Join our Mailing List

"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Amazing 1903 photos that showed the secret kingdom of Tibet for the very first time to be auctioned off

October 4, 2010

The Daily Mail
October 2010

An incredible set of pictures taken during the
controversial 1903 British Mission to Tibet has
come to light - the first ever photos to come out of the mysterious country.

The rare snaps were taken by an officer during
the campaign - the first time the British were given access to the country.

They depict the haunting beauty of the secluded
country and brought images of Tibeten landscapes
including Mount Everest to the west for the first time.

The 72 stunning pictures show local people,
buildings and even a group of nuns gathered to smile for the camera.

The pictures date from the notorious expedition
of Edwardian adventurer Francis Younghusband in
1903-04 and gave the western world their first
glimpse of life in the hidden kingdom

The photographs were painstakingly pasted into an
album and stored carefully, passing down through his family over the years

The Council of four in the Potala palace. The
fleeing Dalai Lama left these officials behind to negotiate with the British

Taken by a John Claude White, a political officer
and joint leader of the expedition, the snaps
passed to a soldier in the campaign, Lieut. William Pyt Bennett.

The photographs were painstakingly pasted into an
album and stored carefully, passing down through his family over the years.

They are now being sold at auction by Bonhams of
London and are expected to fetch a whopping 15,000 pounds.

White entered the country as part of the British
expedition to Tibet in 1903 and 1904, when
British Indian forces sought to prevent Russia
gaining influence in the country.

Led by Major Francis Younghusband, around 3,000
troops marched into the country, famously killing
around 700 lightly armed Tibetan monks in the village of Guru.

They reach the capital Lhasa in August 1904, when
the government signed a treaty effectively
turning the country into a British protectorate.

The black and white photos show the mysterious
landscape of the country, including Mount
Everest, with pictures of Tibetans in traditional dress posing for the camera.

The spectacular Khamba Jung fortress:
Younghusband's expedition was spurred by a fear
that Russia was extending its power into Tibet

Expeditionary force camped under the Phari Jung
fortress. The expedition was a bloody one as
Younghusband was forced to fight Tibetan forces

Some even show the expedition itself, with rows
of tents on the flat plains, and monks and nuns
going about their daily routine.

David Park, director of book, maps and
manuscripts at Bonhams, said: 'These are
extraordinary photos with a rather fabulous provenance.

'They are the first pictures to come out of
Tibet, which was a closed country at the time -
in general British people could not go there.

'Indian and Nepalese traders were sometimes
allowed in but in general they did not want outside influences or visitors.

'Britain decided they had to force the door open
as it were, and launched a lightly armed military expedition.

'They had a military force of about 3,000, with
another 7,000 camp followers with camels to carry things.

The end of Empire: Sikh and British soldiers with
a Tibetan guide and a Yak train

'There were military skirmishes but the British
kept going until they reached Lhasa and a treaty was signed.

'These photographs were taken by a British
political officer, John Claude White. He was not
a professional photographer, but he was very good
-- they are cracking pictures.

'What makes these photographs ever more unusual
is their provenance - they belonged to a man who
was actually part of the expedition.

'They may have been presented to him or he may
have bought them as a souvenier, and they have been in his family ever since.

'They really are extraordinary and they have an
estimate of 10,000 to 15,000 pounds.' A selection
of photographs taken by John Claude White in
Tibet and Lhasa were published by Johnston & Hoffmann in 1906.

The pictures will be sold in Bonhams 'Travel and
Exploration, India and Beyond' sale in London on Tuesday, October 5.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
Developed by plank