An Account of the Kingdom of Thibet

Author(s): Stewart, Mr John


Account of Thibet
By John Stewart
ro to it of Oirdaterli augbs
Read at the ROYAL SOCIETY, April 17, 1777.
Printed by W. BOWYER and J. NICHOLS.
SIR, London
March 20, 1777.
DURING my late reſidence in India, a tranſaction
took place in Bengal, which, in its conſequence,
led to a new and more intimate knowledge of a vaſt
country, hitherto unexplored by Europeans, and hardly
known to them but by name. As every diſcovery of this
ſort tends to the advancement of natural knowledge, I
have thought a ſhort notice on the ſubject might prove
no diſagreeable communication to the Society; and therefore
take the liberty, with your approbation, to ſubmit
it, in this manner, to them.
The kingdom of Thibet, although known by name
ever ſince the days of MARCO PAOLO and other travellers
of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, had never been
properly explored by any European till the period of
which I am now to ſpeak. It is true, ſome ſtraggling
miſſionaries of the begging orders had at different times,
penetrated into different parts of the country; but their
obſervations, directed by ignorance and ſuperſtition,
placed in a narrow ſphere, could give no ideas but what
were falſe and imperfect. Since them, the Jeſuits have
given the world, in DUHALDE'S Hiſtory of China, a ſhort
account of this country, colleted, with their uſual pains
and judgement, from Tartar relations, which, as far as it
goes, ſeems to be pretty juſt.
This country commonly paſſes in Bengal under the
name of Boutan. It lies to the northward of Hindoſtan,
and is all along ſeparated from it by a range of high and
ſteep mountains, properly a continuation of the great
Caucaſus, which ſtretches from the ancient Media and the
ſhores of the Caſpian ſea, round the north-eaſt frontiers
of Perſia, to Candahar and Caſſamire, and thence, continuing
its courſe more eaſterly, forms the great northern
barrier to the various provinces of the Mogol empire,
and ends, as we have reaſon to believe, in Aſſam or China.
This ſtupendous Tartar bulwark had ever been held impaſſable
by the Mogols, and all other Muſſulman conquerors
of India: and although in the vallies lying between
the lower mountains, which run out perpendicular
to the main ridge, there reſide various Indian people,
whom they had occaſionally made tributary to their
power, they never had attempted a ſolid or permanent
dominion over them. It was on occaſion of a diſputed
ſucceſſion between the heirs of one of the Rajah's or petty
ſovereigns of thoſe people, that the Boutaners were called
down from their mountains to the aſſiſtance of one of
the parties; and our government engaged on the oppoſite
ſide. The party aſſiſted by us did not fail in the end to
prevail; and in the courſe of this little war two people
became acquainted who, although near neighbours, were
equally ſtrangers to each other. At the attack of a town
called Cooch Behar, our troops and the Boutaners firſt
met; and nothing could exceed their mutual ſurprize in
the rencounter. The Boutaners, who had never met in
the plains any other than the timid Hindoos flying naked
before them, ſaw, for the firſt time, a body of men, uniformly
cloathed and accoutred, moving in regular order,
and led on by men of complexion, dreſs, and features,
ſuch as they had never beheld before: and then the management
of the artillery, and inceſſant fire of the muſquetry,
was beyond any idea which they could have conceived
of it. On the other hand, our people found themſelves
on a ſudden engaged with a race of men unlike
all their former opponents in India, uncouth in their appearance,
and fierce in their aſſault, wrapped up in furs,
and armed with bows and arrows and other weapons
peculiar to them.
The place was carried by our troops, and a great many
things taken in the ſpoil, ſuch as arms, cloathing, and
utenſils of various ſorts, Images in clay, in gold, in ſilver,
and in enamel, were ſent down to Calcutta; all
which appeared perfectly Tartar, as we have them repreſented
in the relations and drawings of travellers; and
there were beſides ſeveral pieces of Chineſe paintings
and manufactures. Whilſt thoſe things continued to be
the ſubject of much converſation and curioſity to us in
Bengal, the fame of our exploits in the war had reached
the court of Thibet, and awakened the attention of the
Tayſhoo Lama, who (the Delai Lama being a minor)
was then at the head of the ſtate. The Dah Terriah, or
Deb Rajah as he is called in Bengal (who rules immediately
over the Boutaners, and had engaged them in the
war) being a feudatory of Thibet, the Lama thought it
proper to interpoſe his good offices, and in conſequence
ſent a perſon of rank to Bengal, with a letter and preſents
to the governor, to ſolicit a peace for the Dah, as
his vaſſal and dependant.
Mr. HASTINGS, the governor, did not heſitate a moment
to grant a peace at the mediation of the Lama, on
the moſt moderate and equitable terms; and, eager to
ſeize every opportunity which could promote the intereſt
and glory of this nation, and tend to the advancement
of natural knowledge, propoſed in council to ſend a perſon
in a public character to the court of the Tayſhoo
Lama, to negotiate a treaty of commerce between the
two nations, and to explore a country and people hitherto
ſo little known to Europeans. Mr. BOGLE, an approved
ſervant of the company, whoſe abilities and temper rendered
him every way qualified for ſo hazardous and uncommon
a miſſion, was pitched on for it. It would be
foreign to my purpoſe to enter into a detail of his progreſs
and ſucceſs in this buſineſs: it will be ſufficient to
ſay, that he penetrated, acroſs many difficulties, to the
center of Thibet; reſided ſeveral months at the court of
the Tayſhoo Lama; and returned to Calcutta, after an
abſence of fifteen months on the whole, having executed
his commiſſion to the entire ſatisfaction of the adminiſtration.
I have reaſon to believe that Mr. BOGLE will
one day give to the world a relation of his journey thither,
accompanied with obſervations on the natural and
political ſtate of the country. I only, in the mean time,
beg leave to mention a few particulars, ſuch as my recollection
of his letters and papers enable me to give.
Mr. BOGLE divides the territories of the Delai Lama
into two different parts. That which lyes immediately
contiguous to Bengal, and which is called by the inhabitants
Docpo, he diſtinguiſhes by the name of Boutan;
and the other, which extends to the northward as far as
the frontiers of Tartary, called by the natives Pû, he
ſtyles Thibet. Boutan is ruled by the Dah Terriah or
Deb Rajah, as I have already remarked. It is a country
of ſteep and inacceſſible mountains, whoſe ſummits are
crowned with eternal ſnow; they are interſected with
deep vallies, through which pour numberleſs torrents
that increaſe in their courſe, and at laſt, gaining the
plains, loſe themſelves in the great rivers of Bengal.
Theſe mountains are covered down their ſides with foreſts
of ſtately trees of various ſorts; ſome (ſuch as pines, &c)
'which are known in Europe; others, ſuch as are peculiar
to the country and climate. The vallies and ſides of
the hills which admit of cultivation are not unfruitful,
but produce crops of wheat, barley, and rice. The inhabitants
are a ſtout and warlike people, of a copper
complexion, in ſize rather above the middle European
ſtature, haſty and quarrelſome in ther temper, and addicted
to the uſe of ſpirituous liquors; but honeſt in
their dealings, robbery by violence being almoſt unknown
among them. The chief city is Taffey Seddein ſituated
on the Patchoo. Thibet begins properly from the top of
the great ridge of the Caucaſus, and extends from thence
in breadth to the confines of Great Tartary, and perhaps
to ſome of the dominions of the Ruſſian empire. Mr.
BOGLE ſays, that having once attained the ſummit of
the Boutan mountains, you do not deſcend in an equal
proportion on the ſide of Thibet; but, continuing ſtill
on a very elevated baſe, you traverſe vallies which are
wider and not ſo deep as the former, and mountains that
are neither ſo ſteep, nor apparently ſo high. On the
other hand, he repreſents it as the moſt bare and deſolate
country he ever ſaw. The woods, which every where
cover the mountains in Boutan, are here totally unknown;
and, except a few ſtraggling trees near the villages,
nothing of the ſort to be ſeen. The climate is
extremely ſevere and rude. At Chamnànning, where
he wintered, although it be in latitude 31° 39', only 8°
to the northward of Calcutta, he often found the thermometer
in his room at 29° under the freezing point by
FAHRENHEIT'S ſcale; and in the middle of April the
ſtanding waters were all frozen, and heavy ſhowers of
ſnow perpetually fell. This, no doubt, muſt be owing
to the great elevation of the country, and to the vaſt
frozen ſpace over which the north wind blows uninterruptedly
from the pole, through the vaſt deſarts of Siberia
and Tartary, till it is ſtopped by this formidable
The Thibetians are of a ſmaller ſize than their
ſouthern neighbours, and of a leſs robuſt make. Their
complexions are alſo fairer, and many of them have even
a ruddineſs in their countenances unknown in the other
climates of the eaſt. Thoſe whom I ſaw at Calcutta appeared
to have quite the Tartar face. They are of a mild
and chearful temper; and Mr. BOGLE ſays, that the
higher ranks are polite and entertaining in converſation,
in which they never mix either ſtrained compliments or
flattery. The common people, both in Boutan and Thibet,
are cloathed in coarſe woollen ſtuffs of their own
manufacture, lined with ſuch ſkins as they can procure;
but the better orders of men are dreſſed in European cloth,
or China ſilk, lined with the fineſt Siberian furs. The
ambaſſador from the Deb Rajah, in his ſummer-dreſs at
Calcutta, appeared exactly like the figures we ſee in the
Chineſe paintings, with the conical hat, the tunick of
brocaded ſilk, and light boots. The Thebetian who
brought the firſt letter from the Lama was wrapped up
from head to foot in furs. The uſe of linen is totally
unknown among them. The chief food of the inhabitants
is the milk of their cattle, prepared into cheeſe, butter,
or mixed with the flour of a coarſe barley or of peas,
the only grain which their ſoil produces; and even theſe
articles are in a ſcanty proportion: but they are furniſhed
with rice and wheat from Bengal and other countries in
their neighbourhood. They alſo are ſupplied with fiſh
from the rivers in their own and the neighbouring provinces,
ſalted and ſent into the interior parts. They have
no want of animal food from the cattle, ſheep, and hogs,
which are raiſed on their hills; and are not deſtitute of
game, though I believe it is not abundant. They have a
ſingular method of preparing their mutton, by expoſing
the carcaſe entire, after the bowels are taken out, to the
Sun and bleak northern winds which blow in the months
of Auguſt and September, without froſt, and ſo dry up
the juices and parch the ſkin, that the meat will keep uncorrupted
for the year round. This they generally eat
raw, without any other preparation. Mr. BOGLE was
often regaled with this diſh, which, however unpalatable
at firſt, he ſays, he afterwards preferred to their dreſſed
mutton juſt killed, which was generally lean, tough, and
rank. It was alſo very common for the head men, in the
villages through which he paſſed, to make him preſents
of ſheep ſo prepared, ſet before him on their legs as if
they had been alive, which at firſt had a very odd appearance.

The religion and political conſtitution of this country,
which are intimately blended together, would make a
conſiderable chapter in its hiſtory. It ſuffices for me to
ſay, that at preſent, and ever ſince the expulſion of the
Eluth Tartars, the kingdom of Thibet is regarded as
depending on the empire of China, which they call
Cathay; and there actually reſide two mandarines, with
a garriſon of a thouſand Chineſe, at Lahaſſa the capital,
to ſupport the government; but their power does not
extend far: and in fact the Lama, whoſe empire is
founded on the ſureſt grounds, perſonal affection and
religious reverence, governs every thing internally with
unbounded authority. Every body knows that the Delai
Lama is the great object of adoration for the various
tribes of heathen Tartars, who roam through the vaſt
tract of continent which ſtretches from the banks of the
Volga to Correa on the ſea of Japan, the moſt extenſive
religious dominion, perhaps, on the face of the globe.
He is not only the ſovereign Pontiff, the vicegerent of
the Deity on earth; but, as ſuperſtition is ever the ſtrongeſt
where it is moſt removed from its object, the more remote
Tartars abſolutely regard him as the Deity himſelf.
They believe him immortal, and endowed with all knowledge
and virtue. Every year they come up from different
parts, to worſhip and make rich offerings at his
ſhrine; even the emperor of China, who is a Mantchou
Tartar, does not fail in acknowledgements to him in his
religious capacity, and actually entertains at a great
expence, in the palace of Pekin, an inferior Lama, deputed
as his Nuncio from Thibet. It is even reported,
that many of the Tartar chiefs receive certain preſents,
conſiſting of ſmall portions of that, from him, which is
ever regarded in all other perſons as the moſt humiliating
proof of human nature, and of being ſubject to its laws,
and treaſure it up with great reverence in gold boxes,
to be mixed occaſionally in their ragouts. It is, however,
but juſtice to declare, that Mr. BOGLE ſtrenuouſly
inſiſts, that the Lama never makes ſuch preſents; but
that he often diſtributes little balls of conſecrated flour,
like the pain benit of the Roman catholics, which the
ſuperſtition and blind credulitity of his Tartar votaries
may afterwards convert into what they pleaſe. The orthodox
opinion is, that when the grand Lama ſeems to
die, either of old age or of infirmity, his ſoul in fact only
quits an actual crazy habitation to look for another
younger or better, and it is diſcovered again in the body
of ſome child, by certain tokens known only to the
Lamas or Prieſts, in which order he always appears.
The preſent Delai Lama is an infant, and was diſcovered
only a few years ago by the Tayſhoo Lama, who in authority
and ſanctity of character is next to him, and conſequently,
during the other's minority, acts as chief. The
Lamas, who form the moſt numerous as well as the moſt
powerful body in the ſtate, have the prieſthood entirely
in their hands; and, beſides, fill up many monaſtic orders
which are held in great veneration among them. Celibacy,
I believe, is not poſitively enjoined to the Lamas;
but it is held indiſpenfable for both men and women,
who embrace a religious life: and indeed their celibacy,
their living in communities, their cloyſters, their ſervice
in the choirs, their ſtrings of beads, their faſts, and their
penances, give them ſo much the air of Chriſtian monks,
that it is not ſurprizing an illiterate capuchin ſhould be
ready to hail them brothers, and think he can trace the
features of St. Francis in every thing about them. It is
an old notion, that the religion of Thibet is a corrupted
Chriſtianity; and even Father DISEDERII, a Jeſuit (but
not of the Chineſe miſſion) who viſited the country
about the beginning of this century, thinks he can reſolve
all their myſteries into ours; and aſſerts, with a
true myſtical penetration, that they have certainly a good
notion of the Trinity, ſince, in their addreſs to the Deity,
they ſay as often Konciok-oik in the plural as Konciok
in the ſingular, and with their roſaries pronounce theſe
words, Om, ha, hum. The truth is, that the religion of
Thibet, from whence-ever it ſprung, is pure and ſimple
in its ſource, conveying very exalted notions of the Deity,
with no contemptible ſyſtem of morality; but in its
progreſs it has been greatly altered and corrupted by the
inventions of worldly men, a fate we can hardly regret in
a ſyſtem of error, ſince we know that that of truth has
been ſubject to the ſame. Polygamy, at leaſt in the ſenſe
we commonly receive the word, is not in practice among
them; but it exiſts in a manner ſtill more repugnant to
European ideas; I mean in the plurality of huſbands,
which is firmly eſtabliſhed and highly reſpected there.
In a country where the means of ſubſiſting a family are
not eaſily found, it ſeems not impolitic to allow a ſet of
brothers to agree in raiſing one, which is to be maintained
by their joint efforts. In ſhort, it is uſual in Thibet
for the brothers in the family to have a wife in common,
and they generally live in great harmony and comfort
with her; not but ſometimes little diſſenſions will
ariſe (as may happen in families conſtituted upon different
principles) an inſtance of which Mr. BOGLE mentions
in the caſe of a modeſt and virtuous lady, the wife
of half a dozen of the Tayſhoo Lama's nephews, who
complained to the uncle, that the two youngeſt of her
huſbands did not furniſh that ſhare of love and benevolence
to the common ſtock which duty and religion required
of them. In ſhort, however ſtrange this cuſtom
may appear to us, it is an undoubted fact that it prevails
in Thibet in the manner I have deſcribed.
The manner of beſtowing their dead is alſo ſingular:
they neither put them in the ground like the Europeans,
nor burn them like the Hindoos; but expoſe them on
the bleak pinnacle of ſome neighbouring mountain, to
be devoured by wild beaſts and birds of prey, or waſted
away by time and the viciſſitudes of weather in which
they lie. The mangled carcaſes and bleached bones lye
ſcattered about; and, amidſt this ſcene of horror, ſome
miſerable old wretch, man or woman, loſt to all feelings
but thoſe of ſuperſtition, generally ſets up an abode, to
perform the diſmal office of receiving the bodies, aſſigning
each a place, and gathering up the remains when too
widely diſperſed.
The religion of Thibet, although it be in many of its
principal dogmata totally repugnant to that of the Bramins
or of India, yet in others it has a great affinity to
it. They have, for inſtance, a great veneration for the
cow; but they transfer it wholly from the common ſpecies
to that which bears the tails, of which I ſhall ſpeak
hereafter. They alſo highly reſpect the waters of the
Ganges, the ſource of which they believe to be in Heaven;
and one of the firſt effects which the treaty with
the Lama produced, was an application to the governor--
general, for leave to build a place of worſhip on its
banks. This it may be imagined was not refuſed; an
when I left Bengal, a ſpot of ground was actually aſſigned
for that purpoſe, about two or three miles from
Calcutta. On the other hand, the Sunniaſſes, or Indian
pilgrims, often viſit Thibet as a holy place, and the Lama
always entertains a body of two or three hundred in his
pay. The reſidence of the Delai Lama is at Pateli, a vaſt
palace on a mountain near the banks of the Barampooter,
about ſeven miles from Lahaſſa. The Tayſhoo
Lama has ſeveral palaces or caſtles, in one of which Mr.
BOGLE lived with him five months. He repreſents the
Lama as one of the moſt amiable as well as intelligent
men he ever knew; maintaining his rank with the utmoſt
mildneſs of authority, and living in the greateſt purity
of manners, without ſtarchneſs or affectation. Every
thing within the gates breathed peace, order, and dignified
elegance. The caſtle is of ſtone or brick, with many
courts, lofty halls, terraces, and porticos; and the apartments
are in general roomy, and highly finiſhed in the
Chineſe ſtile, with gilding, painting, and varniſh. There
are two conveniencies to which they are utter ſtrangers,
ſtair-caſes and windows. There is no acceſs to the upper
rooms but by a ſort of ladders of wood or iron; and for
windows they have only holes in the cielings, with penthouſe
covers, contrived ſo as to ſhut up on the weather--
ſide. Firing is ſo ſcarce, that little is uſed but for culinary
purpoſes; and they truſt altogether for warmth in their
houſes to their furs and other cloathing. The Lama, who
is compleatly converſant in what regards Tartary, China,
and all the kingdoms in the Eaſt, was exceedingly inquiſitive
about Europe, its politics, laws, arts and ſciences,
government, commerce, and military ſtrength; on all
which heads Mr. BOGLE endeavoured to ſatisfy him, and
actually compiled for his ſervice a brief ſtate of Europe
in the Hindoſtan language, which he ordered to be tranſlated
into that of Thibet. The Lama being born at
Latack, a frontier province next Caſſamire, is fully maſter
of the Hindoſtan language, and always converted with
Mr. BOGLE in it; but the people, who are perſuaded he
underſtands all languages, believed he ſpoke to him in
Engliſh, or, as they call it, the European tongue. The
Ruſſian Empire was the only one in Europe known to
him: he has a high idea of its riches and ſtrength, and
had heard of its wars and ſucceſs againſt the Empire of
Rome (for ſo they call the Turkiſh ſtate); but could not
conceive it could be in any wiſe a match for Cathay.
Many of the Tartar ſubjects of Ruſſia come to Thibet;
and the Czar has even, at various times, ſent letters and
preſents to the Lama. Mr. BOGLE ſaw many European
articles in his hands; pictures, looking-glaſſes, and
trinkets of gold, ſilver, and ſteel, chiefly Engliſh, which
he had received that way, particularly a GRAHAM'S repeating
watch, which had been dead, as they ſaid, for
ſome time. While he was there, ſeveral Mongols and
Calmucs arrived from Siberia, with whom he converſed.
The city of Lahaſſa, which is the capital, is of no inconſiderable
ſize, and is repreſented as populous and flouriſhing.
It is the reſidence of the chief officers of government,
and of the Chineſe mandarins and their ſuite.
It is alſo inhabited by Chineſe amd Caſſemirian
chants and artificers, and is the daily reſort of numberleſs
traders from all quarters, who come in occaſional
parties, or in ſtated caravans. The waters of the Great
River, as it is emphatically called in their language, waſh
its walls. Father DUHALDE, with great accuracy, traces
this river, which he never ſuſpects to be the Barampooter,
from its origin in the Caſſemirian mountains
(probably from the ſame ſpring which gives riſe to the
Ganges) through the great valley of Thibet, till, turning
ſuddenly to the ſouthward, he loſes it in the kingdom of
Aſſam; but ſtill, with great judgement and probability of
conjecture, ſuppoſes it reaches the Indian ſea ſomewhere
in Pegu or Aracan. The truth is, however, that it turns
ſuddenly again in the middle of Aſſam, and, traverſing
that country weſterly, enters Bengal towards Rangamatty,
under the above-mentioned name, and thence
bending its courſe more ſoutherly, joins the Ganges, its
ſiſter and rival, with an equal, if not more copious
ſtream; forming at the conflux a body of running freſh
water, hardly to be paralleled in the known world, which
diſembogues itſelf into the Bay of Bengal. Two ſuch
rivers uniting in this happy country, with all the beauty,
fertility, and convenience which they bring, well entitles
it to the name of the Paradiſe of Nations, always beſtowed
upon it by the Moguls.
The chief trade from Lahaſſa to Pekin is carried on
by caravans that employ full two years in the journey
thither and back again; which is not ſurprizing, when
we conſider that the distance cannot be leſs than two thouſand
Engliſh miles; and yet it is to be obſerved, that an expreſs
from Lahaſſa reaches Pekin in three weeks, a circumſtance
much to the honour of the Chineſe police,
which knows to eſtabliſh ſo ſpeedv and effectual a communication
through mountains and deſarts for ſo long away.
The trade with Siberia is carried on by caravans to Seling,
which is undoubtedly the Selinginſky of the Ruſſian travellers
on the borders of Baykal lake. And this accounts
for an extraordinary fact mentioned by BELL; that, on
the banks of the river of that name, he one day found
a man buſv in redeeming, from ſome boys who were
angling, the fiſh they caught, and throwing them into
the water again; and from this circumſtance, and the
mark on his forehead, knew him to be an Indian. On
converſing with him, he found his conjecture to be right.
The man told him, he came from Madraſs, had been two
years on his journey, and mentioned by name ſome of
the principal Engliſh gentlemen there. This Indian, no
doubt, muſt have travelled as a Faquier or Sunniaſſy
through Bengal into Thibet, and from thence paſſed
with the caravan to Selinginſky, where BELL found him.
It is proper to remark, that the Indians have an admirable
method of turning godlineſs into great gain, it being
uſual for the Faquiers to carry with them, in their pilgrimages
from the ſea-coaſts to the interior parts, pearls,
corals, ſpices, and other precious articles, of ſmall bulk,
which they exchange on their return for gold-duſt,
muſk, and other things of a ſimilar nature, concealing
them eaſily in their hair and in the cloths round their
middle, and carrying on, conſidering their numbers, no
inconſiderable traffic by theſe means. The Goſſeigns are
alſo of a religious order, but in dignity above the Faquiers;
and they drive a more extenſive and a more open trade
with that country.
A particular account of the commerce would be foreign
to the purport of this letter; but, as it would leave
the information which I wiſh to convey very incompleat,
did I not mention the ſources from which this
country, ſo apparently poor and unfruitful, draws a ſupply
of the foreign articles of convenience and luxury,
which I have occaſionally ſaid they poſſeſs; I ſhall juſt
obſerve, that, beſides their leſs traffic with their neighbours
in horſes, hogs, rock-ſalt, coarſe cloths, and other
articles, they enjoy four ſtaple articles, which are ſufficient
in themſelves to procure every foreign commodity
of which they ſtand in need; all of which are natural
productions, and deſerve to be particularly noticed. The
firſt, though the leaſt conſiderable, is that of the cow--
tails, ſo famous all over India, Perſia, and the other kingdoms
of the Eaſt. It is produced by a ſpecies of cow
or bullock different from what I believe is found in any
other country. It is of a larger ſize than the common
Thibet breed, has ſhort horns, and no hump on its back.
Its ſkin is covered with whitiſh hair of a ſilky appearance;
but its chief ſingularity is in its tail, which ſpreads
out broad and long, with flowing hairs, like that of a
beautiful mare, but much finer and far more gloſſy. Mr.
BOGLE ſent down two of this breed to Mr. HASTINGS,
but they died before they reached Calcutta. The tails ſell
very high, and are uſed, mounted on ſilver handles, for
Chrowras, or bruſhes, to chaſe away the flies; and no
man of conſequence in India ever goes out, or ſits in
form at home, without two Chowrawbadars, or bruſhers
attending him, with ſuch inſtruments in their hands.
The next article is the wool from which the Shaul,
the moſt delicate woollen manufacture in the world, ſo
much prized in the Eaſt, and now ſo well known in England,
is made. Till Mr. BOGLE'S journey our notions on
that ſubject were very crude and imperfect. As the
Shauls all come from Caſſemire, we concluded the material
from which they were fabricated to be alſo of that
country's growth. It was ſaid to be the hair of a particular
goat, the fine under hair from a camel's breaſt, and a
thouſand other fancies; but we now know it for certain
to be the produce of a Thibet ſheep. Mr. HASTINGS had
one or two of theſe in his paddock when I left Bengal.
They are of a ſmall breed, in figure nothing differing
from our ſheep, except in their tails, which are very
broad; but their fleeces, for the fineneſs, length, and
beauty of the wool, exceed all others in the world. The
Caſſemirians engroſs this article, and have factors eſtabliſhed
for its purchaſe in every part of Thibet, from
whence it is ſent to Caſſemire, where it is worked up,
and becomes a ſource of great wealth to that country, as
well as it is originally to Thibet.
Muſk is another of their ſtaple articles, of which it
will be needleſs to ſay much, as the nature, quality, and
value of this precious commodity are ſo well known in
Europe. I ſhall only remark, that the deer which produces
it is common in the mountains; but being exceſſively
ſhy, and frequenting ſolely the places the moſt
wild and difficult of acceſs, it becomes a trade of great
trouble and danger to hunt after. We have the muſk
ſent down to Calcutta in the natural bag, not without
great riſk of its being adulterated; but ſtill it is far ſuperior
to any thing of the kind that is to be met with in
ſale in Europe.
The laſt of the articles which I reckon ſtaple is gold,
of which great quantities are exported from Thibet. It
is found in the ſands of the Great River, as well as in
moſt of the ſmall brooks and torrents that pour from the
mountains. The quantity gathered in this manner,
though conſiderable with reſpect to national gain, pays
the individual but very moderately for the labour beſtowed
on it. But, beſides this, there are mines of that
metal in the northern parts, which are the reſerved property
of the Lama, and rented out to thoſe who work
them. It is not found in ore, but always in a pure metallic
ſtate (as I believe it to be the caſe in all other mines
of this metal) and only requires to be ſeparated from the
ſpar, ſtone, or flint, to which it adheres. Mr. HASTINGS
had a lump ſent to him at Calcutta, of about the ſize of
a bullock's kidney, which was a hard flint veined with
ſolid gold. He cauſed it to be ſawed in two, and it was
found throughout interlarded (if I may be allowed the expreſſion)
with the pureſt metal. Although they have
this gold in great plenty in Thibet, they do not employ
it in coin, of which their government never ſtrikes any;
but it is ſtill uſed as a medium of commerce, and goods
are rated there by the purſe of gold-duſt, as here by money.
The Chineſe draw it from them to a great amount
every year, in return, for the produce of their labour
and arts.
I could wiſh to add to this account ſomething reſpecting
the plants and other botanical productions of this
country; but I would not preſume to offer any thing but
what is authentic and exact, as far as my knowledge
goes. Mr. BOGLE will no doubt be able to ſatisfy the
learned in that branch, reſpecting many things of which
I have at preſent no information. He ſent down to Calcutta
many ſeeds, grains, kernels, and fruits, part of
which only arrived ſafe. Of the laſt I taſted ſeveral, they
were chiefly of the European ſorts, ſuch as peaches,
apples, pears, &c. and therefore more definable for us in
Bengal; but they were all to me inſipid and bad.
I am now, SIR, to cloſe theſe remarks with craving
your forgiveneſs for having thus ſtarted a new ſubject of
curioſity, without the means of giving more compleat
light concerning it. Time and opportunity may put more
in my power on my return to India. In the mean time, I
hope the Society will accept as a rarity the tranſlation of
the original letter which the Tayſhoo Lama wrote to Mr.
HASTINGS, by the envoy whom he ſent to ſolicit a peace
for the Deb Rajah. It came into my hands in the courſe
of my office, and by the permiſſion of the Governor
general I retained a copy.
The original is in Perſian, a language which the Lama
was obliged to employ, that of Thibet, although very
elegant and expreſſive, as it is ſaid, being totally unintelligible
in Bengal. A letter under the ſanction of a
character ſo long talked of in the weſtern world, but ſo
little known, alone renders it an object of curioſity; but,
when it is found to contain ſentiments of juſtice, benevolence,
and piety, couched in a ſimple ſtyle, not without
dignity, and in general exempt from the high-flown
compliments and ſtrained metaphors ſo common among
the other people of the Eaſt, I have no doubt of its
being received with approbation; at any rate, it will ſerve
as a ſpecimen of the way of thinking and writing among
a people whoſe country and manners I have made the
ſubject of the foregoing ſketch.
Tranſlation of a Letter from the Tayſhoo Lama to Mr.
HASTINGS, Governor of Bengal, received the 29th of
March, 1774.
THE affairs of this quarter in every reſpect flouriſh:
I am night and day employed for the increaſe of your
happineſs and proſperity. Having been informed, by
travellers from your quarter, of your exalted fame and
reputation, my heart, like the bloſſom of ſpring, abounds
with ſatisfaction, gladneſs, and joy. Praiſe God that the
ſtar of your fortune is in its aſcenſion. Praiſe him, that
happineſs and eaſe are the ſurrounding attendants of
myſelf and family. Neither to moleſt or perſecute is
my aim: it is even the characteriſtic of our ſect to deprive
ourſelves of the neceſſary refreſhment of ſleep,
ſhould an injury be done to a ſingle individual; but in
juſtice and humanity, I am informed you far ſurpaſs us.
May you ever adorn the ſeat of juſtice and power, that
mankind may, in the ſhadow of your boſom, enjoy the
bleſſings of peace and affluence! By your favour I am
the Rajah and Lama of this country, and rule over a
number of ſubjects; a particular with which you have
no doubt been acquainted by travellers from theſe parts.
I have been repeatedly informed, that you have been
engaged in hoſtilities againſt the Dah Terria, to which
it is ſaid the Dah's own criminal conduct, in committing
ravages and other outrages on your frontiers, gave riſe.
As he is of a rude and ignorant race, paſt times are not
deſtitute of the like miſconduct which his avarice
tempted him to commit. It is not unlikely but he has
now renewed thoſe inſtances, and the ravages and plunder
which he may have committed on the ſkirts of the
Bengal and Bahar provinces, have given you provocation
to ſend your vindictive army againſt him. However, his
party has been defeated, many of his people have been
killed, three forts have been taken from him, and he has
met with the puniſhment he deſerved. It is as evident
as the Sun that your army has been victorious; and that,
if you had been deſirous of it, you might in the ſpace of
two days have entirely extirpated him, for he had not
power to reſiſt your efforts. But I now take upon me to
be his mediator; and to repreſent to you, that, as the ſaid
Dah Terria is dependant upon the Dalai Lama, who
rules in this country with unlimited ſway (but, on account
of his being in his minority, the charge of the government
and adminiſtration for the preſent is committed to
me) ſhould you perſiſt in offering further moleſtation to
the Dah's country, it will irritate both the Lama and all
his ſubjects againſt you. Therefore, from a regard to
our religion and cuſtoms, I requeſt you will ceaſe all
hoſtilities againſt him; and in doing this you will confer
the greateſt favour and friendſhip upon me. I have reprimanded
the Dah for his paſt conduct; and I have admoniſhed
him to deſiſt from his evil practices in future,
and to be ſubmiſſive to you in all things. I am perſuaded
he will conform to the advice which I have given
him; and it will be neceſſary that you treat him with
compaſſion and clemency. As to my part, I am but a
Faquier (a) and it is the cuſtom of my ſect, with the roſary
in our hands, to pray for the welfare of mankind, and for
the peace and happineſs of the inhabitants of this country;
and I do now, with my head uncovered, intreat that
you may ceaſe all hoſtilities againſt the Dah in future.
It would be needleſs to add to the length of this letter,
as the bearer of it, who is a Goſeign (b), will repreſent to
(a) The original being in Perſian, this word is uſed, which can only be
applied with propriety to a perſon of the Muſſulman faith: here it can only
mean a religious perſon in general. Perhaps monk would have been the beſt
(b) This means a religious perſon of the Hindoo ſect.
you all particulars; and it is hoped you will comply therewith.
In this country, worſhip of the Almighty is the
profeſſion of all. We poor creatures are in nothing equal
to you; having, however, a few things in hand, I ſend
them to you by way of remembrance, and hope for your
acceptance of them.


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An Account of the Kingdom of Thibet

Document Information

Document ID 270
Title An Account of the Kingdom of Thibet
Year group 1750-1800
Genre Expository prose
Year of publication 1777
Publisher Bowyer and Nichols
Place of publication London
Wordcount 6441

Author information: Stewart, Mr John

Author ID 252
Title Mr
Forenames John
Surname Stewart
AKA Walking Stewart
Gender Male
Year of birth 1747
Place of birth London, England
Mother's place of birth Scotland
Father's place of birth Scotland
Occupation Author, traveller