reached Ba-lithang some years ago, but they were ordered to withdraw, as it was not sufficiently clear whether they were really Buḍḍhist priests or persons of other callings.

The last exploration I would mention here is that undertaken in 1881 and 1882 by Saraṭ Chanḍra Ḍās, my own teacher, of whom mention has been made several times already. This Hinḍū had obtained in a very ingenious way a pass from the Tibetan Government, and, armed with it, he first proceeded as far as Shigatze, where he remained for two months; after awhile he returned to India. That was in 1881. The result of his exploration was reported to the British Government, and he was for a second time asked to undertake another trip into Tibet in the following year, having secured as before a Tibetan passport. On his second visit he first reached Shigatze and afterward entered Lhasa. As I heard from a Tibetan, he conducted his mission with extreme caution, seldom venturing abroad in the daytime, and when obliged to do so he took every care to avoid attracting the attention of the natives. He spent most of his time in a room of a temple, and there secretly carried[403] out his investigations. In this way he stayed in Lhasa for twenty days; then he went back to his sphere of work in other parts of Tibet and at last returned to Darjeeling after an absence of less than a year.

I have mentioned, in a preceding chapter that when the real nature of the mission of Saraṭ Chanḍra Ḍās had become known to the Tibetan Government, it caused extraordinary disturbance, involving all the officials who had been on duty at the barrier-gates through which the Hinḍū had passed, as well as all the persons who had extended any sort of hospitality to him during his stay in the country. All these persons were thrown into prison and their property was confiscated. A number of those whose complicity, unwitting though it was, was judged more serious than that of the others were condemned to death and executed. After this memorable occurrence, Tibet resolved more than ever to enforce strictly the policy of exclusion against all foreigners.

In 1886 a Secretary of the American Legation at Peking, Mr. Rockhill, tried to enter Tibet, only to repeat the failure of others, and all other Christian missionaries who made similar attempts about that time were also unsuccessful. The number of abortive Tibetan explorers must be quite large; I myself heard of some twenty-five or twenty-six. I should not wonder if the number would reach forty or even fifty, when all the would-be explorers are taken into account. I have frequently seen in our Japanese magazines and newspapers articles about Tibet, which are highly misleading and often fictitious. The fact must be that those articles are written on the incorrect information found in most works on Tibet, and that the inaccuracy is further aggravated by the inventive brains of the writers of the articles. One of the most conspicuous instances of this kind is furnished in the case of A. Csoma de Körös, a Hungarian, who first[404] compiled a Tibetan-English dictionary, having learned the language from a Lama in Ladak, a district on the south-western boundary of Tibet, next to British India, where the compiler resided for more than three years. The author wanted to study the Tibetan language on its native soil and for that reason attempted to enter Tibet. He found it impossible to carry out his plan from Ladak, as the Tibetan frontier guards there forbade the entry into their country of a stranger. Then it occurred to him that he might succeed in his project if he started from Darjeeling, and thither he went. Unfortunately, he caught jungle-fever while travelling in the neighborhood of Darjeeling and died there, never having put his foot on Tibetan soil. His tomb even now stands at a place near Darjeeling, probably at the place where he fell ill. Writers on Tibet, both Japanese and Western, mostly represent this Csoma as having spent many years in Lhasa, and that is where the fiction comes in. Another lexicographer, Jaeschke, compiled a Tibetan dictionary based on, but much better than Csoma’s. Jaeschke never entered Tibet, and yet he is generally credited with having successfully crossed the border and reached Lhasa, and lived there for a considerable period. All such errors being made by Western writers as well as by the Japanese, I do not of course mean to blame the latter alone.

Besides the attempts at Tibetan exploration already referred to, there have from time to time been a number of missionaries or spies despatched by either Russia or England, who have frequently appeared at Tibetan frontier stations only to arouse the suspicions of the Grand Lama’s Government, until the latter has become irrevocably committed to the policy of absolute seclusion. To do justice to the Tibetans, they were originally a people highly hospitable to strangers. This sentiment was superseded[405] by one of fear and even of antipathy, as the result of an insidious piece of advice which, probably prompted by some policy of its own, the Government of China gave to Tibet; it was to the effect that if the latter allowed the free entrance of foreigners into her territories, they would destroy her Buḍḍhism, and replace it with Christianity. The simple-minded Tibetan became dreadfully alarmed at this warning; but even then he did not all at once put the policy of exclusion into full force. The absolute exclusion dates from the discovery of Saraṭ Chanḍra Ḍās’ mission. Since then, the enforcement of the exclusion policy has become so strict that it now seems as though Tibet has been converted into a nation of detectives and constables.

Especially for European people, with such visible marks of racial distinction on the surface and also because they are accustomed to make their attempts on a large scale, it has become morally impossible to enter Tibet. Dr. Sven Hedin, for example, tried to enter repeatedly from the north, while I was staying at Lhasa, but each time the renowned explorer was baffled in his attempt, and he finally gave it up altogether[3]. In view of such repeated attempts on the part of foreigners, both the Lamas and ordinary people could not but suspect the motive of these adventurers, and they have therefore naturally come to the conclusion that all those foreigners must be entertaining some sinister designs on Tibet. The popular idea about the supposed designs of England is interesting, for the natives attribute it to the desire on the part of English people to take possession of gold mines which are plentifully found in their country. This is of course a very superficial view, so far as the interest England seems to feel toward Tibet is concerned; for the Tibetan policy of that country, in my own humble[406] opinion, comes from the desire to prevent Russia from bringing Tibet under her sway and from using that highland as a base of operations in carrying out her ambitious projects on India, for it is evident that, with Russia securely established up there, England would hardly be able to feel secure about the safety of India.

The Tibetan Minister of the Treasury once said to me that it would indeed be a great humiliation to Tibet if ever she were reduced to being a tributary of another country, but that there might be another calamity far more disastrous and unbearable in its effect, and that was the danger of her national religion being superseded by a strange faith. Therefore, the Minister continued, Tibet must oppose, at all costs, any plans made by foreigners against her, and consequently the latter should be prevented from hearing of the existence of factious rivalries in the Hierarchy, for should they get an inkling of this state of affairs, it would not take them long to turn this internal dissension to serve their own mischievous ends. Hence it was absolutely necessary for Tibet that she should forbid the entry of all foreigners and keep them in the dark as to the real condition of the country. It will thus be seen that the seclusion policy, which primarily originated in religious motives, has since acquired a greater force from political considerations, and it is not strange that no foreigners have been allowed to enter Tibet since the revelation of the secret mission of Saraṭ Chanḍra Ḍās. That incident, the then Minister of Finance told me in referring to it, impressed the Tibetans more strongly than ever with the necessity of locking their door against the intrusion of all foreigners.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:58 am

CHAPTER LIX. A Metropolis of Filth.

Shortly after I had the conversation recorded in the last chapter with the Finance Minister, I went out with the ex-Minister and his attendants for a walk round the lingkor (circuit) of Lhasa, this being the outermost circuit surrounding the city, and measuring about six miles. The journey round this circuit is considered as a highly pious act by Tibetans, who believe that it amounts to visiting every temple and sacred stone house contained within the circuit. There are several modes of performing this journey—walking steadily along, making a bow at each step, or making one at every three steps. Our journey on that occasion had no such religious meaning; it was merely a walk. The walk, however, was rather trying to me, for my host was very tall and had very long legs, so that I had to hurry to keep pace even with his leisurely steps.

By the side of this circuit and to the east of Lhasa stood a queerly shaped high fence, made of countless yak’s horns. The fence measures from one hundred and twenty to two hundred and forty yards in length and as it is entirely composed of the horns, it is hardly possible to form an idea even in imagination of how many horns went to the construction of the fence. The enclosure is used as a slaughtering place for yak. It was not the first time that I had seen that fence, but on that particular day I was able to observe it with greater care than ever before. When I remarked to the ex-Minister how immense must be the number of the beasts that had been slaughtered in the enclosure, my host replied that he felt pity for the beasts. We soon arrived at an opening in the fence and, peeping[408] in, I saw some thirty yaks brought there for slaughter. The work was done in a manner quite improper for such a Buḍḍhist country as Tibet, for no pious ceremony was performed, such as the touching of the head of a beast about to be slaughtered with a Buḍḍhist Text. It was butchered quite unceremoniously, in a thoroughly business-like manner. I subsequently learned that the slaughter of animals is undertaken in Lhasa exclusively by Chinese Muhammeḍans, who are of course not expected to care much about such ceremonies. As it was, I saw a slaughterman chop off the head of a yak in a very impious manner, and in the presence of the other poor beasts, which were staring with tearful eyes at the butchery of their comrades. I really felt pity for the beasts.

The ex-Minister was apparently impressed with a similar sentiment, for he told me that he felt as though he could hardly swallow a morsel of meat after he had witnessed such a horrible scene; yet such is human depravity, he continued, that people soon forget this tender feeling of compassion when they return home, and are displeased if no meat is served to them at table. He could not but conclude therefore that the Tibetans must be the descendants of Rākshasas or devils, and that the blood of those impious savages must be still running in their veins.

The circuit is kept in excellent repair (comparatively speaking, that is to say) for the Hierarchy maintains a regular staff of road-commissioners who are charged with the duty of keeping the circuit in good condition for the benefit of the pilgrims, who not unfrequently have to kneel on the ground for their devotions.

The contrast which the condition of the circuit makes with that of ordinary thoroughfares is beyond description. It is not merely that the other roads are full of holes, but also that they have in their midst open cesspools, specially constructed and openly frequented by both men and[409] women. The filth, the stench, the utter abomination of the streets are extremely loathsome, especially after rains in summer, for though there are plenty of dogs feeding about in the streets they are not enough for the supply. Then remember that the Lhasa people drink water from the shallow wells standing amidst such abominable surroundings. The meaning of the word Lhasa itself is indeed absolutely inappropriate; it signifies the ‘ground of deities,’ and therefore supposedly a place of purity. As Panden Aṭīsha remarked, a place in Tibet is really a city of devils, who subsist on vile substances. I have often heard of the filthy condition of the streets in Chinese cities, but I hardly believe they can be as filthy as the streets in Lhasa, where the people live in utter defiance of all rules of hygiene and even decency. The wonder is how they can escape being exterminated by pestilence, which would be sure to visit most other places that neglected, even in a far lesser degree, the laws of sanitation; and yet, from what I observed during my residence in Lhasa, the people did not seem to suffer to any perceptible extent from such unhygienic surroundings. My own theory is that this immunity from epidemic must be due to the extremely healthy climate of Lhasa. The winter there is sufficiently cold, but is less uncomfortable than in our Hokkaido, for though at night the mercury falls below freezing point, it rises to forty or fifty degrees Fahrenheit in the daytime. In summer, too, the thermometer rarely rises much above eighty. Indeed of all the places I have travelled in or heard of, Lhasa seems to come first in point of a healthy climate. It is owing to this precious gift of nature that the people of Lhasa can live with impunity amidst filth and general contaminations.

All these thoughts occurred to me while I walked round the circuit with the ex-Minister, and also whenever I took a walk in the city.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:59 am

CHAPTER LX. Lamaism.

I must here give a brief description of the Tibetan religion, for without it any intelligent explanation of the political system is impossible, while some notice, however cursory, of the administrative organisation must precede an account of Tibetan diplomacy, upon which I also wish to touch briefly.

In describing the Tibetan national religion, I must confine myself only to a popular exposition of the subject, and must leave out of consideration as much as possible other matters that are ulterior and technical.

With that premise I must first of all state that Lamaism is divided into two main branches, one older and the other more modern, the former being popularly known as the ‘Red Cap Sect’ and the latter as the ‘Yellow Cap.’ The older Sect is subdivided into a large number of sub-sects, such as Sakya, Karmapa, Dukpa, Zokchenpa, and others, but they all agree upon cardinal points and in the formula for attaining perfection.

The founder of the Old Sect was a Ṭānṭric priest named Lobon Padma Chungne in Tibetan. That name was derived from a popular tradition that he was born into this world out of a lotus flower in the Pond of Ḍanakosha, in a Royal garden of the Kingdom of Urken, now in Cabul. His career is full of myths far more fantastic than any of those in the Japanese mythology, and there is very little that is tangible and rational about it. One thing seems to be certain—that, although a priest, he strictly enjoined on his disciples the practices of flesh-eating, marriage and drinking. He ingeniously grafted carnal practices on to Buḍḍhist doctrines, and declared that the only secret of[411] perfection for priests consisted in leading a jovial life, and that by this means alone a man born into this world of ‘five impurities’ can hope to attain quickly to Buḍḍhahood and salvation.


The doctrine that it is necessary to satisfy carnal desires is based on the theory that great desires partake of the nature of Mahāboḍhi; that as the greatest of human desires is sensuality, therefore man can attain Mahāboḍhi by indulging this passion, for by it he can best realise the first essential of the reality of Āṭman, that is oblivion[412] of self. The eating of animal flesh, another craving of men, conforms to the principle of mercy, because the soul of the animal can be brought under the beneficial influence of the Boḍhi in the eater, and is thus enabled indirectly to attain this supreme state. Liquors give pleasure to men, so that to enjoy ourselves by drinking them and to live a pleasant life is an ideal state obtained by an intelligent act. In short, according to the doctrines of the Old Sect, men can attain Buḍḍhahood by holy contemplation accompanied by drinking liquors, eating flesh, and indulgence in carnal desires. Such are, in the main, the fundamental tenets of this particular Sect, the details of which I could not give here even if I had ample space at my disposal, for they are too full of obscenity. I may say, however, that this Sect tries to justify the indulgence of human desires under the sanction of Buḍḍhism.

In Japan also there once existed the Tatekawa school of the Shingon Sect, which did much to corrupt social order and morals by preaching similar pernicious theories, though it is not possible to speak authoritatively on this subject, as very few fragments of the texts and canonical writings of that suppressed school are now extant. However, the scope and plan of that quasi-religion must have been extremely limited.

The Old Sect of Tibet is, on the other hand, on a large scale and its doctrine has obtained a wide credence throughout the country.

The texts of this sect are still extant in Tibet and the Samskṛṭ texts prepared in India with Tibetan translations are fairly numerous. The Old Sect has undergone considerable modifications since its introduction into Tibet, for the Lama priests have freely modified the original according to their own views and opinions. In fact the Tibetan texts of this particular Sect are far from preserving the original forms of teaching and expression.

I have brought home, among other Lamaistic writings, quite a large number of volumes treating on the esoteric side of the doctrines of the Old Sect, which are credited as being most authentic, but I have to keep them in a closed box, for they are too full of obscene passages to allow of their being read by the many.

These degenerate doctrines were widely spread throughout Tibet until, about five hundred years ago, they proved to be too pernicious even for such a corrupt country as Tibet. A reaction arose against the Old Sect, which took the shape of the so-called New Sect.

This was founded by Paldan Aṭīsha, a priest from India, in the eleventh century a. d., and was after three centuries further perfected by Je Tsong-kha-pa, who was born in a house “amidst onion plots” in Amdo, a Chinese part of Tibet, situated to the north of Tibet proper. This priest, perceiving the fearful state of corruption into which the Tibetan religion had fallen, assigned to himself the Herculean task of purging that Augean stable.

He took his ground on the fundamental proposition that priesthood must stand on asceticism, that priesthood devoid of asceticism was also void, and that of all the conditions of asceticism abstinence from carnal desires was the most important, for a priest indulging in these had nothing to distinguish him from a layman. Je Tsong-kha-pa set an example of following his own precepts, but first he declared for the necessity of enforcing rules of moral discipline for priests. But there were not a sufficient number of priests qualified to receive ordination. At last a number of his first convents and of the supporters of his precepts were collected to form the nucleus of the new movement, and they raised the standard of a spiritual campaign at Ganden, a place about forty miles from Lhasa.


But the New Sect, in superseding the degenerated national religion, had to conform itself to the national[415] partiality for esoterism, which is more or less present in every form of religion or cult prevailing in Tibet, and it therefore included in its system certain esoteric forms as distinct from the esoterism of the Old Sect. The New Sect did not denounce the images worshipped by the followers of the Old Sect, although they all consisted of dual figures of men and women, often represented in offensive postures; it had, however, to give to them a new interpretation of an abstract nature. Thus men were explained as representing ‘proper means’ and women as representing ‘transcendental knowledge,’ and it was said that the proper combination of the two elements gave birth to Buḍḍhas. Therefore the birth of Buḍḍhas, according to this interpretation, did not come from carnal indulgence. Animal flesh, again, was interpreted as representing mercy, and therefore not intended for eating, while liquors were considered as embodying human intelligence, and as giving an object-lesson to teach men how to exercise their inborn intelligence.

In that symbolic way the New Sect explained the precepts inculcated by its older rival. The images that had been used by the latter were also adopted, only with a new interpretation, so that externally the two sects do not differ much from each other. Strange as it may appear, it is highly probable that worldly circumstances obliged the New Sect to assume this anomalous position. I have to stop here in my description of the doctrinal side of the Tibetan religion, for to go further would lead me into technical and abstruse points.

I shall describe next that peculiar practice or belief of the Tibetan religion which is called incarnation.

The idea embodied in the doctrine of incarnation is that the Buḍḍhas, or saints whose bodies are invisible to man, are reincarnated in the shape of priests of pious virtue for the salvation of the people. The scope of this incarnation is[416] rather comprehensive in Tibet, for almost every lama with any pretensions above the common level believes that he is destined to be reborn into the world to work for salvation. This idea seems to have undergone considerable modifications since it was first conceived, so that such incarnations as are accepted to-day appear quite different from those of older days, as I shall describe further on.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 5:00 am

CHAPTER LXI. The Tibetan Hierarchy.

More than four centuries ago there lived a priest named Gendun Tub who was a disciple of the founder of the New Sect. It was this priest who first originated the practice of invocation of oracles which was subsequently elaborated into a peculiar habit of selecting incarnations. It happened in this way. When Gendun Tub was about to expire, he left word that he would be reborn at such and such a place. Enquiry was made, and the birth of a boy was ascertained to have taken place at the specified place. This would not be particularly marvellous were it not for the fact, as recorded in tradition, that, as soon as he could articulate, the boy declared his wish to return to his temple, the name of which he declared to be Tashi Lhunpo, the very temple where the venerable Gendun Tub had died. There was no longer any doubt in the minds of his faithful disciples and followers that their master had been reborn in that boy. The boy was conveyed to the temple, was there brought up, and was finally installed as the second Grand Lama, called Gendun Gyamtso.

Nothing particular occurred in this matter of incarnations during the periods of his third and fourth successors, but they grew quite popular afterwards, especially in the days of the fifth and the sixth Grand Lamas, till at last the whole system of the consultation of divine oracles assumed the shape in which it is found to-day. The fifth Grand Lama was a great promoter of the oracle system. His name was Ngakwang Gyamtso, and though the head of the New Sect, he investigated the texts and all matters of the Old Sect and introduced into his own sect many things pertain[418]ing to the Old. Oracle-invocation was extensively practised in his time, and the privilege of undertaking this solemn work was entrusted to four temples, or rather the deities presiding over them, namely Nechung, Samye, Lamo and Gatong. From the fifth Grand Lama also dates another innovation of far greater importance, that is to say, the establishment of Hierarchical Government.

Before his time, the Grand Lamas held only spiritual power, and had nothing to do with temporal or administrative affairs, for the Grand Lamas had no territories to administer except a small glebe.

About that time a powerful Mongolian chieftain named Shrī Gaumi Tenjin Choe Gyal invaded Tibet and subdued all the petty tribes that had hitherto existed there. These numbered thirteen, each counting according to tradition ten thousand families. Tibet may thus be considered to have contained one hundred and thirty thousand families, and, strange to say, this is also believed to be the present number of the population, according to popular accounts.

The Mongolian conqueror disposed of the districts he had subdued in a very interesting manner, for instead of bringing them under his direct control he presented the whole region to the Grand Lama of the day. Thus originated the system of the Hierarchy, which therefore dates only about three centuries back. But to return to the subject of oracle-consultation.

By this time the process of consultation had to undergo considerable modifications, owing to the fact that the high Lamas who were to be reborn not unfrequently omitted the trouble of enlightening others about the places of their re-appearance on the earth. These places had to be discovered therefore, for the Tibetans firmly held, as they do even to-day, that high Lamas who die are sure to re-incarnate somewhere after the lapse of forty-nine days from the day of death. Hence arose the[419] necessity to determine the place of such re-incarnation, and this task devolved on the oracle-invokers of one of the four particular temples mentioned before.

The process as it is in vogue at present is essentially identical with that prevailing in former times, and is exceedingly strange, to say the least of it. The mediums or invokers who perform this holy business behave themselves in such an extravagant way that the uninitiated would consider them to be stark mad.

The consultation of the oracle is performed by a number of priests, one of whom is a medium, the rest being assistants. These beat drums and strike cymbals, whilst others chant the Texts. The medium is attired in a gorgeous fashion. He wears a big head-cloth with silk pendants of five hues hanging from behind. Sometimes strips of glittering brocade are used instead. The garment is not unlike that worn by Japanese priests, and is of yellow or red satin, decorated with figures of flowers. From the knot of the sash hang long strips of cloth. Thus attired, the medium waits for response from the deities, remaining with closed eyes in a half sitting posture, while all the time the discordant sounds made by the orchestra are kept up. After a while he begins to tremble and shake, this movement gathering force, till all of sudden he either falls on his back or jumps up, according to the nature of the deity who responds to the invocation, and has now descended into the body of the medium. He will then say, still continuing to shudder, that the particular Lama has re-appeared at such and such a place, and in such and such a house which faces in a certain direction; that the family consists of a certain number of members; that a baby born on a certain day is a re-incarnation of the dead Lama, and so on. An enquiry is then made according to the direction and of course the pronouncement of the oracle is confirmed, and a baby corresponding to the description given is found in[420] the house. The boy is left under the care of his mother till he can be weaned, and then he is brought to the specified temple where he is educated. In education special care is taken to inspire in him the strong self-confidence that he is a holy re-incarnation.

At any rate the practice of invoking divine oracles extensively came into vogue from the time of the fifth Grand Lama, and is used for all matters great or small, from vexed international problems to trifling questions that easily admit of solution.

The oracle-giving deities, as I mentioned before, are four, and they are regarded as the guardian angels of the Lama Hierarchy. Of the four Nechung is the most powerful.

Suppose a Grand Lama dies, and a necessity arises to determine the place of his re-incarnation. The four temples dedicated to the four deities are ordered by the authorities to undertake the mysterious business of identification, this order being generally issued about a year after the death of the august Lama. All the priests of the four temples are summoned on that occasion, and they separately consult their own respective oracles. Their deities are, however, not infallible, and often prove just as divided in their judgment as ordinary mortals are, for very rarely do the four oracles coincide, and usually those oracles produce three different candidates. The choice has therefore to be made from among the three.

The three or four boy-candidates (as the case may be) are brought to Lhasa, when they have reached the age of five years. The ceremony of selection is next performed. This is of course conducted with great pomp and solemnity. The dignitaries who are privileged to take part in it are the Chinese Commissioner residing in Lhasa and the Regent Lama; also the Prime Ministers and all the Ministers, Vice-Ministers and a number of high Lamas are allowed to be present. First the names of the boy-candidates (three or four in number, as the case may be) are written on so many pieces of paper, and put in a golden urn which is then sealed. For the period of a week a kind of high mass is performed in the ceremony-hall, in order to entreat the divine intercession for the selection of the real re-incarnation. When this period expires all the dignitaries before-mentioned are once more assembled around the sealed urn. This is carefully inspected and the seal is then taken off. The Chinese Commissioner then takes a pair of tiny ivory sticks something like ordinary chop-sticks in shape and size and, with his eyes shut, puts them into the urn and solemnly picks out one of the papers. The name written on that paper is read, and the bearer of that name is acknowledged as Grand Lama-elect.

From what I have described, there is apparently little room, if any, for trickery, but I have heard from the Secretary of the Chinese Commissioner that dishonest practices are in reality not infrequent. Indeed the temptations are too strong for greedy and dishonest minds to resist, owing to the keen rivalry among the parents of the boy-candidates to have their own boys selected. Strong interest urges them on in this rivalry, for the parents of the Lama-elect are not only entitled to receive the title of Duke from the Chinese Government, but also enjoy many other advantages, above all the acquisition of a large fortune. Under these circumstances the parents and relatives of eligible boys are said to offer large bribes to the Chinese Amban, and to others who are connected with the ceremony of selection. I do not affirm the fact of bribes, but at least I have heard that cases of such under-hand influence have occurred not unfrequently.

The selection of the Grand Lama is thus made by an elaborate process, in which the influence of the oracle-invokers plays an important part. The priests who have charge of this business are in most cases men who make[422] it their business to blackmail every applicant. Most of the oracle-priests are therefore extremely wealthy.

The Nechung who are under the direct patronage of the Hierarchy, are generally millionaires, as millionaires go in Tibet. This, taken in conjunction with another fact, that the re-incarnations of higher Lamas are generally sons of wealthy aristocrats, or merchants, and that it is only very rarely that they are discovered among the lowly, must be considered as suggesting the working of some such practices. I have even heard that some unscrupulous people corrupt the oracle-priests for the benefit of their unborn children, so as to have their boys accepted as Lamas incarnate when born. From a worldly point of view the expense incurred on this account not unfrequently proves a good ‘investment,’ if I may use the profane expression, for the boys who are the objects of the oracles have a good chance of being installed in the temples where their spiritual antecedents presided, which are sure to possess large property. This property goes, it need hardly be added, to the boys, after they have been duly installed. Whatever may have been the practical effect of incarnation in former times, it is, as matters stand at present, an incarnation of all vices and corruptions, instead of the souls of departed Lamas.

I once remarked to certain Tibetans that the present mode of incarnation was a glaring humbug, and that it was nothing less than an embodiment of bribery.

To do justice to the incarnations themselves, they grow up, in eight cases out of ten, to be Lamas of more than average ability, perhaps because they are brought up with special care. Their teachers and guardians treat their wards with kindness and never use rough language to them even when they behave as they ought not to behave. In such case the teachers and guardians appeal to their sense of honor and great responsibility.

This reminds me of the necessity of treating children with consideration, and that to abuse them as blockheads or fools, when they err in their conduct or over their lessons, deprives them of the sense of self-confidence, and hence prevents its natural development. They must be educated in such a way as to allow full play to their sense of self-respect.

The Tibetans have not adopted this particular mode of education for their boy-incarnations from any deep conviction as to educational policy; they are doing so out of their respect towards their boy-masters.

I should add, also, that the general mass of the people are left in complete ignorance of all the tricks and intrigues that are concocted and extensively carried on in the higher circles. With guileless innocence the ordinary people swallow all the fabulous tales that are circulated about the alleged evidences fabricated for establishing the re-incarnation of Lamas. Those only who are acquainted with what is going on behind the scenes at Lhasa and Shigatze treat those ‘evidences’ with scorn, and denounce the re-incarnation affair as downright imposture and a mischievous farce. To them the re-incarnation is an embodiment of bribery, nothing more nor less. At best it is a fraud committed by oracle-priests at the instance of aristocrats who are very often their patrons and protectors.

Oracles are not confined in their operation to matters of incarnation; they are consulted for many other purposes. A Cabinet Minister who has committed some error will hasten to those priests, especially to the Nechung, to prevent his being punished, or to have the punishment modified. In such a case a Minister has to pay to the priests a sum varying from the minimum of one thousand yen to ten or twenty times that amount, according to the gravity of the offence. When in time that offence comes to the[424] ears of the Government, and the question of punishing the offender is brought on the tapis, the latter can sit silent without much perturbation, secure in the thought that he has forestalled the Government and has secretly ‘purchased’ a favorable understanding with the consulters of the oracles. For to these consulters the matter is sure to be brought, sooner or later, for their decision, or more properly for the decision of their deity. The priests will then consult the oracles, but with a foregone conclusion as to the nature of the response, being bound by the accused party with fetters of gold. The oracles will say: “Don’t punish the man, for to do so will be to invite calamity on the country. Only reprimand is enough, for the man is at heart well-meaning. His fault came from inadvertence.” And so the Minister is absolved from the charge, or is sentenced merely to a nominal punishment.

On the other hand, a Minister or any other high personage who is a persona ingrata to the Nechung priests is in danger of bringing down on his head an oracle of terrible nature at any moment, and in the presence of the Grand Lama himself. The unscrupulous priests will even turn the virtues of their unfortunate victim into a means of denouncing him. The power which those oracle-priests wield in the official circles of the Grand Lama’s Government is therefore a formidable one, and the officials hold them in even greater awe than they do their supreme chief. The Nechung priests may be even regarded as wielding the real power in the Hierarchical administration. It is true that the present Grand Lama, being a man of great force of mind, does not blindly adopt in all cases the insidious advice of the priests; still in the great majority of cases he has to follow it, for to reject the Nechung’s words is contrary to the traditions of the country.

The Nechung, who exercise such power even in small affairs, very often prove to be broken reeds when they are[425] confronted with grave national questions. Suppose, for instance, they are asked to consult the oracles about a diplomatic trouble, in the presence of the Dalai Lama and other great dignitaries. The priests proceed to do so with pomp and solemnity, attired in gorgeous dress befitting the occasion. In time the deity responds to the invocation, and is consulted about the policy which the Government has to adopt, say, about the trouble which is supposed to have appeared between it and England. The medium will remain silent, and simply continue to tremble for some time. He will next make one high jump, and then drop down apparently unconscious. The attendants of the medium are then thrown into consternation, all whispering to each other with significant nods and head-shakes that the deity must have been offended at the impious question put to him, and must have therefore gone off in holy wrath. And so for a grave question, for which the aid of the oracle is most needed, the Hierarchical Government is left in the lurch and is compelled to give decision according to its own mother-wit. Such is the farce of the oracle-system.


Men of learning and priests of sincere piety and honest conviction are therefore bitterly (though not openly) opposed to the doings of those oracle-priests, whom they denounce as Ministers of devils, and as the worst enemies of religion. Fortunately, however, the two Lamaist chiefs are not installed only by the agency of the Nechungs, as above mentioned.

I may, for instance, refer in passing to the supposed parentage of the present Tashi Lama, the second Grand Lama, of Tashi Lhunpo. He is said to have been born of a dumb woman by some unknown father. Some say that his father was a hermit, while others are of opinion that he was a priest, but the most probable account is the one which I heard from a certain authority, who informed me[427] that a learned doctor, one Meto-ke-sang (chrysanthemum-flower) of the monastery of Sera, was the real father of the present head of the Tashi Lhunpo. This doctor became a monomaniac after having studied the literature of the Old Sect, roamed about the country, and at last cohabited with a dumb woman. The result was the birth of the boy on whom fell the great honor. The Lama is therefore, said to bear a great personal resemblance to that mad doctor. Though this opinion was held by a reliable authority of the Sera monastery with whom I was acquainted, of course I cannot vouch for the authenticity of his explanation.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 5:01 am

CHAPTER LXII. The Government.

I shall next describe the system of the Hierarchical Government, and other matters relative to it based on the information I incidentally obtained on those subjects during my stay in Lhasa. The information is far from being complete, for besides the fact that the subjects were entirely foreign to the primary objects of my Tibetan expedition, and therefore I was not impelled to make any systematic inquiries, I could not without inviting strong suspicion put any questions to my friends in Lhasa about matters of Tibetan politics. Whatever knowledge I could gather on the subject was derived incidentally in the course of conversations with my distinguished host and some others, and as the result of enquiries made in a highly guarded and roundabout way. Hence there still remain many points in the Government system of which I myself am ignorant.

With this reserve, I may state first of all that the Hierarchy is composed of both clerical and lay departments, each consisting of an equal number of men. The priests of higher rank who attend to the affairs of State bear the title of “Tse Dung” and they number one hundred and sixty-five, and there are lay officials of corresponding rank and number known under the title of “Dung Khor”. The priestly functionaries of higher rank are subject to the control of four Grand Secretaries, bearing the title of “Tung yk chen mo” but the real power is vested in the senior priest. Similarly four “Shabpe” (Premiers) are appointed over the head of the higher lay officials. Of these four “Shabpe” the one enjoying precedence in[429] appointment holds the real power, the other three being his councillors and advisers.

The Cabinet is composed of four Prime-Ministers, three Ministers of Finance, two Ministers of War, a Minister of the Household, a Minister of Religion, a Minister of Justice, and four Grand Secretaries belonging to the Order.

All these higher posts, both of priests and laymen, are in most cases filled only by men belonging to the privileged classes; very rarely do they fall to the Ngak-pa, Bon-bo and Shal-ngo castes.

The Tibetan administration is of an anomalous description—a hybrid partaking of feudalism on the one hand and of the modern system of Local Government on the other.

The relation between Peers and commoners apparently resembles feudalism. The first recipient of the title was granted a certain tract of land in recognition of his service, and there at once sprung up between this lord of the manor, as it were, and the inhabitants of that particular place a relationship akin to that between sovereign and subject. This lord is an absolute master of his people, both in regard to their rights and even their lives.

The lord levies a poll-tax on the inhabitants, and even the poorest are not exempted from this obligation. The levy varies considerably according to the means of the payer, from say one tanka paid by a poor inhabitant to even a hundred paid by a wealthier member of the community. Besides, every freeholder must pay land tax, the land held by him being understood theoretically to belong to the lord. However heavy the burden of the poll-tax may be, each person is obliged to pay it, for if he neglects to do so he is liable to be punished with flogging and the confiscation of his property to boot. The only means of escape from this obligation consists in becoming a monk, and there must be in the Tibetan priesthood a large number of men who have turned priests solely with[430] this object of avoiding the payment of taxes. The witty remark once made to me by my teacher, Ti Rinpoche, on this subject may illustrate the state of affairs in the Tibetan priesthood. He said: “I do not know whether to rejoice at or to regret the presence of so many priests in Tibet. Some seem to take this as a sign of the flourishing condition of the national religion and on that ground seem to be satisfied with it. I cannot quite agree with this argument; on the contrary I rather hold that it is better to have even two or three precious diamonds than a heap of stones and broken tiles.” The motives that lead people to become priests lying in that region, it is not strange that the Tibetan priesthood should contain plenty of rubbish with very few diamonds among them.

However, when it is remembered how heavy are the burdens imposed on the shoulders of the people, it is not strange that they should try to evade them by entering the Order. The condition of even the poorest priest presents a great contrast to that of other poor people, for the priest is at least sure to obtain every month a regular allowance, small as it is, from the Hierarchical Government, while he can expect more or less of extra allowances in the shape of occasional presents from charitable people. But a poor layman cannot expect any help from those quarters, and he has to support his family with his own labor and to pay the poll-tax besides. Very often therefore he is hardly able to drive the wolf of hunger from his door, and in such case his only hope of succor lies in a loan from his landlord, or the lord of the manor wherein he resides. But hope of repayment there is none, and so the poor farmer gets that loan under a strange contract, that is to say, by binding himself to offer his son or daughter as a servant to the creditor when he or she attains a certain age. And so his child when he has reached the age of (say) ten years is surrendered to the[431] creditor, who is entitled to employ him as a servant for fifteen or twenty years, and for a loan which does not generally exceed ten yen. The lives of the children of poor people may therefore be considered as being foreclosed by their parents. Those pitiable children grow up to be practically slaves of the Peers.

The relationship existing between the Peers and the people residing on their estates, therefore, partakes of the nature of feudalism in some essential respects, but it cannot be said that feudalism reigns alone in Tibet to the exclusion of other systems of Government. On the contrary a centralised form of Government prevails more or less at the same time. The Peers, it must be remembered, do not generally reside on their own estates; they reside in Lhasa and leave their estates in charge of their stewards. And they are not unfrequently appointed by the Central Government as Governors of certain districts.

Consequently the Tibetans may be said to be divided into two classes of people, one being subject to the control of the lords of the manors and other to that of the Central Government. Not unfrequently the two overlap, and the same people are obliged to pay poll-tax to their lords and other taxes to the Central Government.

The work of revenue collection is entrusted to two or three Commissioners appointed from among the clerical or lay officials of higher rank, and these, invested with judicial and executive powers, are despatched every year to the provinces to collect revenue, consisting of taxes, imposts and import duties, these being paid either in money or kind.

The demands on revenue are many and various, and among the items of ordinary expenditure may be mentioned first of all the sums required for supporting, either wholly or partially, a large number of priests residing both in Lhasa and in the provinces, the former alone numbering[432] about twenty-five thousand. The outlay on account of building temples and religious ceremonies is not small, but that on account of salaries paid to the officials of the Central Government appears to be less. A Premier draws the yearly salary of about six hundred koku or four thousand bushels of wheat, the stipend being generally paid in this grain. The first Lord of the Treasury draws three hundred and sixty koku. What is very interesting about these salaries is that the State functionaries very often relinquish the right of receiving their salaries, and leave them unclaimed. My host, who continued to hold for ten years the post of the Minister of Finance, had persistently refrained during that long period from claiming what was his due. When I marvelled at this strange act of disinterestedness on his part, he replied that his own estate supplied what he wanted and so he did not wish to give trouble to the Grand Lama’s Exchequer. And he further informed me that most of his colleagues who were men of means generally omitted to claim their salaries wholly or in part, though there were some who punctually received the money to which they were entitled by right. Not that even those who showed themselves so disinterested in the matter of official stipends are above corruption, for I heard that some of the Ministers who declined their salaries did not scruple to receive or even to exact bribes. In justice to them I may add that bribery is a universal vice in Tibet, and is not regarded in so serious a light there as in more enlightened countries. My host was a gentleman of strict integrity and morals, but he used to accept presents offered out of respect to him.

The clerical and lay high functionaries, each numbering one hundred and sixty-five, attend to the various affairs of State. They are sometimes appointed as Governors of provinces, while at other times they are sent on judicial business. In such cases appointments are never given to[433] clerical or lay officials only, but both are invariably appointed as associates, and in equal number, one each or two, or sometimes four. The Judicial Commissioners were formerly often guilty of injustice and open to the charge of judging cases, not according to their real deserts, but according to the amount of bribes offered. They are no longer so now, thanks to the vigilance and energy of the present Dalai Lama who, whenever such a case of wrong-doing comes to his ears, does not hesitate to confiscate the property of the offending parties and to deprive them of their rank. Sometimes when a case of grave moment occurs it is submitted to the personal judgment of the Grand Lama himself.

The Grand Lama is therefore placed in a highly anomalous position, for while he is the dispenser of benevolence and the supreme head of a religion preaching mercy and forbearance, he is obliged to pass judgment and to sentence persons to exile or even to capital punishment. As head of a religion he is positively forbidden by its teachings to pass a decree of that nature, whether that decree is justifiable in the worldly sense or not. But the Grand Lama does issue decrees of this irreligious description. He is not, however, a political chief, inasmuch as he faithfully adheres to the rules of mortification enforced by his religion; he has no wife, for instance, nor does he drink intoxicating liquor. His position is really highly anomalous.

And yet all the priests in Tibet take from the Grand Lama the holy vow of discipline; I myself was advised by my Tibetan friends to pass that ceremony, but my religious scruples stood in the way, so I did not follow the advice. However I was initiated by the Grand Lama in the ‘Hidden Teaching,’ for this ceremony had nothing to do with my religious convictions.

The Grand Lama himself being placed in this false position, all the priests under him are naturally open[434] to a similar charge. They are partly priests and partly men of the world, and sometimes it is hardly possible to distinguish them from ordinary laymen. For instance, the Tibetan priests, as I have mentioned elsewhere, undertake farming or business, while the young rowdies among them attend to the work of ordinary soldiers. The only things that distinctly distinguish the priests from laymen are that the former shave their hair and wear priestly robes, and the latter do not; that is all. I am compelled to say that Lamaism has fallen, and that it has assumed a form quite contrary to that to which its great reformer Je Tsong-kha-pa elevated it, and I am sincerely sorry for this degeneration. I shall next describe the education and the caste system in Tibet.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 5:02 am

CHAPTER LXIII. Education and Castes.

Education is not widely diffused in Tibet. In the neighborhood of Shigatze children are taught comparatively well the three subjects of writing, arithmetic and reading, but in other places no provision exists for teaching children, except at monasteries, so that the boys and girls of ordinary people are generally left uneducated, especially the latter.

As might naturally be expected, educational establishments are few and far between. The only institutions worthy of the name are found on the premises of the Palace at Lhasa, and of the Tashi Lhunpo monasteries in Shigatze; all the rest are only ‘family schools’.

From the important position which priests command in Tibet, the system of training them is pretty well developed, and it is only at religious schools that one can obtain even a comparatively advanced education. Sons of ordinary people can enjoy the benefit of that education only by joining the order, for otherwise they are refused admission to Government schools.

The doors of those schools are, of course, shut against boys of humble origin. In Tibet there exists one class which is the lowest in the scale of social gradation. This lowest grade is subdivided into fishermen, ferry-men, smiths, and butchers. Smiths are relegated to this grade in Tibet just as in India, and for the same reason—that they pursue an objectionable occupation in making edged tools used for slaughtering living things, the most sinful occupation of all. People of this lowest grade are even prohibited from becoming priests, and if ever they enter the privileged order it is by some surreptitious means and by concealing[436] their real rank. In this way some men of the lowest origin have become priests at places remote from their native villages. Compared with these despised classes, the ordinary people may be said to enjoy a great advantage.

The classes who are entitled to enter the Government institutions are only four:

1. Ger-pa, Peers; 2. Ngak-pa, the manṭra clan, 3. Bon-bo, the Old Sect clan; 4. Shal-ngo, families of former chieftains.

The Peers consist of the descendants of former ministers and generals, and contain the supreme class called Yabshi which is composed of families of the thirteen Grand Lamas, past and present, and also of the descendants of the first King of Tibet, called Tichen Lha-kyari. They all hold the rank of Duke. The descendants in the direct line of that King still exist to this day, and their head is entitled to occupy the same rank as the Grand Lama, only he does not possess any power in public affairs. The highest posts in the Tibetan Hierarchy are within the easy reach of the Yabshi men, who can become Prime Ministers or other great dignitaries of state provided they are judged to possess qualifications for undertaking those high functions. Even when they do not occupy such elevated positions, they at least hold posts that are of next in importance. All the remarks about the Yabshi apply to the families of the Dalai Lamas, installed at Lhasa, for though the other Patriarchs at Tashi Lhunpo also possess Yabshi of their own, they do not enjoy the same privileges as the others. The descendants of the Dalai Lama’s relatives, and those of the former King, may therefore be considered as forming in practice the royal families of Tibet. These should, for convenience, be set apart as a distinct class, though there are other families that do not differ much from them in origin and privilege. Of these, one called De-pon Cheka (families of generals) represents the descendants of the generals and[437] captains who rendered distinguished services when Tibet engaged in war. The merits of those warriors, long since dead, obtain for their descendants great respect from the public and they enjoy great privileges.

The next grade of the Peerage, but considerably below these, consists of the descendants of families of great historic renown, or of ministers of distinguished service. Though occupying the lowest grade in the herald-book of the Peerage, even the portfolio of the Premier is accessible to these Peers, provided that they are men of ability.

In general, honor and ability seldom go together in Tibet, for official posts are freely sold and purchased, though buyers are limited. High officials of real ability are even regarded as a nuisance by their colleagues, and are liable to be dismissed through their intrigues. Such being the case, by far the greater majority of high official posts are held by men who have obtained them in exchange for money.

The class that ranks next to Peers is that of the Ngak-pas or miracle workers, who are the descendants of Lamas who worked miracles, not the least of them being their marriage in violation of the rules of Lama priesthood. Those Lamas transmitted their ‘hidden arts’ exclusively to this social grade, which thus possesses hereditary secrets. The Ngak-pas play an important part in the social organism of Tibet. For instance they are entitled, as already mentioned, to levy the ‘hail-tax’ in summer, and therefore to assume the function of administrators. They are also held in great awe by provincials and townsmen, as being magicians of power. The simple-minded folk believe that if once they incur the displeasure of a Ngak-pa they may be cursed by him, and therefore may bring upon themselves some calamity. As I mentioned before, the Ngak-pa people occupy the advantageous position of being able to procure money in the[438] shape of proceeds of the ‘hail-tax,’ and of presents coming from all classes of people. Strange as it may appear, the Ngak-pa men, while commanding such advantages, are notoriously poor; they even stand as synonyms for poverty. Their sole consolation is that they are conscious of the great power they hold over all classes of people; and even Peers are often seen to dismount from horseback and give a courteous salute when they happen to meet a beggarly Ngak-pa in the street.

The third caste is the Bon-bo the name of an old religion which prevailed in Tibet long before the introduction of Buḍḍhism. The priests of this practically extinct religion were allowed to marry, and have left behind them the class of people who represent this old social institution in Tibet. The Bon-bo people have to play a certain distinct rôle in public affairs. This is more of a ceremonial than of a religious nature. It consists in worshipping local deities, and undertaking ceremonies intended to secure their favor. When people marry, they ask a Bon-bo man to pray for them to their local deity. Sometimes he undertakes other kinds of prayer or even performs symbolic rites with a benevolent or malevolent aim, according to circumstances. Families of this particular class are found almost everywhere throughout the country, though in limited numbers. In some remote villages, as Tsar-ka in the Himālayas, all the villagers are said to belong to this class, but in most cases only one or two families are found in one village or in one district. In such cases the Bon-bo are objects of great respect, and they sometimes act as local magistrates or administrators. Even when they pursue any other kind of business, they still command great respect from their neighbors as descendants of ancient families.

Though the Bon-bo are descendants of an old religious order, their present representatives are no longer priests,[439] for they do not preach their tenets to others, nor try to persuade them to become converts. They are simply content to hand down their ancestral teachings and traditions to their children and so maintain their distinct position in society. Not unfrequently the young Bon-bo enter the priesthood, and these take precedence over all the other Bon-bo. Strictly speaking the respect which the people belonging to this particular class enjoy over others at present is due to their honorable lineage.

The fourth class is “Shal-ngo” and is composed of the descendants of ancient families who acquired power in the locality on account of their wealth in either money or land. The Tibetans are in general a highly conservative race, and therefore they succeed in most cases in keeping intact their hereditary property. Their polyandrous custom too must be conducive to that result, preventing as it does the splitting up of family property among brothers. By far the great majority of the Shal-ngo people possess therefore more or less property; and even a poor Shal-ngo commands the same respect from the public as his richer confrère.

Common people are divided into two grades, one called tong-ba and the other tong-du. The former is superior, and includes all those common people who possess some means and have not fallen into an ignoble state of slavery. Tong-du means etymologically “petty people,” and their rank being one grade lower than that of others, the people of this class are engaged in menial service. Still they are not strictly speaking slaves; they should more properly be considered as poor tenant-farmers, for formerly these people used to stand in the relation of tenant-farmers to land-owners, though such relation no longer exists.

Some tong-ba are reduced to more straitened circumstances than the tong-du, but, generally considered, the tong-ba are distinguished from the others by the possession of property,[440] greater or less as the case may be, while poverty is a special feature of the tong-du.

However low the tong-ba may fall in the worldly sense of the word, and, on the other hand, however thriving the tong-du may become, a strict line of demarcation still continues to separate the two classes. Society continues to treat them as before, and as if nothing had happened in their relative fortunes. No ordinary people deign to eat with one belonging to the tong-du class, nor do they ever intermarry with them.

This strict rule of social etiquette is in force even among the four divisions of the lowest class, that is to say, ferry-men, fishermen, smiths and butchers. Of the four, the first two rank higher than the other two. Thus, though smiths and butchers are not permitted to eat in the same room with common people, the other two classes are allowed to do so, only they may not sit at table with a privileged plebeian, but must eat or drink from their own vessels.

It is hardly necessary to add that a strong barrier is set up between these four kinds of social outcasts and the ordinary common people, to prevent their intermarriage; a man or woman belonging to the latter class, who is so indiscreet as to obey the bidding of his or her heart and to marry one of the despised race, is socially tabooed from his or her own kith and kin. This punishment is permanent, and even when the bond of this mésalliance has been dissolved by divorce, or any other cause, the fallen man or woman can never hope to regain the caste which he or she has forfeited. The mark of social infamy will follow him or her to the grave.

It is curious, however, that the issues of these mésalliances form a social class of their own. They are called tak ta ril, which means a ‘mixed race produced by black and white twisted together’. They occupy a position even[441] lower than that of the four despised classes mentioned above, and are in fact the lowest caste in Tibet.

There is one interesting feature in regard to this rigid canon of social caste, and that is the presence of gentlemen-smiths, who, being men of a mechanical turn of mind, have become smiths from preference. These gentlemen-smiths do not forfeit their birth and rank on this account.

Both by law and custom the higher classes enjoy special privileges, and these go a long way. The children of aristocrats, for instance, are entitled to exact from their humbler playmates great respect and courtesy. When the latter so forget themselves in their disputes and quarrels with their noble associates as to use rough language, they are at once punished, even when they are in the right. It is evident therefore from what has been stated that a plebeian, no matter how wealthy, is obliged to behave respectfully under all circumstances to a man belonging to the Ngak-pa or Bon-bo, even though the latter may be as poor as a church mouse. As each social class forms practically one distinct community with its own particular etiquette, customs and so forth, ranks are more plainly visible on the surface in Tibet than in most other countries. The Tibetan proverb corresponding to the western saying that “blood will out” gains a special significance when applied to the state of affairs prevailing in that semi-civilised country.

The aristocrats of Tibet are distinguished by noble mien and refined manners. Conscious of their elevated position, they possess on the whole a high sense of honor. The other privileged castes occupying a lower plane, such as the men of the Ngak-pa and Bon-bo races and the descendants of ancient grandees, still bear the marks of their respectable birth and can easily be distinguished even by strangers from the common people.

The common people are plebeian in their general bearing and appearance, but one thing to their credit is that they are known for strict honesty, and even extreme poverty seldom tempts them into committing arts of larceny. On the other hand, the lower classes or social outcasts are notorious for their criminal propensities to robbery and murder. In practice they are characterised by crime and wretchedness; they are criminals and beggars. Beggars in fact form a community of their own, the profession being hereditary. These classes are deservedly held in contempt by the public, and their faces even seem to justify such treatment, for they are remarkable for ferocity, depravity and vileness.

As I have mentioned before, lads belonging to the higher ranks are entitled to enter Government schools, but the subjects taught there are at best imperfect. The lessons consist only of learning by memory, penmanship and counting. The first subject is the most important, next comes penmanship, the latter receiving even a larger allotment of hours than the other. Counting is a primitive affair, being taught by means of pebbles, pieces of wood, or shells. The subject matters of learning by memory are Buḍḍhist Texts, the elements of grammar, and lastly rhetoric. This last is a subject of great ambition for Tibetan scholars, who are just like Chinese in their fondness for grandiloquent expressions. Documents to be presented to the Dalai Lama and other high personages bristle with high-flown phraseology and with characters rarely used in ordinary writing, and not found even in Buḍḍhist Texts. The fact is that Tibetan scholars at present hold strange ideas about writing, being of opinion that they should aim at composing in a style unintelligible to ordinary persons. The more characters they can use which cannot easily be understood by others, the better proof, they think, have they given of the[443] profundity of their scholarship. The most scholarly compositions are practically hierographic so far as their incomprehensibility is concerned.


The birch-rod is considered to be the most useful implement in teaching; not exactly a birch-rod, however, but a flat piece of bamboo. The cramming of difficult passages of rhetoric being the principal mode of learning imposed on pupils, their masters are invariably of opinion that they must make free use of the rod in order to quicken their pupils’[444] progress. The relation between masters and pupils does not differ much from that between gaolers and convicts. The latter, poor fellows, hold their masters in such dread that they find it exceedingly trying, at the sight of them and their formidable pedagogic weapons, to compose their minds and to go on unfalteringly with their lessons. They cower with fear, and are filled with the perturbing thought that the rod is sure to descend upon them for the slightest stumble they make in the path of learning. The ordinary way of using the rod is to give thirty blows with it on the left palm of the pupil. Prudence counsels the pupil to stretch out his hand with alacrity at the bidding of his hard master, for in case he hesitates to do so the penalty is generally doubled, and sixty blows instead of thirty are given. It is a cruel sight to see a little pupil holding out his open hand and submitting to the punishment with tearful eyes. Surely this is not education but mere cruelty.

I once made an earnest remonstrance on this subject with the Minister of Finance who, in common with the rest, used to teach his boys with a liberal application of the rod. To do justice to the Minister, his method of teaching was much more considerate than that of most of his countrymen, and he very seldom resorted to rough handling, such as binding pupils with cords over-night or compelling them to go without dinner or supper. When however I remonstrated with him on the ground that the infliction of corporal punishment was entirely opposed to all sound principles of education, he at first defended the Tibetan system with great earnestness. We had a somewhat animated though courteous dispute on the subject; but at length, being a man of great candor of mind, he seemed to perceive the merit of my position. At any rate he ceased to use the rod as he did before, and generally confined himself to giving a reprimand when[445] any of his boys went astray with his learning. The Minister afterward informed me that his boys seemed to make better progress when they were spared the rod.

Abuse is also considered as an efficient means of educating boys. “Beast,” “beggar,” “devil,” “ass,” “eater of parents’ flesh,” are epithets applied to backward boys by their teachers, and this custom of using foul language is naturally handed on from teachers to pupils, who when they grow up are sure to pass on those slanderous appellations to the next generation.

While the education of the sons of laymen is conducted with such severity, that of boy disciples by Lama priests is extremely lenient, and is quite in contrast to that of the others. The disciples are not even reprimanded, much less chastised, when they neglect their work. The priests generally leave them to do as they like, much as uxorious husbands do towards their wilful wives, so that it is no wonder that the disciples of Lamas very seldom make any good progress in learning. They are spoiled by the excessive indulgence of their masters. Some of these masters own the evil of their way of education, and are careful not to spoil the youthful pupils placed under their care, and it is precisely from among these latter disciples that priests of learning and ability may be expected.

The memorising part of the Tibetan system of education, as mentioned above, is a heavy burden on the pupils. To give some idea of what an important part this work occupies in their system, I may note that a young acolyte, who has grown to fifteen or sixteen years old, has to commit to memory, from the oral instruction of his teachers, from three hundred to five hundred pages of Buḍḍhist texts in the course of a year. He has then to undergo an examination on what he has learned. Even for a lad of weak memory, the number of pages is not less than one hundred in a year. For those who have grown older, that[446] is for those whose age ranges between eighteen and thirty, the task imposed is still more formidable, being five to eight hundred and even one thousand pages. I was amazed at this mental feat of the Tibetan priests, for I could barely learn fifty sheets in six months, that being the minimum limit allotted for aspirants of poor memory.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 5:03 am

CHAPTER LXIV. Tibetan Trade and Industry.

I shall now describe the trade of Tibet, though my account must necessarily be imperfect for obvious reasons.

I shall begin with an interesting incident that occurred to me in November, 1901, when I was enabled to send home letters for the first time after my arrival in the country. That was on the 18th of the month, and through the agency of Tsa Rong-ba, a Tibetan trader with whom I had become acquainted at Darjeeling. This man started for Calcutta on Government business to buy iron, and as I knew him to be trustworthy I entrusted him with a letter addressed to Sarat Chandra Das, in which were enclosed several others addressed to my friends and relatives in Japan.

The iron which he was commissioned to procure was for the purpose of manufacturing small arms at an arsenal situated at Dib near Che-Cho-ling, on the bank of the river Kichu, which flows to the south of Lhasa.

This industry was an innovation in Tibet, and in fact had begun only about eight years before that time. It was introduced by a Tibetan named Lha Tse-ring who had lived for a long time at Darjeeling and, at the request of his Government, brought back with him about ten gunsmiths, mostly Hinḍū and Cashmere Mohamedans. Only two of these smiths remained in Tibet at the time I reached Lhasa, the rest having returned home or died; but as several of the Tibetan smiths had acquired the art from them, no inconvenience was experienced in continuing the industry. This was a great improvement on the old state of affairs, for Tibet had formerly possessed only flint-lock muskets, and even these could not easily be[448] introduced from India. The manufacture of improved firearms was therefore a great boon to the country, and the Government did not spare expense and trouble to encourage the development of the art. Hence it came about that my acquaintance was authorised by the Government to proceed to Calcutta and procure a supply of iron.

It ought to be mentioned that about this time the departure of Tibetan merchants to foreign countries for the transaction of business had become quite frequent. They proceeded first of all to British India, next to China, and lastly to the Russian territories. The trade with the last was, however, quite insignificant as yet, and whatever relations Tibet may have with Russia are in most cases political and very rarely commercial.

I shall first describe the Tibetan trade with British India and Nepāl.

Of Tibetan products exported to India wool is the most important, and next musk and the tails of yaks, furs and leathers. Buḍḍhist images and books, being liable to confiscation when discovered, seldom go abroad, though they are more or less in demand in India. Other goods exported to India are insignificant. Formerly more or less Chinese tea for consumption by the Tibetans residing at Darjeeling used to go to India, but this is no longer the case.

The quantity of wool sent abroad is quite large. From five thousand to six thousand mule-packs go to Darjeeling, about one thousand five hundred to Bhūtān, about two thousand five hundred to Nepāl and about three thousand to Ladak. These figures are of course far from precise, for (reliable official returns being wanting) I based my estimates on information obtained from the traders. Besides the figures given above, there are quantities, greater or less, sent to China and also westward to Mānasarovara, but as I did not visit either district, and moreover had no means[449] of making an estimate about them, I have nothing to say on the subject.

Musk is obtained in Tibet, but from a certain species of deer and not from civet-cats. The musk-deer is found almost everywhere in that country. It is of about two and a half times or three times the size of an ordinary cat, and though resembling the Japanese deer in shape, it is not so tall as the other. The musk-deer subsists on herbage, and is covered with light and soft fur of a deep grey color. It has an exceedingly amiable face indicative of its mild nature. One characteristic feature is that it has two small but pretty tusks somewhat curved projecting from the upper jaws. The musk is found only in the male, and is contained in a little pouch attached to the hinder part. A strange fact is that the pouch is said to grow gradually in size from the beginning to the middle of each lunar month and then gradually to be reduced again until the end of the month, this periodic change appearing with great regularity. The musk-deer is therefore shot about the middle of the month, generally between the 13th and 15th.

The musk-deer is shot with a gun, but in preserved forests such as are found round about Lhasa and other Buḍḍhist headquarters, where shooting and hunting are strictly forbidden on pain of severe penalties, hunters catch the animal, clandestinely of course, by means of traps. Though the deer is found almost everywhere in Tibet, its principal habitation is in such remote districts as Kong-bo, Tsari and Lo. Musk is very cheap in all those districts, costing about one-tenth of the price given in Japan. The musk produced there is also purer than that produced in more prosperous places, for the people being simple-minded do not tamper with it nor adulterate it with other substances. The musk coming from Lo, for instance, is especially reputed for purity and cheapness. The[450] district is inhabited by half-naked aborigines, who resemble in outward appearance both Tibetans and Hinḍūs, though ethnologically they are more akin to the former than to the latter.

The musk produced by these savages is bartered against articles either of ornament or domestic utility, such as mirrors, glass beads, iron pans, sickles, knives, flour, confectionery and foreign trinkets.

Though the musk is obtainable at a very reasonable price in these districts, the risks and dangers from highwaymen which traders encounter on the road are so great that only those who are uncommonly adventurous proceed thither to get a supply from the natives.

The Tibetan musk is sent in larger quantities to China than to India, notwithstanding the fact that transport to the latter is easier. Almost all goods from Tibet to China travel through Ta-chien-lu. However, even at present, more or less is sent to Yunnan, whence Japan has been used to obtain its supply. The so-called ‘Yunnan-musk’ so much prized in Japan therefore comes originally from Tibet.

The ‘Blood-horn’ of the ‘Precious deer’ is the most valuable item among the commodities on the export list to China. This horn makes a medicine highly valued by Chinese physicians, being considered to possess the power of invigorating the body, prolonging life and giving lustre to the face. It is in fact used as an elixir by the Chinese. The horn therefore commands a high price, and even in Tibet a Chinese merchant will give as much as five hundred yen in Japanese currency for a pair of good horns. The inferior horns, however, can be bought at even two or three yen a piece, these being used not for medicine but only for ornament. Sharp, experienced eyes are required to distinguish a good and valuable horn from an inferior one, and even in Tibet there are not many such experts.

This special kind of deer is found in the wild districts of the south-eastern and north-western parts of Tibet, especially in the former. It is a large animal, larger than an average horse, but in shape it resembles an ordinary deer, only that it is plumper. As a rule it is covered with greyish hair, though some are covered with fur of other hues.

The horns are renewed every year, the growth beginning from about January of the lunar calendar. The new horns are covered with a hairy epidermis and consist of nothing but thickened blood. They continue to grow, and about March or April produce one ramification. At the same time the base becomes hard and bony, whilst the upper parts remain of the same consistency as before. They are further ramified and elongated with the lapse of time, and the growth reaches its climax by about September, after which the counter process of decay commences and the horns, now grown quite long, drop off about the middle of December. The largest specimens I saw measured thirteen inches in length with the main stem of about 1⅘ inches in girth, and even such horns are completely covered with hairy integument.

The best season for the horns, that is when they are medically most efficacious, is believed to be April or May, and it is then that the natives go out to hunt the animal. The shooting should be done with accurate aim so as to drop the animal at once, and the hunters therefore generally aim at the forehead. This is owing to the fact that when the animal is only wounded, instead of being brought down by a single shot, he invariably knocks his head against rocks or trees and breaks the precious horns to pieces. About the month of April or May, the animal, probably from the necessity of protecting his horns, sojourns in less remote and rocky places, and this habit makes him fall an easy prey to the hunter.

I may mention that I brought home a fine specimen of these horns which I bought at Lhasa. They are genuine, for I had them judged by a competent expert.

The exports to Nepāl comprise wool, yak-tails, salt, saltpetre, woollen goods and a few other articles. To the districts lying to the north-east of Tibet, that is to the north-western parts of China and Mongolia, go various kinds of woollen goods; Buḍḍhist books also go largely to Mongolia, as do also Buḍḍhist images, pictures and various paraphernalia. These, considered as objects of art, are worthless, though formerly Tibet produced images and pictures of high artistic standard. The contrast between old and new images and pictures, both of which are to be seen in most temples in Tibet, is sufficiently glaring, for the latter are as a rule clumsy performances, offensive to the taste and also to the sense of decency, being invariably bi-sexual representations of men and women with one common body. I was once struck with the notion that the Tibetans are characterised by four serious defects, these being: filthiness, superstition, unnatural customs (such as polyandry), and unnatural art. I should be sorely perplexed if I were asked to name their redeeming points; but if I had to do so, I should mention first of all the fine climate in the vicinity of Lhasa and Shigatze, their sonorous and refreshing voices in reading the Text, the animated style of their catechisms, and their ancient art. But to cut short my digression, and to resume the description of Tibetan trade, I must next give an account of the import business.

Of the imported goods, those coming from India are mostly in evidence. Among them may be mentioned woollen cloth for decorating the rooms of temples and for other uses, silk handkerchiefs, Burma crêpes, Benares brocades, silk tissues, and cotton fabrics. White cotton piece-goods are mostly in demand, next piece-goods of[453] light blue and of russet color. Figured chintzes of various patterns are also imported more or less.

Imports from China comprise first of all silk fabrics of sundry kinds, as brocades, tussore silk, crêpes and satins of various kinds. Silver bullion and drugs are also imported, but in respect of value tea stands first on the list of Chinese imports. From what I have roughly estimated, the quantity of tea arriving at Lhasa alone will cost not less than six hundred and fifty thousand yen a year approximately, while the import to Eastern Tibet, which is more thickly inhabited than the other half of the country, must of course reach a larger figure, for the Tibetans are great tea-drinkers and both high and low imbibe a large quantity of the beverage all through the year. The poorest people, who cannot afford to buy, are satisfied with a thin decoction obtained from the refuse of the tea-pots of wealthier people. Tea is rather costly, for one brick of inferior quality measuring about one foot long, 6½ inches wide and three inches thick costs two yen seventy-five sen at Lhasa; a brick consisting of only leaves without any mixture of twigs cannot be obtained at less than five yen. The prices rise as we go westward, owing to the cost of transportation, and for a brick costing two yen seventy-five sen at Lhasa as much as three yen twenty-five sen has to be paid in Western Tibet.

The imports from Bhūtān or Sikkim comprise tussore-silk goods, woollen fabrics, and cotton goods.

Then from India, Kashmīr, or Nepāl are imported copper utensils, grains, dried grapes, dried peaches, dates, medical drugs, and precious stones of various kinds, as diamonds, rubies, agates, turquoises and corals. Of these turquoises and corals are the most important, being widely used by the Tibetans as a hair decoration. For this purpose the best quality of turquoises are even more prized than diamonds, and a good turquoise of the size of the tip of the small[454] finger fetches as much as one thousand two hundred yen. Coral without spots is rather rare, and most of those seen on the heads of the Tibetan women are spotted more or less. The Tibetans are fond of the reddish or deep reddish variety, which are not popular among the Japanese. Superior kinds come from China, and one good coral ball from China commands from one hundred and twenty to two hundred and thirty yen. Indian specimens are usually inferior in quality. Coral-beads are also imported from that country. Glass beads do duty for corals for poorer folk, and imitation corals made in Japan are sold also. These were formerly passed off as genuine by dishonest merchants, and were sold at comparatively speaking fabulous prices. They are now taken at their proper value. Cheap foreign fancy goods and Japanese matches also find their way to Tibet through India.

Several queer customs prevail in Tibet concerning business transactions. The mode of selling woollen and cotton piece-goods is particularly singular. The standard of measurement is the length of the two outstretched hands, while another measurement based on the length from the elbow to the tip of the fingers is also used. This measurement is determined by the buyers, so that a large person enjoys the advantage of getting a longer measure, while the merchant is subjected to so much disadvantage. However, this primitive mode of measurement is generally applied to the native products only, as for foreign cloth the unit of measurement is a square, each side of which is equal to the breadth of the cloth to be sold. This is called a kha, and a kha varies with the breadth of each piece of cloth.

Very seldom are native merchants honest in their dealing; even the most trustworthy ask a price ten to twenty per cent higher than is reasonable, and the price asked by the more dishonest is really monstrous, being double or even as much as five or six times the real rate.

Another interesting feature in Tibetan transactions is the blessing which the merchants bestow on anything which people buy from them. The most common formula of blessing is to this effect: “May the goods you have bought from me avert from you disease or any other suffering; may your purchase bring good luck and prosperity, so that you may grow richer, build storehouses, and buy more and more goods from us!”

The blessing accompanying the parting with sacred books is more ceremonious. The merchant reverentially lifts the book over his head in both hands, and then hands it over to the purchaser (a priest in most cases) with this blessing:

“May your reverence not only seek the true light from this sacred work, but may you conduct yourself according to that light, so that you may attain better intelligence, wisdom and morals, and fit yourself for the holy work of salvation, for the good of all beings!”

The purchaser has also a ceremony to perform in this transaction, and I must confess that his performance is more obviously selfish, outwardly at least; for in handing the price he just touches the dirty coin with his tongue, then wipes it on the neck of his garment, and finally hands it to the merchant after having cast upon it one lingering glance indicative of his reluctance to part with it. This act of licking and wiping signifies that the purchaser has licked off and wiped away for his own benefit all the good luck that was contained in that piece. The coin that goes to the merchant is therefore considered as a mere empty thing, so far as the virtue that was originally contained in it is concerned.

Though these tedious processes are omitted by big merchants, such as those engaged in dealing in tea, all the others faithfully observe them, especially those in the country.

It may be supposed that with so little to export and so much to import, the country would be impoverished. This, however, is not the case, as I shall explain. Tibet has been used to obtain a large amount of gold from Mongolia—more as donations to Tibetan Lamas than as the price paid for Tibetan goods. This influx of gold from Mongolia has done much thus far in enabling the country to keep the balance of her trade. She therefore cannot adopt an exclusion policy economically, even though she may without much inconvenience do so politically. In fact the enforcement of economic exclusion would be followed by serious internal trouble, simply because it would put a stop to the inflow of gold from Mongolia.

However, so far as this Mongolian gold is concerned, it seems as if circumstances were about to bring Tibet to a result tantamount to the enforcement of economic exclusion, for since the war between Japan and China and especially since the Boxer trouble the inflow of Mongolian gold to Tibet has virtually ceased, so much so that the Mongolian priests who are staying in Tibet for the prosecution of their studies are sorely embarrassed owing to the non-arrival of their remittances from home. Some of them have even been obliged to suspend regular attendance at lectures, and to seek some means of earning their livelihood, just as the poorer native Buḍḍhist students are accustomed to do.

Another thing that adds to the economic difficulties of the Tibetans is their tendency to grow more and more luxurious in their style of living, a tendency that began to be particularly noticeable from about twenty years ago. This has been inevitably brought about by the foreign trade of Tibet and the arrival of goods of foreign origin. All these circumstances have impressed the Tibetans with the necessity of extending their sphere of trade with foreign countries instead of confining their commercial operations[457] within the narrow bounds of their own country. The consequence is that a larger number of the inhabitants have begun to proceed every year to China, India and Nepāl on commercial enterprises.

Now suppose that Tibet should prohibit her people embarking in this foreign trade, what would be the consequence? In the first place she would be unable to get any supply of goods from India, China and other countries, goods which are now articles of daily necessity for her people. This, though sufficiently hard, might be endured; but what would be unendurable would be the closing of Indian markets to the wool of Tibet, India being the most important consumer of this staple produce of the country. More wool being produced than can be reasonably consumed at home, the close of foreign markets is certain to bring down prices, and therefore to rob the sheep-farmers, or more properly the nomadic people of that country, of the greater part of the income they are at present enabled to get from their wool. The supply for food is, on the other hand, less than the demand, and as the prices of this essential of life cannot be expected to go down in proportion to those of wool, the sheep-farmers who constitute the greater part of the whole population would be threatened with starvation.

The incoming of gold from Mongolia being suspended, Tibet cannot, even if she would, cut off her commercial relations with the outside world.

Urged by necessity, trade is advancing with great strides, judging at least from the larger number of people engaged in it, for as matters stand at present the Forbidden Land may without exaggeration be considered as a “nation of shop-keepers”.

In fact all the people, with the exception of those who are disqualified through physical defects and age, are engaged in business of one kind or another. Even[458] farmers are partly traders. In winter when farm-work is slack they proceed to northern Tibet to lay in their stock of salt, obtained from the salt lakes that are found there. Then these men start for Bhūtān, Nepāl or Sikkim, to sell their goods in those places.

Priests are not too proud to deal with secular dollars and cents, and monasteries often trade on a large scale.


The Government itself is a trader, not directly, but through its regular agents, who in virtue of the important trust reposed in them enjoy various privileges, such as the liberty to requisition horses for carrying their goods or to take lodgment gratis.

Peers are also traders, mostly by proxy, though some of them refrain from making investments and are content to subsist on the income derived from their land. None the less the business spirit permeates the whole Peerage, and even these non-trading Peers are ready to make small bargains now and then. Suppose a visitor to a Peer’s house takes a fancy to some of the furniture or hall decoration in it. In such a case it is not considered impolite for the visitor to ask the host the price of that particular article, and to ask him, if the price is considered reasonable, to sell it to him. Nor is it thought derogatory for the host to sell his belongings, and so the bargain is struck when both parties can come to terms. The whole proceeding is conducted with the shrewdness and vigilant attention to details which characterise regular businessmen.

It is interesting to note that even boy-disciples in monasteries are traders in their own way, and do not hesitate to invest their money whenever they happen to notice in the shops or other places articles that appeal to their fancy. These they bring home and either sell, (generally at a large profit) to other boys, or exchange for other objects.

One great evil attends this propensity, and that is the danger of stimulating cunning practices, each party trying to impose upon the other in all those dealings.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 5:04 am

CHAPTER LXV. Currency and Printing blocks.

Commodities are either bartered or bought with regular coins. I should more strictly say the coin, there being only one kind of coin, and that is a twenty-four sen silver piece. That is the only legal tender current. Transactions have to be conducted therefore in a rather complicated manner, inasmuch as that coin admits of being divided in two ways only. In the first place it may be cut into two, thereby producing two twelve-sen pieces; or it may be divided into a ⅔ piece and a ⅓ piece, the former passing at sixteen sen and the latter at eight. The cutting is far from being exact, and cut pieces are in most cases perforated in the centre or worn down at the edges. These however are passed and received without complaint.

In Lhasa and other prosperous places the unit of transactions is four sen, but there being no four-sen piece one must take with him in making a purchase of four sen one ⅔ piece valued at sixteen sen, and receive in return for it one ½ piece valued at twelve sen. When the seller happens not to possess this one-half piece, the buyer then produces one ½ piece and one ⅔ piece, and receives in return for the two one whole piece called a tanka which is valued at twenty-four sen. For a purchase of eight sen a buyer produces one tanka and receives a ⅔ piece in change.

The unit of transaction being four sen there are six gradations of value between this minimum and a tanka, each possessing a distinct denomination. Thus four sen is called a khakang, eight sen a karma, twelve sen a chyekka, sixteen sen a shokang, twenty sen a kabchi and twenty-four sen a tanka.

In less prosperous places, and indeed everywhere except in Lhasa and Shigatze, it is impossible to make a purchase of less than one tanka, owing to be the absence of divided pieces of smaller value.

In some places are found silver pieces which are locally circulated, as in the north-western steppes which form the boundary line between Tibet and India. These pieces are semi-circular in shape, but are not accepted in the Grand Lama’s dominions.

Here I should like to recount what occurred to me in my monetary dealings. It was not an ordinary transaction, but a sort of blackmail carried out at my expense.

I have spoken before of the prodigal son of the house of Para. One day this man sent his servant to me with a letter and asked for a loan of money, rather a large sum for Tibet. Of course he had no idea of repaying me, and his loan was really blackmail. I sent back the servant with half of what he had asked, together with a letter. I was told that he was highly enraged at what I had done, exclaiming that I had insulted him, and that he had not asked for the sum for charity, and so on. At any rate he sent back the money to me, probably expecting that I would then send him the whole sum asked for. But I did not oblige him as he had expected, and took no notice of his threat. A few days after another letter reached me from that young man, again asking for the sum as at first. I decided to save myself from further annoyance and so I sent the sum. Like master, like servant; the latter, having heard most probably from his spendthrift master that I was a Japanese, came to me for a loan or blackmail of fifty yen. I gave that sum too, for I knew that they could not annoy me repeatedly with impunity.

About that time I chiefly devoted my leisure to collecting Buḍḍhist books, for I had a fairly large amount of money. I must remark here that Buḍḍhist works not in[463] ordinary use are not sold by booksellers in Tibet; they are kept in the form of blocks at one monastery or another, and any person who wishes to get a copy of any of such works must obtain from the owner of the copyright permission to get an impression of it. In return for this permission an applicant has to forward some fee and some donation to the monastery which owns and keeps the particular set of blocks from which he wishes to get an impression or impressions, this donation generally consisting of a quantity of tussore silk. The fee, more or less differing in rate according to monasteries and kind of blocks, ranges from about twenty-five sen to about one yen twenty sen per hundred sheets. The permission obtained, the applicant next engages either three or six printers, two printers and one assorter forming a special printing party, so to say. Wages for the men are generally fifty sen a day without board, and as they work in a very dilatory manner, the cost of printing is rather heavy. The paper used in printing is of native origin, made of a certain plant, the leaves and roots of which are poisonous. The roots are white and produce excellent tough fibres. The Tibetan paper is therefore sufficiently strong and durable, but is not white, owing to bad bleaching.

Booksellers in Tibet, at least so far as I observed at Lhasa, do not sell their books at their own houses, but at open stalls in the courtyard in front of the western door of the great temple-shrine of the Buḍḍha Shākyamuni, called Cho Khang. I saw ten such bookstalls in Lhasa and two or three at the bazaar in Shigatze, and those stallkeepers arranged their stock in trade in heaps instead of leaving their books open to invite inspection, as booksellers of other countries do.

The books which I collected either through purchase, or by getting special impressions from the original blocks, were at first kept in my room at the Sera monastery, and[464] my collection was a subject of wonder and curiosity to the priests who were quartered in the rooms not far from my own. The collection, they were heard saying to each other, contained three times as many books as even a learned doctor possessed in Tibet, and they could not but wonder how I, a student from a remote country, could carry home so many books. I therefore kept all my subsequent purchases in my room at the house of my host, in order to avoid suspicion.

Meanwhile the end of the month of December drew near and at last the New Year’s eve arrived. I made an arrangement to keep the day according to the Japanese custom. Accordingly I sent my boy to the Sakya Temple in the city with clarified butter to make an offering of light to the Buḍḍha enshrined in the edifice. This is done by putting clarified butter into the gold lamps placed before the tabernacle. Any one who wishes to make this offering has simply to pay in the usual charge of two tanka to the keepers of the edifice, and on that particular occasion I therefore sent my boy with two tanka pieces.

I arranged my own room in a manner suitable to the occasion. I hung a roll on which was painted an image of Buḍḍha, set in front of it a tiny sacred tabernacle, then three stands of silver lamps, and lastly various offerings. After the preliminary service had been concluded, I began, after the hour of midnight, a regular service and kept it up till four in the morning of the New Year’s Day. Then I performed a ceremony in order to pray for the prosperity of their Imperial Majesties the Emperor and Empress, H. I. H. the Crown Prince, and also for the greater prosperity and glory of the Empire of Japan. I thought that during the three thousand years that had elapsed since the founding of the Empire this must be the first time that one of its own subjects had offered such a prayer in that city of the Forbidden Land; then a strange[465] sensation came over me, and somehow I felt grateful tears rising in my eyes.


As I turned my eyes outward, while continuing the service, I noticed the New Year’s sun beginning to ascend in the eastern sky, reflecting its golden rays on the snow that covered the surrounding hills and plains. Nearer before my eyes and in the spacious court of the monastery, several snow-white cranes were stalking at leisure, now and then uttering their peculiar cry. The whole scene[466] was exquisite and quite captivating; how I should have liked to invite my own countrymen to come and share this pleasure with me! The service, the thought about my dear home, the snow-scene, the cranes, and the New Year’s Day—these roused in me a chain of peculiar sentiments at once delightful and sad, and this strange association of thoughts I embodied on that occasion in a couple of awkward utas freely rendered into prose thus:—

“Here on this Roof of the World and amidst the ascending dawn heralded by the cry of the cranes, I glorify the long and prosperous reign of our sovereign liege who reigns over his realm in the Far East.

“I hear in the garden of the holy seat the voice of the pure-white cranes, glorifying the triumph of the Holy Religion.”
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