Cutting Stone at the Sacred Phabongka Cemetery


This photograph shows a slab of stone where the corpses of the dead are cut to pieces at the sacred P'abon-k'a-ritod cemetery (also seen as Pabon-ka-ritod or Phabongka 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, G.Ts. Tsybikov, notes that the hermitage of P'abon-k'a-ritod is located about two English miles to the northwest of Sera. “The high priests, indeed, are buried or burned after death, but the bodies of the lower priests and those of the populace are abandoned to the birds of prey, after having been cut to pieces on a flat stone which lies halfway between Lhasa and the convent of Sera, near the chapel of Pa-ban-ka,” writes J. Deniker in his 1903 article “New light on Lhasa, the forbidden city.” 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.

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1 photograph ; 5.5 x 8.5 inches


  1. S.C. Das, Journey to Lhasa and Central Tibet (London: John Murray, 1902).
  2. J. Deniker, “New light on Lhasa, the forbidden city,” in The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine, vol. 66 (1903).

Last updated: March 22, 2016