Lhasa, Potala Palace from the East


This eastern view of Potala (the palace of the Dalai Lama) in Lhasa is from a collection of 50 photographs of central Tibet acquired in 1904 from the Imperial Russian Geographical Society in Saint Petersburg by the American Geographical Society. In The Buddhism of Tibet or Lamaism (1899), L.A. Waddell writes of the origins of Potala: “In order to consolidate his new-found rule, and that of his church in the priest-kinship, this prelate [Nag-wan Lo-zan, head of De-pung monastery], as we have seen, posed as the deity Avalokita-in-the-flesh, and he invented legends magnifying the powers and attributes of that deity, and transferred his own residence from De-pung monastery to a palace which he built for himself on 'the red hill' near Lhasa, the name of which hill he now altered to Mount Potala, after the mythic Indian residence of his divine prototype.” The photographs in this collection were taken by two Mongolian Buddhist lamas, G.Ts. Tsybikov and Ovshe (O.M.) Norzunov, who visited Tibet in 1900 and 1901. Accompanying the photos is a set of notes written in Russian for the Imperial Russian Geographical Society by Tsybikov, Norzunov, and other Mongolians familiar with central Tibet. Alexander Grigoriev, corresponding member of the American Geographical Society, translated the notes from Russian into English in April 1904.

Last updated: March 22, 2016