Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

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

Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:48 am

CHAPTER XLIX. Meeting with the Incarnate Bodhisattva.

This healing made me an object of much talk, and I soon found myself surrounded by many patients. I now began to fear that I should thus be prevented from studying, and so fail to accomplish my chief end. So I tried every means to keep the patients from me, but the more I declined, the more patients I found brought to me, and I was at last obliged to get some medicines from Thien-ho-thang (a Chinese druggist) in Lhasa. I gave the medicines to these patients, most of whom recovered either through their faith in me or through the efficacy of the drugs; for I had studied the rudiments of medical science (of the old school, it is true) and this enabled me to use the medicines. There is one disease which is most feared as fatal by the Tibetans. It is dropsy, little, if at all different from beri-beri. No one in the neighborhood of Lhasa seemed to know how to cure the disease. I prepared for it a medicine of which I had been told by a Tibetan hermit, and gave it to some patients suffering from dropsy. I am glad to say that this medicine cured six or seven patients out of every ten, though I could not heal cases that were far gone.

This made me quite famous and my name, known only in my own monastery at first, began to be known in the whole city of Lhasa and in the country as far as Shigatze. Often two horses were sent on for me from places of three days’ journey distant to take me to patients. I took no reward from the poor, but gave them medicine gratis. This may have had a great deal to do with my popularity, and I came to be regarded as a God of medicine.

There are many cases of consumption in Tibet. I gave my medicine to those patients who were in the first stages of the disease, but chronic cases I left without any medicine, to meditation or religious services that they might gain salvation, and die at ease. This, I was told, made some patients fear to come to me, for it was said that those to whom medicine was given recovered, while the others, whom I taught about death and the future, without giving them any medicine, were sure to die. Some did not like to be told that death was near them, and women especially were frightened to come before me. The Tibetans have a strange habit. When they fall ill, before any doctor is sent for, a sorcerer is asked to see which doctor is best and what kind of medicine is good. Some doctors, therefore, are so wicked as to bribe the sorcerer to recommend them to the patients. The sorcerer, too, being pleased enough to see the patients cured by the doctor whom he suggested, began to recommend me to his patients when he saw my name was making so great a stir in Tibet. He would tell his patients to be sure to come to me. I never asked him to mention me, nor even saw him in person; nor is it probable that he ever saw me. His recommendation must have come out of his love of fame. When, therefore, a high officer or priest fell ill and was told by his sorcerer to see me, I was sure to be sent for. A horse was sent to bring me, generally with a letter of introduction. Often I received a letter politely requesting me to come, and wherever I went, therefore, I was very kindly received, for the life of the patient was supposed to depend entirely on me.

Fame travels surprisingly fast, and at last mine reached the Royal Court, so that I was one day called there. The Dalai Lama was not in reality ill, but desired to see what I looked like. In Tibet it is no easy matter[313] to see His Holiness. He may be seen while passing, but no ordinary priests or even high priests can have the privilege of talking to him. This was, therefore a great honor to me, and I took the liberty of riding the horse sent to take me to the Royal palace. The Grand Lama was not then at Potala, but at his country palace called Nolpu Lingka, in a forest along the Kichu, south-west of Potala. This palace is much newer than the other, and the Pope enjoys the coolness there in summer.

I rode along a wide road in the forest for about three hundred and fifty yards, till I came to a high stone wall over twenty feet high and three hundred and fifty yards square. I went west through the large gate in the wall, and found on both sides of the road inside the gate many white boxes in the shape of post pillars about six yards apart. In them incense is burned when the Dalai Lama goes along the road. Lofty trees are grown in the courtyard on both sides of the road, though there is a very wide lawn within the court. After about a hundred yards, I came to a square piece of ground enclosed by stone fences about one hundred and fifty yards square, along which were seen many beautiful stone houses for the priest officials to live in. These houses have each a flower garden which is beautifully decorated with as many trees and plants as can be found in Tibet. What is stranger still, at the four corners as well as some other parts of the stone fences are found little kennels, in which two or three score strong Tibetan dogs are chained. They bark terribly from their high pens. The Dalai Lama is said to be so fond of dogs that whoever brings him a strong hound is treated very kindly and receives great rewards. Hence many dogs are brought from great distances. None of his predecessors, however, have had such a liking for dogs. The gates to the Papal palace are at the east and west corners of the walls and face south. About thirty[314] yards from the gate was a large house into which my horse was led. Then I was taken to the house of the Court Physician.

This residence of the Court Physician has four large rooms, parlor, study, servants’ room and kitchen. The house is approached through a garden full of beautiful flowers, and one then comes to a curtain of white linen. Going under the curtain, one enters another garden, at one side of which is the entrance to the parlor.

The parlor has Chinese sliding doors in white, with panes of glass. In the room were two images, one of Buḍḍha and the other of Tsong-kha-pa, the founder of the New Sect, set on a gilt stand, with pictures of dragons, peacocks, and flowers. Such images are found in most shrines of the New Sect. Before the images were Tibetan candlesticks of silver, with three butter-candles that were left burning both day and night. The Physician was sitting on a Tibetan carpet with painted flowers, and there were two beautiful high desks before him, in front of which there was a fur cushion for the guest to sit upon. I was told to sit on this fur cushion, and very soon a servant priest brought in the very best tea, which he poured into the physician’s cup and then into mine on the desk. The physician was said to be very kind and gentle, and his face resembled mine so much that we might be taken for brothers.

The physician told me that the Dalai Lama was not seriously ill and that it was because I had healed so many patients that he wished to see me. But, he added, as he was very busy, I must not talk long with him. He said that the Dalai Lama might have something that the physician must consult me about.

After this talk with the physician, I was led by him to the Palace, and we went north towards the gate mentioned above. There was a guard-priest at the gate, who was[315] dressed in a tight-sleeved priestly cloak, which no common priests are allowed to put on. He keeps guard with a club. Inside the gate there was a stone pavement some twenty yards square, surrounded by covered ways, where there were some things in the shape of stools. There was another gate about nine yards wide in front of this. The inner gate was guarded by four priests, each with a short club instead of a long one. Walking about ten yards from the inner gate into the inner court, I found on both walls a picture of a fierce looking Mongolian leading a tiger by a rein; and the walls, which were roofed over, had a court between them. Instead of going straight through the court, I went left along the covered way till I came to the end of the western wall, when the Dalai Lama appeared from his inner chamber.

He was preceded by Dunnyel Chenmo the Lord Chamberlain, and Choe Bon Kenbo the Papal Chaplain. After His Holiness came Yongjin Rinpoche the Papal Tutor. The Dalai Lama took his seat on the right hand chair in front, and the two former attendants stood on each side, while the Tutor sat on the chair a little below them. Seven or eight high priests sat before His Holiness. The Court Physician leading me a little to one side, in front of the Dalai Lama, saluted him. I saluted him three times, and taking my robe off one of my shoulders I stepped before him, when His Holiness stretched out his right hand to put it on my head. Then I withdrew about four yards and stood beside the physician.


The Dalai Lama then began by praising me for having healed many poor priests at Sera. He told me to stay long at Sera and to do as I had done, and I answered that I would do with pleasure as he wished me. I had been told that the Pope was well versed in Chinese, and I feared that he might speak in Chinese, for then my imposture would be discovered. I had made up my mind, therefore, that I[317] would in that case frankly tell him to what nationality I belonged, that I might be worthy of a Japanese, for I deemed it to be a great honor to be granted an interview with him.

Luckily, however, he did not talk Chinese, but instead inquired in Tibetan about Buḍḍhism and Buḍḍhists in China, which I answered to his satisfaction. He was pleased to tell me that he was thinking of appointing me to some high office. After the talk I was honored by a cup of tea in the presence of the Dalai Lama and drank it with much ceremony, though he retired to his chamber before I had finished drinking.

The Dalai Lama was dressed in a cloak different from that of a common priest. He had on a silk hood and a great robe called saṅghāṭi and under it a fine putuk of Tibetan wool about his waist. His under dress was what is called tema woven of the best Chinese sheep wool. He wore a fine Papal crown on his head though he is said to be often bare-headed, with no crown at all. He held a rosary in his left hand. He was then aged twenty six. He is about five feet eight inches high, a moderate height in Tibet.

The Dalai Lama looks very brave. His eye-brows are very high, and he is very keen-eyed. Once a Chinese phrenologist remarked that the Tibetan Pope would bring about war one day, to the great disturbance of the country, for though brave-looking, he had an unlucky face. Whether the prophesy comes true or not, he really looks the very man of whose face a phrenologist would be sure to say something. He has a very sharp and commanding voice, so that one could not but pay reverence in his presence. From my long acquaintance with the Dalai Lama, during which I heard and saw much of him and had frequent interviews with him, I judge that he is richer in thoughts political than[318] religious. He was bred in Buḍḍhism, and in it he has great faith, and he is very anxious to clear away all corruption from the Buḍḍhism and Buḍḍhists in Tibet.

But political thoughts are working most busily in his mind. He seems to fear the British most, and is always thinking how to keep them from Tibet. He seems to give full scope to all designs calculated to check the encroaching force of the British. I could plainly see this while remaining near him. Had he not been on his guard, however, which he always is, he must have been poisoned by his retainers. He has often been on the point of being poisoned, and each time his caution has detected the conspiracy and the intriguers were put to death.

None of the five Dalai Lamas from the fourth to the ninth in Tibet reached their twenty fifth year; all were poisoned when eighteen or twenty-two years old. This is almost an open secret in Tibet, and the reason is that, if a wise Dalai Lama is on the throne, his courtiers cannot gratify their selfish desires. Some of these seem to have been wise Dalai Lamas, for they received special education until they were twenty-two or three years old. History proves that they have written books to instruct the people.

I could not help shedding tears when the ex-Papal Minister of Finance, at whose house I was staying at one time, told me about the fate of the predecessors of the present Dalai Lama. The Papal Court is a den of disloyal thieves who go by the name of courtiers, and they do all they can to neutralise the force of the few loyal courtiers, who are too weak to do anything against them. The ex-Minister for Finance was among the ill-fated party driven out of the court by these toadies, who pretended to pay great reverence to the sacred Monarch before the people, simply because they could not otherwise stay in their offices. When anything happened against their [319]interests, they conspired to communicate with one another and to accuse falsely the loyal courtiers. They would often go so far as to slander them shamelessly, and say that such and such a person had been guilty of a disrespectful act against the Dalai Lama.

In this subtle way some wicked courtiers turned honest scholars or priests out of the court, and the Dalai Lama is surrounded by these pretended loyalist devils. Hence he is so dangerously situated, that he is obliged to pay the greatest attention to what is offered him to eat, lest some poison should have been put in it. I could not but shed tears for him, when I thought that there could be no court on earth so full of wicked courtiers. But the present Dalai Lama is so prudent and particular that these evil doers can get no chance of doing anything against him. Still, he is really in great danger. He is wise for his age, for, young as he is, he seems to have great sympathy with the afflicted, and is much respected, and indeed almost worshipped, by his people, though much disliked by the evil local governors, whom he has been known to punish, to deprive of their estates, and to imprison for their evil deeds.


I often had occasion to see the inner chamber of the palace and found that it was magnificent. It is built in the Indian, Chinese and Tibetan styles. The garden has an artificial hill in it after the Chinese fashion, while, as is seen in a Indian garden, it has a lawn outside with some charming flowers. The place seems very good for walks. The inside of the palace is built after the Tibetan style, while a part of the roof is Chinese and the rest purely Indian. The royal garden has various rocks and has here and there such trees as willows, peaches, elms and many other strange trees found only in Tibet. In Tibet only few flowers bloom in summer, though there are many in winter. A variety of flowers, such[320] as chrysanthemums, poppies, magnolias, tulips, and others are planted in front of the palace veranda. The pavement is decorated here and there with glittering jewels, and the walls are painted by the best painters in Tibet. The papal throne stands on two Tibetan mats at the farther side of the room, and beside the throne is spread a thick Tibetan carpet, over which is a Chinese carpet of wool. A table of costly wood is set on the carpets. There is a tea-bureau, over which hangs a picture of Je Rinpoche, painted on a gold-dusted canvas. There are many such rooms, besides, which I was not allowed to enter, but which looked very beautiful from the outside. I was often invited to the chief physician’s to talk about medicine with him. He taught me several things about medicine that I did not know, though the medical knowledge which I had gained from my own books enabled me to keep up with him in the talk. This must have done a great deal to make the chief physician welcome me so much.[321] He even said he would be most glad to recommend me as a Court Physician.

He said that he would do his best to that end, telling me at the same time to see the premier and some other Ministers of State. My answer was however that I could not very well stay long in Lhasa, for I was most earnest to study Buḍḍhism. I told him also that I intended to go to India to study Samskṛṭ, and at this he felt very sorry, for when I left there would be no good doctor in the city. When I said that my object was not medicine, but to study Buḍḍhism, the physician very plausibly argued that as it was the ultimate object of Buḍḍhism to save men, I might as well stay in the city as a doctor to practise medicine. The doctor, I said, only relieved men of earthly pains, but could hardly do anything toward the salvation of souls. What doctor, however skilful, could save a dying patient? Besides, I feared I might do them more harm than good, for I had only a smattering of medicine after all. I might heal them of their diseases, but I could not give peace to their souls, while a priest could free them from the most painful and durable of all diseases. It was more urgent to study how to heal this. Buḍḍha was the greatest doctor, who had given eighty-four thousand religious medicines to eighty-four thousand mental diseases, and we, as His disciples, I said, must study His ways of healing. On these grounds I declined his offer. Finding me so firm in my resolution, the physician went on to say that, if I ever tried to leave the city for India, or some other far-off country, the Dalai Lama would give orders to keep me in the country, and that my only happiness lay in staying to work among the priests. When I heard this I began to repent that I had been telling him my secrets rather too plainly. I feared it would put me to some inconvenience to insist on going to India, and soon changed the subject of our talk. So far about my[322] medical practice; but now, something took place of which I had never dreamed.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:49 am

CHAPTER L. Life in the Sera Monastery.

What happened was this. It became a matter of hot discussion among the priests of our dormitory Pituk Khamtsan whether they should leave me to stay there or not, because I was being received by the Grand Lama, the noblemen and the Ministers, as a great doctor. After a long discussion, the priests came to an agreement that they should make a special rule on my account, and put me in one of the best rooms. I was, of course, pleased to be removed from my strangely smelling, dark and dirty room to a free, clean apartment. I saw the Dalai Lama on July 21st, and was removed into the good room toward the end of the same month. It is one of the regulations of the college that no new-comer shall have a separate room for himself, but that he shall live with some one else in a room, though occasionally a rich student may enjoy the possession of a dirty room for himself on admission. Though not among the poor, I was not eligible to have a room, even a dirty one, all to myself. A priest must reside there some ten years before he is allowed to live in a room of the fourth class; after three years more he may be removed to a study room of the third class. But it must be remembered that everything depends on money. When he receives the degree of a doctor, he is given a second-class room. The rooms of the first class are used only by incarnate Lamas, who come to study. As things were I was given a second-class study. It was a cosy structure of two storeys with a kitchen and a closet. Some studies have third floors, but my new quarters were only two-storied. The room upstairs was the best. To live in such a house, however, one must have articles of furniture as well as[324] some servant-priests. I was now like a poor boy, who had grown up all of a sudden and had been given a house to keep. I was obliged to procure many articles needed for my new condition, all of which I had fortunately money enough to buy.

The priests, though diverse in studies, may be classified into three large divisions, higher, middle, and lower. By the middle class of priests, I mean those who spend about seven yen a month for their keep. They do not pay for their dwellings, which are provided by their temple, though some Khamtsans, which are in debt, take rents from their priests for their studying-rooms. When a Khamtsan is too full of priests, some of them go to seek rooms for themselves in some other, in which case they pay from one to three yen a month, or twenty-five sen for a dirty room.

A suit of clothing as used by student-priests consists of a hood of common wool cloth, a shirt, and a priest’s robe, besides a pair of shoes. It costs twenty yen to provide all these articles. At breakfast they take butter-tea and baked flour. Rich priests make tea for themselves every morning, though three large bowlfuls are given in the hall of the monastery. In the afternoon they drink tea again, this time with some meat, chiefly dried, though at times raw. In the evening they take some gruel of baked flour, cooked with cheese, radishes and fat. Butter-tea is always found in a bowl on the table. The Tibetan in general drinks much tea, because very few vegetables are eaten as compared with the amount of meat. A tea-cup is covered with a silver lid. When it gets cool, it is drunk and new tea is poured in again and left some twenty minutes to cool, though in winter no more than five or six minutes are needed, during which time those at table will talk to one another, or read from the Scriptures or do some private business. Such are the meals of a middle-class[325] priest. Most priests have some landed property, and some of them breed yaks, horses, sheep and goats in the provinces, though it would be rare for one of the middle-class to have more than some fifty yaks and ten horses. These animals are also employed in ploughing the fields, but no more than ten lots of land may be ploughed by two yaks in a day. The priests can hardly lead a well-to-do life without such property or some private business, for what they are given from their temples and by the believers is not sufficient for them.

Few priests are without some private business or other—indeed, most of them are engaged in trade. Agriculture comes next to trade, and then cattle-breeding. Manufacturers of Buḍḍhist articles, painters of Buḍḍhist pictures, tailors, carpenters, masons, shoemakers and stone-layers are found among the priests; there is hardly any kind of business in Tibet, but some of the priests are engaged in it. There are, besides, many kinds of business in which none but priests engage. The lower class of priests as well as the middle-class engage in trade, but some rich priests have as many as from five hundred to four thousand yaks and from one to six hundred horses. They have from one to six hundred lots of land, each lot being as large as will take two yaks to cultivate in a day. But there are not more than three or four of the priests who have started in trade with a capital of five hundred thousand yen. They live very luxuriously, wear priestly cloaks of the best woollen texture produced in Tibet, and use very thick butter-tea every morning, which is considered a great delicacy.

To make the best butter-tea, the tea is first boiled for half a day, till it gets dark brown. After being skimmed, it is shaken several times in the cylinder with some fresh yak butter and salt. This makes the best tea, and a tea-pot full of such tea costs thirty-[326]eight sen to make. Tea-pots, or jars, are made of clay in the shape of ordinary Japanese tea pots. I could not at first drink the tea, when I saw that it looked like thick oil. Still, it is one of the best drinks among the best circles in Tibet, who drink it every morning. It is usually taken mixed with what is called tsu and baked flour. The tsu is a hardened mixture of cheese, butter and white sugar. The Tibetan puts this substance into his tea. He eats meat dried, raw or cooked, even at breakfast. At dinner the priests eat rice imported from Nepāl, the price of which is about fifty sen per sho. They do not however eat boiled rice by itself, but a bowlful of it mixed with grapes and sugar and butter. After the rice, baked flour or egg macaroni is sometimes eaten. In the evening wheat dumplings with gruel are served at table; what they call gruel has in it some meat, radishes, cheese and butter. The above is the usual course of dishes at the tables of the highest circles. They cannot live a day without meat, and if on some occasion they are kept from it, they are sure to say they are getting thinner.

The priests of the higher class live very comfortably, for they build their own villas, or have their own temples; besides, they have always the best dwellings of the temples to which they belong. They are supported by their estates, as I said, and they keep, each one of them, from five or six to seventy or eighty servants in their houses. From among these servants are often selected treasurers and stewards. The lower class of priests, on the contrary, live pitifully. No words can half describe their poor condition. The warrior-priests, though among the poorest, are still able to keep the wolf from their doors, for they are employed as farmers or as guards, or in some other private business, so that they earn money with which they live from hand to mouth. There is another and far poorer class of priests—the scholar-priests who[327] have to support themselves in their studies, but who must earn their living as well as their expenses as students. They are too busy with their study to go out to make any money. What they receive as offerings from the believers and as salary from their temples, does not together amount to a little more than two or three yen a month, and it is insufficient to support them. They can drink tea gratis every morning at the temple, but they cannot get any baked flour, which makes the chief part of a meal. Baked flour costs at least one and a half yen a month. During the catechisms they go to Ta-tsang where they are given three cups of tea for dinner. But it takes them a month to review what they study in a month in catechisms. During the period of review they must get some one to help them, and they have to pay some fifty sen a month in return. Then they must have some fire to keep them warm in the evening besides something to refresh them. For refreshments they get tea-leaves with which the richer priests have made their tea. Then they must get fuel to make tea out of these leaves. The fuel is generally yak-dung, which costs thirty-five sen a bag of two and a half bushels. A priest will burn three or four bagfuls a month if he is not particular and careful, while a poor priest may have to manage with a bagful a year.

The poorest priest has in his room a sheep’s fur, a wooden bowl, a rosary and a dirty cushion, which makes a bed at night. In a corner are found a stove, an earthen pan, and a pot or jar, which all belong to the room. A bag hanging in one corner contains the baked flour which supports his life; but it is very rarely full. The most precious items of their property are the text books of the catechism. There are no priests, however poor, but have five or six copies of the catechism. These books, however, are not their permanent property, for they will sell them as[328] soon as their examinations are over. At night their bed consists of their hood, an underdress and a bed covering, besides an old blanket, which, however, is in the possession of only a limited number. He who has a room of his own is among the best of this poor class of priests. In most rooms of nine feet square, three or four priests often have a pan in common. I felt so sorry sometimes when I was called to see a patient among them that I not only gave medicine for nothing, but sometimes gave him some money. Such is the condition of the poorest priests, and I was told that they often passed a couple of days without eating, when they were given little in the way of help. When they receive a little money they will hurry to Lhasa, over three miles off, to buy some baked flour. Some of them do not come home directly from the city, for hunger often takes them to some little restaurant, where they eat some macaroni. The consequence is that they spend their money and are plunged again into such poverty that they must live another couple of days without anything to eat. I hardly ever passed them without giving them something, so that they at last came to pay so much respect to me that they would stop when they saw me, and wait in reverence while I passed.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:49 am

CHAPTER LI. My Tibetan Friends and Benefactors.

To go back a little in my story, my prosperity as a doctor obliged me to buy much medicine, and I often went to Thien-ho-thang, a drug store which was kept by Li Tsu-shu, a Chinese from Yunnang. In China they make decoctions of their medicines, but the Tibetans take every medicine in powdered form. Every medical herb and root is pulverised, as well as some kinds of horns and stones. To get some of these medicines I was often obliged to stop a couple of days in his house; and as I bought great quantities of medicine, I came to be treated very civilly as a good customer. He lent me a book on medicine, the reading of which added not a little to my small knowledge, and I boldly undertook every kind of patient. I know I made a very dangerous doctor, but I was obliged to go on as a pedant domineering over a society of ignoramuses. Still, I admit I possessed more knowledge of physiology than most of the doctors in Lhasa, and I was in consequence more trusted than they.

I frequently went to this druggist, who owned the largest of the three Chinese drug stores in Lhasa. Li Tsu-shu was about thirty years old and had a very fine house. He lived with his wife, a son and a daughter, a mother-in-law and three maids. They treated me as if I were a member of the family, probably because I was kind to them and gave them all sorts of things that I received from my friends and clients. When, for instance, somebody gave me too much cake, sugar, milk or grapes, for my own use, I used to take them to the druggist to give them to the children, who were consequently quite impatient to see me. If I happened not to visit the house for a couple of days, they be[330]came anxious about me. I was soon so much beloved by the children that we seemed to have been friends for over ten years, and I was sometimes asked if I had known them in China. This acquaintance with the children helped me very much afterwards, when I was leaving Tibet.

This Gyami Menkhang or Chinese druggist had his house in the street of Wan-dzu Shing-khang, in Lhasa. Among those who used to come to his store was Ma Tseng, Secretary to the Chinese Amban. He was a great scholar and a man of worldly knowledge. He had a Tibetan mother and was born in Tibet. He spoke Tibetan without a shade of Chinese accent, while he spoke and read Chinese quite as well. He had read much in Chinese, and had been twice in Peking. Three times he had gone to India, visited Calcutta and Bombay as a peddler, and come back with a great store of knowledge about foreign affairs. His office hours being very short, he had much time to spare, and as he was a great friend of the druggist’s, he came to him very often. This led me to get acquainted with him, and I found him very amusing. He told me many Tibetan secrets and many of their habits and customs both good and bad. I soon found that what was told by him was always true. Being the Secretary of the Chinese Amban, he was also acquainted with the secret relations of the Tibetan and Chinese Governments. He was so talkative, that he would tell me anything before I asked. His acquaintance pleased me so much that when I was tired of reading I would take a walk to the druggist’s, with no other object than to talk with this Secretary.

Once while standing at the door of the druggist’s, I saw a man apparently of quality come towards me with his servant. The store stands at the corner where the streets leading to Panang-sho and Kache-hakhang meet, and this man came along Ani-sakan street toward Panang-sho.[331] He passed a few steps by me, when he turned and looked at me. Then I heard his servant say that I must be the man. Walking to me the nobleman said “Is it you?” I looked at him and found him, though much thinner than before, to be the son of Para the Premier, whom I had met at Darjeeling. He did not look like a man out of his senses, as I had been told. He said that he was much pleased that I had come to his country. He was on some important business, but went with me into the house of the druggist. The wife of the druggist, who knew him, gave him a chair, and the young noble seemed to be desirous to talk with me. I hinted that it was not good for us to let it be known that we had seen each other at Darjeeling, and began our talk by saying that it was about half a year since we had met each other at Gyangtze. He also was aware that his staying at Darjeeling should be kept a secret, and carefully avoided talking about our having met in that town.

From what he said and did there, I could not find anything in him that showed him to be an idiot; on the contrary, he was evidently a man of much sense. Among other things he told me that three months before, one of his servants committed theft and, when reproved severely, had pierced him through the side with a sword with the result that a part of his intestines could be seen. This, he added, made him so haggard. When, after a long talk, he went on his way, the wife of the druggist told me that the young man had hoodwinked me about the wounds, which really were given him for wrong-doing on his side. She told me that everything concerning his family was known to her, for she had before been wife to his brother, who, not being allowed to live long with her, simply because she was of birth too humble for his family, divorced her and was now adopted at Namsailing. The young man, she told me, was very prodigal, and deeply in debt, on account of[332] which he was wounded. To my question whether he was then beside himself, she answered that he was mad or otherwise as it suited him, and not a man to be easily trusted, for he was very good at taking money from others.

In Tibet, when people go out to enjoy the flowers (for the flower-season is very short there) they pitch tents in the wheat-fields or in a forest, and have every sort of merriment. This is called a picnic of lingka, or forest party, and forms one of the merriest amusements in Tibet. I was invited once to one of these villas in the wheat-fields. I found there an old nun of about sixty years of age, with seven or eight nun-attendants beside her. Hers was not a tent, but a splendid house of wood, the walls of which were covered over inside with painted cloth and outside with white cloth. Though temporary, the building was well furnished. This old lady had been ill for over fifteen years, and was aware that she was sinking. She said she knew that her disease was incurable, but nevertheless desired to have such a famous doctor as myself to feel her pulse, and would be satisfied if I could only relieve her a little of her pain. I examined her and found that her trouble was rheumatism, so I gave her a little tincture of camphor, besides some medicine for her stomach, which was a little out of order. Faith works wonders. My medicine told well and, her pain of fifteen years gradually abating, she was soon able to enjoy sound sleep, which had long been desired by her. Finally she became so well that she could walk a little. Her raptures can be imagined, and she at once reported the condition of her health to her family. It seems that she was married, though not legally, to the Ex-Minister of Finance, who was also a priest of the New Sect. Shame on Buḍḍhism therefore that he was living with the nun. Priest nobles are generally supposed to have wives, though not legally married to them; most of them keep such women somewhere, and the nuns are the[333] best class of women to be their wives—at least so had thought the Ex-Minister of Finance. This particular nun was old now and bent with age, though she was stoutly built.

When one of the man servants in the residence of the Minister of Finance fell ill, I was sure to be summoned, for they put great faith in me and I could not but believe that the Lord Buḍḍha was working through me to cause me to succeed so wondrously among them. In this wise I became acquainted with the Ex-Minister of Finance, who was a deeply learned scholar, as well as an experienced diplomatist. Aged sixty-two, he was about seven feet six inches in height—taller than any other Tibetan I saw.

His dress took twice as much cloth as that of an ordinary person. He knew men well, and was shrewd in business, exceedingly kind and faithful and never deceitful. His only fault was his living with the nun. While talking with me, they often repented with tears of the folly they had committed with each other when young. He was not bad at heart, but his passionate behavior soiled what should have been his stainless purity, and also he was much influenced by worldly thoughts. He had great sympathy with my condition, and often said that he was very sorry for me to have to see a patient, who had been sent to me from Lhasa, when the patients in Sera were keeping me so busy. Besides being sorry for my lack of time for study, he warned me to be on my guard. Upon my asking him what he meant, he disclosed his fear that I might be poisoned like many other envied persons, for I had already robbed many doctors of their business. When I expressed my concern, he asked me if I should be contented with a moderate living. Being assured that I should be quite satisfied if I could only obtain a mere living, he said that he would support me, and offered me a dwelling in his residence. It was not pretty, he said,[334] but quiet and comfortable. It was situated out of the way, so that few patients, except those who were very dangerously ill, would be likely to trouble me, and I could then study more devotedly. Not only, he said, could I give more time to study, but I should also be on better terms with the city physicians, if at the cost of some inconvenience on the part of general patients. I was very glad to accept this kind offer, for I had been much regretting the little time and opportunity I had to study Buḍḍhism, which was the sole object of my coming to Lhasa through so many hardships.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:51 am

CHAPTER LII. Japan in Lhasa.

Everything went well with me, for I had earned much money, and besides everything needed for my livelihood was to be given to me by the Ex-Minister. So at last, leaving a young lad in charge of my quarters at Sera, I removed to the residence of the Ex-Minister with my furniture. I told the lad never to let it out of his mouth that I was with the Ex-Minister, and to try to send most patients to some other doctor in the city. I provided for him some way of living and study. Still, I went to Sera occasionally to have my catechism. My new dwelling was six yards by four. It was divided in the middle into two rooms, and being the dwelling of a noble, the walls were brightly colored green with various pictures. The thick carpet[336] had flowers of gold woven in it in the Tibetan style. There was a desk of ebony, as well as a little Buḍḍhist shrine. The accommodation was very complete, and everything was clean. Beside this residence there was another, that of the present Minister of Finance. It was three storied, the Ex-Minister Cham-ba Choe-sang’s being a two-storied house. It was quiet there and my priest friends no more troubled me in my study by their calls, but it was a little too far for me to go to my teacher’s.


Now it happened that I found a very good tutor. The Ex-Minister had a natural half-brother, Ti Rinpoche (the present ruler of Tibet) by title, whose father was a Chinaman. He was of Sera extraction, and had been made a priest when seven years old, and was then sixty-seven years of age. The previous year he was created the highest priest in all Tibet. The title of his priestly rank is Ti Rinpoche of Ganden. There is, in the temple of Ganden, a priestly seat on which Je Tsong-kha-pa, the Founder of the New Sect, had sat, and on which none may sit but the Dalai Lama and this highest priest. The former, however, cannot always seat himself on it, while the latter, living at Ganden, can sit on it any time. The Grand Lama had the right to sit on it by birth, while Ti Rinpoche had had to have a secret training of thirty long years after he had received the degree of doctor in Buḍḍhism, before he was given the privilege. When this training of long years had made him a priest perfectly learned and virtuous, he was elected the highest priest in Tibet and given the privilege to sit on the seat. Any person or priest who has attained moral and intellectual perfection after a study and training of some fifty or sixty years may use this seat, except sons of butchers, blacksmiths, hunters, and men of the lowest caste.

Hence in reality, the highest priest must be more learned and virtuous than the Grand Lama. I was very[337] fortunate to have as my tutor such a high personage. This is a privilege denied to most people in Tibet, where the distinction of castes is given so much importance, that it is among the most difficult things for any one to have an interview with such a great man. In this way, I succeeded in learning much about the secrets of Tibetan Buḍḍhism. The highest priest at the first glance at me seemed to know what kind of a man I am, and treated me as what I suppose he thought me to be. He hinted, if indirectly, that he felt some fear for me, and I, too, began to fear him. Still, he must have found faithfulness in me, for he taught me Buḍḍhism in its true form, and I felt correspondingly grateful to him, for none of the many doctors, learned scholars, religionists, and hermits with whom I studied Buḍḍhism influenced me half so much as this highest priest. It must have been this virtuous Buḍḍhist, I believe, who influenced the Ex-Minister, his brother, when fallen into so great a folly, to repent of his sin and to live a peaceful life. And the nun-wife of the Ex-Minister, let me add, was of hardly less active temper, though she had not so many ideas as her husband.

This nun-wife had made a pilgrimage of repentance about twenty years before to Kātmāndu in Nepāl. I was much delighted to hear the story of this pilgrimage and its hardships, the more so as I had been in Nepāl myself. I could not but be moved by the charitable deeds of both the Ex-Minister and the nun, and instead of blaming them for their bad behavior, which brought shame on Buḍḍhism, I rather sympathised with them for it, as they had so many things in common. They taught me how great was the power of charming love, and warned me against it. The more acquainted I became with this family, the more fully I began to know about it. I came to understand the state of the family, the conditions of the servants,[338] and every particular of the house. On the other hand, I had little opportunity to talk with the present Minister of Finance, who lived next to my house, for he was too busy to receive guests. His name was Ten-Jin Choe Gyal; he was quiet and very strong-willed, but when he talked to me he smiled and made me feel quite at home with him. He put off all the dignity of a Minister, mainly because, I believe, I was being treated by the Ex-Minister and his nun-wife as if I were their son. Being in the Ministerial chair, he was often able to disclose to me some important secrets of the Government, and we talked quite confidentially with each other. If any grave subject presented itself at the court, he usually gave no opinion of his own there, but would consult with the Ex-Minister, whom he regarded as his superior, and the Ex-Minister then gave him his opinions about the subject, discussing it from various points of view. The Ex-Minister would have been by that time promoted to the position of the highest priest had it not been for his ill-famed deeds of love, which were a cause of impeachment against him. Had this strong man been appointed Premier under the present able Grand Lama, we might have expected much wiser government in Tibet. I was often present at the meetings of the two Ministers, and was requested to give my humble opinions about the subjects discussed. This gave me a good opportunity of studying Tibetan politics. While in the monastery, where was discussed only the philosophy of Buḍḍhism, I could hear little or nothing about the Government of the Grand Lama, which was generally supposed to be good. The priests know only how reverently to bend their heads before the Dalai Lama, but are entirely ignorant of the secrets of their Government, or I should say the secrets are kept from the priests; but now I succeeded in hearing many of the diplomatic secrets about the relations of the Government with China, Britain, Russia and Nepāl.

I have already told how I met the Prince of Para at the druggist’s; now I met no less unexpectedly a merchant of Darjeeling, Tsa Rong-ba by name, who also proved afterwards a great help to me at the time of my departure from Tibet. I think before I go on further I shall do well to narrate how I happened to meet him. Once I was walking along Parkor, the ‘Middle path for the circumambulation of the holy temple of the Buḍḍha’ and the busiest street in Lhasa. At the sides of the street are many shops, not very different from those in most other countries. Many portable shops or stalls may also be seen in the street, in which daily necessaries are sold, and articles of food, clothing and furniture. Most of these things are of course made in Tibet, though some are imports from Calcutta and Bombay as also from China. But the thing that attracted my eye most was a box of Japanese matches. Japanese matches, manufactured by Doi of Osaka, are imported into the capital of Tibet, besides some other kinds without the names of the manufacturers on them. There were to be seen, among others, those which have the trade mark of two elephants and of one, as well as the wax candles with the trade mark of an elephant coming out of a house. The paper was red with a white picture on it. Some matches of Swedish make were also imported, but they are now ousted by the Japanese. Some Japanese bamboo blinds with pictures of women may also be seen in Tibet. Some kutani porcelain is seen in the high circles, but rarely in stores or shops. Japanese scroll pictures too are often found hanging in the houses of rich families. These inanimate Japanese articles are more daring than the people who made them!

Wishing that these articles, an outcome of Japanese civilisation, might be conducive to light in dark Tibet, I walked along the street, till I came to a shop where I saw a cake of soap. It looked as good as any that[340] could be found in the Tibetan capital. I walked into the shop and asked how much it cost, and I noticed the master staring at me. He looked very much like a merchant with whom I became acquainted in Darjeeling but I could not believe that he could be settled there, and wondered if he were a kinsman of that merchant. No, it was, as I found afterwards, the man himself, whose name was Tsa Rong-ba. But I had then so different an appearance myself that he too could not easily recognise me. For while in Darjeeling I had usually dressed myself in Japanese dress and scarcely went out in a Tibetan costume, though I often put it on indoors. After my arrival in Tibet, I clothed myself entirely as a Tibetan. Moreover I now had my beard growing long, which I had not at Darjeeling. The man told me that the soap was too dear, and showed me another cheap and good kind, but I liked the dearer one better and bought two cakes of it. When I came home and showed them to the Minister of Finance, he was so pleased with them for their good smell that he asked me to let him have one cake, so I gave him both.


A couple of days afterwards I again went to Tsa Rong-ba’s to buy a few cakes of the same soap, as I feared it might soon be out of stock. Instead of selling me the soap, the master stared me in the face. When I tried to pay the price, he began asking me if I knew him. The sound of his voice plainly told me his identity and I laughed as I replied that I knew him. He looked much surprised and told me to come into his house. Telling his servants to close the doors of the shop, for it was now getting dark, he led me into his house, which was small in size but neat and clean. I was led into his parlor upstairs, and found his wife who came with him from Darjeeling. I recognised her at once, but she seemed to have quite forgotten me. Even when her husband said she must[342] know me, as she had received much kind treatment from me, she could not recollect me, until he told her how she had received medicine from me when ill at Darjeeling. She then expressed her joy at seeing me in such a strange place and so unexpectedly.

Then the husband and wife expressed their great wonder that I, a stranger, had succeeded in entering Tibet, when it was exceedingly difficult for even a Tibetan to come or go to the capital. They did not believe me when I told them that I had come by the way of Jangthang; for they said there were soldiers placed on guard all along the road. I said I had come through pathless wilds, but they refused to believe me. But now I thought myself to be within a hair’s breadth of the danger of detection, which would bring everything in my plan to naught. Were I known to be a Japanese, some evil or other would certainly befall me, and all the kindness of the Ministers and the priests at Sera to me would end in air-bubbles. I feared this merchant might betray me to the Government for his own benefit. I must get the better of him, I thought, and I tried to do so.

Assuming a serious attitude, speaking in a determined tone of voice, and looking the man and the woman straight in their eyes, I said: “Here is a fine job for you; you can give me up to the authorities; tell them that I am a ‘Japan Lama’ in disguise, who smuggled himself into the country against its laws. By so doing you may serve a double purpose, for I have been thinking that sooner or later I shall have to do the same thing myself, only I was afraid that they might not believe me. But if you do it for me you will save me the trouble, while the authorities will believe; besides, you may come into a nice bit of fortune; for they will reward you for your information with a large sum of money. I have long made up my mind.”

I noticed a change come over the looks of the woman first: she turned pale and even began to tremble; but the man spoke first, and, in a tone of both appeal and reproach, earnestly protested that he had no such intention as that of which I seemed to suspect him. Indeed he went the length—quite voluntarily—of swearing by “Cho-o Rinpoche” that he would never betray me, lest he should die. Still I urged them both. He once more gave his pledge, in which the woman joined in the most fear-stricken manner, both raising their hands, with which they pointed in the direction of the ‘Buḍḍha temple’ of Lhasa. I knew what the latter act with the words of the oath meant. I became convinced of their sincerity, and saw that I was safe in their hands. For Cho-o Rinpoche means “Holiness of the Savior” and forms in Tibet the most solemn words of swearing which, when uttered in the manner described, furnish the strongest possible proof of sincerity. It is true that Tibetans are much given to swearing, and possess a great variety of expressions for the purpose, there being forty-five of them to my own knowledge. Those most commonly in use are “Konjogsum” (Holy three treasures) and “Ama tang te!” (separate me from my mother). The natives are in the habit of using these oaths as words of interjection. But when, in all seriousness, they subject themselves to the form observed by my host and his wife, they may safely be depended upon for their absolute sincerity. As it was, I pressed them no further, and they seemed to be well pleased at the final dispelling of all my suspicion against them.

Before I took leave of them they asked me about my lodging, and finding out I was the “Serai amchi,” the doctor of Sera, they were most astonished and pleased—pleased to know that they had as acquaintance a man of so great renown as I was then in Lhasa. From that time onward I was a frequent visitor and trusted friend at Tsa[344] Rong-ba’s, with always something to give the good couple, as was the case with me at Gyami menkhang’s, the Chinese druggist.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:51 am

CHAPTER LIII. Scholastic Aspirants.

First, to speak of the nationalities of the aspirants; the students in the three great colleges are not solely natives of Tibet; they comprise Mongols proper, and also Khams, who belong to a somewhat different race. In fact it is customary to place Mongols first in point of numbers, then Tibetans, and last of all Khams. These three groups of students are as distinct in their characteristics as they are in their nationalities. Tibetans, generally speaking, are a very quiet, courteous, and intelligent set of students, but are not at all inclined to be diligent—indeed they are as a rule as lazy as they can be. The fact that they are very dirty in their habits seems to come from this their national weakness of being extremely and eternally idle. During winter days, for instance, a Tibetan bonze who possesses the ordinary means of living will simply do no work, beyond attending to the routine of chanting the sacred text in the service-hall, and making trips to the monastery kitchen for his ration of tea. When the weather is fine he spends all his leisure hours basking in the warm sun and squatting naked in front of his cell. Nothing can be more significant of his instinctive indolence than the sight of him as he sits dozing there the whole day long, putting on his head to dry a waste scrap of some woollen stuff, with which he occasionally blows his nose. Such behavior, excusable only in an old or decrepit person, is nothing unusual in many of the young Tibetan priests. How lazy and sluggish the average Tibetans are, it is almost beyond the power of Westerners to imagine.

Not so with the Mongols: one never sees them enjoying themselves in such an indolent fashion. They study very hard and always take a very active part in the catechetical exercises, principally because they are alive to the purpose for which they have come so far from their home and country. Four hundred out of the five hundred Mongols are generally fine students; while the ratio has to be inverted in the case of Tibetans, four hundred and fifty out of five hundred of whom are but trash. In consequence of this, the bulk of the “students militant” or warrior-priests of whom I have already spoken are Tibetans, Khams and Mongols being seldom found among them. Mongols are studious and progressive, but one common fault with them is that they are very quick-tempered, so that the slightest thing causes them to flare up in tremendous rage. Being always conscious of the fact that they are the most assiduous of the students, and that the largest number of the winners of the doctor’s degree always come from amongst them, they are very proud and uppish. This Mongolian pride makes most Mongols, even those that try to be calm and well-balanced, to be pitied for their narrow-mindedness and petulance, in spite of all their other numerous good qualities. A Mongol has it in him to become a great leader like Genghis Khan; but the career of that great conqueror was but a meteoric burst of short-lived splendor, and, like him, the Mongols as a nation seem to be incapable of consolidating their national greatness on anything like a permanent basis, or of carrying out any schemes calculated to secure the permanent progress and improvement of their country.

The Khams, on the other hand, are infinitely superior in this respect both to the Mongols and the Tibetans, and this in spite of the fact that their country is generally supposed to be no better than a den of thieves and[347] robbers. A Kham is excitable, but he does not lose his temper like a Mongol: indeed, he can be admirably patient and persevering when he wills. In point of physique, too, he is far ahead as a rule of both the others. The Khams are chivalrous men, blunt and outspoken, and averse to flattery. My observations among the students of Sera lead me to infer that more open-hearted, unaffected students are to be found among the Khams than among any other of the nationalities represented there. Mongols will occasionally demean themselves by fawning upon others in order to gain some object dear to their hearts, but the worst sinners in this respect are the Tibetans—so much so that the Khams, unless they are thoroughly Tibetanised Khams, are unwilling to enter into friendship with them. It is said to the honor of the Khams that even their robbers are honorable and will often give a helping hand to the poor and weak, and rescue those who stand in imminent peril. The Kham women and children, as a rule, share in the apathetic appearance of the men. They are often very unbecomingly dressed and have none of the attractiveness of the Tibetan women, who, like their husbands, fathers, and brothers, are generally well-spoken and affable in outward demeanor, however full of thorns and brambles their innermost hearts may be.

I have been able to give here only a brief and cursory notice of some of the characteristic features of the principal tribes that inhabit these unfrequented regions of Central Asia, with a few of the most essential of the points of difference between them. I might carry my subdivision much further, and speak of the Khams as Mankhams, Bas, Tsarongs, etc., but that would involve a very long and not very profitable discourse, and I therefore pass on to topics of greater interest.

To interpret correctly the aspirations of Tibetan Lamas, their ideals, or the final goal which they strive to[348] attain, it may safely be said that their main purpose in entering the priesthood is only to procure the largest possible amount of fortune, as well as the highest possible fame in that entirely secluded world of theirs. To seek religious truth and to practise religious austerities with a view to acquiring knowledge and character sufficient to carry out the noble work of delivering men and leading them to salvation, is not at all what they wish to do. If they study, they do so as a means of gaining reputation, of extending their influence, and mainly of accumulating wealth. They simply desire to escape from the painful struggle of life in the world of competition, and to enjoy lazy and comfortable days on earth as well as in heaven. Nine hundred and ninety-nine out of a thousand seem to have no conception of the problems of the future life, and there is nothing deep in their religious life. “It is more blessed to receive than to give” is their motto, and hence the monastic life, study and service, in its fullest sense, goes in their eyes for nothing. The reason why these priests and scholars, who ought to be the noblest and most unselfish of all men, have been brought to this state of apostasy, seems to be this.

In Tibet, the social estimation of priest and scholars is made, not according to their learning or virtue, nor yet according to the amount of good they have done for their fellow-men, but entirely according to the amount of property which they possess. Thus, a priest who owns an estate of a thousand dollars, however mean and ignorant he may be, is much more influential and far more highly esteemed in society than a learned and virtuous priest who lives on a small income. They believe in the almighty dollar, and twist S. Paul’s saying: “Though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I can remove mountains, and[349] have not” money, “I am nothing.” They are earnest therefore in making money, in whatever way they find profitable. Some of them, as I have said, are engaged in trade or industrial enterprises, and others in agriculture or stock-farming. Besides, it is their custom to appropriate to themselves the remuneration which they receive when they visit laymen’s houses for the purpose of chanting the Sacred Text for them, in accordance with their priestly duty.

It is pitiful to contemplate the condition of the students who, without scholarship or support, are preparing in the colleges for their degrees. They live hard struggling lives of study in the midst of want, and yet the only stimulus that encourages them is the expectation that they will be able to enjoy the comfortable life of high priests, when they have got through the prescribed course of study and have achieved the Doctorate. They do really suffer, but their sufferings are not, so far as I know, those of the man of self-denial who strives hard and struggles against difficulties for the noble ambition of winning souls to salvation, or for some humanitarian purpose; they are exceedingly patient in suffering, simply with the hope of reaping ease and comfort in the latter part of their lives. After a hard monastic life of some twenty years when they have completed the whole course of study, these poor students will have the honor of getting the Doctor’s degree, a title implying the highest learning, but in undue proportion costly; for besides spending nearly half their lives in toils and struggles to get it, they have to give a grand feast to all their schoolmasters to celebrate their graduation. It is true, the feast consists only of meat gruel, a sort of porridge of meat mixed with rice, but the quantity given is enormous, as there are many capacious stomachs to be filled.

To give a feast of this sort requires some five hundred yen at the very least, each bowlful costing over[350] twenty-five sen. Of course, the poverty-stricken priests cannot possibly provide the money themselves, but fortunately the diploma has its use this time; their credit has so much improved that the wealthy priests who turned up their noses at needy students are very willing now to supply them with the necessary money, simply because they have the degree and chance to pay interest. By the means of this convenient credit transaction they can procure the means of giving the necessary banquet and the wealthy priests get not only credit for their generosity, but also interest for their money. But nothing is more disappointing than the future life of those poor priests, who will probably never succeed in paying off the burden of debt, or, if exceptionally fortunate, they may succeed in doing so only after long and hard struggles. It is a sad thing to contemplate, but such is the hard lot of most Tibetan priests.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:52 am

CHAPTER LIV. Tibetan Weddings and Wedded Life.

As I was lodging at the house of the Minister of Finance, I had the good fortune to become acquainted with and occasionally to call on the other Ministers of State, among whom was one of the Prime-Ministers, of the name of Sho Khangwa. (In Tibet, there are four Prime-Ministers and three Ministers of Finance; the senior Minister, in either case, taking the actual business and standing responsible for the conduct of affairs, while the others hold only nominal portfolios, assisting in the work of the Department as vice-Ministers. Sho Khangwa was the second Prime-Minister). During my stay in Lhasa, his daughter married the son of a noble called the Prince of Yutok. I was invited to the wedding, a ceremony most solemnly performed, which I attended with curiosity and interest. Before proceeding to relate what I saw on that occasion, I may make a few observations on Tibetan marriages in general. No general statement can be made however with regard to marriage-customs, as they vary vastly according to the different localities. There are several books containing descriptions of Tibetan marriages, but these are from the pens of European travellers, who may perhaps have been in Chinese Tibet, or on the northern frontier of Tibet proper, but were surely not permitted to visit Lhasa. So although their descriptions may be correct, so far as they go, yet no detailed account of a marriage in Lhasa is, so far as I know, to be found in any of these books. It is next to impossible for a passing visitor, especially in such a country as Tibet, where marriage-customs and manners differ so much with the widely separated tribes, to give any really trustworthy descriptions; still,[352] as circumstances have given me special opportunities of observing minutely the people’s life, social and domestic, in Lhasa, and even of attending several wedding ceremonies of the natives, it is not only proper, but may also possibly be of some value, to relate my observations and experiences during my stay in the city.

It is generally known that a peculiar system of marriage prevails in Tibet—a plurality not of wives but of husbands. The cases of polyandry are; first, when several brothers take the same woman as their wife at the same time; second, when two or more men not brothers, marry the same woman by mutual agreement; and thirdly, when a woman, already married to one man, gains influence over her husband, and, with his consent, marries another in addition. In case the mother of a family dies, either the father or the son takes a new spouse, who becomes at the same time the wife of the other male members of the family without infringing the law of the country. They are quite insensible to the shame of this dissolute condition of matrimonial relations, which can scarcely be even imagined by people with a civilised moral sense; and yet there do exist some restrictions: marriage of brothers with sisters, or between cousins, is not only censured by the public as immoral, but also prohibited by the law as criminal.

The wife’s authority over her husbands is something surprising. All the money which the husbands have earned has to be handed over to their wife, and if one of the husbands is found less clever or less successful in making money than the others, she will give him a severe scolding. When a husband needs money, he has to beg his wife to give him so much for such and such a purpose, just as a child does to its mother. If she happens to find any of her husbands keeping back his earnings, she will break out in anger, and give him slaps instead of caresses. In[353] short, a wife generally exercises a commanding authority over her husbands.

She will order them to go out shopping and to do this or that, and husbands are quite obedient to the wife, too, and quite ready to do everything that is required, or that they find suitable to soothe her. When two or more men have anything to agree upon among them, they do not decide for themselves, but run home and ask their wife’s opinion before coming to a final decision, and, if she has no objection, they will meet again and settle the matter. Though polyandry is the prevailing system of marriage in Tibet, there are a few exceptional cases of monogamistic couples, generally in cases where the husband is in a comparatively influential position.

Another peculiarity in connexion with marriage is that an agreement, to the effect that either husband or wife may divorce the other whenever he or she has become averse to continuing as the other’s partner, is acknowledged as a legitimate condition of a matrimonial contract.

I come now to a description of the marriage ceremony as observed in Lhasa. The Tibetans, whether men or women, marry generally between the twentieth and twenty-fifth years of age.

Although there are some exceptions (especially in the case of couples married late in life, where the husband’s age much exceeds that of his wife) usually both bride and groom are of about equal age. If a woman who has five brothers as her husbands gives birth to a child, the eldest of the brothers is called the father of the child and the rest the uncles. One European writer says that in Tibet the eldest of the brothers, who have the same woman as their wife, is called the great father of her children, and the younger brothers their small fathers; but this I have not been able to verify.

There is almost no such thing, so far as my experience of the Tibetans has gone, as a woman choosing her own husbands. The choice of husbands and all decision connected therewith are made by the parents only, and the daughter herself who is going to be married is never permitted to make any choice of her partner, nor even to take any part in the consultation regarding her own marriage. She is compelled to marry whomsoever her parents decide upon for her husband. Not only so, but parents never tell their daughter at all that a proposal has been made, or that they are going to give her in marriage, until the very day of the wedding. These compulsory marriages, therefore, frequently end in divorce. However, in the remote country or even in the city, sometimes a girl selects her partner and obtains permission from her parents to marry the man of her choice. Such cases, however are very exceptional.

It is the universal usage throughout the country for the parents of a young man of marriageable age to make enquiries for a suitable bride among families equal in lineage, fortune and rank with their own. When such a girl is found, they at once communicate through a middleman with the girl’s parents, asking whether she may be given as wife to their sons. If the answer is a simple negative, the middleman understands that the case is an entirely hopeless one; but if they say: “We will see about it” or something to that effect, he will call on them several times and talk of all the good qualities of the young man, his parents and everything about him. Then the girl’s parents, after giving a conditional consent to the proposal, go to a fortune-teller or a high priest to ask his judgment and advice in this important matter, or they will go to a sorcerer who is believed to be able to give information about the future, and then only will they give a definite answer to the middleman.

The parents on each side keep the whole thing a secret from their son or daughter, even after the betrothal has been decided upon. Thus both bride and groom go to the very day of their wedding, without knowing anything of their own marriage—neither the preliminary consultations nor the name of the bride or groom; they are brought face to face for the first time on the wedding day. There is no custom of exchanging presents between bride and bridegroom, or of the bride’s bringing a dowry to her husband as in Japan, and no consultation or arrangement is made, or anything like a marriage-contract regarding the property of the parties concerned; only the bride’s parents, to keep up the honor of the family, have to furnish their daughter with all things needed for her marriage, suitable to their social standing; else they would be disgraced in the public eye. On the groom’s side also his parents send a present of some money to the bride’s mother as ‘breast money’ or nurse expense, remuneration for her marriage and care in bringing up the girl. Then, again, the parents on both sides go and enquire of a fortune-teller or sorcerer, before fixing upon the day of the wedding or of beginning to make the necessary preparations.

On the morning of the wedding, the girl’s parents, who have already been informed of the time when the middleman is to come from the groom’s house, casually tell the girl that the weather being very fine they intend going to the Temple, and that she had better go with them, and that as they are going to have a “lingka feast” she had better have her hair done, or words to that effect. The girl is generally much delighted at hearing this, and starts at once to dress herself quite unconscious of the stratagem. But sometimes a clever girl sees through the artifice and breaks into tears of sorrow at her unexpected departure from her old home.


A girl who is unaware of this artifice will wash and scrub her face and body as her parents bid her, and make herself as smart as they please. It is to be noted that, as a general custom in Tibet, ordinary people never wash their faces or bodies at all, though the nobles do so every morning just after leaving their beds. The manner in which they wash their faces is almost more like a joke. When a nobleman gets up in the morning, a maid or attendant will bring him a ladleful of warm water which he first takes in the palms of his hands and then puts into his mouth. After holding it in there for a while he spits it back into his palms little by little and then washes his face with it. When the water in the mouth is all gone, he will spit several times on to his palms and again rub his face. It is true that basins are used by some Tibetans: the above is however the normal way.

To return, the girl, knowing nothing about the trick in store for her and expecting to go out for amusement, is cheerful and gay, busily engaged in her toilet, and adorning her hair with her old comb and pins, when her parents come to her with a new comb, pins and other toilet articles (all of which have been secretly presented by the groom’s parents through the middleman) and say to her: “Your pins and comb are too old, my dear, we have some new ones for you; here they are; and a good bottle of hair-oil too. You must dress yourself up as nicely as possible,” and so on. Then when at last the toilet is complete, the parents tell her for the first time that an engagement has already been made with so and so, whom she has to marry that day. This is the general custom not only in Lhasa, but also in Shigatze and other towns.

But, as I have already said, a sagacious girl who can see through her parents’ artifices is not generally willing to dress herself up for the occasion, but will be found weeping at her unforeseen calamities and sets herself to[358] complaining in this strain “Oh! dear me! I don’t want to leave my home. It is not fair of father and mother to marry me off to a person whom I shall probably not like. How can I get out of it?” And then she becomes very depressed, and devotes absolutely no attention to her hair-dressing. In this case, however, the girl’s friends, who are there to help in the preparations for her wedding, try to cheer her up and encourage her to obey her parents, and even help her to adorn and dress herself.

After all these preparations are over, the bride’s parents have to give a series of farewell banquets for their daughter, which will last two weeks, or even more sometimes, if their family is rich or high in social rank, but two or three days only in the case of the poor. During these festivities, the relatives and acquaintances of her parents visit the family with presents of money, food, or clothes, to congratulate them on their daughter’s happy wedding, the value of the presents differing according to the visitor’s wealth as well as their intimacy with the family. These visitors are cordially entertained with Tibetan tea and cold spirits, which they drink to excess, visitors and host alike enjoying the good things provided, and having a regular good time or what they call a chachang pemma, the happiest state in the world.

While drinking, they eat nothing at all; but at the afternoon meal they take some meat and wheat-cakes. The meat they eat is generally the flesh of the yak, or that of goats or sheep; pork is sometimes used in Lhasa, but beef is very rare throughout the country, and is especially rare in the case of wedding feasts. Their cooking and bill of fare are very simple: three dishes of meat, raw, dried and boiled (roast meat is never seen at a wedding). The boiled meat is cooked in oil and salt, or sometimes in salt and water and is brought in first,[359] together with tsu, a concoction of cheese, butter and sugar. When these are all gone, a big dish of boiled rice mixed with butter, sugar, raisins and Chinese persimmons is served. In the evening, again, the guests are entertained to a dinner in which a sort of vermicelli, made of wheat-flour and eggs, or pure Chinese cookery is set before the guests. In this manner they have three or four meals a day; and besides these, tea and intoxicants are constantly served during the intervals between the meals. While eating and drinking the guests are regaled with pleasant talk, and when the feasts begin to flag they revive the fun by singing and dancing. It is very interesting to see men and women like the moving beads of a rosary, dancing and jumping promiscuously round and round the circles. They dance in a regular and systematic manner, each keeping step with the music as carefully as if he were a soldier at drill, and yet the regularity and solemnity of the dance does not in least interfere with the keenness and zest of their enjoyment. The instrument used in their dance music is called damnyan, and is often used in accompanying singing as well as dancing.

Towards the close of the festive time (I may observe that it is only the poorest folk that dispense with the prenuptial feasts), usually on the eve of the wedding, the parents of the bridegroom send their representative and the middleman, with a number of attendants, to the bride’s home to receive the bride. They bring with them a present of some money as nurin or ‘breast money’ for the bride’s parents, who are obliged to seem a little backward about taking it, etiquette demanding that they should require a good deal of coaxing before accepting such a present. The nurin may vary in amount from a couple of dollars to two hundred or even five hundred dollars. Some parents (not many) refuse it absolutely, saying[360] that the girl being their beloved daughter, it is not their expectation or their desire to receive any nurin, but that they “only hope heartily that their daughter will be loved by and enjoy a happy life among the family to which she is given in marriage.”

Then the middleman gives the bride the dress, belt, Chinese shoes and all other articles necessary for a bride during the wedding ceremony, these too being presented by the groom’s parents, and these the bride cannot refuse; she must wear them even though they do not suit her. In addition to these gifts the bride generally receives a precious gem, such as is usually worn by a woman of Lhasa on the middle of her forehead. This gem is said to be a sign of a woman’s being married, though in Lhasa there seems to exist no strict discrimination in the matter, for unmarried women in that city often wear it as a mere ornament. In Shigatze and the neighboring provinces, however, the use of the gem is strictly restricted, as a matter of fact, exclusively to married women, who wear it high up at the back of the head, so that they can be easily distinguished from single females. In the case of a divorce, a husband has simply to pluck off the gem from his wife’s head without the trouble of going to court, or asking the authorities to alter the census. This single act on the part of the husband properly and perfectly certifies and legalises the divorce.

Besides the things necessary for a bride to wear during the ceremony which the bridegroom’s parents have to provide, many valuable ornaments, a fringe, neck-rings, ear-rings, finger-rings, ornamented armlets and breast-jewels, are given by the bride’s own parents, for what the groom’s parents send the bride-elect is confined to the dress, belt, under-wear and shoes, to be worn on the occasion of the wedding ceremony.

Then, those who come to receive the bride stay at the bride’s house that night, and enjoy a few pleasant hours drinking with the family.

An interesting feature of this drinking feast is that the middleman and the representatives of the bridegroom’s family have to be very careful not to drink too much that night, because it is the custom for the friends and relatives of the bride’s family to try to steal something from them if the drink should happen to make them drowsy. If they succeed, they show what they have stolen before all the guests assembled the next morning, and boast of the success of their trick, and their victims have to pay them some twenty tanka of Tibetan silver, or two dollars and a half in American gold, as a penalty for their carelessness. So the middleman and the others do all they can not to be tempted to drink, while the bride’s friends and relatives ply their guests with liquor and will take no refusal. The reader can imagine the noise and uproar that sometimes ensue. But in urging their guests to drink, the friends of the bride must strictly observe the old ancestral customs, or else the middleman and the representatives of the groom’s family will ridicule them for their ignorance, and thus everlasting shame will come upon the bride’s family. The others, in their turn, have to arm themselves with suitable reasons for abstinence. They have to say that chang is the worst of all sorts of poison, that it is a maker of quarrels or a robber of wisdom. The refusal to drink must always be clothed in some proverbial expression of this kind, according to the old time-honored customs, and the ordinary Tibetan would be very much disappointed and almost feel that he had not been to a proper wedding, if it was not accompanied with their friendly wranglings over the cups.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:54 am

CHAPTER LV. Wedding Ceremonies.

Early in the morning of the nuptial day the father and mother give a farewell banquet in the house of the bride. At the same time the priests of the Old School, generally known as the ‘Scarlet-Hoods’ or Red-Caps, are asked by the family to hold a festal service in honor of the village and family Gods. The object of the festival is to inform the Gods of the daughter’s being engaged and to take leave of them, and further to pray the Gods not to do any injury to their family because of their daughter’s leaving them for ever, as in return they promise to make offerings to them and recite the Sacred Text for their pleasure. Such ceremonies in general are held at the temple to which the ‘Scarlet-Hoods’ belong. Simultaneously with the above another festival is held in the house of the bride by the priest of the Bon religion (pronounced Pon, but written Bon), the old religion of Tibet, to propitiate the God Lu-i Gyalpo, or King-Dragon, who according to the Tibetan mythology is the protector of the fortunes of each individual family. It is a constant fear with Tibetans that if it should ever happen that a man should provoke this God’s anger by any means whatever, the consequence will be the entire destruction of his fortune. Therefore lest the God should leave the family and follow the daughter to whom he is affectionately attached, and thus abandon the family to utter poverty, no efforts whatsoever are spared by the family to keep him away from the daughter. The passages from the Bon scripture which are read on the occasion of the ceremony are very interesting. In most of the cases the sentences are the same, and, in the main, are to the effect that the[363] family to which the daughter has been engaged is not enjoying such happiness as the maiden’s own family enjoys; and again that it is not dignified for the King-Dragon to go to another house in pursuit of a girl: it is advisable for the God to stay with the present family and look after its interests, as before; for boundless will be the happiness that he shall enjoy in case he stays with the present family as hitherto. After all, this is not a matter of mere traditional formality, for among the people of Tibet the superstition is common that if the King-Dragon should leave a family for ever to follow a daughter on her marriage, the family will be reduced to utter poverty; hence these customs are universally observed by the people.

The banquet over, there enters the preacher who is to exhort the bride. He stands in front of the bride, and instructs her by means of a collection of maxims which he has well committed to memory previous to the ceremony. The preacher is a kind personage, selected from people who are accomplished in such things. In almost all cases the words of exhortation are about the same, and they are composed of very easy expressions, so that anybody can understand them. The sentences say that when the bride goes to the house of her husband, she must behave with uniform kindness; that, as it is the duty of a woman to be obedient to her superiors, once she goes to her husband’s she must not only be obedient to her parents-in-law, but must also wait upon her husband and his brothers and sisters with equal kindness, and more especially must she love her husband’s younger brothers and sisters with the same kindness that she has for her true brothers or sisters; she must treat her servants as if they were her own children, and the like. Here and there in the intervals of the exhortations is inserted a story, which is told by the preacher with such skill that the bride is generally deeply impressed. When the exhortation is[364] over, the father and mother of the bride sit before her, and with tears repeat exhortations similar to those previously recited by the regular preacher. Then also come the relatives and friends of the bride, who, bursting into tears, and taking the bride by the hand, make their exhortations most tenderly and in a most caressing manner. After these ceremonies, the bride has at last to leave her old home. There is no fixed standard as to the property which a bride takes with her to her husband’s on the occasion of her marriage. Some are rich enough to take a piece of land as a dowry, but some can afford only to take a few clothes.

When she leaves her house, the bride weeps bitterly, and all efforts to get her on horseback are in vain, she prostrates herself on the ground and lies there obstinately helpless. Her features become those of one whose heart is too heavy to part with her parents and her home. In such a case, the bride is lifted up and placed by friends on horseback. She does not ride in the same manner as westerns do, but astride, after the Japanese fashion. Women in Tibet are very good riders; they do not ride with long stirrups, but with legs bent back, as if they were astride on a very low bench, and use an extremely short stirrup leather. There is no difference between men and women in the manner of riding. While in Tibet I used to ride in the same manner, and during the first part of my experiences I had a hard time of it, more especially in the case of a long ride, after which I often felt much pain about my legs.

Now the bride, thus placed on horseback, makes her way to the house of the bridegroom. She is dressed in the wedding garment which has been presented to her by the bridegroom, and also wears the ornaments for head and arms which have been presented to her by her own parents, and her head and face are covered with rin-chen na-nga,[365] the precious cloths woven from sheep’s wool, in stripes of yellow, green, red, white and black. On account of the cloth, no glimpse of her face can be caught. The back of her neck is also covered with a small banner, called the ‘banner of good omen’. This ‘banner of good omen’ is made of a fine silk stuff dyed in five different colors, and is some fourteen inches or so in length; it is inscribed with good wishes for her future.

The people who have come to see the bride off and those who have come to receive her all go on horseback, and on their way to the bridegroom’s house six banquets altogether are given by the relatives of the bride and of the bridegroom. Those who have come to see the bride off give three banquets at three different points on the road, and those who have come to welcome her give three similar banquets. Sometimes the banquets are given at places two miles apart, and sometimes three, as the case may be, and after the sixth banquet has duly taken place, the gate of the bridegroom’s house is at last reached by the wedding procession. In these banquets, however nobody drinks anything to excess, because every one is impressed with the fact that he has been entrusted with the very important duty of taking the bride in safety to the house of the bridegroom, and so the others, recognising the situation, never press any one to drink to excess. As a rule, it is customary in Tibet to press one’s guests to eat the dainties which have been set before them, while for the guests it is considered very impolite to taste such dainties immediately; to do so without a great deal of pressure is to be as vulgar as a Chinaman. The banquets are given by the friends of the bride and bridegroom at the houses of their friends or at their own, but on the whole it is more usual to have tents erected at convenient places in fields on the way to the bridegroom’s house, and to entertain the wedding procession there.



Thus the gate of the bridegroom’s house is reached. It would not occur to anybody that there should be any question as to whether the bride could at once be admitted to the house of the bridegroom or not, as those who had come to receive the bride on the way were the relatives of the bridegroom. However, the fact is quite the reverse. This is where the Tibetan custom appear so strange in the eyes of a foreigner. When the bride reaches the gate, she finds it locked, bolted, and barred against her ingress. In the crowd gathered in front of the gate of the bridegroom’s house, there is a man whose duty it is to drive away the evil spirits, or epidemic diseases, which, it is believed by the people, may have followed the bride on her way to the bridegroom’s. Hidden under his right hand, the man has a sword which is called the Torma, or the sword of the secret charm, with which he tears such evil spirits or epidemic diseases to pieces. The sword is made of a mixture of baked flour, butter and water, fried hard and colored with the red juice of a plant. Its shape is long and triangular, like a bayonet; it looks like a sword, and is said to have some secret charm, pronounced by a priest, concealed in it. The spectators do not know which one in the crowd has the sword, but some one must have it, and as soon as the bride arrives the man, taking advantage of any opportunity that may offer, throws it in the face of the bride, and runs inside the gate, the door of which opens to receive him as he discharges this duty. No sooner has the man fled inside the gate, than the door is again closed, and the bride is left standing outside, all covered with the red fragments of the stuff that has been thrown at her. One may wonder what can be the origin of such a custom, and one is told that the bride, on taking leave of her family, has lost the protection of the Gods of the village and of the house in which she has been a resident, and the people are afraid that, for want of the divine protec[369]tion, the bride must have met with a crowd of evil spirits, or epidemic diseases, on her way to the bridegroom’s house, and that these might cause some injury to the new couple; hence the use of the Torma to conquer such evil spirits, or epidemic diseases.

Then one wants to know why the man fled inside the gate, and caused the door to be closed after him, immediately after throwing the sword in the face of the bride. There is a peculiar sort of custom prevalent at weddings, by which every one caught by the bride’s friends is bound to pay them a penalty of twenty tanka, and therefore the man flies inside the gate lest he should be caught by the people who have come to see the bride off. By this time the people inside the gate, who have been waiting for the arrival of the wedding procession, demand that the bride’s party give sheppa (explanation) at the gate, or else the bride cannot be admitted. The sheppa consists of many beautiful words and fine phrases, indicating wishes for good luck and happiness. In response to their demands, the man in the wedding procession whose duty it is to say the ‘explanation’ has to say: “We want to say sheppa, but for lack of the kata we cannot do so.” On hearing this the man inside the gate shows a tiny piece of kata through a chink in the gate and says: “Here is the kata,” but no sooner has he done so than he promptly pulls it back again. One may wonder why the people should pull the cloth in so quickly, and one is told that it is in consideration of a peculiar custom, that the man must pay twenty tanka as penalty to any of the bride’s friends that can catch hold of the cloth; naturally therefore, it is quickly pulled away. On seeing the kata, the man in the wedding procession whose duty it is to say sheppa solemnly says as follows: “This is the gate which leads to the store-house where many precious and valuable things are[370] kept; the pillars are built of gold and the door of silver and inside the gate there is a hall of worship which is made of natural cloisonné; there is also a palace, the inmates of which are as virtuous and beautiful as angels and Gods.”

Words similar to these are said, and at the termination of the sheppa the gate is open.

I must here not omit to say that on her way to the bridegroom’s, as she is riding past a certain village, the bride is sometimes caught hold of and carried off by the people of the village, on the pretext that her coming will cause some injury to them, as it is believed by them also that the bride has lost the protection of the Gods of her native place, and that during her journey many evil spirits and epidemic diseases must have taken hold of her, and that these, on arriving at the village, will do great damage to its farms and cause much injury to the inhabitants. So the people of the village carry off the bride as a compensation for such prospective damage, and in order to get a safe passage through the village the attendants of the bride must pay ransom. I may say that this is a very rare occurrence in a town, but in lonely parts of the country it will sometimes take place. It must be understood that it is generally in the case of a family which is not popular with its neighbors that the bride receives such treatment.

Upon the gate being opened, the mother of the bridegroom comes out with some sour milk and chema in her hands. Chema is a mixture of baked flour, butter, sugar and taro-root. Taro-root is a kind of potato, produced in Tibet, as large as a man’s little finger, and very nice to eat. Chema and sour milk are used only when there is a celebration of some extraordinary occasion. A little of this is distributed to each person in the procession, who receives it on his palm and eats it. This ceremony over, the mother leads the party into her[371] house and gives a banquet in honor of the bride, when the priest of the “Old School” is called upon to inform the Gods of the village and of the house that an addition has been made to the members of the family by the arrival of the bride, and that, therefore, the Gods are prayed to extend their arms to the bride, and to be her protectors henceforward.

These prayers over, the father and mother of the bridegroom give a piece of kata to the couple, and to all the other people who have come to see the bride off or to receive her. Such is the ceremony that makes the happy couple husband and wife. Before the feasting has begun to flag the newly married couple are removed to an adjacent room. The people who have come either to see the bride off or to receive her, stay in the house of the bridegroom, and attend the banquets which are given daily, and during this time the friends and relatives come to join the banquet, every one bringing with him a reasonable amount of presents. The feasting lasts for two or three days at least, and for a month at most. Tibetans are very fond of meat, and most of their food is more fatty even than Chinese cookery. They give long banquets richly furnished with such food, and the reader can well imagine how foolishly idle are the people of Tibet in their habits. The feasting over, the people who have come to see the bride off, or to receive her, say good-bye to the house, but still, for several days following, the friends and servants of the bride remain in the house with the bride, this being the custom. If the bride is from a well-to-do family, she takes with her a servant from her father’s house, and make her stay with her in the new family to serve her as long as she lives. In this way the wedding ceremonies come to an end. In one month or one year after the marriage the bride, together with the bridegroom, comes to her old home, and[372] they stay there as long as she likes, sometimes for one month and sometimes for three. When making the first visit to her father’s house, the bride takes with her not more than two or three persons. Her husband stays with her for several days, and then returns to his house, but when the day comes on which the bride has promised her husband to return to his house, the husband comes for her and takes her home again.

In case the bridegroom has a brother, the bride must marry him also in six or twelve months after marrying the eldest brother. The wedding ceremony in such a case is carried on privately at the house of the bridegroom, the mother of the bridegroom acting as the middleman. In this case the eldest brother, to whom the bride was first married, takes himself off from the house on business, or for pleasure, so as to let the bride and his younger brother marry during his absence. It makes no difference if the bridegroom has three or more brothers; the bride has to marry each one of them separately, and in the same manner. Sometimes the bride and her brothers-in-law live together at their pleasure, without having any formal ceremonies to celebrate their weddings.

Such is the polyandry practised by the people of Tibet, and called the sa-sum. In a family where the bride has more than one bridegroom, it is very seldom that we find the brothers living together. If one of the brothers is at home the other absents himself, either on business, if he is a merchant, or on official duties. In this way all possible means are taken to keep only one of the brothers at home, each in his turn.

Polyandry flourishes in Tibet even at the present time, and it is considered by the general public to be the right thing to follow and, in consequence, if ever a merchant (having been out of the country and seen much of the outside world and observed how shameful his habits[373] at home have been) should protest against this sort of wedlock, he is shunned by his fellow-men as a crank, and his protest brushed away with “Luk-su-mindu,” which means “there is no such a custom (in Tibet).” This peculiar and ridiculous wedlock, as well as this unreasonable relationship between a husband and wife, has its origin in the Bon religion, and in spite of the introduction of true Buḍḍhism into Tibet the habit has come down to the present time and remains flourishing. The fact is that among the Buḍḍhist believers there has scarcely been any one who has ever given any thought to social problems, and moreover, as the priests of ancient times were generally recluses, who paid no attention whatever to the application of their religion to the needs of the practical world, or to making the principles of true Buḍḍhism as distinct as possible, the natural outcome has been that this shameful custom, altogether contradictory to the principles of Buḍḍhism, has remained in this part of the world. The blame lies entirely with the priests; it must not be laid at the door of Buḍḍhism.
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Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

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

CHAPTER LVI. Tibetan Punishments.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHAPTER LVII. A grim Funeral and grimmer Medicine.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHAPTER LVIII. Foreign Explorers and the Policy of Seclusion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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