Over the last few months I have put up a series of posts discussing the portrayal of Tibet in popular western media. For the most part, these sources talked about Tibet as a land of mystical enchantment, filled with gentle monks and high-minded sorcerers. Lest you think that western portrayals of Tibet are all oohs and aahs, however, I here present a couple of selections from a short article found in an 1898 coffee table book called Revelations of the Grandest Century. As always, I came across this while researching something totally different. Funny how that happens.
In the first picture, at right, we find a band of masked hoodlums shooting at a gallant and daring group of British explorers. Poor old chaps. Between their painted faces and fiendish masks, these bushwhacking Tibetans clearly deserve the epithet ‘devil worshipers.’
Next, we have an image of one Mr. Landor, stoically undergoing torture on the rack at the hands of a bunch of Tibetan lamas (I have no idea where they came up with the beards and turbans). Now while it would be tempting to chalk this up to a fanciful imagination, it is actually a true story. Henry Savage-Landor did, in fact, try to sneak into Tibet in the late nineteenth century. For all his trouble, however, he earned nothing but torture and deportation. His 1898 account of this trip, Into the Forbidden Land, captivated Europe, and will be the subject of a future blog post. (Download it free from Google Books!) For now, I will just leave you with these two wonderful images, traces of the dark side of the western fascination with Tibet.