The Royal Canadian Geographical Society
Making Canada better
known to Canadians
and to the world.

Publishers of Canadian Geographic Magazine Publishers of géographica


Canadian Geographical Journal

(published in May 1930)

A Summary of the Record of the Expedition to the Forbidden City of Lhasa
By Sir Francis Younghusband

The magnificent Potala, Palace of the of Grand Lama at Lhasa, dominating the city from its rocky heights. It was built of solid masonary, painted over, and the claret and white walls with the pagoda-shaped roof covered with gold leaf, glistening in the brilliantly clear air of Tibet, make an unforgettable picture. The immensity of the pile, together with its dominating position, and a very definite air of dignity and distinction, puts the Potala amongst the great buildings of the world.

FOR A THOUSAND MILES Tibet lies side by side with India, separated by the stupendous wall of the Himalayas. The country is inhabited by a very seclusive race; the Tibetans like to keep themselves to themselves. India carefully respected that wish for many years, but unfortunately the Tibetans were not consistent; while they refused to let us enter their country, they themselves invaded Northern India. That was in 1888. They were sent back, and a treaty was made with China, the suzerain of Tibet, by which a place called Yatung was recognized as one where the traders from India might meet those of Tibet. The Tibetans refused to recognize the treaty, and at the same time entered into certain relations with the Czar which created a dangerous situation on the Indian frontier.

Lord Curzon, who was then Viceroy of India, decided to send a mission to Tibet, and appointed me to take charge of it. In the Summer of 1903 I went up to the frontier and waited there for three months, but the Tibetans would have nothing to do with us. I went back to Simla and talked the situation over with the Viceroy. It was agreed that I should go through to Gyastse, about half-way between the boundary and the Tibetan capital Lhasa. Lord Kitchener, who was then Commander-in-Chief, provided me with a small force of troops, and, much against the advice of some of the military men, we started out in mid-winter to cross the Himalayas. On the ninth of January we crossed the main pass, at 15,200 feet, into Tibet.

Sir Francis Younghusband (above right) presented the first lecture at the inaugural meeting of The Canadian Geographical Society, which centred on his expedition to Lhasa at the request of the Viceroy of India. His lecture was edited and included in the first edition of Canadian Geographic Journal.

Along with the above excerpt from Younghusband's article, included below are photographs from the magazine and the text that was included with them.


In the group are included the Regent, who was left in charge when the Grand Lama fled from Lhasa on the approach of the expedition. The Regent corresponds very roughly in office to a Prime Minister. With him are the Commander-in-Chief of the Tibetan army, an officer who at one stage of the proceedings remarked dryly that it was not his practice to eat meat, but that he would cheerfully eat the flesh of these Englishmen. He became quite friendly in the end. Another, a shrewd monk, filled the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer or Minister of Finance.


They are far from prepossessing, and when one happens to be in their immediate neighbourhood, one is reminded of the story of the old woman who on being reproached by the parson with her lack of cleanliness and reminded that cleanliness was next to godliness, replied, ‘Aye, but I be godly’. These Buddhist ladies would need to be very godly.

   Copyright © 2021 The Royal Canadian Geographical Society SITEMAP  |   CONTACT  |   PRIVACY POLICY  |   TERMS OF USE  |   FRANÇAIS