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Book Review: Lhasa The Holy City

I came across the Book ‘Lhasa The Holy City’ during my trek in Nepal.

The book was written way back in 1938 by an adventurer F Spencer Chapman

The author was part of the Political Mission sent by the British Govt of India to Tibet to establish relations with the Tibetan Govt.

The author does a marvelous job of describing Tibet, Lhasa, the Tibetan people, their cultures, traditions etc. Some of the comments can be termed as racist but can be forgiven given the prejudices of the times the author lived in.

There is a chapter called “Historical Interlude” which makes for fascinating reading-it describes in detail the ebbs & flows of the relationships between Tibet, China & India. I was suprised to know that the earlier Dalai Lama had also fled the Chinese to India and stayed in Darjeeling between 1905-1912.

The author was an accomplished mountaineer and one of his passages resonated with me : “It is curious what vicarious pleasure one derives from physical exhaustion and discomfort. It is a strange paradox that the more intolerable a journey is at the time, the more satisfactory does it become in retrospect. Our sensibilities and characters were made to be sharpened against the hard forces of Nature.But how few people nowadays get any chance to test their physical endurance to the breaking-point, to feel cold fear gnawing at their hearts, or to have to make decisions that hold life or death in the balance?That is why men flock so easily to war; to test a manhood that is perverted by the present state of civilization. Rugby football, mountaineering, skiing, even motoring, are but makeshifts for this vanished birthright; narcotics to alleviate the monotony of existence that has become too safe and easy.”

I would recommend this book only to those who love history & Tibet

2 replies on “Book Review: Lhasa The Holy City”

Lovely paragraph raoji.
I also found seven years in Tibet also a great movie on same topic, based on life of australian mountaineer who travelled to Tibet in 1952

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