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 5:07 am

CHAPTER LXIX. The Care of the Sick.

The tending of sick persons is a task assigned to women in Tibet, and the peculiar notions prevailing about the treatment of patients makes this task doubly onerous. Tibetan doctors strictly forbid their patients to sleep in the day-time, and so those who tend them have to follow this injunction of the doctors and keep the unfortunate patients awake. The patients are not allowed to lie in bed but are made to remain leaning upon some supports specially prepared for them. One or more nurses sit by their sides to give them any help they need, and above all to prevent them from going to sleep. These nurses cannot long stand the strain of constant watching, and therefore they are relieved in turn, to resume the task after they have taken more or less rest. The nurses faithfully attend to their duty, are very quiet so as not to annoy the patients, wakeful as they are, and above all to satisfy any of their wants, to comfort and humor them, and also to keep the rooms clean. This cleaning must be judged strictly by a Tibetan standard, for viewed from the Japanese standpoint it hardly deserves the name. The patients are also kept comparatively clean, considering the general filthy habits of the Tibetans. The effect of this insanitary condition at once makes itself felt to the olfactory sense of a foreigner who is accustomed to more perfect arrangements at home, for as soon as he enters the room a peculiar offensive smell greets his nose.

But the most important and tiresome part of the nursing duty is to keep the patient awake, and sometimes nurses are specially appointed to attend to this work. These nurses keep beside them a bowl containing cold water and[485] one or two wooden sprinklers. When the patient is about to fall asleep, a nurse sprinkles water on his face, and this has the effect of preventing sleep. When this water-sprinkling fails, the nurse embraces the patient from behind and slightly presses him forward. Sometimes they call the patient by name and cause him to recover consciousness. The patient is thankful for the trouble taken by the nurses, being well aware that they do it in obedience to the doctor’s orders, and from their wish to ensure his recovery.

The idea that a patient must not be allowed to sleep in the day-time is strongly impressed on the minds of Tibetans, both professional and non-professional. The doctors enjoin both on him and on the nurses to observe this point strictly as the first essential for his recovery, and any person who comes to visit him first of all gives a similar warning. “Don’t allow him to fall asleep,” repeats the visitor to the nurses, and reminds them that they are principally responsible for carrying out faithfully this cardinal necessity in the treatment of the patient.

When a patient dies, the neighbors suspect that his nurses may not have been strict enough, and must have suffered him to fall asleep!

I tried to find out the reasons that have brought about this strange medical custom, and it was easy for me to make enquiries, having been obliged to play the part of a quack doctor through the earnest importunities of the simple-minded Tibetans. So far as I could ascertain from those enquiries, the idea seems to be that patients suffering from some diseases are liable to develop more fever when they sleep in the day-time, while patients suffering from a local disease, resembling dropsy, not unfrequently die while asleep or while in a state of coma. It seems to have been derived from some cases that occurred some time in the past, the unscientific doctors of Tibet having jumped to a[486] general conclusion from certain specific occurrences. I need hardly add that this non-sleep prescription is efficacious (if ever it is efficacious at all) for the Tibetans only. When at times I suffered from disease while in Lhasa I slept as freely as I wished, and of course I found myself feeling all the better for it.

The fact is that, in Tibet, superstition plays a far more important part than medicine in the treatment of diseases.

People believe that a disease is the work of an evil spirit which enters the body of a person, and therefore they conclude that that spirit must first be exorcised before a patient may be entrusted to the care of a doctor. There being various kinds of evil spirits, some high Lama must be consulted in order to determine which particular one has possessed a given patient. A priest before whom the matter is brought consults books on demonology, then pronounces that the disease is the work of such and such an evil spirit, and that for exorcising him such and such a service must be performed.

The consulting priest may specify the name of a Lama when the service to be read is one of importance, but when it is an ordinary one it may be performed by any Lama. At the same time the consulting priest issues directions about medical treatment—that a doctor should be called in after the service has been performed for so many days, or that such and such a doctor should be invited simultaneously with the religious performance, or that medical aid may be dispensed with altogether.

These directions are given orally when the Lama who issues them is one of secondary position, but when he is one of exalted rank the directions are written by one of his attendants and the sheet is authenticated by the mark of his own seal.

The Tibetans put implicit faith in the directions issued by such high Lamas, and follow them literally. For[487] instance, when the Lama directs them not to seek the aid of medicine, say for the first five days, and orders the patient only to perform the rites of exorcism during that period, they are sure to do so. A patient, who might have recovered had the aid of medicine been at once invoked, may then die, but his family will never blame the Lama for it. They will rather hold him in greater respect than before, attributing to him an extraordinary power of foresight. They will say that he had foreseen the hopelessness of the patient’s case, and therefore told them not to take the unnecessary trouble of calling in the aid of a doctor until after the lapse of five days. The reverend priest knew, they think, that the patient would die by that time. Anybody who should dare to hold the Lama responsible for the death of the patient would run a serious risk of being denounced by the faithful believers as a heretic and as a person of depraved mind. Even those who at heart condemn the mischievous and fatal meddling of the priests in the case of diseases prudently keep silence, for fear of calling down upon themselves the wrath of the fanatical populace.

To speak the truth, the Tibetan doctors hardly deserve to be trusted. The word ‘doctor’ as applied to them is a gross outrage on the noble science, for they possess merely the knowledge (and this too of a very shallow kind) of the primitive medicine of ancient India. As even that knowledge is the result of oral instruction transmitted from father to son for many generations, and not acquired from studying medical works or from investigation, the Tibetan ‘doctors’ are utterly incompetent for the important function assigned to them.

The doctors practically possess only one stock medicine, which is the root of a certain poisonous herb called tsa-tuk in Tibet. Being a strong stimulant it is fatal in a large dose, and even a limited quantity causes a[488] temporary paralysis of the different parts of the body and sometimes violent diarrhœa. A change of any kind is likely to be taken as a hopeful sign by patients, and so the Tibetan doctors always use more or less of this drug for all kinds of illness, just as the Japanese doctors were accustomed to use liquorice-root in olden days.

Knowing as I do how untrustworthy and even dangerous the prescriptions of Tibetan doctors are, I sometimes thought that if the choice between the two evils had to be made I should rather recommend to sick people an exclusive reliance on prayers and faith-cure instead of on the risky medicines prepared by these quacks.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 5:07 am

CHAPTER LXX. Outdoor Amusements.

There are various methods of feasting in Tibet, but the one which appeals most strongly to the fancy of the people and is, I think, the most refined, is the Lingka. This is a sort of garden party held in woody places situated in the outskirts of the city of Lhasa.

The Tibetans seldom behave respectably and with courtesy when they meet in a social reunion; too frequently on such occasions disputes or even quarrels are liable to occur. But in a Lingka party all those who participate in it behave with decorum, and even people who are generally regarded as quarrelsome characters appear genteel and affable in deference to the best tradition of the country. A Lingka carried out by a party of warrior-priests is sufficiently animated, but very seldom do they mar the occasion with unseemly quarrels.

The places where this refined amusement is held are, as before mentioned, situated very close to the city, and are found in all directions except the south, where flows a river. In the remainder of the circuit woods and groves are scattered here and there, and also patches of velvety lawns. Some of the groves are enclosed and are attached to the private villas of wealthy people, but there are plenty of groves and lawns which are left open to the public.

These lawns and groves present a charming appearance in spring, and the people of Lhasa, after having been chained to the town through the desolate and dreary scenes of winter, feel themselves inspired with a new life when they meet again on turf which is resuming its vigor and putting on a new coat of velvet. There are peach-trees with their buds about to burst open, while by the streams[490] may be seen willow-trees with their elegant pendant twigs covered with fresh green leaves.

The whole city of Lhasa finds its heart beating with a new life, as it were, in agreeable harmony with the fascinating surroundings of nature. The season of pure and innocent amusements has arrived, and the people, urged on by the natural cravings of their hearts, sally forth to the fields in small parties or large, and enjoy themselves with picnics.

The picnic outfit comprises baked flour, fried vegetables or meats, cheese, raisins, dried peaches, dried animal flesh, sacks of liquor and tea-sets. There are two kinds of native liquors, one being made of barley or wheat and the other of rice. Of the two the former is used to a greater extent than the latter. The barley liquor is brewed in a very simple way. A certain quantity of barley, generally at the rate of one sho of the grain to five sho of the liquor, is roasted, then left to cool, and while it is being cooled a quantity of malt is added, and the mixture is put in a jug and kept in a warm place. In three days the mixture is converted into yeast, and to it water is added and thoroughly stirred. The liquor is then ready, and it is ladled out as occasion requires, or the whole watery portion is strained and put in another vessel. In brewing a superior kind of the liquor, only about two sho of water is added to one sho of the grain and the strained liquid is left to ripen for some weeks. This superior liquor is used only by wealthy people.

The ordinary barley liquor is very weak and does not intoxicate unless a large quantity is drunk. The climate too being comparatively cool and the atmosphere very dry, the fumes of the liquor soon disappear even when a man has imbibed a large quantity.

So, prepared with all those provisions, the parties spread their mats on the turf, and enjoy themselves to their hearts’ contents from nine in the morning to six in the afternoon.


Let us suppose that a carpet is laid on the velvety lawn in a wood, and that there are liquors and delicacies to which the party will help themselves. There will also be singing and dancing. Dancing is generally accompanied by vocal music, and it occupies in the eyes of Tibetan people a very important place on the programme of a public function of this kind. Everybody appears to think that there is nothing more enjoyable in life than the art of cadenced steps and graceful postures. Even the country people who from lack of opportunities cannot learn the art, appreciate and enjoy it just as well as the inhabitants of cities. Strangers like myself do not see any great merit in the Tibetan dancing, but to their eyes it is certainly amusing. In short, the picnic is a source of most refined relaxation to the Tibetans, for on such occasions they sing and dance, they drink the best of liquors and eat the best of delicacies, their enjoyment very much enhanced by the exquisite environment. Here[492] flows a limpid current drawn from the river Kichu and on its banks are gambolling and running children and adults. There stand majestic snow-capped peaks with their slopes covered with verdant forests. Lhasa indeed seems to justify at such time its classic name of the ‘Ground of Deities’.

The above description applies to a picnic given by people of the higher classes, but their inferiors also have picnics of their own.

The picnics got up by people of the lower classes are of course less refined, and the amusements include the drinking of liquors, gambolling, and maybe wrestling. Tibetan wrestling possesses a peculiarity of its own, quite distinct from that prevailing in Japan. The wrestlers generally keep apart from their antagonists and do not tug and close in as do their confrères of Japan. Very seldom does a Tibetan wrestler aim at throwing down his antagonist, the contest consisting in the use of the arms. The picnickers also amuse themselves with competitions of stone-flinging, which is a favorite game of the warrior priests, and sometimes they try a foot-race. Dancing is a favorite item of amusement in the picnics of the vulgar folks also, and it does not differ much in form from that of people of the higher circles, though it somewhat lacks elegance and at times it even strikes one as scandalous. Still, one beautiful point about the picnics even of the lower people is that very seldom does a quarrel or any such unseemly incident mar the sweet pleasure of the occasion, and it is evident that the changsa of the lingka exerts upon them a high moral influence and indirectly leads them to good. Whether for people of the higher circles or for their inferiors, among the changsas the lingka is the purest and most refined of their amusements and is the one most conducive to fraternal feeling and good fellowship.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

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

CHAPTER LXXI. Russia’s Tibetan Policy.

Before proceeding to give an account, necessarily imperfect, of Tibetan diplomacy, I must explain what is the public opinion of the country as to patriotism. I am sorry to say that the attitude of the people in this respect by no means does them credit. So far as my limited observation goes, the Tibetans, who are sufficiently shrewd in attending to their own interest, are not so sensitive to matters of national importance. It seems as if they were destitute of the sense of patriotism, as the term is understood by ordinary people. Not that they are totally ignorant of the meaning of “fatherland,” but they are rather inclined to turn that meaning to their own advantage in preference to the interest of their country. Such seems, in short, the general idea of the politicians of to-day.

The Tibetans are more jealous with regard to their religion. A few of them, a very limited few it is true, seem to be prepared to defend and promote it at the expense of their private interest, though even in this respect the majority are so far unscrupulous as to abuse their religion for their own ends. In the eyes of the common people, religion is the most important product of the country, and they think therefore that they must preserve it at any cost. Their ignorance necessarily makes them fanatics and they believe that any one who works any injury to their religion deserves death. The Hierarchical Government makes a great deal of capital out of this fanatical tendency of the masses. The holy religion is its justification when it persecutes persons obnoxious to it, and when it has committed any wrong it seeks refuge under the same holy name. The Government too often works mischief in the[494] name of religion, but the masses do not of course suspect any such thing—or even if they do now and then harbor a suspicion, they are deterred from giving vent to their sentiments, for to speak ill of the religion is a heinous crime in Tibet.

I have already stated how in general the Tibetan women are highly selfish and but poorly developed in the sense of public duty. One might naturally suppose that the children born of such mothers must be similarly deficient in this important point. I thought at first that the Tibetan men were less open to this charge than their wives and sisters, but I soon found this to be a mistake. I found the men not much better than the women, and equally absorbed in their selfish desires while totally neglecting the interests of the State. A foreign country knowing this weak point, and wishing to push its interests in the Forbidden Land, has only to form its diplomatic procedure accordingly. In other words, it has merely to captivate the hearts of the rulers of Tibet, for once the influential Cabinet Ministers of the Hierarchical Government are won over, the next step will be an easy matter. The greedy Ministers will be ready to listen to any insidious advice coming from outside, provided that the advice carries with it literally the proper weight of gold. They will not care a straw about the welfare of the State or the interest of the general public, if only they themselves are satisfied.

However, foreign diplomatists desiring to succeed in their policy of gaining influence over Tibet must not think that they have an easy task before them. Gold is most acceptable to all Tibetan statesmen, but at times gold alone may not carry the point. The fact is that Tibet has no diplomatic policy in any dignified sense of the word. Its foreign doings are determined by sentiment, which is necessarily destitute of any solid foundation, but[495] is susceptible to change from a trivial cause. A foreign country which has given a large bribe to the principal statesmen of Tibet may find afterwards that its enormous disbursements on this account have been a mere waste of money, and that the recipients who were believed to have been secured with golden chains have broken loose from them, for some mere triviality. It is impossible to rely on the faith of the Tibetan statesmen, for they are entirely led by sentiment and never by rational conviction.

The Muscovites seem to conduct their Tibetan policy with consummate dexterity. Their manœuvres date from a long time (at least thirty years) back, when Russia’s activity towards Tibet began to attract the public attention of the Powers concerned. Russia has selected a highly effective instrument in promoting her interest over Tibet.

There was a Mongolian tribe called the Buriats, which peopled a district far away to the north-east of Tibet towards Mongolia. The tribe was originally feudatory to China, but it passed some time ago under the control of Russia. The astute Muscovites have taken great pains to insinuate themselves into the grateful regard of this tribe. Contrary to their vaunted policy at home, they have never attempted to convert the Mongolians into believers of the Greek Church, but have treated their religion with a strange toleration. The Muscovites even went farther and actually rendered help in promoting the interests of the Lamaist faith, by granting its monasteries more or less pecuniary aid. It was evident that this policy of Russia originated from the deep-laid plan of captivating the hearts of the priests, whose influence was, as it still is, immense over the people. From this tribe quite a large number of young priests are sent to Tibet to prosecute their studies at the principal seats of Lamaist learning. These young Mongolians are found at the religious centres of Ganden, Rebon, Sera, Tashi Lhunpo and at other places.[496] There must be altogether two hundred such students at those seats of learning; several able priests have appeared from among them, one of whom, Dorje by name, became a high tutor to the present Dalai Lama while he was a minor.

This great priest obtained from the Hierarchical Government some twenty years ago the honorable title of “Tsan-ni Kenbo,” which means an “instructor in the Lamaist Catechism.” There were besides him three other instructors; but he is said to have virtually monopolised the confidence of the young Lama Chief. Nor was this confidence misplaced, so far as the relation of teaching and learning was concerned, for the Mongolian priest surpassed his three colleagues both in ability and in learning, and as he omitted no pains to win the heart of his little pupil, the latter was naturally led to hold him in the greatest estimation and affection.

The Tsan-ni Kenbo returned home when, on his pupil’s attaining majority, his services as tutor were no longer required. It is quite likely that he described minutely the results of his work in Tibet to the Russian Government, for it is conceivable that he may have been entrusted by it with some important business during his stay at Lhasa. Soon the Tsan-ni Kenbo re-visited Lhasa, and this time as a priest of great wealth, instead of as a poor student, as he was at first. He brought with him a large amount of gold, also boxes of curios made in Russia. The money and the curios must have come to him from the Russian Government. The Dalai Lama and his Ministers were the recipients of the gold and curios, and among the Ministers a young man named Shata appears to have been honored with the largest share. The name of the Tsan-ni Kenbo had been remembered with respect since his departure from Lhasa, and his re-appearance as a liberal distributor of gifts completed his triumph.

The Dalai Lama was now ready to lend a willing ear to anything his former tutor represented to him, while the friendship between him and the young Premier grew so fraternal that they are said to have vowed to stand by each other as brothers born. The astute Tsan-ni did not of course confine his crafty endeavors to the higher circles alone; the priest classes received from him a large share of attention, due to the mighty influence which they wield over the masses. Liberal donations were therefore more than once presented to all the important monasteries of Tibet, with which of course the priests of these monasteries were delighted. In their eyes the Tsan-ni was a Mongolian priest of immense wealth and pious heart, and the idea of suspecting how he came to be possessed of such wealth never entered their unsophisticated minds. So they had nothing but unqualified praise for him. When at rare intervals some inquisitive priests asked the Government officers about the origin of the Tsan-ni’s fortune, the latter would inform them with a knowing look that the Mongolian Lama was regarded with something like regal respect by his countrymen, who vied with each other in presenting gold and other precious things to that venerable priest. There was nothing strange about his acquisition of wealth. And so the Government and priesthood placed themselves at the feet of the Tsan-ni and adored him as their benefactor.

The Zaune’s programme of ‘conquest’ was really comprehensive and included a general plan intended for the masses. It was based on an old tradition of Tibet and involved no extra disbursements on his part. It must be remembered that a work written in former times by some Lama of the New Sect contained a prophetic pronouncement—a pronouncement which was supported by some others—that some centuries hence a mighty prince would make his appearance somewhere to the north of Kashmīr,[498] and would bring the whole world under his sway, and under the domination of the Buḍḍhist faith. Now Kashmīr and the places near it are districts of great natural beauty and delightful situation, and Buḍḍhism once attained a high prosperity in them, before they were subdued by the Muhammadan conquerors. This would-be “prophet” must have concluded a priori that as the faith had once prevailed there, therefore it must one day recover its original prosperity. Starting from this peculiar surmise the prophet jumped to the conclusion that the place, from its advantageous natural position, must in some remote future make its power felt through the world, and that this would be achieved by some powerful prince.

This announcement alone was not sufficiently attractive to awake the interest of the Tibetans, and so the unborn prince was represented as a holy incarnation of the founder of the national religion of Tibet, Tsong-kha-pa, and his Ministers were to be incarnations of his principal disciples, as Jam yan Choeje, Chamba Choeje and Gendun Tub. The prophet went into further details and gave the name of the future great country as “Chang Shambhala;” Chang denoting “northward” and “Shambhala” the name of a certain city or place, if I remember rightly, to the north of Kashmīr. With a precision worthy of Swift’s pen, the prophet located the new Buḍḍhist empire of the future at a distance some three thousand miles north-west of Buḍḍhagayā in Hinḍūsṭān, and he even described at some length the route to be taken in reaching the imaginary country. This utopian account has obtained belief from a section of the Tibetan priest-class, and some of them are said to have undertaken a quest for this future empire, so that they might at least have the satisfaction of inspecting its cradle. Now the Tibetan prophet bequeathed us this important forecast with the idea that when the Tibetan religion[499] degenerated, it would be saved from extinction by the appearance of that mighty Buḍḍhist prince, who would extend his benevolent influence over the whole world. I should state that this announcement is widely accepted as truth by the common people of Tibet.

The Tsan-ni Kenbo was perfectly familiar with the existence of this marvellous tradition, and he was not slow to utilise it for promoting his own ambitious schemes. He wrote a pamphlet with the special object of demonstrating that “Chang Shambhala” means Russia, and that the Tsar is the incarnation of Je Tsong-kha-pa. The Tsar, this Russian emissary wrote, is a worthy reincarnation of that venerable founder, being benevolent to his people, courteous in his relations to neighboring countries, and above all endowed with a virtuous mind. This fact and the existence of several points of coincidence between Russia and the country indicated in the sacred prophecy indisputably proved that Russia must be that country, that anybody who doubted it was an enemy of Buḍḍhism and of the august will of the Founder of the New Sect, and that in short all the faithful believers in Buḍḍhism must pay respect to the Tsar as a Chang-chub Semba Semba Chenbo, which in Tibetan indicates one next to Buḍḍha, or as a new embodiment of the Founder, and must obey him.

Such is said to be the tenor of that particular writing of the Tsan-ni Kenbo. It seems to exist in three different versions, Tibetan, Mongolian and Russian. I have not been able to see a copy, but it was from the lips of a trustworthy person that I gathered the drift of the exposition given in the pamphlet. Indeed the Tsan-ni’s pamphlet was preserved with jealous care by all who had copies of it, such care as is bestowed by a pious bibliographer on a rare text of Buḍḍhist writing. I knew several priests who undoubtedly possessed copies of[500] the pamphlet, but I could not ask permission to inspect them, for fear that such a request might awake their suspicion. The one from whom I confidentially obtained the drift of the writing told me that he found in it some unknown letters. I concluded that the letters must be Russian.

Tsan-ni Kenbo’s artful scheme has been crowned with great success, for to-day almost every Tibetan blindly believes in the ingenious story concocted by the Mongolian priest, and holds that the Tsar will sooner or later subdue the whole world and found a gigantic Buḍḍhist empire. So the Tibetans may be regarded as extreme Russophiles, thanks to the machination of the Tsan-ni Kenbo.

There is another minor reason which has very much raised the credit of Russia in the eyes of the Tibetans; I mean the arrival of costly fancy goods from that country. Now, the fancy goods coming from British India are all cheap things which are hardly fit for the uses for which they are intended. The reason is obvious; as the Tibetans cannot afford to buy goods of superior quality, the merchants who forward these to Tibet must necessarily select only those articles that are readily marketable. The goods coming from Russia, on the other hand, are not intended for sale; they are exclusively for presents. Naturally therefore the goods coming from Russia are of superior quality and can well stand the wear and tear of use. The ignorant Tibetans do not of course exercise any great discernment, and seeing that the goods from England and Russia make such a striking contrast with each other they naturally jump to the conclusion that the English goods are trash, and that the people who produce such things must be an inferior and unreliable race.

I heard during my stay in Tibet a strange story the authenticity of which admitted of no doubt. It was kept as a great secret and occurred about two years ago. At[501] that time the Dalai Lama received as a present a suit of Episcopal robes from the Tsar, a present forwarded through the hands of the Tsar’s emissary. It was a splendid garment glittering with gold and was accepted, I was told, with gratitude by the Grand Lama. The Tsar’s act in giving such a present to him is open to a serious charge. If the Tsar presented the suit as a specimen of an embroidered fabric, then that act amounted to sacrilege, for the Bishop’s ceremonial robe is a sign of a high religious function, and when a person receives it from the superior Head of the holy church it means that that person has been installed in the seat of a Bishop. On the other hand if the Tsar presented the suit from religious considerations his act is equally inexplicable and deserves condemnation, for he must have been perfectly aware that Lamaism is an entirely distinct religion from the State religion of Russia, and that the chief of the Tibetan religion therefore has nothing to do with such an official garment. It was really a strange transaction. On the part of the recipient there were extenuating circumstances. The fact is, he must have been entirely ignorant as to the real nature of the present. He must have accepted it merely as a costly garment with no special meaning attached to it. I am certain he would have rejected the offer at once had he had even a faint inkling of its nature. He was therefore a victim of ignorance and perhaps of imposition, for the Tsan-ni Kenbo, who knew all about this present, must have made some plausible explanations to the Dalai Lama when the latter asked him about it. Shata, the Premier and bosom friend of the Tsan-ni, probably played some part in the imposture.


Who is Shata? Shata, whose name I have before mentioned, is the eldest of the Premiers, and comes from one of the most illustrious families of Tibet. His house stood in hereditary feud with the great monastery Tangye-ling[502] whose head, Lama Temo Rinpoche, acted as Regent before the present Dalai Lama had been installed. At that time the star of Shata was in the decline. He could not even live in Tibet with safety, and had to leave the country as a voluntary exile. As a wanderer he lived sometimes at Darjeeling and at other times in Sikkim. It was during this period of his wandering existence that he observed the administration of India by England, and heard much about how India came to be subjugated by that Power. Shata therefore is the best authority in Tibet about England’s Indian policy. His mind was filled with the dread of England. He was overawed by her power and must have trembled at the mere idea of the possibility of her crossing the Himālayas and entering Tibet, which could hardly[503] hope to resist the northward march of England, when once the latter made up her mind to invade the land. He must have thought during his exile that Tibet would have to choose between Russia and China in seeking foreign help against the possible aggression of England. Evidently therefore he carried home some such idea as to Tibetan policy when affairs allowed him to return home with safety, that is to say, when his enemy had resigned the Regency and surrendered the supreme power to the Dalai Lama. Shata was soon nominated a Premier, and the power he then acquired was first of all employed and abused in destroying his old enemy and his followers. The maladministration and unjust practices of which those followers had been guilty during the ascendancy of their master furnished a sufficient cause for bringing a serious charge against the latter. The poor Temo Rinpoche was arrested for a crime of which he was innocent, and died a victim to his enemy, as already told.

Shata is an unscrupulous man and is resourceful in intrigues. But he is nevertheless a man of vigorous mind and does not hesitate about the means, when once he makes up his mind to compass anything.

He is the best informed man in Tibet, comparatively speaking, in diplomatic affairs, and so he must possess a certain definite view about the foreign policy of Tibet, and his pro-Russian tendency must have come from his strong conviction, though this conviction rested on a slender base. This tendency was of course stimulated and encouraged by the Tsan-ni Kenbo, who did not neglect to work upon the other’s inclination when he saw that it was highly favorable to him. Shata on his part must have rendered help to his Mongolian friend when the latter wished to offer the strange present to the Dalai Lama. I do not say that the other Ministers approved of Shata’s acts in this significant transaction, or even of his pro-[504]Russian policy. On the contrary some of them may have deprecated both as being opposed to the interests of Tibet. But they could hardly speak out their minds, and even if they did they could not restrain Shata, for the simple reason that the executive authority practically rests in the hands of the Senior Premier. He very seldom consulted his colleagues, still less was he inclined to accept advice coming from them. Under the circumstances they must have connived at the acceptance of the bishop’s apparel, even if they knew about it.

China’s loss of prestige in Tibet since the Japano-Chinese war owing to her inability to assert her power over the vassal state has much to do with this pro-Russian leaning. China is no longer respected, much less feared by the Tibetans. Previous to that war and before China’s internal incompetence had been laid bare by Japan, relations like those between master and vassal bound Tibet to China. The latter interfered with the internal affairs of Tibet and meted out punishments freely to the Tibetan dignitaries and even to the Grand Lama. Now she is entirely helpless. She could not even demand explanations from Tibet when that country was thrown into an unusual agitation about the Temo Rinpoche’s affair. The Tibetans are now conducting themselves in utter disregard or even in defiance of the wishes of China, for they are aware of the powerlessness of China to take any active steps against them. They know that their former suzerain is fallen and is therefore no longer to be depended upon. They are prejudiced against England on account of her subjugation of India, and so they have naturally concluded that they should establish friendly relations with Russia, which they knew was England’s bitter foe.

It is evident that the Dalai Lama himself favors this view, and it may safely be presumed that unless he was favorably disposed towards Russia he would never have[505] accepted the bishop’s garment from the Tsar. He is too intelligent a man to accept any present from a foreign sovereign as a mere compliment.

The Dalai Lama’s friendly inclination was clearly established when in December, 1900, he sent to Russia his grand Chamberlain as envoy with three followers. Leaving Lhasa on that date the party first proceeded towards the Tsan-ni Kenbo’s native place, whence they were taken by the Siberian railway, and in time reached S. Petersburg. The party was received with warm welcome by that court, to which it offered presents brought from Tibet. It is said that on that occasion a secret understanding was reached between the two Governments.

It was about December of 1901 or January of the following year that the party returned home. By that time I had already been residing in Lhasa for some time. About two months after the return of the party I went out on a short trip on horseback to a place about fifty miles north-east of Lhasa. While I was there I saw two hundred camels fully loaded arrive from the north-east. The load consisted of small boxes, two packed on each camel. Every load was covered with skin, and so I could not even guess what it contained. The smallness of the boxes however arrested my attention, and I came to the conclusion that some Mongolians must have been bringing ingots of silver as a present to the Dalai Lama. I asked some of the drivers about the contents of the boxes, but they could not tell me anything. They were hired at some intermediate station, and so knew nothing about the contents. However they believed that the boxes contained silver, but they knew for certain that these boxes did not come from China. They had been informed by somebody that they came from some unknown place.

When I returned to the house of my host, the Minister of Finance came in and informed him that on that day a[506] heavy load had arrived from Russia. On my host inquiring what were the contents of the load, the Minister replied that this was a secret. I took a hint from this talk of the Minister and left the room. I had however by good chance discovered that the load came from Russia, and though I could not as yet form any idea about the contents, I tried to get some reliable information.

Now I knew one Government officer who was one of the worst repositories imaginable for any secret; he was such a gossip that it was easy to worm out anything from him. One day I met him and gradually the trend of our conversation was turned to the last caravan. I found him quite communicative as usual, and so I asked him about the contents of the load. The gentleman was so far obliging, that he told me (confidentially, he said) that another caravan of three hundred camels had arrived some time before, and that the load brought by so many camels consisted of small fire-arms, bullets, and other interesting objects. He was quite elated with the weapons, saying that now for the first time Tibet was sufficiently armed to resist any attack which England might undertake against her, and could defiantly reject any improper request which that aggressive power, as the Tibetans believe her to be, might make to her.

I had the opportunity to inspect one of the guns sent by Russia. It was apparently one of modern pattern, but it did not impress me as possessing any long range nor seem to be quite fit for active service. The stock bore an inscription attesting that it was made in the United States of America. The Tibetans being ignorant of Roman letters and English firmly believed that all the weapons were made in Russia. It seems that about one-half of the load of the five hundred camels consisted of small arms and ammunition.

The Chinese Government appears mortified to see Tibet endeavoring to break off her traditional relation with[507] China, and to attach herself to Russia. The Chinese Amban once tried to interfere with the Tsan-ni Kenbo’s dealings in Lhasa, and even intended to arrest him. But it was of no avail, as the Tibetan Government extended protection to the man and defeated the purposes of the Amban. On one occasion the Tsan-ni was secretly sent to Darjeeling and on another occasion to Nepāl, and the Amban could never catch hold of him. It appears that the British Government watched the movements of the Tsan-ni, and this suspicion of England against him appears to have been shared by the Nepāl Government.

Apparently therefore the Russian manœuvres in Tibet have succeeded, and the question that naturally arises is this: “Is Russia’s footing in Tibet so firmly established as to enable her to make with any hope of success an attempt on India with Tibet as her base?” I cannot answer this question affirmatively, for Russia’s influence in Tibet has not yet taken a deep root. She can count only on the Dalai Lama and his Senior Premier as her most reliable friends, and the support of the rest who are simply blind followers of those two cannot be counted upon. Of course those blind followers would remain pro-Russian, if Russia should persist in actively pushing on her policy of fascination; but as their attitude does not rest on a solid foundation they may abandon it any time when affairs take a turn unfavorable for Russia. For it must be remembered that by no means the whole of the higher classes of Tibet are even passive supporters of the policy marked out by the Dalai Lama and his trusted lieutenants. On the contrary, there are some few who are secretly suspicious of the motives of Russia. The Tsar, they think, may be the sovereign who is the incarnate Founder, but his very munificence towards Tibet may have some deep meaning at bottom. That munificence may not be for nothing; if it is, then Russia must be regarded as a country[508] composed of people who are quite godly—a very rare thing in this world of give and take, where selfishness is a guiding motive. Is it not more reasonable and safer to interpret these repeated acts of outward friendship as coming from her ambitious design to place a snare before Tibet and finally to absorb the country? Such ideas are, I say, confined to only a very limited section, and are exchanged in whispers between confidential friends. They do not seem to have reached the ears of the Dalai Lama and the Senior Premier. But those ideas already contain in them a germ of a dangerous nature, which at some favorable opportunity may develop into a powerful anti-Russian movement. Russia therefore will experience a keen disappointment if she considers her footing in Tibet firmly planted beyond any fear of shaking, and neglects to keep watch over the state of affairs in that country. If she neglects this, all the gold she has disbursed in the shape of presents and bribes will prove so much mere waste.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

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

CHAPTER LXXII. Tibet and British India.

The Tibetans are on the whole a hospitable people, and the unfavorable discrimination made against England is mainly attributable to mutual misunderstanding. On the part of England that misunderstanding led to the adoption of a rough and ready method instead of one of ingratiation, and so England is singled out as an object of abhorrence by Tibet. England had opportunities to score a greater success in Tibet than that achieved by Russia, and had she followed the Russian method her influence would now have extended far beyond the Himālayas. Instead, she tried to coerce Tibet, and so she failed. It is like crying over spilt milk to speak of this failure at present, but I cannot help regretting it for the sake of England. She would have saved much of the trouble and money she has subsequently been obliged to give in consequence of her too hasty policy, occasioned by her ignorance of the temper of the Tibetans and the general state of affairs in their country. As it was, since England sent her abortive expedition of force, the attitude of Tibet towards that Power has become one of pronounced hostility. The revelation of the secret mission of Saraṭ Chanḍra Ḍās and the serious agitation that occurred in Tibet, including the execution of several noted men, such as the virtuous Sengchen Dorjechan and others, has completely estranged the Tibetan Government from England. That revelation has had a far-reaching effect that has involved the interests of other countries, for it confirmed the Tibetan Government in its prejudice in favor of a exclusory policy. Tibet has been closed up entirely since that time, not only against British India, but even against Russia and Persia. The[510] Lama believers of India even are prohibited from entering the country. Such being the case, should England ever wish to transact any business with Tibet she would be obliged to do so by force.

Not that England neglects to take measures calculated to win the favorable opinion of the Tibetans. The Indian Viceroy is, for instance, endeavoring to convey friendly impressions to such of the Tibetans as may happen to come to frontier places, such as Darjeeling or Sikkim. Thus the children of those Tibetans are at liberty to enter any Government schools without paying fees, while boys of a hopeful nature are patronised by the Government and are sent at Government expense to higher institutions. At present there are quite a number of Tibetan lads who, after graduation from their respective courses, are employed by the Indian Government as surveyors, Post Office clerks or teachers. Then the privilege of carrying on the business of palanquin-bearers, quite a lucrative occupation, is practically reserved for the Tibetans, at least at Darjeeling. Not even natives of India, still less people of other countries, are easily allowed to start this business. The Indian Police officers too are quite indulgent towards the Tibetans, and never deal with them so strictly as with the Indian natives.

The Tibetans residing at Darjeeling are therefore quite satisfied with their lot. Most of them feel sincerely grateful towards the British Government and are ready to repay it with friendly service. The longer they remain under the British protection, the stronger grows this sentiment. They are impressed with the treatment of the British Government, its straightforwardness, veracity and benevolence, in contrast to the merciless dealings of the Government at home, which inflicts shocking punishments for even minor offences. They are well aware that the Lama’s Government cuts off a man’s arms or extracts[511] his eye-balls for larceny, or similar minor crimes, while in India capital punishment is very seldom inflicted even on offenders of a grave character; the humane treatment of criminals by the British Government is a thing that can hardly be dreamed of by the people of Tibet. The roads in India are an object of marvel to the Tibetans who arrive there for the first time. The presence of free hospitals, of free asylums, of educational institutions, the railways, telegraphs and telephones—all these are objects of wonder and marvel to those Tibetans, and it is not strange that most of them become the more disinclined to return home the longer they live in India. In the presence of these evidences of material greatness, the Tibetans naturally come to the conclusion that a Government which can afford to establish and maintain such splendid structures must be immensely rich, and they therefore begin to nurture the hope of having such a wealthy and great Government over them, and of sharing in its prosperity. This sentiment seems to be especially strong among those of the higher classes, who have seen India, and it is shared by their inferiors who know that greatness only from hearsay.

The policy of indirectly winning the goodwill of the Tibetans, so far pursued by the Indian Government, has failed, however, to produce any perceptible effect on the Government circles of Tibet. They are too far engrossed with personal interests to be open to any great extent to indirect suasion of a moral nature. They are far more inclined to gain advantage for themselves directly from offers of bribes than to profit by an exemplary model of administration. The main reason why they are favorably disposed towards Russia is because they have received gold from that country; it was never by the effect of any display of good administrative method that Russia has succeeded so well. In short, these greedy Tibetan officials offer their friendship to the highest bidders, and they do[512] not care at all whence the gold comes so long as they grasp a large sum. The policy of the British Government therefore rests on a pedestal set a little too high to be understood and appreciated by the majority of the official circles of Tibet.

The attitude of the priesthood towards England is a puzzled one. They are puzzled to determine whether they should denounce the English as devils incarnate, or respect them as the incarnations of saints. The benevolent arrangements made by them, such as establishing philanthropic institutions, laying of railroads and such like, lead the sceptical Lamas to think that Englishmen must understand the ways of Buḍḍhism and be a godly race. But when they think that these same Englishmen did not scruple to annex other people’s land to their own dominions, their favorable impression about Englishmen receives a sudden and complete check. These two conflicting notions seem to have taken a deep hold on their minds, and they try to solve the puzzle without compromising their two convictions. They explain that there must be two distinct kinds of Englishmen in India, one benevolent and godly and the other infernal and quite wicked. Otherwise, they think, such a marvellous phenomenon as that witnessed in India could hardly have been possible.

The same priests held a strange notion about the late Queen. They believed her to be an incarnation of the patron Goddess of the Cho-khang temple in Lhasa, and therefore endowed with a supernatural power of subjugating and governing the whole world. Because of this occult affinity the Queen entertained, they believed, a fraternal feeling towards Tibet, but some of the courtiers about her were wicked and obstructed her benevolent intentions, just as the great Buḍḍha himself had among His disciples some wicked and incorrigible characters. The Tibetans, they said, must get rid of those pernicious persons for the Queen.

When the news of the death of the Queen reached Tibet, the people, while mourning for her, at the same time rejoiced, for they thought that their Panden Lhamo, the Goddess in question, was once more restored to them.

I may add that I was frequently asked by the literates and other men of learning of my own impression about British India, for they knew that I had visited Buḍḍhagayā and other places in India. On such occasions I merely confined myself as much as possible to general remarks, for I feared that any accurate explanation might awake their suspicions about my supposed personality.

The existence of the Siberian railway can hardly be expected to give any great help to Russia, if ever the latter should be obliged from one reason or another to send a warlike expedition to Lhasa. The distance from the nearest station to Lhasa is prohibitive of any such undertaking, for the march, even if nothing happens on the road, must require five or six months and is through districts abounding in deserts and hills. The presence of wild natives in Amdo and Kham is also a discouraging factor, for they are people who are perfectly uncontrollable, given up to plunder and murder, and of course thoroughly at home in their own haunts. Even discipline and superior weapons would not balance the natural advantages which these dreadful people enjoy over intruders, however well informed the latter may be about the topography of the districts. Russia can hardly expect to subdue Tibet by force of arms. It was in consideration of this fact that the Tsan-ni Kenbo has been endeavoring to impose upon the Tibetans that audacious fiction about the identity of the Tsar’s person with that of the long dead Founder of the New Sect, so that his master might accomplish by peaceful means what he could hardly effect by force.

However, even the Tsan-ni’s painstaking efforts appear to have fallen short of his expectations, and there is a danger of a reaction setting in against him.

It must be remembered that the sentiment of the common people towards China still retains its old force, even though they know that the power of their old patron has considerably declined lately. They are well aware that Tibet has been placed from time immemorial in a state of vassalage to China, that Prince Srong-tsan Gambo who first introduced Buḍḍhism into Tibet had as his wife a daughter of the then Emperor of China, while the Tibetans believe that the present Emperor of China is an incarnation of a Buḍḍhist deity (the Chang-chub Semba Tambe yang in Tibetan) worshipped on Mount Utai, China. And so both from tradition and prejudice and from present superstition, the mass of the people, who are conservative, cannot but regard China with a lingering sentiment of respect and attachment, and the position which China still occupies in the niches of their hearts can hardly be supplanted by Russia, even when the Tsan-ni Kenbo ingeniously represents her as the country indicated in the Tibetan Book of Prophecy.

As I have mentioned before, some few of the influential Government officials do not seem to approve of the Tsan-ni’s movement. They even suspect that Russia might have some sinister object in view when she presented gold and other valuable things to the Dalai Lama and others. Tibet has no newspapers, but even without that organ of public opinion the public become acquainted sooner or later with most important occurrences, and so it stands to reason that the unfavorable view which is secretly entertained by a limited number of thoughtful men must have leaked out one way or other to at least a section of the public. The result is that not a small number of priests have begun to side, though not as an organised[515] movement, with these prudent thinkers, and therefore to rebel against Shata and his faction. The priests of the colleges and the warrior-priests seem to be particularly conspicuous in this reactionary movement. Indeed the fact is that Shata has never been a persona grata with those young men since the tragedy of Temo Rinpoche, and so they were inclined to view anything done by the crafty author of that tragedy with suspicious eyes. Then again the thoughtful portion of the college-priests never tolerated the Nechung oracles. They despised the oracle-priests as not much better than men of unsound mind, as drunkards, and corrupters of national interests. The very fact that Shata patronised this vile set further estranged him from the college-priests.

Under the circumstances, something like a reaction seems already to have set in against the pro-Russian agitation ingeniously planned by the Tsan-ni Kenbo. It remains to be seen what steps Russia will take towards Tibet to prevent the Lama’s country from slipping away from her grasp.

In reviewing the relations that formerly existed between British India and Tibet, it must be stated first of all that British India was closely connected with Tibet many years ago. At least Tibet’s attitude toward the Indian Government was not embittered by any hostile sentiment. In the eighteenth century, during the Governor-Generalship of Warren Hastings, he sent George Bogle to make commercial arrangements between the two countries. This gentleman resided a few years at Shigatze. Then Captain Turner also lived at the same place as a commercial agent for some time. After that time India did not send any more such commissioners, but till about twenty-four years ago the Indian natives were permitted to enter Tibet unmolested. They were generally pilgrims or priests bent on visiting the sacred places. Quite a large number of such Indians[516] must have entered Tibet. Prior to the exploration of Saraṭ Chanḍra Ḍās it was not an uncommon sight, I have been told, to see a party of naked priests, each carrying a water-vessel made of gourd, and iron tongs, and with faces smeared with ashes, proceeding towards Tibet. Though official relations had ceased between Tibet and India, their people therefore were bound together by some friendly connexions till quite recently. It is not unlikely that if the Indian Government had made at that time some advances acceptable to Tibet, it would have succeeded in establishing cordial relations with the latter.

The exploration of Saraṭ Chanḍra Ḍās disguised as an ordinary Sikkimese priest, and the frontier trouble that followed it, completely changed the attitude of Tibet towards India and the outer world and made it adopt a strict policy of exclusion. The publication of the results of that exploration directed the attention of the Indian Government to the question of delimiting the boundary between Sikkim, its protectorate, and Tibet. It was at that time that the Tibetan Government adopted most indiscreet measures at the instance of a fanatical Nechung, and proceeded to build a fort at a frontier place which distinctly belonged to Sikkim. The Tibetan Government is said to have at first hesitated to follow that insidious advice, but the Nechung was clamorous and declared that his presence in the fort would disarm any troops which the Indian Government might send against it. Tibet therefore, continued the fanatic, need not be afraid of the Indian Government and must proceed to construct a fort with all promptitude. He argued that the presence of a fort would go far towards promoting Tibet’s cause in settling the boundary dispute and the fort would become the permanent boundary mark.

Accordingly the fort was built at a place that was beyond the legitimate boundary line of Tibet. Soon the Indian[517] troops arrived and, ‘infidels’ as they were, they made short work of it, in utter defiance of the terrible anathema hurled by the indomitable Nechung against them. The stronghold was carried by assault by the invaders. The crumbled stone walls standing on a hill at a place about twenty miles on this side of Nyatong, which marks the boundary between Sikkim and Tibet, indicate the site of this short-lived stronghold built by the Tibetan Government. Now in building a fort in a place which the Tibetans themselves knew to belong to Sikkim, they may have reasoned with self-complacency that as Sikkim formerly belonged to Tibet, therefore they might not improperly revive their original claim on, at least, a portion of that district now under the jurisdiction of England. Of course England could never concur in such an arrangement, and the trouble between her and Tibet at last culminated in war. This was about sixteen years ago. The issue of that war was from the first a foregone conclusion, and the troops sent by the Indian Government easily put to rout the fighting men of Tibet. The latter held better positions, but they lacked discipline, training and good weapons, while they had the further disadvantage of being commanded by would-be generals and captains who did not care to lead their men in person, but contented themselves with issuing orders and leaving them to be carried out anyhow. Needless to add that the orders could never be carried out, but were invariably frustrated by the invaders. The Tibetan generals and captains escaped unhurt, for the simple reason that they had never exposed themselves to danger. After issuing orders, they always remained in the camp and spent their time in gambling, leaving their soldiers to be killed or wounded on the field. Thus the war ended with some heavy casualty returns on the Tibetan side, and far shorter returns on the part of the invaders.

As the result of this war the frontier line was drawn through Nyatong, and though the Indian Government would have been justified in extending it further down to Chumbi Samba, it did not push its claim so far.

Apparently the action of the Indian Viceroy of that time was crowned with success, but when this complication is viewed with an eye to a longer and more permanent end, I cannot approve of the measures adopted by him. He should I think, have adopted a course of leniency instead of one of stern punishment, and should have endeavored by some clever manœuvres, not excluding a rather liberal disbursement of secret service funds, to win the good-will of the ruling circles of Tibet. I think the result would have been far more advantageous for the future success of England than recovering at the point of the bayonet a barren tract covering only thirty miles in area. Who knows but that the influence of England might have been firmly established in Tibet by this time if that patronising policy had been adopted then, and that Englishmen might not be free to come and reside in and about Lhasa to enjoy the pure atmosphere and cool and healthy climate of that district?
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 5:11 am

CHAPTER LXXIII. China, Nepal and Tibet.

It requires the erudition and investigations of experts to write with any adequacy about the earlier relations between China and Tibet. I must therefore confine myself here only to the existing state of those relations.

Tibet is nominally a protectorate of China, and as such she is bound to pay a tribute to the Suzerain State. In days gone by, Tibet used to forward this tribute to China, but subsequently the payment was commuted against expenses which China had to allow Tibet, on account of the Grand Prayer which is performed every year at Lhasa for the prosperity of the Chinese Emperor. As a result of this arrangement, Tibet ceased to send the tribute and China to send the prayer fund.

The loss of Chinese prestige in Tibet has been truly extraordinary since the Japano-Chinese War. Previous to that disastrous event, China used to treat Tibet in a high-handed way, while the latter, overawed by the display of force of the Suzerain, tamely submitted. All is now changed, and instead of that subservient attitude Tibet regards China with scorn. The Tibetans have come to the conclusion that their masters are no longer able to protect and help them, and therefore do not deserve to be feared and respected any more. It can easily be understood how the Chinese are mortified at this sudden downfall of their prestige in Tibet. They have tried to recover their old position, but all their endeavors have as yet been of no avail. The Tibetans listen to Chinese advice when it is acceptable, but any order that is distasteful to them is utterly disregarded.

While I was staying in Lhasa a yellow paper, containing the Chinese Emperor’s decree issued at the termination of the Boxer trouble, was hung up in the square of that city. The decree was addressed to all the eighteen provinces of China and all her protectorates. It warned the people under pain of severe penalty against molesting and persecuting foreigners, as they, the people, were too frequently liable to do from their ignorance of the state of affairs abroad and their misunderstanding of the motives of the foreigners who came to their respective districts. These foreigners, the decree continued, have really come to engage in industrial pursuits or in diffusing religion, and for other purposes beneficial alike to the people and themselves. In order to promote these aims of mutual benefit, the middle kingdom has been opened so as to allow foreigners freedom of travelling to any place they wish, and so, concluded the decree, this policy of welcome and hospitality should be adopted in all the provinces and protectorates.

Two other decrees of like import arrived afterwards and were similarly posted up, and I thought at that time that the allies must have entered Peking, and that this decree must have been issued as a result of the conclusion of peace between the Powers and China.

The decree, however, failed to produce any particular impression on the Tibetans. I asked a high Government official what Tibet was going to do with the order set forth in the decree, and whether the Tibetan Government, in the face of that injunction, could refuse, for instance, to allow Englishmen to enter the country. The official scornfully replied that his Government was not obliged to obey an order which the Chinese Emperor issued at his own pleasure. And besides it was highly doubtful whether the Emperor, who was an incarnation of a high saint, could have issued a decree of that nature, which he must have known to be utterly opposed to the interests and traditional[521] policy of Tibet. It was more probably clandestinely issued by some wicked men near the Emperor’s person, as a result of bribes received from foreigners. It did not deserve to be trusted, much less to be obeyed, declared my Tibetan friend.

Whatever be the motive, therefore, the Tibetans are utterly indifferent to most of the decrees coming from China, and treat them like so many gamblers’ oaths, neither more nor less.

Whether it be from polygamous customs or from other causes, the fact remains, though it is not possible to prove it by accurate statistical returns, that the population of Nepāl is rapidly increasing. It must be remembered that the Government takes great pains to increase its population, in order to expand its interests both at home and abroad, and, probably under the impression that polygamy is conducive to that end, it is encouraging this questionable practice. In Nepāl therefore even a man who can hardly support his family has two or three wives, and one who is better off has many more. Apparently this policy is attended with success, so far as the main object aimed at is concerned, for I have never seen so many children anywhere as I saw in Nepāl, where every family consisted of a large number of boys and girls.

Be the cause what it may, the beneficial effect of this steady advance of population is plainly visible in that country, where almost every nook and corner of available land is brought under tillage, where woods are tended with extreme care, and even the remote forests inhabited by wild beasts are made to contribute their share to the stock of lumber, of which a large portion is annually exported to lower India. Already the population of Nepāl appears to be too large for the limited area of the country, and so a considerable emigration is taking place. Thus we find the[522] Nepālese serving in the army of the Indian Government, or pursuing trade or opening up wild lands in Sikkim or at Darjeeling. Above all the Nepālese seem to cast their longing glances towards Tibet as the best field for their superfluous population; for Tibet, while possessing an area about twelve-fold that of Nepāl, is far more thinly populated. They even seem to be prepared to go through the ordeal of war, if necessary, to secure that best outlet for their needy population, which cannot find sufficient elbowroom at home. Perhaps the Nepāl Government has that contingency in view in maintaining, as it does, a standing army which is evidently far above its home requirements in numerical strength.

In Nepāl the military department receives appropriations which are quite out of proportion to those set apart for peaceful matters, as education, justice and philanthropy. Indeed the Nepāl troops, the famous Gurkhas, may even rival regular British troops in discipline and effectiveness; they may perhaps even surpass the others in mountain warfare, such as would take place in their own country. Certainly in their capacity of enduring hardships and in running up and down hills, bearing heavy knapsacks, they are superior to the British soldiers. They very much resemble the Japanese soldiers in stature and general appearance, and also in temperament. The one might easily be mistaken for the other, so close is the resemblance between the two. In short, as fighters in mountainous places the Gurkhas form ideal soldiers; and it seems as though circumstances will sooner or later compel Nepāl to employ for her self-defence this highly effective force. Russia is at the bottom of the impending trouble, while Tibet supplies the immediate cause.

The Russianising tendency of Tibet has recently put Nepāl on her guard, and when intelligence reached Nepāl that Tibet had concluded a secret treaty with Russia, that[523] the Dalai Lama had received a bishop’s robe from the Tsar, and that a large quantity of arms and ammunition had reached Lhasa from S. Petersburg, Nepāl became considerably alarmed, and with good reason. For with Russia established in Tibet, Nepāl must necessarily feel uneasy, as it would be exposed to the danger of absorption. The very presence of a powerful neighbor must subject Nepāl to a great strain which can hardly be borne for long.

It is not surprising to hear that Nepāl is said to have communicated in an informal manner with Tibet and to have demanded an explanation of the rumors concerning the conclusion of a secret treaty between her and Russia, adding that if that were really the case then Nepāl, from considerations of self-defence, must oppose that arrangement even if the opposition entailed an appeal to arms. What reply Tibet has made to this communication is not accurately known, but that Nepāl sent an informal message to this effect admits of no doubt.

Nepāl may be driven to declare war on Tibet should the latter persist in pursuing her pro-Russian policy, and allow Russia to establish herself in that country; and it is quite likely that England may be pleased to see Nepāl adopt that resolute attitude. She may even extend a helping hand, for instance by supplying part of the war expense, and thus enabling Nepāl to prosecute that movement. The reason is obvious, for England has nothing to lose but everything to gain from trouble between Nepāl and Tibet, in which the former may certainly be expected to win. But even if Nepāl is victorious her victory will bring her only a small benefit, and the lion’s share will go to England; Nepāl therefore would be placed in the rather foolish position of having taken the chestnuts from the fire for the British lion to eat. The present Ruler of Nepāl is too intelligent a statesman not to perceive that—judging at least from my personal observations, when I was allowed to see the Ruler, the[524] Cabinet Minister. He knows that it would be far better for his countrymen to content himself with the reality of benefit rather than with the glory of a successful but necessarily costly war. He should confine himself to making some arrangements with Tibet by which the Nepālese may be enabled to enter, or settle in Tibet, and to carry on profitable undertakings there. If once his countrymen establish their influence in Tibet by virtue of economic undertakings, then they may regard with comparative complacency any advance of Russian influence in Tibet, for Nepāl would be in a position to counteract that influence by peaceful means or even by war if necessary.

Thus, it is hardly likely that Nepāl will go to extreme measures towards Tibet, even if England should cleverly encourage her.

It must be remembered that the relations between the two countries are not yet strained. The Tibetans do not seem to harbor any ill-feeling towards their neighbors beyond the mountains, nor do they regard them as a whole with fear, though they do fear the Gurkhas on account of their valor and discipline. The Tibetan Government also seems to be desirous of maintaining a friendly relation with Nepāl. For instance, when on one occasion the Ruler of Nepāl sent his messenger to Tibet to procure a set of Tibetan sūṭras, the Dalai Lama, who heard of that errand, caused a set to be sent to Nepāl as a present from himself, which is now kept in the Royal Library of Nepāl.

The Nepāl Government, on its part, appears to be doing its best to create a favorable impression on the Tibetans. The Ruler, it must be remembered, is not a Buḍḍhist but a Brāhmaṇa; still, he pursues the policy of toleration towards all faiths, and is especially kindly to Buḍḍhists. The Buḍḍhists from Tibet who are staying in Nepāl enjoy protection from the Government, and the Ruler not unfrequently makes grants of money or timber when Buḍḍhist[525] temples are to be built in his dominion. The care bestowed by the Ruler on the Buḍḍhists is highly appreciated by their friends at home, and Nepāl is therefore favorably situated for winning the hearts of the Tibetan people. It is easily conceivable that with a judicious use of secret service funds Nepāl might easily establish her influence in Tibet. This, however, cannot be readily expected from that country, as internal conditions now are, for order is far from being firmly established in that little kingdom, and domestic troubles and administrative changes occur too frequently. Even the Prime Minister, who wields the real power, has been assassinated more than once, while changes have very frequently taken place in the incumbency of that post. Nepāl is at present too deeply absorbed in her internal affairs, and cannot spare either energy or money for pursuing any consistent policy towards Tibet. Thus, though the military service of Nepāl is sufficiently creditable, her diplomacy leaves much to be desired.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 5:11 am

CHAPTER LXXIV. The Future of Tibetan Diplomacy.

Tibet may be said to be menaced by three countries—England, Russia and Nepāl, for China is at present a negligible quantity as a factor in determining its future. The question is which of the three is most likely to become master of that table-land. It is evident that the three can never come to terms in regard to this question; at best England and Nepāl may combine for attaining their common object, but the combination of Russia with either of them is out of the question. Russia’s ambition in bringing Tibet under her control is too obviously at variance with the interest of the other two to admit of their coming to terms with her, for Russia’s occupation would be merely preparatory to the far greater end of making a descent on the fertile plains on the south side of the Himālayas by using Tibet as a base of operation. As circumstances stand, Nepāl has to confine her ambition to pushing her interests in Tibet by peaceful means. This is evidently the safest and most prudent plan for that country, seeing that when once that object has been attained her interest would remain unimpaired whether Tibet should fall into the hands of England or into those of Russia. After all, therefore, the future of Tibet is a problem to be solved between those two Powers. At present Russia has the ears of an important section of the ruling circles of Tibet, while on the other hand England has the mass of the Tibetan people on her side. The Russian policy, depending as it does on clever manœuvres and a free use of gold, is in danger of being upset by any sudden turn of affairs in Tibet, while the procedure of England being moderate and matter-of-fact is more lasting in its effect. Which policy[527] is more likely to prevail cannot easily be determined, for though moderation and practical method will win in the long run, diplomacy is a ticklish affair and must take many other factors into consideration. At any rate England is warned to be on the alert, for otherwise Russia may steal a march upon her and upon Lhasa.

If the Russian troops should ever succeed in reaching Lhasa, that would open up a new era for Tibet, for the country would passively submit to the Russian rule. The Tibetans, it must be remembered, are thoroughly imbued with the spirit of negative fatalism, and the arrival of Russian troops in Lhasa would therefore be regarded as the inevitable effect of a predetermined causation, and therefore as an event that must be submitted to without resistance. The entry of those troops would never rouse the patriotic sentiment of the people. But the effect of this imaginary entry would constitute a serious menace to India. In fact, with Russia established in the natural strongholds of Tibet, India, it may be said, would be placed at the mercy of Russia, which could send her troops at any moment down to the fertile plains below. Thus would the dream of Peter the Great be realised, and of course the British supremacy on the sea would avail nothing against this overland descent across the Himālayas. Some may think that what I have stated is too extravagant, and is utterly beyond the sphere of possibility. I reply that any such thought comes from ignorance of the natural position of Tibet. Any person who has ever personally observed the immense strength which Tibet naturally commands must agree with me that its occupation by Russia would be followed sooner or later by that of India by the same aggressive power.

The question naturally arises: “Will Tibet then cease to be an independent country?” It is of course impossible to come to any positive conclusion about it, but from what[528] I have observed and studied I cannot give a reassuring answer. The spirit of dependence on the strong is too deeply implanted in the hearts of the Tibetan people to be superseded now by the spirit of self-assertion and independence. During the long period of more than a thousand years, the Tibetan people has always maintained the idea of relying upon one or another great power, placing itself under the protection of one suzerain State or another, first India and then China. How far the Tibetans lack the manly spirit of independence may easily be judged from the following story about the Dalai Lama, who is unquestionably a man of character, gifted with energy and power of decision, who would be well qualified to lead his country to progress and prosperity did he possess modern knowledge and were he well informed of the general trend of affairs abroad. He is thoroughly familiar with the condition of his own people, and has done much towards satisfying popular wishes, redressing grievances and discouraging corrupt practices. If ever there were a man in Tibet whose heart was set on maintaining the independence of the country, it must be the Dalai Lama. So I had thought, but my fond hope was rudely shaken, and I was left in despair about the future of Tibet.

This supreme chief of the Lama Hierarchy has recently undergone a complete change in his attitude towards England. Formerly whenever England opened some negotiation with Tibet, the Dalai Lama was overcome by great perturbation, while any display of force on the part of England invariably plunged him into the deepest anxiety. He was often seen on such occasions to shut himself up in a room and, refusing food or rest, to be absorbed in painful reflexions. Now all is changed, and the same Dalai Lama regards all threats or even encroachments with indifference or even defiance. For instance,[529] when England, chiefly to feel the attitude of Tibet and not from any object of encroachment, included, when fixing the boundary, a small piece of land that had formerly belonged to Tibet, the Dalai Lama was not at all perturbed. Instead of that he is said to have talked big and breathed defiance, saying that he would make England rue this sooner or later. His subjects, it is reported, were highly impressed on this occasion and they began to regard him as a great hero.

For my part this sudden change in the behavior of the supreme Lama only caused me to heave a heavy sigh for the future of Tibet. It cruelly disillusioned me of the great hopes I had reposed in his character for the welfare of his country. The reason why the Grand Lama, who was at first as timid as a hare towards England, should become suddenly as bold as a lion, is not far to seek. The conclusion of a secret treaty with Russia was at the bottom of the strange phenomenon. Strong in the idea that Russia, as she had promised the Dalai Lama, would extend help whenever his country was threatened by England, he who had formerly trembled at the mere thought of the possibility of England’s encroachment began now to hurl defiance at her. He may even have thought that the arrival of a large number of arms from Russia would enable Tibet to resist England single-handed. In short, the Dalai Lama believed that Russia being the only country in the world strong enough to thwart England, therefore he need no longer be harassed by any fear of the latter country.

With the Dalai Lama—perhaps one of the greatest Lama pontiffs that has ever sat on the throne—given up shamelessly, and even with exultation, to that servile thought of subserviency, and with no great men prepared to uphold the independence of the country, Tibet must be looked upon as doomed. All things considered therefore, unless some miracle should happen, she is sure to be absorbed by[530] some strong Power sooner or later, and there is no hope that she will continue to exist as an independent country.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 5:19 am

CHAPTER LXXV. The “Monlam” Festival.

Monlam literally means supplication, but in practice it is the name of the great Tibetan festival performed for the benefit of the reigning Emperor of China, the offering of prayers to the deities for his prosperity and long life. The festival commences either on the 3rd or 4th of January, according to the lunar calendar, and closes on the 25th of the month. The three days beginning on New Year’s Day and ending with the 3rd are given up to the New Year’s Festival, and from the following day the great Monlam season sets in.

In order to make arrangements for the coming festival, the priests are given holiday from the 20th of December. Holiday however is a gross misnomer, for the days are spent in profane pleasures and in all sorts of sinful amusements. The temples are no longer sacred places; they are more like gambling-houses—places where the priests make themselves merry by holding revels far into the night. Now is the time when the Tibetan priesthood bids good-bye for a while to all moral and social restraints, when young and old indulge themselves freely to their heart’s content, and when those who remain aloof from this universal practice are laughed at as old fogeys. I had been regularly employing one little boy to run errands and to do all sorts of work. In order to allow him to enjoy the season, I engaged another boy on this occasion. I might have dispensed with this additional boy altogether, for as the two boys never remained at home, and even stayed away at night, it was just as if I had had no boy at all. And so for days and days religion[532] and piety were suspended and in their places profanity and vice were allowed to reign supreme.

The wild season being over—it lasts about twelve days—the Monlam festival commences. This is preceded by the arrival of priests at Lhasa from all parts of Tibet. From the monasteries of Sera, Rebon, Ganden and other large and small temples, situated at a greater or less distance, arrive the contingents of the priestly hosts. These must number about twenty-five thousand, sometimes more and sometimes less, according to the year. They take up their quarters in ordinary houses, for the citizens are under obligation to offer one or two rooms for the use of the priests during this season, just as people of other countries are obliged to do for soldiers when they carry out manœuvres in their neighborhood. And as in the case when soldiers are billeted, so the priests who come from the country are crowded in their temporary abodes. Some of them are even obliged to sleep outside, owing to lack of accommodation, but they do not seem to mind the discomfort much, so long as snow does not fall. Besides the priests, the city receives at the same time an equally numerous host of lay visitors from the country, so that the population of Lhasa during this festival season is swollen to twice its regular number, or even more. In ordinary days Lhasa contains about fifty thousand inhabitants, but there must be at least a hundred thousand on this special occasion. I ought to state that formerly, and before the time of the present Dalai Lama, the arrival of the Monlam festival was signalised not by the inflow of people from the country but by the contrary movement, the temporary exodus of the citizens to the provinces. Since the accession of the present Grand Lama the direction of the temporary movement has been reversed, and the festival has begun to be celebrated amidst a vast concourse of the people instead of amidst a desolate scene. This apparent anomaly[533] was due to the extortion which the Festival Commissioners practised on the citizens.

This function is undertaken by two of the higher priests of the Rebon Monastery, the largest of the three important establishments, who take charge of the judicial affairs of the temple during the term of one year, and are known by the title of Shal-ngo. The appointment to the post of Shal-ngo was and still is an expensive affair for its holder, for he must present to the officials who determine the nomination bribes amounting to perhaps five thousand yen. As soon as the post has been secured at such a cost the Shal-ngo loses no time in employing it as a means of recovering that sum, with heavy interest, during his short tenure of office and especially during the two festival seasons of Monlam and Sang-joe, over which the two Commissioners exercise absolute control. They set themselves to collect enough to enable them to live in competence and luxury during the rest of their lives. Driven by this inordinate greed, the dealings of the Commissioners are excessively strict during those days. Fines are imposed for every trivial offence; the citizens are frequently fined as much as two hundred yen, in Japanese currency, on the pretext of the imperfect cleansing of the doorways or of the streets in front of their houses. The parties engaged in a quarrel are ordered to pay a similarly heavy fine, and without any discrimination as to the relative justice of their causes. Then too the festival seasons are a dreadful time for those who have debts not yet redeemed, for then the creditors can easily recover the sum through the help of the Commissioners, provided they are prepared to give to them one-half the sum thus recovered. On receipt of a petition from a creditor, the greedy officials at once order the debtors and their friends to pay the money on pain of having their property confiscated. The whole proceedings of the Festival Commissioners, therefore, are not much[534] better than the villainous practices of brigands and highwaymen. It is not to be wondered at that at the approach of the festivals the citizens began in a hurry to lock away their valuable property in the secret depths of their houses, and then leaving one or two men to take charge during their absence, left the city for the country, the houses being given over as lodgings for the[535] priests. During the Monlam season, therefore, there did not remain in the city even one-tenth of its ordinary population.


The shark-like practices of the Shal-ngos are not confined to the festival seasons or to the citizens; on the contrary, they prey even on their brother-priests for the purpose of satisfying their voracious greed, and extort money from them. The Shal-ngos are like wolves in a fold of sheep, or like robbers living with impunity amidst ordinary law abiding people. That such gross abuses and injustice should have been allowed within the sacred precincts of a monastery is really marvellous, but it is a fact. The Shal-ngos’ extortions from the citizens were checked when the present Dalai Lama ascended the throne, and the citizens were thus enabled to live in peace and to participate in the festival during the Monlam season, but the sinful practices of the Legal Commissioners in other quarters are still left uncurtailed.

An interesting story is told which shows how the Shal-ngos are abhorred and detested by the Tibetans. A certain Lama, superstitiously believed to possess a supernatural power of visiting any place in this world or the next and of visiting Paradise or Hell, was once asked by a merchant of Lhasa to tell him with what he, the Lama, had been most impressed during his visits to Hell. The Lama replied that he was surprised to see so many priests suffering tortures at the hands of the guardians of Hell. However he continued with an air of veracity, the tortures to which ordinary priests were being subjected were not very extreme, and they were therefore allowed to live in their new abode with less suffering. But the tortures inflicted on the Shal-ngos of Rebon monastery were horrible; they were such that the mere recollection of them caused his hair to stand on end. Such is the story told at the expense of these Lama sharks, and indeed from the way in which they act[536] during their short tenure of the office, Hell, and the lowest circle in it, seems to be the only place for which they are fit.

Lhasa puts on her cleanest and finest appearance with the advent of this season. The filth and garbage that have been left accumulating during the preceding months are carried away, the gutters are cleaned, and the public are no longer allowed to drop dirt about or in any way to pollute the streets.

The grand service is performed at the magnificent three-storied edifice which is so conspicuous in Lhasa, namely the Cho Khang, the celebrated Buḍḍha’s Hall. During the service this hall is packed to overflowing with priests and pious believers, and there is not space left to move one’s elbows. Not infrequently, therefore, casualties are said to happen.

The service is performed three times a day, first from five to seven in the morning, then from ten to a little before one and lastly from three to about half past four in the afternoon. The second service is the most important one for the priests who attend the ceremony, as it is accompanied by monetary gifts. The gifts come either from philanthropic folk or from the Government, and range on each occasion from twenty-four sen (Japanese) to seventy-two sen. The gifts generally amount during the period of the Festival to about ten yen for ordinary priests. This sum is considerably larger on a special occasion, as when a Dalai Lama is enthroned or dies, when it may increase to about twenty yen.

The receipts of the higher Lamas during this season are far greater—often one thousand, two thousand or even as much five thousand yen.

On the other hand all the priests who arrive in Lhasa to attend the ceremony are required to pay their own lodging expenses, at the rate of twenty-five to fifty sen a day. For a room or set of rooms better furnished than[537] usual the charge may be three to five yen, and of course only aristocratic priests can afford to hire such rooms. The lodging of the priests is somewhat exclusive, and they are forbidden to stay at houses selling liquors, or containing many females.

During this season, besides the Festival Commissioners who are the Lama sharks of the year, a special office for supervising priests, called Khamtsan-gi Giken, is created, commissioned with the duty of controlling the conduct of the priests. Quarrels are, however, very rare during the season, though from the ordinary behavior of priests they might naturally be expected to occasion such troubles. At any rate the priests maintain decorum externally. They are expected to attend the three services performed each day, and they are not allowed to attend the ceremony at their own temples, even when those temples are situated near the city. They must live in the city, and remain there, unless under exceptional circumstances, such as illness. The attendance at the three services is not compulsory, yet it is very rarely neglected, for a distribution of gifts is very often made at each service.


On January 15th, according to the lunar calendar, the most magnificent ceremony is carried out at night. The offerings are arranged around the Buḍḍha’s Hall, and the most conspicuous object among them is a triangular wooden frame with sharp apex, the structure measuring about forty feet high and thirty feet long at the base. Two dragons in an ascending position are fixed to the two sides, while about the middle of the frame the “Enchanted Garden” is represented, peopled either with figures of the Buḍḍha teaching human beings or of Princes and other important dignitaries. These figures are all made of butter. Besides human figures there are figures of several of the alleged birds of paradise, such as are mentioned in Buḍḍhist books. All these are of Tibetan[539] workmanship, and creditably executed, probably as a result of long experience. I should add that the butter figures are all finely painted and even gilded, and as the butter takes color easily the effect produced is very splendid, when those highly decorated and painted figures are seen by the light of butter-lamps or torches that are burning at a suitable distance from the figures. There must be as many as a hundred and twenty such ornamental structures around the Hall, while the lamps and torches that are burning are quite countless. Indeed, it seemed to me as if some gorgeous scene such as we imagine to exist only in Heaven had been transplanted to earth on that particular occasion. To the Tibetans the scene as exhibited on this particular night marks the high-water level of all that is splendid in this world, and it is therefore quoted as an ideal standard in speaking of anything that is uncommonly magnificent.

This offering ceremony concludes at about two o’clock the following morning, and two hours later the decorated figures are removed, for they are in danger of being melted when exposed to the rays of the sun. The ceremony, it must be remembered, is attended only by a limited number of priests, probably three hundred at the utmost out of the twenty-five thousand who are present in the city to attend the Monlam festival. The privilege of inspecting this yearly show is therefore regarded as a great honor by the Tibetan priests.

The reason why this magnificent display is denied to the inspection of the majority of priests and to the whole of the populace is because formerly, when it was open to universal inspection, uncontrollable commotion attended by casualties used to mar the function. And so the authorities decided about thirty years ago to perform it in this semi-private manner.

The ceremony begins at about eight in the evening and closes, as before mentioned, at about four the following[540] morning. The function is sometimes inspected by the Dalai Lama, while at other times he does not come, as was the case when I had the good fortune to witness it in the company of the ex-Finance Minister. The Amban however does not omit to attend the ceremony. He was attired in the gorgeous official garments of China, and sat in a carriage lit up inside with twenty-four tussore silk lanterns in which were burning foreign-made candles. On his head he wore the official cap befitting his rank. The procession was preceded by a cavalcade of Chinese officers also in their gala dresses, and behind the carriage followed another train of mounted guards. It was really a fine scene, this procession of the Chinese Amban as it passed through the streets lit up with tens of thousands of butter-lamps; only I thought that the sight was too showy and that it lacked the element of solemnity.

After the procession of the Amban followed the trains of the high priests, then high lay officials and last of all the Premiers. On that occasion only two of the four Premiers attended, the other two being unable to be present.

The Premiers come to the function in order to inspect the offerings, which are contributed by the Peers and the wealthy as a sort of obligation. Butter decorations are expensive things, costing from three hundred to two thousand yen in Japanese currency, according to their magnitude and the finish of the workmanship; and here were over one hundred and twenty such costly decorations arranged as offerings, and that only for one evening. I believe no such costly butter decorations are to be seen anywhere else in the world.


During the festival I remained as before under the hospitable roof of the ex-Minister, and though through the favor of my host I inspected the offering ceremony, I did not attend the prayer services. The former I saw from[542] mere curiosity and as an outsider. The scene on the occasion was sufficiently enjoyable; I went first to the quarters assigned to the warrior-priests and observed that these young men were spending their time in their own customary way even during the time of the service, singing songs, trying feats of arms, or engaged in hot disputes or even open quarrels. All at once the clamor ceased and order was restored as if by magic, and the young priests were seen demurely reciting the service; they had noticed some subordinates of the Festival Commissioners coming towards them in order to maintain order. Those subordinates were armed with willow sticks about four feet long and fairly thick—sticks which were green and supple and well suited for inflicting stinging blows.

Then I moved on to the quarters where the learned priests were intently engaged in carrying out the examination held for the aspirants to the highest degrees obtainable in Tibet. The examination was oral and in the form of interrogations put to the candidates by the examination committee, the latter being composed of the most celebrated theologians in the three colleges. The candidates too were not unworthy to be examined by such divines, for those only are qualified to apply for permission to undergo the examination who have studied hard for twenty years, and have acquired a thorough knowledge of all the abstruse points in Buḍḍhist theology and have made themselves masters of the art of question and answer. The learned discourses delivered by examiners and examinees awoke in me high admiration. The forensic skill of the two parties was such as I had rarely seen anywhere else. The examiners put most tortuous questions to entice the candidates into the snare of sophistry, while the latter met them with replies similarly searching and intended to upset the whole stratagem of the querents. So forcible and[543] exciting were the arguments offered by both parties that they might be compared, I thought, to a fierce contest such as might take place between a lion and a tiger.

The examination was indeed an exhibition of a truly intellectual nature, and was attended not only by the committee and candidates but by almost all the learned theologians and their disciples. These strangers were sitting round the examination tables and freely criticised the questions put and replies made. They even raised shouts of applause or of laughter, whenever either convincingly refuted his antagonist or was worsted in the argument. I observed the laughter to be especially contagious and the merry sound raised by two or three men in the strangers’ quarters would spread to all the others in the hall, till the walls resounded with the loud “ha, ha, ha” coming from several thousand throats.

Every year during the Monlam season sixteen candidates selected from the three colleges are given the degree of Lha Ramba, meaning ‘Special Doctor,’ and this degree is the most honorable one open to Tibetan divines. Only those of exceptional acquirements can hope for it.

On the occasion of the Choen joe festival also, sixteen candidates of the secondary grade are sent from the universities to pass the examination for the Tso Ramba degree. Then there are inferior degrees, which are granted by the monasteries to the young priests studying there. There are two such degrees, one called Do Ramba and the other Rim-shi. Sometimes divines of great erudition are found among the holders of the Do Ramba degree, men even more learned than the ‘Special Doctors.’ The fact is that the examination for the highest degree is expensive, when one wishes to procure that title at one jump and without previously obtaining the intermediary Do Ramba.

It is not rare, therefore to find among the Do Ramba men theologians whose learning can even outshine that[544] of the proud holders of the highest degree, for there are often men who from pecuniary considerations only are withheld from attempting the examination. The holders of the Do Ramba degree therefore differ considerably in learning, but this cannot be said of those holding the other title of Rim-shi, the latter being in nine cases out of ten of mediocre learning. This degree is easily procurable for a certain sum of money when one has studied five or six years at the monasteries of Rebon and Ganden, and so the young priests from the country generally avail themselves of this convenient transaction and return home as proud holders of the Doctor’s title, and as objects of respect and wonder for their learning among the local folk. In Tibet therefore, as in other parts of the world, cheap Doctors flaunt their learning, and pass for prodigies among the simple-minded people of the country.

The Doctors of the highest grade are unquestionably theologians of great erudition, for knowledge of the ordinary Buḍḍhist text-books is not enough for the aspirants to that title; they must study and make themselves at home in the complete cycle of Buḍḍhist works. Perhaps the Tibetan first class Doctors possess a better knowledge of Buḍḍhist theology and are more at home in all its ramifications than are the Japanese Buḍḍhist divines; for though there are quite a large number of theologians in Japan who are thoroughly versed in the philosophy and doctrine of their own particular sects it cannot boast so many divines whose knowledge completely covers the whole field of Buḍḍhist philosophy.

During the festival I frequently went to the Hall to see the function as a curious observer, but for the rest I devoted my time to prosecuting my studies under a Lhakhamba Doctor and the learned Mae Kenbo of the Sera monastery. Thus while the other priests were attending to their worldly business of making money, I detached myself from society[545] and was absorbed in study. I had the more reason to devote myself to this self-imposed task, for the time I had fixed for my departure from Tibet was drawing nearer. Not that I had hitherto neglected the main object which prompted me to undertake this self-assigned expedition to Lhasa; on the contrary, even when I was obliged, from unavoidable circumstances, to act the part of an amateur doctor and prescribe treatment to Tibetan patients, I never suspended my study; I either read Buḍḍhist works or attended lectures.

On March 4th of the solar calendar (January 24th of the Tibetan almanac) the sword festival was celebrated at Lhasa. I had the good fortune to witness this performance also, though the function is not open to general inspection. I observed it from the window of a certain Peer, an acquaintance of mine, whose house fronted the Buḍḍha’s Hall.

I may call the Sword Festival a sort of Tibetan military review. At any rate the regulars in and about Lhasa participated in it, and also the special soldiers temporarily organised for the occasion. They were all mounted, and numbered altogether perhaps two thousand five hundred men. They were quaintly accoutred, and seemed to be divided according to the colors of the pieces of cloth attached to the back of their helmets and hanging down behind. I saw a party of about five hundred troopers distinguished by white cloths, then another with purple cloths, while there was a third which used cloths of variegated dyes. But irrespective of the different colors, they were all clad in a sort of armor and carried small flags also of different colors. Some were armed with bows and arrows and others with guns, and the procession of the gaily attired soldiery was not unlike the rows of decorated May dolls arranged for sale in Tokyo on the eve of the Boys’ Festival in Japan.

The proceedings began with a signal gun. As the booming sound subsided the procession of soldiery made its appearance and each division went past the Grand Lama’s seat constructed on an elevated stand to the west of the Hall. With the termination of this march-past a party of about three hundred priests, carrying a flat drum each with a long handle and with the figure of a dragon inscribed upon its face, came out of the main edifice. Each of them carried in his right hand a crooked drum-stick. This party took its stand in a circle in front of the Hall. Next marched out the second party of priests all gorgeously attired in glittering coats and brocade tunics, each carrying a metallic bowl used in religious services. I must mention that the function demands of the soldiery and priests the washing of their bodies with warm water on the preceding evening, and so on that particular occasion those Tibetans, careless and negligent of bodily cleanliness at other times, are for the first time in the year almost decently clean.

The metallic-bowl party was arranged in a row around the drum party, and soon the signal for the service was given by one of the bowl-men who was apparently a leader. It was a peculiar signal, and consisted in striking on the bowl and starting a strange dancing movement. On this the two parties beat their drums and bowls in some sort of tune. After this had gone on for some time the whole party burst out into a chorus of ominous howls, not unlike the roar of the tiger. As the thousand priests composing the two parties all howled to the fullest extent of their throats, the noise made was sufficiently loud.

After the howling parties had completed their part in this ceremony, out marched a party of Nechung priests, those oracle-mongers of Tibet to whom reference has been made more than once already. The oracle-mongers’ party was heralded by a number of sacred-sword-bearers[547] in two rows, about a dozen in each. The sword carried measured about four feet in length and was set off with pieces of silk cloth of five different colors. The sword-bearers were followed by the bearers of golden censers and other sacred caskets or vessels. Then followed the oracle-monger, dressed cap-à-pie in all the glittering fashion which Tibetan ingenuity alone could devise. He was clad in gold brocade and wore head-gear of the same cloth. He behaved like a man stricken with palsy, was supported right and left by an assistant, and his eyes were shut. Gasping like a fish out of water and walking with a tottering gait not unlike that of a man who has lost his power of locomotion through too much liquor, the Nechung slowly emerged from the Hall. By the ignorant populace he was greeted as an object of veneration, but there were seen not a small number of priests and laymen who looked upon this peculiar appearance of the Nechung with eyes of undisguised disgust.

The part assigned to this Lama fanatic is one of semi-divine character, he being required to act as a guardian angel, to prevent any mishaps occurring during the ceremony of the ‘Sword Festival’.

Last of all slowly marched forth the procession of the Ganden Ti Rinpoche. I saw him under a capacious and highly decorated awning which is the same sort of umbrella as that of the Grand Lama. He was attired in the ceremonial robe befitting his rank of Ti Rinpoche. His appearance was highly impressive and even those priests who had viewed the oracle-mongers with well-deserved scorn were seen in attitudes of sincere respect. That was also my sentiment as my eyes met him; for he truly impressed me as a living Buḍḍha. To the Ti Rinpoche was entrusted the most important function in this ceremony, the hurling of the sacred sword in order to avert any evil spirits that may obstruct the prosperous reign of the[548] Chinese Emperor. With this sword-hurling the ceremony was brought to a close.

Though in principle this ceremony concludes the Monlam, in practice it comes to an end only on the following morning and with a custom of practical utility—that of carrying stones to the banks of the river Kichu which flows by Lhasa, and is often liable to overflow and flood the city. The stones required for this purpose are brought by the country people, and are sold at ten or twenty sen a piece, and each priest or citizen who attends the ceremony buys one or two such stones and conveys them to the banks either on his own back or by hired carriers. The stones thus conveyed to the banks are supposed to possess the effect of atoning for their sins. The banks must acquire great strength in consequence of this stone-piling.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 5:21 am

CHAPTER LXXVI. The Tibetan Soldiery.

The standing army of Tibet is said to consist of five thousand men, but from my own observation I think this number somewhat exaggerated. In any case, it is hardly sufficient to protect a country containing six millions of inhabitants against foreign invasion and civil commotion. However, in Tibet social order is not kept by soldiers, nor by the despotic power of the ruler. Religion is the force that keeps the country in good order. The mass of the people would never take arms against the Pope whom they believe to be a living Buḍḍha. This idea is so thoroughly infused into them that there have been really very few cases of rebellion in Tibet, hence there is no necessity for a great number of soldiers. The history of the country testifies that civil commotions take place only when the chief Lama has died, and the new master is too young to take up the Government for himself, and so leaves the entire business to the Agent and Ministers, who abuse their power, or when the regent tyrannises over and offends the people. But when the master is old enough to manage the affairs of the country he is revered as a living Buḍḍha, against whom no one protests. Minor difficulties may arise, but they are easily settled without recourse to arms. The real causes that have made Tibet feel the necessity of having a standing army have been her two quarrels with Nepāl and one with British India. Since then Tibet has ever had a regular army, distributed as follows: at Lhasa one thousand men, at Shigatze two thousand, at Tingri, an important fort on the Nepāl frontier, nominally five hundred but possibly only three hundred (there are several hundred Chinese soldiers here), five hundred at Gyantze, five hundred at Dam, and[550] another five hundred at Mankham, making five thousand in all. The Chinese soldiers stationed in the country number two thousand altogether, and are distributed equally at the four places—Lhasa, Tingri, Shigatze, and Tomo. Every five hundred Tibetan soldiers are under a chief called De Bon. The lower officers are one for every two hundred and fifty, one for every twenty-five and one for every five.

The Tibetan soldiers receive only one bushel of barley a month as salary. They have no regular barracks to live in together, but live in ordinary residences which, however, are built at the cost of the citizens. They are scattered throughout the city, and keep stores or carry on any kind of trade, as do the common people. They are obliged to do some kind of work, for they cannot keep their wives and children on the one bushel of barley a month. But they are free from house-rent, and I have often heard the citizens complain of the burden of building houses for the soldiers. The Chinese soldiers also live in ordinary houses like the Tibetans, and are exempt from rent.

In return for his paltry remuneration, the Tibetan soldier has to be drilled four or five times a month, and to be present at the great manœuvres once a year. The manœuvres are held in the vicinity of a little village called Dabchi, which lies about two miles north of Lhasa on the road leading to the Sera monastery. In the village there is a shrine of Kwanti (a Chinese war-God) whom the Tibetans call Gesergi Gyalpo (saffron king), and who is much revered as a God for driving away evil spirits, though the Chinese settlers form the greater proportion of his actual worshippers. Close by there is another temple called by the name of the village, in which live priests who take the services at the Kwanti shrine. Many objects of interest are kept in the shrine, but the most curious things are the images of blue demons, red demons, and other inhabitants of hell, all arranged as if they were retainers of Kwanti.[551] North of this shrine there is a high mound about one furlong square, with an arsenal standing in the centre. Thence spreads a vast plain five miles to the north, half a mile to the west and five miles to the east. This is the scene of the great parade. Soldiers are summoned from all parts of the country to attend the parade, which is usually held towards the end of September or the beginning of October, when the barley harvest is over, and the crops safely out of harm’s way. The first two days are reserved for the Chinese soldiers and the following two for the Tibetan. The review is honored by the presence of the Amban and of the higher Tibetan officers, who give prizes in money ranging from fifty cents to five dollars, or silver medals, to any soldiers who have displayed notable ability. In Tibet archery is still considered an essential art of warriors, yet artillery has recently been introduced, and is taught by Chinese officers or by Tibetans who have been educated in India. The Tibetan artillery does not amount to much.

My own observations lead me to suspect the valor of the Chinese and Tibetan soldiers, and I doubt whether they can claim to have any more strength than the ordinary citizens. Among the Chinese soldiers pale countenances are very common, and though the Tibetan soldiers look stouter, in courage I can see no difference. The cause of their insignificance is to be traced to the difficulty they have in living upon their small pay. The warrior-priests are far more soldier-like than the regular soldiers; they have no wives nor children to take care of, and have therefore nothing to fear. They are indeed far more estimable than the professional soldiers, whose first business in time of war is to plunder the natives instead of serving the country. This is all because the soldiers have families, a fact which in my opinion is the greatest hindrance to warlike purposes. The Tibetans are emotional by nature, and out of such[552] people, especially when they also have to support families, it is no easy task to make a brave army.

One exception must be made—the people of Kham. Outwardly wild, they are natural soldiers. In this district all the inhabitants, not excluding the women, may be called fighters. Their usual vocations are trading, farming, and cattle-raising, but their favorite profession is robbery. This is the business most admired by all; they deem it a great honor to defeat other tribes and kill as many foes as they can. In Kham they have robber-songs as we have war-songs: songs in which the people take much delight, even the children singing the lively airs to which they are fitted; and as there are no war-songs in Tibet the robber-songs of Kham are substituted for them. Here is one:

Upon those boundless plateaux, green with grass;
Along those sloping tortuous pathless paths;
Amidst those pointed hornlike rocky steeps
My charger iron-hoofed I bestride
With daring valor to attack my foes.

When hail-storms rage their fiercest round my head,
With all their stones like bullets pelting me,
And when tempestuous snow-drifts roll in rage,
Like mighty greedy waves engulfing me,
I fear not—nay these perils great I like
To brave; for, clad in iron boots my feet,
I headlong rush, stout-hearted as I am,
Unwed, assured of final victory.

My wife, my children and my parents dear
Are not my refuge here; I trust not them;
My refuge only is my spirit brave
Adventurous, that can resist and stand
Against misfortunes and e’en dangers dire.

These songs all begin with A, la, la, la; la, la, la, mo and end with la, la, mo, la; la, la, la, mo. Once when I met a Tibetan soldier of my acquaintance, I asked why they used robber-songs instead of having war-songs of their own. He was a talkative kind of man and proceeded to explain in an oratorical tone.

“As you well know, the meaning of the songs is very good and noble; it is the courage praised in songs like these that strengthens a country. But even good songs, when used for robbery, are indeed wicked weapons, and the singers thereof great sinners. They are the same songs, but how great is the difference in their results! In one case they promote, and in the other they destroy, humanity and righteousness.”
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 5:21 am

CHAPTER LXXVII. Tibetan Finance.

I shall next briefly describe the finance of the Tibetan Government. It must be remembered, however, that this subject is extremely complicated and hardly admits of accurate explanation even by financial experts, for nobody except the Revenue Officials can form an approximate idea of the revenue and expenditure of the Government. All that I could get from the Minister of Finance was that a considerable margin of difference existed according to the year. This must partly come from the fact that taxes are paid in kind, and as the market is necessarily subject to fluctuation even in such an exclusive place as Tibet, the Government cannot always realise the same amount of money from the sale of grain and other commodities collected by the Revenue authorities. Of course anything like statistical returns are unknown in Tibet, and my task being hampered by such serious drawbacks, I can only give here a short account of how the taxes are collected, how they are paid and by what portion of the people, and how the revenue thus collected is disbursed, and such matters, which lie on the surface so that I could easily observe and investigate them.

The Treasury Department of the Papal Government is called Labrang Chenbo, which means the large Kitchen of the Lama. It is so-called, because various kinds of staples are carried in there as duty from the land under his direct jurisdiction, and from landlords holding under a sort of feudal tenure. As there are no such conveniences as drafts or money orders, these staples have to be transported directly from each district to the central treasury, whatever the distance. But the taxpayer has one solace:[555] he can easily obtain, on his way to the treasury, the service of post-horses, such service on such occasions being compulsory. The articles thus collected consist of barley, wheat, beans, buck-wheat, meal and butter. But from districts in which custom-houses are established various other things, such as coral gems, cotton, woollen and silk goods, raisins and peaches are accepted. Other districts pay animal-skins, and thus the large Kitchen is an ‘omnium gatherum.’ Truly a strange method of collecting taxes!

One peculiarity in Tibet is the use of an abundant variety of weights and measures; there are twenty scales for weighing meal, and thirty-two boxes for measuring grain. Bo-chik is the name given to a box of the average size, and it measures about half a bushel. But tax-collectors use, when necessity arises, measures half as large or half as small as these, so that the largest measure holds three quarters of a bushel, while the smallest holds a quarter. The small ones are generally used to measure the staples from provinces such as the native place of the Dalai Lama, or such as have personal relations to some high officials of the Government. Thus, though a favored district is supposed to pay the same number of bushels as the others, it pays in reality only one-half of what the most unfortunate district has to pay. Nor is the measure used for one district a fixed one; it may change from year to year. Suppose one of the most favored districts has produced a great rascal, or rebel, or has done anything that displeases the Government. The whole people of that district are responsible for it; they are obliged to pay by the largest measure, that is, twice as much as they did in the preceding year. Thus the various kinds of offences make it necessary to have thirty-two varieties of measures and twenty of weight. It is to be noted however that when the Government has to dispose of those stuffs, it never[556] uses the larger measures, though if too small ones are used, it certainly causes complaints on the part of the buyers; hence the middle-sized ones are mostly used. All expenses of Government, such as salaries for priests and officers and wages for mechanics and tradesmen in its service are paid with an average measure.

The chief expense of the Government is, as I have stated before, that for the service of the Buḍḍha Shākyamuni. The money used for the repairing of temples and towers, and for the purchase of stone lanterns and other furniture amounts to a large sum; but by far the greater proportion is spent for butter, which is used instead of oil for the myriads of lights which are kept burning day and night. The stands arranged in rows in the temple of the Buḍḍha in Lhasa alone number no less than two thousand five hundred and in some special cases ten thousand or even a hundred thousand lamps are lighted, all of them burning butter of a high price. In Tibet the substitution of vegetable oil for mal is considered, not exactly sin, but at least a pollution and desecration of Buḍḍha; not a few Lamas leave a clause in their wills that rapeseed oil should not be offered for their souls after death. In front of the image of the Buḍḍha in Lhasa are placed twenty-four large light-stands of pure gold. These and some others have big oil-holders, large enough to hold five gallons of mal. Almost all the mal used for the service of the Buḍḍha is furnished by the Treasury of the Government, though a small part of it is offered by religious people.

Costly mal used, in former times, to be offered by Mongolians, to the great relief of the Papal Treasury, but the offering has recently been stopped entirely. The burdens of the Tibetan people themselves have been proportionately increased, but as the fixed rate of the tax cannot be increased the bigger measures are used more frequently.

In each province there are two places where the collection of taxes is made for the Government, one of which is the temple, and the other the Local Government office; for the people are divided into two classes: (1) those who are governed by the temple and (2) those who are governed by the Local Government. They pay their taxes to the Central Government through their respective Governors. In each local district, there is what is called a Zong. This was originally a castle built for warlike purposes, but in time of peace it serves as a Government office, where all the functions of Government are carried on, so taxes are also collected there. The Zong is almost always found standing on the top of a hillock of about three hundred feet and a Zongpon (chief of the castle), generally a layman, lives in it. He is the chief Governor of the district and collects taxes and sends the things or money he has gathered to the Central Government. The Zongpon is not paid by the Central Government directly, but subtracts the equivalent of his pay from the taxes he has collected. The Central Government does not send goods or money to the Local Government except on such few occasions as need special help from the national Treasury. The people under the direct jurisdiction of the Central Government are sometimes made to pay a poll-tax. The people who belong to the nobility and the higher class of priests are of course assessed by their landowners, but there is no definite regulation as to their payment to the Central Government; the people of some districts pay, while others are exempt.

Part of the work done by the Tibetan Minister of the Treasury is the management of the subscriptions of the people. Everything offered to the Buḍḍhist Temple and given to the priests at the time of the Great Assembly is at once paid into the Treasury, to be given out only by the order of the Minister of that department. Another business taken by the Minister[558] is the household expenses of the Pope. These expenses are not fixed, and the Pope can draw out as much as he pleases within the limit of usage, and his own moderation. It is said that since the accession of the present Pope both the expenditure and the revenue have been greatly increased. The Minister of the Treasury has also to pay all the salaries of officials and priests in the service of the Papal Government. These expenses for salaries are very small, as compared with those of other countries, but the officials and priests derive an additional income from the land in their own possession.

Officers and priests in Tibet can each borrow fifteen hundred dollars from the Government at an interest of five per cent a year and they can lend it again at fifteen per cent, which is the current rate of interest in Tibet, though usurers sometimes charge over thirty per cent. Thus any officer can make at least ten per cent on fifteen hundred dollars without running much risk. If an officer or priest fails to repay the loan the amount is not subtracted from his next year’s loan. Compound interest is unknown in Tibet however long the debtor may prolong his payment; it is forbidden by the law. Another subsidy given by the Government is six dollars extra pay per annum to each priest of the Three Great Temples. In this connexion it must also be stated that the Three Great Temples just mentioned receive a vast amount of mal from the Government.

The supplementary resources of the Pope’s revenue are subscriptions from the members and laymen, the leases from meadow-lands in his personal possession, and profits acquired by his own trading, which is carried on by his own caravans. The Pope’s caravans must be distinguished from those of the Treasury Department.

The Treasury of the Grand Lama is called Che Labrang, which means the Lama’s kitchen on the hill, because the[559] Lama’s palace is located on a hill. It is called Potala and the place is a castle, a temple, and a palace at once. As a castle it has no equal in Tibet, in view of the strength of its fortifications; as a temple, it can look down upon all other lamaseries of the country for elegance and gaudiness. As a palace, of course there is no building that surpasses it. But in spite of all this, there is a deplorable defect in its water supply. Within the high walls that defend the dwellers from the attacks of an enemy there is no well or spring whatever. The people have to go far away to get a bucket of water from a well which can only be reached by descending a hundred and fifty feet of stone steps and crossing another hundred and fifty feet of level ground. To reach the top of the hill one has to climb another three hundred feet, making the journey three quarters of a mile altogether. It is of course no easy work for the residents to carry water so far, and there are therefore many workers who make it their business to do this for them, charging about twelve cents per man a month. The aristocratic priests, who bear the title of Namgyal Tatsang, live in one part of the castle and number one hundred and sixty-five. They represent the highest type of the Tibetan priesthood and are all selected with great care, even physique and physiognomy being taken into consideration. They live in good style at the Pope’s personal cost.

The property of the Grand Lama, after his death, is divided in the following way: One-half of the property (in fact a little more than half) has to be divided among his relatives in his native place, and the remaining half is distributed as gifts among the priests of the Great Temples and those of the New Sect. In the case of an ordinary priest, if he leaves property worth five thousand dollars about four thousand is used in gifts to the priests and for the expense of lights, and almost all the remaining[560] thousand is used for his funeral expenses, leaving perhaps three hundred to his disciples. In cases when a priest leaves very little money, his disciples are obliged to borrow money to supply the want of gifts and money for lights in his honor—a custom entirely foreign to the laity.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 5:22 am

CHAPTER LXXVIII. Future of the Tibetan Religions.

The Tibetans are essentially a religious people. Foreigners call them superstitious, and indeed my own observation also testifies that their faith is veritably a mass of superstition. Yet it would be inaccurate to say that there is no truth in their religion. A small but precious jewel is often found among useless rubbish; wise men will not throw away the jewel along with the rubbish, even though it may not be found at the first glance. I can find at least two precious things in the creed of the Tibetans. One of them is that they recognise the existence of a superhuman being who protects us. They are also sure of the possibility of communication with this being by dint of religious faith. It is true that they have several unreasonable rites of worship, which may be compared to the rubbish round the jewel, but in the midst of them they know that Buḍḍha is all love, that He removes calamities from us, and makes us happy at length. They also recognise the existence of deities subject to the emotions of anger, and ready to punish those that offend them; but even ignorant Tibetans know the difference between the Gods and the Buḍḍha, the former to be feared, and the latter simply an object of gratitude.

The other precious thing I can point out is their belief in the law of cause and effect. According to this law, each deed is rewarded according to its deserts; whatever vices one commits will be followed by suffering; on the other hand, every man shall enjoy the result of the good that he has done. They also believe that the law of cause and effect is everlasting, the seed making the fruit, and the fruit the seed, and so on for ever. In the same way, they[562] think, our mind is imperishable, and often reproduced in the world. Thus far their faith is worthy enough, but the doctrine of transmigration, of which they have a too firm conviction, is apt to lead to superstition. The Tibetans often really think such and such Lamas have been born again in such and such places. But the precious Buḍḍhist creed that one’s mind and body are everlastingly in accordance with the law of cause and effect and self-compensation is so thoroughly taught to every Tibetan from his childhood by his mother, that the home lessons of the Tibetan children almost always take the form of sermons on their mythology and miscellaneous stories connected with Buḍḍhism. In sooth, Buḍḍhism is so deeply ingrained in the country that no other religion can exist in Tibet, unless it be explained by the light of Buḍḍhism. Thus, the Old Bon religion has been greatly modified and has indeed entirely lost its original form and been replaced by the New Bonism, which resembles the Ryōbu Shinto of Japan, in which the Sun God is interpreted as the incarnation of Buḍḍha; but the Tibetan goes further than the Ryōbu Shintoist did. By Bon is meant Shinnyo or Truth, or rather the incarnation of Shinnyo, and it is considered to be one branch of Buḍḍhism.

One of the things which most struck me was that Muhammadanism is found in Tibet, mostly among the Chinese and the descendants of the immigrants from Kashmīr. They number about three hundred in Lhasa and Shigatze, cling pertinaciously to their doctrines, and have two temples in the suburbs of Lhasa, with two cemeteries on the side of a distant mountain. One of the temples is for the Musulmāns from Kashmīr, and the other for the Chinese. It is rather strange to see the calm existence of Muhammadanism in a country where Buḍḍhism is so predominant. One thing that the Musulmāns in Tibet say is very striking. They declare that[563] according to their religion there exist previous and future worlds, but that man is reborn as man, never as a lower animal, as Buḍḍhism says, and that the final destiny of the human soul is the Kingdom of Heaven or Hell. I once argued with some of the Muhammadans that no such doctrine as transmigration is to be found in the Koran, in which mention is made of the future world, but none about the past. Then I suspected that it might have been adopted from the Christian religion, for in the bible the subject is just touched on. But I doubted whether any doctrine of that sort had ever been pronounced upon by the Muhammadan Kalifate. When they heard me speak thus they simply said: “There is, there really is, the doctrine of future and previous worlds in the Muhammadan religion,” and they said it with a straight face. They really seemed to think so, but I think it a modification derived from Buḍḍhism.

Of late Christian missionaries have been trying to introduce their religion into Tibet, and I can but admire their undaunted spirit. But the country does not admit any foreigners, so their utmost efforts have no effect on the interior. They attempt therefore to convert the Tibetans who come to Darjeeling, or those who live about Sikkim. For these purposes hundreds of thousands of dollars have already been spent, and the bible and many other religious books have been translated into the Tibetan language. There are also many books written in Tibetan against Buḍḍhism. As soon as Darjeeling was opened to foreigners, the first pioneers to the town were the Christian missionaries, and ever since they have been preaching their religion with utmost zeal.

Notwithstanding all their endeavors, Christian missions have been so far a failure. The so-called members are false members, and the more earnest are not genuine Tibetans, but Sikkimese who pretend to be Tibetans.[564] It can truly be said that there is not a single Tibetan from the interior of the country who really believes in Christianity, though there are a few who declare themselves Christian because they can thus get a living. Go to the house of a reputed Christian and you will always find in some inner room of his house the image of Buḍḍha, before which butter-lamps are burned in secret day and night. When he goes out he pretends to be a Christian, and on Sunday he carries his bible and goes to church! Such a Christian of course quickly turns his back upon Christ when his pocket is full, or he is not likely to receive any more. The missionaries make a mistake if they think that they can easily convert a Buḍḍhist into a Christian; for the reverse is the case. Let me state some fundamental differences between Christianity and Buḍḍhism. By the ‘Enlightenment’ of Buḍḍhism one obtains absolute freedom; the greatest spiritual freedom is to be attained by one’s self, while in Christianity there is an infinite power called God who prevents one from attaining absolute freedom. Again the nature of cause and effect is not clear in the Christian religion. I read in the bible “A good tree will bear good fruits and a bad tree will bear bad fruits.” Therefore I cannot say that the doctrine of cause and effect is not alluded to at all in this religion, but its scope is limited. If they would extend the text and make it applicable to previous and future lives, then I think they might open the way for Christianity to reach the Tibetans. Furthermore the sentence “Thy faith has saved thee” of Christ means exactly what Buḍḍha meant: “Of one’s own deeds, one’s own reward.” But it seems to me that the true meaning of the words of Christ is not fully developed and that its application is far too narrow. I think this is one cause of the unpopularity of Christianity among the Tibetans, who have a very deep belief in the theory of[565] “receiving according to one’s own deeds.” These are the chief reasons, I believe, why Christianity obtains so few followers among the Tibetans after so many years of hard work by scores of missionaries at the cost of millions of dollars.

To sum up what we have seen: The predominant religion at present is Buḍḍhism, and the others are the Bon, the Muhammadan and the Christian. We have seen how the old pre-Buḍḍhist Bon religion has been transformed into the New Bon, which is now looked upon as a sect of Buḍḍhism, and how the Muhammadan religion existing within a very small sphere of influence has shown a gradual approach to Buḍḍhism, though unnoticed by themselves. As to the Christianity of Tibet, it does not seem probable that it can flourish in this land unless the present sectarian prejudices of the Churches are entirely removed and a new form and attitude be given it, so as to adapt it to the Tibetan people. The present Tibetan Buḍḍhism is corrupt and on the road to decay; still it has some jewels in it, and is almost naturally inherent in every Tibetan, and it is probable that it will continue to be predominant in the country by its own vis inertiae until a great man comes to the front to undertake the work of religious reformation and to restate the truths of the Great Freedom of Buḍḍha.
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