Friday, September 25, 2009

With the Tibetans In Tent and Temple

Here is a remarkable read: With the Tibetans in Tent and Temple: Narrative of Four Years' Residence on the Tibetan Border, and of a Journey Into the Far Interior, by Susie Carson Rijnhart, M.D. The dates are 1895-1899, which causes some revision on our "first" lists. Seems they left America for Tibet in 1894.

Unfortunately, this book was written by a Christian missionary. That she rather tragically lost her husband and only child on this venture did not soften her view of Buddhism in general and Tibetan people in particular. Still, I do not perceive her as a fanciful liar, and while the picture she paints of the Tibetans and their lamas is less than flattering, it is interesting nonetheless.

The whole book is online here. Definitely worth a visit.

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1 reader comments:

Anonymous said...

Another less known traveler was the Finnish baron C.G. Mannerheim, whom the Russian Czar sent to a military reconnaissance journey to northern parts of China in 1906-08. Mannerheim combined the trip with ethnographical interests, sending back, among others, Buddhist manuscripts from Tibetan border areas.

Tibetans were genuinely inhospitable those days. The monks at Labrang monastery threw stones at him, and Tanguts (If I remember correctly) once gave him a sleeping place in a leper's house (Mannerheim noticed this only the next morning, after having slept there. The incubation period for leprosy can be decades, so this kept him in an uncertainty for a long time).

Mannerheim met the 12th Dalai Lama in 1908 ,towards the end of his journey. He was out of presents, and gave the Dalai Lama a pistol, saying "the times are such, that even a holy man might need such a thing".

- Konchog