Lhasa, Potala Palace and Marpori (Red Mountain) from the West


This view of Potala (the palace of the Dalai Lama) and Marpori (red mountain), seen here from the west, 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 1901 article, “Lhasa,” T.H. Holdich writes: “Religious worship of the great gods has, the world over, been principally conducted in high places; mountain-tops have ever been their favorite abodes. [. . .] At an early date in the history of Buddhism, the cult of the 'All-Merciful God who looks down and sees the miseries of the world,' the Saviour, Avalokiteshwara became probably the most popular one, and Mount Potala, near the mouth of the river Indus, was held to be his abode. [. . .] In Tibet his worship was, in all likelihood, associated with some mountain form at the earliest days, for legends tell us that when he came to Tibet to bring civilization and salvation to the people, he took up his abode on a hill to the west of the present city of Lhasa, called the Red Hill (Marpo-Ri). Here, in the seventh century, the kings of Tibet built their modest palace, and Lhasa grew at its base.” 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