In 1904, the town and monastery were attacked by British soldiers under the leadership of Francis Younghusband (commanding 1000 troops, 10,000 servants, and 4,000 yaks) and although most of the damage was later restored, bullet holes from this attack remain in the monastery to this day. Following the capture of Gyantse fort, the agreement signed by the Tibetan Regent, resulted in establishment of British Trade Missions at Gyantse and Mt. Kailash in Tibet. In 1906, the British signed an agreement with the Chinese authorities, which established their influence over Tibet and thus "effectively ending both British and Russian influence".

It was partially destroyed in 1959 after a revolt against Chinese rule. It was ransacked again during the Cultural Revolution, but has since been largely restored.[8][9] Prior to the uprising there were 1520 monks but now they number less than 80.


Younghusband’s well-trained troops were armed with rifles and machine guns, confronting disorganized monks wielding hoes, swords, and  flintlocks.  Some accounts estimated that more than five thousand Tibetans were killed during the campaign, while the total number of  British casualties was about five.


In 1901 The Living Races of Mankind was published. The book was compiled from various “eminent” specialists, and it gave illustrated accounts of the “customs, habits, pursuits, feasts & ceremonies of the races of mankind throughout the world.”  Within the book, the section dedicated to Tibet was written by A. H. Savage Landor, an Englishman who had traveled to Tibet in 1897. Landor describes the Tibetans as a deeply religious “race”, hostile towards strangers, very ignorant, immoral, and very dirty. He describes Tibet women as repulsive, unattractive, and having little to be admired. The only praise he has for them is that they are “vastly superiour in many ways to the Tibetan male, as she possesses a better heart, more courage, and a finer character.” This practice of classifying cultures or “races” was a very important tool for Western imperialism. By creating these classifications, imperialist could police discourse, assign positions, regulate groups, and enforce boundaries. It allowed the imperialist to classify the “Other” as barbarian or savage and validate its dehumanization of the “other” and justify the use of violence in order to impose European norms. The debasement of Tibetans by describing them as dirty, the Tibetan women as unattractive and repulsive, and the men as cowards, and immoral was therefore used to enforce colonial oppression and project a sense of inferiority on the Tibetan people. The describing of Tibetans as dirty and immoral was also part of the representational technique used to show the moral strength the British had over the Tibetans. This idea of Tibetans as lacking morals was a common idea among many British observers, like Younghusband and Curzon whose imperialist actions were subsequently seen as justified because of this perceived moral high ground…


And my latest reading:



From it one looks down through the wealth of forest on to the valley below, intersected with streams and water-channels, dotted over with wooded villages, and covered with rice-fields of emerald green; on to the great river winding along the length of the valley to the Wular Lake at its western end; on to the glinting roofs of Srinagar; on to the snowy range on the far side-valley; and, finally, on to Nanga Parbat itself.

And never for two days together is this glorious panorama exactly the same. One day the valley will be filled with a sea of rolling clouds through which gleams of sunshine light up the brilliant green of the rice-fields below. Above the billowy sea of clouds long level lines of mist will float along the opposite mountain-sides. Above these again will rise the great mountains looking inconceivably high. And above all will soar Nanga Parbat, looking at sunset like a pearly island rising from an ocean of ruddy light.

On another day there will be not a cloud in the sky. The whole scene will be bathed in a bluey haze. Through the many vistas cut in the forest the eye will be carried to the foot-hills sloping gradually towards the river, to the little clumps of pine wood, the village clusters of walnut, pear, and mulberry, the fields of rice and maize, to the silvery reaches of the Jhelum, winding from the Wular Lake to Baramula, to the purply blue of the distant mountains, then on to the bluey white of Nanga Parbat, sharply defined, yet in colour nearly merging into the azure of the sky, and showing out in all the greater beauty that we see it framed by the dark and graceful pines in which we stand.

And this forest has no mean attractions of its own, of which to my little girl the chief were the white columbines. Here also are found purple columbines, delphiniums, what are known as white slipper orchids, yellow violets, balsams, mauve and yellow primulas, potentillas, anemones, Jacob’s ladder, monkshood, salvias, many graceful ferns, and numerous other flowers of which I do not pretend to know the name.

What a paradox. There is a book I must try to get from the Library:

Patrick French’s biography of Francis Younghusband – `the last great imperial adventurer’ – is beautifully written, insightful and above all humane. I say humane because at first glance Younghusband could easily be ridiculed – in his youth for a reckless jingoism that cost lives and embarrassed the British government, and in his later years for a brand of religious mysticism that was, well, bordering on insane. It is a tribute to French’s understanding of his subject that he digs beneath these criticisms to bring us a deeply satisfying portrait of a surprisingly complex man.

Frank Younghusband’s most pressing claim on history was that he led the British expedition into Tibet in 1904 – even at the time seen as being based on a flimsy pretext of stopping Russia from gaining control of central Asia. Some 2000 Tibetans were killed as the British force made its way into Lhasa. Younghusband forced a treaty on the 13th Dalai Lama pledging loyalty to the British empire. The Government in London found this deeply embarrassing and almost immediately repudiated the treaty. Younghusband himself was convinced of the threat Russia presented to British interests in India and central Asia.

But while the expedition created popularity and profile in England, it finished any chances of a senior career with the civil service. Younghusband served in India in a number of middle-ranking posts and wrote books about Tibet and his earlier exploits as an explorer in central Asia. In 1906 he played a bit part in the Jamison raid in South Africa – in the pay of The Times. Most importantly Younghusband thought about spirituality. Literally following a mountain top revelation in Tibet, he increasingly devoted his life to promoting a form of all-embracing spirituality which led in its silliest form to speculations about aliens living on a planet called Altair. His later years were devoted to boosting this form of spirituality by establishing popular movements in England, lecturing widely including in the US, running the Royal Geographic Society and supporting Indian independence.

All of which one could easily ridicule. But French brings life to his subject and a subtlety of understanding which makes the book absolutely engrossing. One reason is that Younghusband was a prolific letter writer – the India Office Library contains 600 "bulging" boxes containing his papers. Through these we see into the private mental world of Francis – his arid and rather sad marriage to Helen, and the relationship in his very last years with Madeline Lees – truly the love of his life. These insights allow French to paint a much deeper and satisfying portrayal of a complex man – a person of his time and place but also a complete iconoclast, some one who pushed against the establishment for most of his life. Remarkably, this is Patrick French’s first book, written in his mid-twenties. He is a natural, a gifted writer with a fine sense of judgement. No sentence rings out of tune in the whole book. In short Younghusband is worth every one of its five stars. If the publishers have any sense they will issue a reprint soon. If not, readers should do everything they can to somehow find a copy of this wonderful biography.


The Kashmir of 1911 straddled much of north-west India and Pakistan. M was in the region – especially the Pakistani side – in 1999-2000. This is one of his photos from that time.