BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

More Tibet ...

I've had this book for a very long time. It used to sit out on one of the coffee tables in my old apartment (which I've not lived in for something like 15 years), which is why the dust cover is a bit bleached out. Oddly enough, I never actually bothered to read it all those years, preferring to flip through the fascinating antique photos.

Tibet: The Sacred Realm - Photographs 1880-1950 is an amazing collection of the early Western views of the classic Buddhist kingdom of Tibet. So much of what is pictured in here is gone, swept away by the crushing insanity of the Chinese communists, from the thuggish invasion of 1950 to the attempted total obliteration of Tibetan culture during China's disastrous "Cultural Revolution" in the late '60s and early '70s.

The part of this that I missed (while focusing solely on the pictures) is a very interesting look at the later days of the "old Tibet". Actually, it was probably a good thing that I waited to read this "chronicle" by lama and Tibetan government official Lobsang P. Lhalungpa until after I finished reading the Dalai Lama's Freedom In Exile, as this story fleshes out parts of that autobiography with details that would have been very difficult for the Dalai Lama to know, due to his position. Lobsang P. Lhalungpa discusses the general outline of his own life story, including his education and advancement into the government, but also discusses many social and cultural aspects of Tibetan life that I had not seen explored before. His story ends a bit differently, though, as he was selected to manage a Tibetan school already set up in India, and left for that posting in 1947, although even at that time the fateful events of 1950 were hovering over the horizon. Both his narrative and the time-line of the photographs end in 1950, the year the Communist Chinese army swept in and changed things forever in his homeland.

The book also features a brief Preface by The 14th Dalai Lama His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, which is interesting in that it is in Tibetan script (H.H.'s handwriting?), with English translations line-by-line. While this was written in 1982 when the Dalai Lama had already been to the U.S.A. (and other Western sites), one gets a sense that he had not quite gotten to the "communication comfort" level that he would eventually have in penning his autobiography some eight years later.

Additionally, there is a final section in the book which does a little biographical sketch of all the photographers whose work appears in the book, presenting something of a "who's who" of Oriental adventurers, from Alexandra David-Neel (author of Magic and Mystery in Tibet, among many others) to the well-known Heinrich Harrer (author of Seven Years in Tibet detailing his WW2 escape from a British internment camp in India and ending up as a "Western tutor" to the young Dalai Lama {by the way, this can be had for as little as 2¢ for a "like new" copy right now!}), and many other military and visionary travelers in between.

This original 1983 edition of Tibet: The Sacred Realm is no longer available (well, one of the new/used guys looks like they may have it, but they want over eighty bucks for a "very good" copy!), but can be had via the used market in either the 1990 re-issue of the hardcover ("like new" for $14.00) or the 1997 paperback (a "new" copy for as little as $9.95). This is really a remarkable collection of pictures, and would be well worth picking it up via those options (both well under the original cover price).

Visit the BTRIPP home page!

Tags: book review
  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.