Sunday Levity: They greeted their liberators with applause

Rather mistaken assumptions (1904 edition)

In July-August 1904, Colonel Younghusband’s expedition had already reached Lhasa, the capital of Tibet and the seat of the Dalai Lama. The thirteenth Dalai Lama, in an act that was to be repeated by his successor, escaped from the Potala palace and sought refuge, this time, in Northern Tibet.

‘On the very day of our arrival,’ wrote Francis Younghusband, ‘I and all my staff donned our full-dress uniforms, and with an escort of three hundred men, including some of the Royal Fusiliers and a sort of a band from the Gurkhas, we marched right through the city of Lhasa making all the noise we could.’ The people of Lhasa were most impressed, Helen (Mrs Younghusband) was told (in a letter from her husband), clapping and cheering at the sight of this ‘grand show’. Kalon Shatra’s son gives a different interpretation of events in The Unadulterated Copper of My History. He notes that Tibetans clap their hands in order to drive out evil spirits — a perfect representation of the gulf between the two cultures:

‘When the British Officers marched to the Tsuglakhang and other places, the inhabitants of Lhasa were displeased. They shouted and chanted to bring down rain, and made clapping gestures to repulse them. In the foreigner’s custom these were seen as signs of welcome, so they took off their hats and said thank you.’ [Patrick French in Younghusband]

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