IN an earlier volume ‘I have written about the history, and especially about the modern political position, of Tibet. The present book is an attempt to speak about the life of the people in their own homes.
The busy round of official duties does not allow much time for gathering knowledge about the social and domestic 'intimacies which form the well-springs of national life; But in Tibet we were at any rate fortunate in this that when, by one means and another, we had gained the friendship of the Tibetans, our official positions were no bar to friendly intercourse, as happens sometimes in other countries. On the contrary, they served as letters of introduction to this most exclusive of peoples. We had no wish to menace their independence, but rather to help them as far as conditions allowed. So we became friends.
I should not dream of attempting a complete study of Tibetan domestic life. A miscellany of facts, and occasional ideas to clothe those facts, are all that I can offer. But such as I have garnered during a residence of nearly twenty years, in conversation with my Tibetan acquaintances, I have obtained by speaking to them in their own language, not through interpreters. The latter both limit an inquirer’s range, and lead, unconsciously, to many errors. I would fain hope that others also may continue to contribute from their store, so that in time the Western world may come to a fuller understanding of this remote but interesting people.
In order to keep this volume within moderate limits I have had to exclude from it many aspects of Tibetan life. These I hope to deal with in a subsequent book or books. The religious life, indeed, in its highways and byways might well need a volume of its own.
Though the white man’s life and customs were penetrating Sikkim, yet Lhasa and Tibet generally were, during the years of my residence, practically untouched. Shut off from the outer world by their immense mountain barriers, Tibet still presented a virgin field of inquiry. We could observe the real, inner life of the people, and that but little changed during the last thousand years. Now that the country is opening little by little, it will in course of time become increasingly difficult to separate the national ideas and customs from foreign importations.
The area of Tibet is large. Intercourse of one part with another is restricted, for the country is difficult and the means of travel are primitive. It follows that manners and customs vary in different districts and provinces. So a custom or interpretation need not be condemned as in- accurate because another sojourner has seen or heard it different elsewhere.
I write words as they are pronounced in Lhasa rather than after the complicated Tibetan spelling. One instance will suffice. The Tibetan name for Sikkim is pronounced Denjang and I write it accordingly. The Tibetan spelling, transliterated in the usual style, is Hams-gang:. I feel sure that most readers will prefer the former.
The photographs are mainly my own. For permission to use others I am indebted to Mr. Macdonald, Mr. Mar- tin, and Mr. Rosemeyer. To Mr. Tshering Phuntsog and Negi Amar Chand, and especially to the late Kazi Dausamdup of Gangtok, I am indebted for translations of Tibetan and Bhutanese histories; to Mr. L. H. Dudley Buxton, Reader in Physical Anthropology, Oxford, for a sketch of the mountain masses of Tibet; to Miss M. K. Grindrod for a careful index. And among my many Tibetan friends who have aided me, the Tsen-dron, Ku-sho Ne—to, -Ku—sho She-sur, and numerous others from the Dalai Lama downwards, I must make especial mention of Ku-sho Pa-lhe—se. Not only did he place his full and intimate store of knowledge at my disposal during our years in Tibet together, but he journeyed also from his home in Lhasa to mine in Berkshire and checked the book throughout, correcting errors.
About the Book:
The Present book is an attempt to speak about the life of the Tibetan people in their homes. The contents are leaved on the author's first-hand knowledge of Tibetan life during a residence of nearly twenty years from conversation with his Tibetan acquaintances in their own language, not through interpreters. In order to keep this volume within moderate limits he had to exclude from it many aspects of Tibetan life. Shut-off from the outer world by their immense mountain barriers Tibet still presented a virgin field of enquiry. There has been little change in the inner life of the people during the last thousand years. As the area is very large and the intercourse of one part with another is restricted, the manners and customs vary in different districts and provinces. This should be kept in mind comparing accounts of different sojourners.
About the Author:
SIR CHARLES BELL was born in Calcutta in 1870 and educated in England at Winchester and Oxford. He joined the Indian Civil Service in 1891 and was transferred to Kalimpong, Sikkim in 1901, where he began his lifelong relationship with Tibet. He twice acted as Political Officer for Sikkim, Bhutan and Tibet and eventually held that post for ten years before retiring in1919. He was recalled to duty, however, and in 1920 headed a successful diplomatic mission to Lhasa.
He wrote several books about Tibet, her people and her language; few since, and certainly none before, have written so well about Tibet.
Of Related Interest :
The Buddhism of Tibet
RELIGION OF TIBET
THE RISE OF ESOTERIC BUDDHISM IN TIBET
TIBET PAST AND PRESENT
Religions of TIBET in Practice
The Dalai Lamas of Tibet
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