Lhasa, Potala Palace from West-Northwest


This photograph shows a view of Potala (the palace of the Dalai Lama) in Lhasa, seen from the west-northwest. The photograph was taken on the route to Drepung monastery (also seen as De-Pung, De-p’ung, Debang, Drabung, Dabung, Brebung, or Brasbung in other sources). It 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. The photographer, Ovshe (O.M.) Norzunov, notes: “the birds seen on the ground are but cocks, brought thither from all Lhasa. The cocks are [illegible] in great numbers in the household, but, as in the precincts of the ritualistic outer circumambulation road no creature can be put to death, the cocks are carried to that place where they are left to the mercy of passers-by and those making the circumambulations; they feed the birds by throwing them corn.” Bringing chickens to this place may also perform the “srog-slu” rite, or life-saving charity, believed to ensure the life of the donor. The rite is described by Sarat Chandra Das in Journey to Lhasa and Central Tibet (1902): “To deceive life (srog-slu), by saving from death animals about to be killed. . . . is also known as 'life-saving charity'. The saving of the lives of men, beasts, and particularly fishes, is calculated to insure life. When Tsing-ta proposed this to me, I at once agreed to save five hundred fish. The old doctor said he would go to the fishermen's village, some three miles away, buy the fish, and set them free for me, if I would lend him a pony. He came back in the evening, and reported that he had successfully accomplished this most important mission, by which much merit would come to me.” The photographs in this collection were taken by two Mongolian Buddhist lamas, G.Ts. Tsybikov and 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