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TIBET: THE LAND OF THE LAMAS
By Mr. Cecil Polhill, China Inland Mission.

The land of seclusion and mystery; of vast plains at immense altitudes; the last country to open its doors to the world's commerce, or to the messenger of the Gospel, no wonder Tibet excites the world's fascination and interest. It is the marvel of the twentieth century that a country larger in area than France, 1600 miles from east to west, 700 miles (at its broadest part on the east) from north to south, should thus be able to remain fast sealed to the outer world.

One of the chief reasons for this isolation lies in the physical configuration of the country, the extraordinary height of the wild uplands of the interior, only rivalled by the still more mighty heights which form a majestic rampart surrounding the whole territory. Southward are the Indian Himalayas, westward their continuation, and then the Karakorums, etc.; northward the Kuen-luen, Akka Tag, and Altan Tag; while eastward serried masses, range upon range of mountains, separate Tibet from China.

Southern Tibet is traversed throughout for 1300 miles, almost its entire length, by the river Tsangpo, which river finally enters India, and probably loses itself in the mighty Brahmaputra. Along the valley of this river reside the larger part of the population of Tibet; the villages and small towns are numerous, and Lhasa lies only 18 miles to the north of its banks, at an altitude of over 13,000 feet. It is constantly navigated.

From a line about 150 miles to the north, and parallel with the Tsangpo, stretches the vast northern plain or Chang-Tang, which extends to the foot of the Kuen-luen range, the southernmost fringe of which is peopled by nomads, dwelling in black tents. The remainder of this plain is at too great an elevation (from 15,000 to 16,000 feet) for man to live or procure food, and is occupied by vast herds of wild animals—antelopes, wild asses, bears, foxes, hares, wild sheep, and great herds of wild yak. The last-mentioned animal is to the Tibetan quite indispensable. Its milk, rich in cream, supplies quantities of butter; its long hair, of a peculiarly tough nature, is made into tents which are used by the nomads, and into sacks for the farmers. Further, the animal is constantly requisitioned as a beast of burden, it being sure-footed and unwearying, although carrying loads of two hundredweight along dangerous paths and over narrow rocky passes. The tea from China is carried by them in large caravans, both to Lhasa and all over Tibet. Game is plentiful on the upland pastures, there being hares, wild turkeys, partridges, pheasants, and tragopan, etc.

The political divisions of Tibet are three: Ngari on the west; Tsang and Wei (or sometimes the two combined, Utsang), the central province, and containing the chief population of the country, including Lhasa, Shigatze, and Gyangtse; and the whole of Eastern Tibet from long. 92" to the Chinese border, and roughly below lat. 34°, occupied by the province of Kham.

North-west of Kham, around the lake of the same name, is the province of Kokonor, inhabited partly by Mongols, under eighteen chiefs, and partly by Tibetan nomads in black tents; all of whom are governed by the Viceroy residing at Sining in Kansu. Included under this jurisdiction is Amdo, a name given to the Tibetan peopled parts of Western Kansu, China. These Tibetans are peculiarly fine and intellectual. In these districts are many monasteries, several of which are of great reputation, such as Kumbum, Lhabrang, and others. Ngari, with a part of Ladak, is styled "Little Tibet"; Tsang and Wei are "Tibet proper"; while the appellation "Great Tibet" is applied to the whole of the east, to Kham, Amdo, etc.

The spiritual head of Tibet has been the Dalai Lama, until his flight from Lhasa, at the time of the British entry into that city in 1904. He has been seen by missionaries recently, on his return journey from Urga, and may possibly have already reached his old residence. The temporal government is in the hands of a council of ecclesiastics, the chief of whom is styled "King." This Dewa-zhung, in its turn, acknowledges the sway of the Chinese representative or Amban and his assistant, while a subordinate Chinese Governor advises and controls at Shigatze. Probably the priestly power is more in evidence than the temporal.

Chinese troops garrison the country at Lhasa, Shigatze, and other places, and since A.D. 1720 taxes have been paid by Tibet to China, either in money, in labour, or in kind. The annual revenue of Tibet exclusive of this payment is £35,560. Tibet acknowledges its vassalage to China by sending tribute to the Chinese Emperor once in ten years; the embassy bringing back, in return for its offering of gold and cloth, etc., an imperial gift of silk, tea, and bullion, to the Dalai Lama.

While Central Tibet is ruled from Lhasa, Kham is divided into thirteen sub-provinces, the inhabitants of which vary in character and government. In religion all own a sort of fealty to the Dalai Lama, though some are directly subject to Chinese rule, and others more or less to the Lhasa Government. These tribes are a lawless set, and are most unwilling to admit other authority than that of their own chieftain. In some cases these are laymen, styled "Kings," and in others ecclesiastical princes with Deputy-Governors.

Chamdo and Derge are the two leading provinces of Kham. The former of these, while owning Lhasa as its suzerain, is practically independent, and is ruled by two ecclesiastics. Its chief town, which is also called Chamdo, is situated above the confluence of the two great rivers Dza and Ngom, which together form the upper waters of the Mekong river. Derge is ruled by a "King," and is under the jurisdiction of China. Its chief town, Derge Dongkhyer, is famous for the manufacture of all kinds of metal work, and some of the rifles used by the Tibetans during the recent Britsh campaign were manufactured in Derge. Monasteries, large and small, abound in this principality. The "Khamba," as the men of Kham are called, may be divided into pastoral tribes or nomads and town or village dwellers. All are strong and brave, though wild and lawless. In all the towns and villages, Chinese officials exercise a certain authority, and are a help to civilisation. The part of Kham extending from the town of Batang eastward to Tachienlu is included in the Chinese province of Szechwan. In a few of the fertile valleys, especially near Lhasa, along the Tsangpo, plentiful crops of wheat and peas are produced, though the main product of the country is barley, from which tsamba is made.

The country may be divided under four classes:

(1) The vast northern plateaux, which are barren and desolate, with only a few scrubby bushes here and there.

(2) The upland pasture grounds, chiefly in Southern Tibet, like the moors in the homeland, wild and weird. Here there are not only to be found nomad tents, but small towns built of stone.

(3) In other parts the country is cut up into deep ravines and rocky gorges, through which rush river torrents. On the side of these rocky gorges are perched villages and monasteries.

(4) The downs are especially found in the eastern province of Kham, often with rich pasturage and varied vegetation.

The cold of these regions is, of course, intense; from October to April frost rules everywhere, and snow lies thick upon the ground. In many places the variations of temperature in a few hours are wonderful, 60° between morning and mid-day being no uncommon thing. On the steppes the wind is bitterly cold. The French traveller Gabet had the skin peeled almost entirely off his face when travelling to Lhasa; and the balls of tsamba placed when hot in the morning under three or four thicknesses of clothing were in the evening found frozen hard. In spring and summer there are heavy hail-storms. During April, May, and June the air is wonderfully clear and pure. The rainy season of India makes itself felt to a certain extent throughout Tibet, and not infrequently snow falls in the height of summer. The wind, which blows unceasingly all the year round, is one of the traveller's greatest trials.

Tibet is a great land of lakes, and the winter season is chosen by travellers that an easier way over frozen lakes and rivers may be found. Among the largest of the lakes are Kokonor, Tengrinor, and Yamdok.

The main routes from China into Tibet are: (1) The official route, which leaves Tachienlu by way of Batang and Chamdo. For the greater part of the way this route leads over rocky and precipitous ledges, and three months are needed to reach Lhasa. The Government postal couriers travel this route by day and night with relays of horses, and while usually taking somewhat under two months for the journey, have reached Peking from Lhasa within one month. (2) The second route from Tachienlu, longer, but over easier gradients, traverses the undulating downs of Drango, Derge, and Kegudo, and then strikes south-west to Lhasa. This route is traversed by the yak caravans bearing tea, and was followed by Rockhill and others entering China. (3) The third route is viá Sining in Kansu, Lake Kokonor and the Tsaidam, thence across the terrible Chang-tang (north desert) to Lhasa. All Chinese entering Tibet have to secure a passport. Various passes from India and Kashmir are all closely guarded, and at present access from those parts is difficult, if not impossible.

The chief Tibetan exports are gold-dust, musk, and wool. The musk is taken from the musk-deer, and is largely bought by the Chinese at Tachienlu. The musk-bag is about the size of a hen's egg, and is attached to the abdomen of the male deer. It contains less than half an ounce of this highly scented and exceedingly penetrating substance. It is in great demand by the Chinese, and fetches a high price.

Of imports, the largest is tea, and is exclusively from China. This tea is for the most part grown in the neighbourhood of Yachow in the province of Szechwan. After being sun-dried, the larger and smaller leaves, with the coarse stalks, are manufactured into large bricks of various qualities. These are carried on the backs of coolies to Tachienlu, where they are sold to the Tibetan agents through some twelve or fifteen firms; they are then forwarded in continuous streams of caravans to Lhasa and other destinations in Tibet.

Up to the present our Indian tea estates have not, with all their art and effort, been able to produce that peculiar taste which the Tibetan consumer alone values and will drink.

The Tibetans claim they are descended from the monkey! They belong to the Mongolian family, but are less civilised than the Chinese, being more like simple country folk compared with townsmen. The men of Lhasa are generally short in stature, those of Kham being tall and powerful. They are long-lived, strong, and active, and their women are able to carry burdens of great weight over the mountain passes. The women generally are good-looking and able, and frequently manage the home and farm, while the men hunt and shoot, or look after the sheep. The Tibetans have round faces, prominent cheek-bones, flat noses, wide mouths, thin lips, and black eyes, larger and less slanting than the Chinese, and black hair. Their skin is of a brownish yellow tint which is often increased in darkness by a plentiful anointing of butter. The men usually plait their hair in a queue á la Chinois, while the women have sixty or more small plaits fastened to broad bands, to which are attached shells and coins.

Red is the chief dress colour worn by the Tibetans. Violet, green, and white, with a pattern of crosses, are also sometimes worn. The cloth, which is like a rough serge, is mostly woven in the Lhasa district. By the lower classes thick sheepskins with the wool inside are worn, the outer skin being trimmed with tiger-skin or red or blue cloth. In any case the gown is made very long. It is pulled over the head, and then fastened with a girdle, the gown being allowed to fall over the girdle in the form of a huge pocket, in which cash and other articles are often carried. In hot weather, when cooler gowns cannot be afforded, the wearer frequently puts out one or both arms, and lets the garment hang from the girdle. The hats worn by the Tibetans are sometimes the ordinary Chinese round skull-cap, or a brocade-trimmed brown felt, which is fur-lined for cold weather. In the winter, long leather boots are worn, while in the summer the men and women often go barefoot. Both sexes are very fond of jewellery, especially the Lhasaite. They wear ear-rings with turquoise pendants, silver bangles, bone thumb-rings, and amulet boxes. The women are especially lavish in their display of finery; coral and amber, but more particularly turquoise, being conspicuous. Around Lhasa the women smear their faces with thick black paste—a custom which it is said was instituted by the great Saint Dewo Rimpoche, to conceal their beauty. The Tibetans' chief food is tsamba, which is flour made of roasted barley and mixed into a paste with tea, butter, and salt. The consumption of tea is very large. It is boiled with salt, milk, and butter in large open stoves, until it resembles a kind of thick broth. Beef and mutton are also much used, but as a rule they are only partly cooked. Bread is seldom eaten. All Tibetans drink to excess, partaking for the most part of a kind of beer, made of barley, called chang. They are free from the habit of opium-smoking, but are very fond of tobacco and snuff, the Lamas confining themselves to the use of the latter.

In disposition the Tibetans are good-natured, cheerful, and friendly, yet easily roused. The imperative should never be used in speaking to a Tibetan, for fear of the consequences. Their standard of morality is not high.

Whenever a Tibetan makes a gift to another, it is customary to offer it with a scarf of blessing, which is an indispensable accompaniment. Their houses differ in various districts. Some are entirely built of stone, others of wood, usually two stories high. The roofs are flat, and are used for storing grain or for promenades. The windows are small open spaces, with shutters for use at night, while the ground floor is frequently a stable. The large proportion of the population live in black tents made of yaks' hair, and their chief wealth consists in their flocks and herds with their produce.

Tibet has very extensive literature, not only historical and religious, but also medical and philosophical, etc. Printing from wooden blocks has been carried on for centuries. Education is for the most part confined to the Lamas.

Tibet has been correctly styled the "Land of the Lamas." It is a country full of monasteries, and of red-robed, bare-headed, and bare-armed priests of Buddha. In and around Lhasa alone there are some forty thousand Lamas. The three principal monasteries near the capital are Sera, Galdan, and Drepung, each of which has from three to five thousand inmates. Again, in Amdo, there are several very large monasteries of great repute, the most famous of which are Kumbum near Sining, and Lhabrang south of the Yellow River. These monasteries vary in size; in some there are only a few Lamas, while sometimes the occupants may be limited to two or three, or even one solitary ascetic.

The priesthood is intensely venerated by the people, every family being proud to contribute its quota to swell the number. A popular saying is, "Without the Lama in front there is no approach to God." Whether at the building of a house or the starting on a journey, at a marriage or a funeral, in times of sickness or of harvest or famine, the Lama's aid is considered indispensable.

The particular form of Buddhism prevalent is one peculiar to Tibet. One chief point in the Tibetan belief is their faith in a succession of incarnate Buddhas; the original Buddha Shakyatubpa or Sang-gye taking up his dwelling first in the person of the Dalai Lama, and then in many lesser dignitaries of the church. In addition to the Buddhist teaching of morals and the method of attaining to Nirvana—a state of practical and permanent insensibility, removed for ever from the chain of transmigration, or continuous rebirth into a world of suffering—demon worship and demon possession, the practice of magic and of sorcery, etc., are very rife, and much thought of.

In Lhasa there exists a government oracle resident at the Drepung Monastery, who is constantly consulted by the rulers; another one in the town is in popular demand. Buddhism entered the country from India and China in the seventh century a.d., and evidences of the religiousness of the people abound on all sides. Prayer-flags large and small wave on tall poles up the mountain sides, beside the monasteries, at the approach to the Lamaseries, on house-tops, across the roads, in fact everywhere. Chodtens or whitewashed monuments containing the bones of saints are met with beside the roads and near monasteries, while prayer-wheels may be seen in the hands of every man and woman, who, while turning it, repeats the mystic formula, "Om-mani-padmi-hum." Prayer-wheels are also turned by water, or by wind, or even smoke in houses.

The Tibetan's whole life is outwardly religious. He is constantly praying or repeating the mystic formula. He offers thanks for a journey, and consults the Lama at every step. When crossing a pass he reverently places a stone on a mound at the top. He tells his beads, but the heart is untouched either by purity or godliness. The Chinese say of a tripart man, the Chinaman forms the head for intelligence, the Mongol the legs for endurance, and the Tibetan the heart for religiousness.

Lhasa is, of course, the Metropolis of Buddhism, the seat of the Dalai Lama, the Mecca of the Northern Buddhists. Its main thoroughfares are daily thronged with pilgrims from China, Mongolia, India, and also parts of Tibet, all craving a moment's audience with the great Pontiff, that they may receive his blessing. Ten days on a swift horse would carry the traveller from Siliguri, at the foot of the Darjeeling hills, to Lhasa, a distance of 359 miles. The city stands on the bank of the river Kichu, about 20 miles from the Tsangpo, and is in extent only about half a mile square. Prettily situated amongst trees and surrounded by mountains, the chief and absorbing attraction is the Potala, the Dalai Lama's palace. This is a magnificent structure on a lofty summit overlooking the town. The great Lhokang, or idol temple, with its glittering cupolas, in the centre of the town, contains a huge image of Buddha. The population of Lhasa is roughly 20,000 priests, 7000 Tibetan laymen, of whom 5000 are women, and 3000 Chinese pupils, making a total of 30,000 persons. The climate is clear and salubrious.

A second Pope, the Teshu Lama, lives at Teshi-lunpo, the second town in Tibet, and situated about 150 miles to the west of Lhasa.

Since Manning's visit to Lhasa in 1811, and the French Fathers Hue and Gabet's stay of six weeks in 1845, many attempts have been made by European travellers to reach that city, the Russian general Prejvalski several times nearly succeeding. In 1892 Rockhill from Sining came within a week's journey of Lhasa, and in 1890 M. Bouvalot and Prince Henry of Orleans reached Tengrinot, 95 miles north from Kashmir. In 1891 Captain Bower from the same point came within 200 miles north-west of the city, and in 1893 Miss Annie Taylor from China got within twelve days of the capital. Dr. Sven Heldin has since then reached a spot 150 miles from the city. It was left, however, for the British expedition of 1904 to set before the eyes of the public by means of camera and pen the hidden treasures of this hitherto forbidden city.

The immediate cause of this expedition was the reception of information in November 1903 of the existence of a secret treaty just signed between Russia and the Dalai Lama. The expedition was hastily prepared, and the force crossed the Jelap Pass and reached Rinchingong in the middle of December, moving a month later to Tuna. After three months the force advanced to Jura, where a hostile body of 5000 warriors blocked the road to Gyangtse. Overcoming this opposition, the expedition pushed on to Gyangtse, where they were for seven weeks besieged, until a relieving column appeared in June. From this point a peaceful march was allowed by the Tibetans to Lhasa, which city was reached in August. After the signing of a treaty the expedition returned to India. Although the results of this move are not yet distinctly apparent, they will doubtless be manifest in days to come. It is evident that Chinese rule has of late become stronger, and it appears that in the near future the Chinese will more fully colonise and develop the country and then allow access thereto. It now remains to briefly recount the story of missionary enterprise in seeking to carry the Gospel to these people.

The Roman Catholics were the first to attempt missionary work in Tibet. In 1845 the Fathers Hue and Gabet, travelling from Sining in China, succeeded in reaching Lhasa, and stayed there six weeks, propagating their tenets, when they were arrested by the Chinese and sent back to Canton viá Batang. Since that time missionaries of the Roman Catholic Church have taken up work at various points on the Chinese border of Tibet, and now have stations at Tachienlu—which is the residence of their Bishop—at Batang, at Atentze, Tseku, and Weisi, in the provinces of Szechwan and Yunnan. In most of these centres they have converts.

Protestant Missions.—The Moravians were the first to work among the Tibetans. In 1853 two men named Edward Pagell and Augustus William Heyde were sent to open up a Mission in Mongolia. They were, however, prevented from entering and crossing Tibet, and they decided to settle down where they were and await the removal of the barriers. In this way their first station was opened in 1856 at Kyelang in Lahoul, and in 1865 a second centre was opened at Poo in Kunawar.

These two men were presently joined by Jaeschke, a linguist and scholar of extraordinary ability. After mastering the language, he quickly set to work and prepared school-books, catechisms, liturgies, hymns, tracts, Bible histories, and a Tibetan Grammar and Dictionary, which have been of untold value to succeeding missionaries. By these works his own knowledge and style were perfected, and he commenced the translation of the Bible.[1] When his work was finished he was obliged to return to his native land in failing health.

The New Testament has quite recently, in 1901-1902, been revised into colloquial Lhasa, by a Committee appointed by the British and Foreign Bible Society, assembled at Darjeeling. The members of this Revision Committee were the venerable Mr. Heyde, Messrs. Amundsen, Macdonald, Mackenzie, and the Rev. Graham Scudberg. After its completion, Mr. Heyde, President of this Committee, returned with his wife to Europe, having completed, without a break, nearly fifty years of labour among the Tibetans.

Jaeschke was succeeded by Redslob, who completed the New Testament in 1884, and subsequently the Pentateuch and the Book of Psalms. In 1883 Pagell and his wife both died at Poo, worn out with thirty years of ceaseless toil.

The missionaries had long desired to secure premises in Leh, the capital of Ladak, feeling that it would be the best centre from which to reach the Western Tibetans. It is an important city on the high-road between India and Turkestan. After long waiting, many difficulties were overcome, and in 1885, after nearly thirty years of continuous prayer, Redslob was able to enter and rent premises. A native dispensary was given to the Mission, and a hospital was soon added, Dr. Marx being the first medical missionary. Subsequently a day-school was opened, and one child at least out of every family was ordered to attend.

A great blow befell the Mission in 1891, when Dr. Marx and child were stricken down with fever, and the venerable Redslob passed away, leaving a newly-appointed young Englishman, the Rev. F. Becker-Shawe, alone to direct the Mission, with the two widowed missionaries. Mr. Redslob was much beloved by the Tibetans, who mourned for him as for a beloved friend.

The vacant places were taken by Mr. and Mrs. Ribbach, and Dr. Shawe subsequently took over the medical work.

In 1899 work was opened at Kalatse, also in Ladak, where Mr. and Mrs. Francke had toiled patiently on, and at the present time Mr. Francke, leaving his wife in Europe, is leading a small congregation of eight souls and instructing candidates. A year later Chini was occupied. The Rev. Julius and Mrs. Bruske, after the early hardships of pioneer work, settled down to steady labour, but have as yet baptized no converts. Chini is beautifully situated in the native state Bashahr, and is a good centre for work among the ten thousand people speaking the Kanauri dialects. A much appreciated episcopal visit of encouragement to the lonely workers was paid by Bishop B. La Trobe in 1901.


Mr. and Mrs. Gustafson, of the Scandinavian Alliance Mission, have for some years past been preaching the Gospel to the Mahommedan Tibetans north of Ladak, in Baltistan, making Skardo and Shigar their centres. They have now five workers. The work is in many ways discouraging, and the effect of the thin dry atmosphere on nerves, etc., is a severe physical trial.


Travelling east, following the Himalayas, the London Missionary Society have, from their base at Almora, made many itinerations among the Bhutias inhabiting the mountainous district west of Nepal, and some of these people have already been brought into the Kingdom of Christ. At Almora a fairly strong church has been formed, from which work towards Tibet is being organised. Work was commenced amongst the Joharis at Milam in 1890 by the Rev. G. M. Bullock. At this centre a girls' school was opened, with twenty names on the register. The Mission hopes to be able to move forward into Tibet itself. The Misses Turner and Routledge have for some years spent their time among these hillsmen.

The three other Missions in this quarter are:—

(1) The Methodist Episcopal Mission, which since 1899 has been working near by, on self-supporting lines. Here Miss Dr. Sheldon and two other ladies have settled.

(2) The Chowpatti Mission, whose headquarters at Chowpatti are situated on the main road leading into Tibet and Nepal, This Mission was established in 1902 to preach the Gospel in Mid-Himalaya. Mr. Grundy is the leader.

(3) The Indian Christian Realm is perhaps the parent of the last-named Mission, with Mr. Poynter, an experienced worker in India, with twenty years' record, as leader. For some years this Mission has been sending evangelists into Nepal. More recently work has also been attempted among the Tibetans.

Farther east, in the neighbourhood of Darjeeling, the Scandinavian Alliance Mission has been established since 1892 at Ghoom. This is a village on the railway just before Darjeeling is reached, and is the headquarters of this Mission's Tibetan work. They have some ten members at work, all more or less within touch of Tibet, at their five stations in Sikhim, and on the southern border of Bhutan. In the wedge-shaped country of Sikhim, bordered on the west and east by the still partially closed lands of Nepal and Bhutan, and with Tibet at its apex, the languages and types of people are much varied. The country is sparsely populated, and the people are of a quiet and unenterprising nature.

This Mission, from its inception, was led by the Rev. J. F. Frederickson until the time of his death in September 1900. He was a most devoted and singularly unselfish character, ever at work, in and out of season. He was one of God's "salt of the earth." He has left a widow and two little orphans. The doctor, when asked what he died of, replied, "He was tired—just worn out."

To fill the gap made by his death, Mr. and Mrs. Amundsen came round from China, and for two years put in valuable work, printing hundreds of Gospels and other portions of Scripture, hymns, a small history of India, and a Tibetan school primer, etc., besides giving valuable help in translating and revising the New Testament. The following are their stations: Buza, on the borders of Bhutan; Ringim, Lachen, Lachung, all in Sikhim; and Ghoom. A few converts have been gathered.

Mr. David Macdonald of Ghoom has done yeoman service among the Tibetans, helping alike all the Tibetan and Hindu-speaking Missions. He can speak six languages. Miss Ferguson and Miss Anderson, in the face of sore bereavement, are working on at Darjeeling. Mr. and Mrs. Wright are doing excellent pioneering work among the Nepalis.


The Church of Scotland Mission at Kalimpong and Darjeeling, with its energetic leader, the Rev. J. A. Graham, has always been to the fore in reaching the numerous hill tribes of the district. Since 1898, when this Mission was reinforced by Mr. and Mrs. Evan Mackenzie, it has made special effort to reach the Tibetans. Mr. Mackenzie has made numerous evangelistic journeys among the Tibetans in Sikhim and Bhutan, constantly preaching in the Bazaar and Mission Room in Kalimpong, and teaching classes of lads, besides speaking to the Tibetans who attend the neat, well-arranged hospital.

He had a most interesting experience at the time of the joint visit of the Teshu Lama (vice-Pope of Tibet), the Tongsa Penlop (real ruler of Bhutan), and the Maharajah of Sikhim to Calcutta to meet the Prince of Wales during his Indian tour. Mr. Mackenzie met the Teshu Lama's company of some four hundred in Sikhim, and travelled with them stage by stage to Calcutta, serving them in many ways and receiving from several officials warm invitations to visit them in Tibet and Bhutan.


Miss Annie Taylor, when a member of the China Inland Mission, made a bold and adventurous journey across Tibet in 1892. Leaving Taochow in Kansu in September 1892, she crossed the Yellow River and passed through the Robber Golck country, and entered the Lhasa territory on December 31. On January 7, 1893, she was met by a civil officer and forced to return to China. After enduring great privations from cold, want of food, and robbers, etc., she reached Tachienlu in April 1893.

Since 1898 Miss Taylor has been living at the little trading port of Yatung, just over the border, in the narrow wedge between Sikhim and Bhutan. Here she has dispensed medicine, sold Gospels and tracts, and preached the Gospel to the Tibetans, who are constantly passing backwards and forwards from Tibet to Kalimpong and India.


The Assam Frontier Pioneer Mission since 1891 has, through their agents Messrs. Lorrain and Savidge, been labouring between Bhutan and the north-east of Assam, among a number of the wild tribes bordering on Tibet. During a part of that time they have worked amongst a tribe called the Lushais, who occupy the forest-covered mountainous country between India and Upper Burmah. This latter work was in 1899 taken over by the Welsh Presbyterian Mission, and recently a revival in the Khassia Hills has just begun to touch this tribe.

Messrs. Lorrain and Savidge in 1900 commenced work from Sadiya as their base among the wild Abor tribes, among whom they laboured until 1903. They then returned to work among the South Lushais, as agents for the Baptist Missionary Society, that Society taking over the Abor work.

The International Missionary Alliance of New York in 1892 sent Messrs. Christe and Simpson to China, to commence work among the Tibetans. After commencing their Tibetan studies at Peking, these brethren in 1895 selected Taochow in Kansu for their base. This city had been opened to Miss Annie Taylor in 1891, and it was from here that she set forth on her adventurous journey already mentioned. The city is the centre of trade for a large region inhabited by many different Tibetan tribes, who live in the villages to the north, south, and west. Other stations were opened later at Minchow, Choni, Paongan, from which latter city the missionaries were expelled with violence. In 1900, in common with most of the missionaries in China, the workers were obliged to retire to the coast; but in 1902 Mr. Simpson and family, with Messrs. Ruhl and Snyder, returned to Taochow. A little later Titao, a Chinese city to the north, was opened, and Mr. and Mrs. Ekvall took up work there.

Much itinerating work has been done. At present the stations are as follows: Taochow (Old City), Minchow, Choni, Titao. Some fruit has already been seen at Taochow.


The China Inland Mission, as with the International Missionary Alliance, has sought to reach the Tibetans from the Chinese border. In 1877 the late Dr. Cameron of the China Inland Mission visited the Tibetans in Western Szechwan, passing Tachienlu, Litang—situated at a height of 12,500 feet—Hokeo, Batang, beyond which he was informed a guard of Tibetan soldiers was posted in order to prevent his entrance into Tibet. He had, however, no intention of entering, and turned south towards Yunnan, passing through the villages of Atentsi—where he was laid up with fever for fourteen days—Shihku, and Weisi, in each of which places the Roman Catholics have work. He then proceeded to Tali Fu, in Yunnan, and thence to Bhamo, returning to China viâ Rangoon and Singapore.

In July 1888 the writer and his wife left Tsinchow for Sining, immediately after their marriage. Travelling from Lanchow, along the north bank of the Yellow River, they passed many Tibetan villages before Sining was reached. One of the main roads from Peking to Lhasa passes through this latter town, and both the Tibetans and Mongols living around Lake Kokonor visit Sining, where the Viceroy (always a Manchu) of the large province of Kokonor resides.

While carrying on the regular Chinese work of the station at Sining, the study of the Tibetan language was commenced, the assistance of an old Mongol, who had been with Huc and Gabet to Lhasa, being obtained in the early stages. Subsequently, when visiting the large monastery of Kumbum, about 20 miles to the west, where Gospels and tracts were distributed during the quarterly festivals, the acquaintance of a learned monk was made. This monk kindly invited the writer and his wife to his monastery, which was distant some four days' journey. The friendly intercourse obtained with this abbot greatly facilitated the study of their language, and gave exceptional opportunities for preaching the Gospel.

Upon another occasion, after travelling for three days and crossing the Yellow River where it was fully 100 yards broad and very swift, a stay was made at Kweiteh, and afterwards for five months at a Tibetan village 15 miles farther to the west, right among the people. This was the last village before tent habitations were reached. Opportunities for preaching were here given at all hours of the day, and an exceedingly useful and interesting experience was gained.

In the autumn of 1891 the work at Sining was taken over by Mr. Hall and Mr. and Mrs. Ridley. The writer moved forward, and travelling with a party of Mohammedan traders, crossed the Yellow River near Payenrung, passing through the Jalar Mohammedan country. These Mohammedans were originally from Turkestan, and the women speak Turki only. Crossing large stretches of grassy country often infested by robbers, and staying for a day or two near the celebrated Lhabrang Monastery, where 4000 monks reside, just at the time of one of their large festivals, Taochow was reached, where Miss Annie Taylor, who had just arrived with her Tibetan servant, was met. From here the return journey to Lanchow was made, passing by Choni, where there is a large monastery containing 15,000 monks, and where a Prince resides.

In November of the same year a further journey was made to the mountain town of Songpan (9000 feet high), on the north-west of Szechwan, where a portion of a house was rented. Subsequently the writer brought his family to this town, after a forty days' journey. There they were permitted to remain for two months and a half only. The people being worked up into a frenzy of superstitious fear through drought, expelled the missionaries after handling them very roughly.

Subsequently, after a period of rest in England and a visit to Darjeeling, China was reached again in 1897, in company with welcome reinforcements, and premises were secured at Tachienlu. Here the forty large inns kept for Tibetans were frequently visited in rotation, and copies of the Word of God sold and the Gospel preached. Great help was also given to the medical work by Mrs. Dr. E. Rijnhart, who reached Tachienlu after her painful journey across Tibet, when she lost both her husband and child.

Missionary journeys were taken to the north and west, and one of considerable interest, by Mr. Amundsen, to the south-west, when Mili was reached. On one of these journeys Mr. Soutter died through fever. The Boxer crisis of 1900 closed the work for a time, and Mr. Thomas Radford, when on his way to reopen the station in 1901, contracted typhoid fever and died at Chungking.

After a preliminary visit in 1902 by Mr. Edgar, the station was reopened in March 1903. The subsequent history of this station has been one of encouragement, a large number of inquirers giving in their names. Although the majority of these have been Chinese, there are some Tibetans, and also many of the principal merchants of the town, who have great influence with the Tibetans.

Another encouraging feature has been the offer of a station at Litang, twelve days to the west of Tachienlu. On May 14, 1904, the first baptism, of four persons, took place outside the city, and another eight were baptized during 1905. There are not a few Tibetans among the inquirers, one of whom is an ex-Lama. The Christians have presented 900 taels (£120) towards the erection of a church, and four stations were opened during the year, at Mosimien, Lenki, Tsami, and Lutingchiao. The services are being well attended, and the outlook is in many respects most encouraging. Mr. Edgar also reports that Batang is open to missionary enterprise, the Chinese having quelled the aggressive Lamas.

It should also be mentioned that Mr. Amundsen, who resides in Yunnan Fu, has been taking some long journeys along the Tibetan border for the British and Foreign Bible Society.

  1. For fuller details of translation work, see the special section on Versions.