Chandra Das, Sarat - JOURNEY TO LHASA AND CENTRAL TIBET
E.P. Dutton & Company, New York, 1902, Second American Edition (Revised). Rebound dark green Buckram boards, retaining publisher's light green cloth with gilt lettering, gilt Royal Geographical Society logo. Trimmed original spine strip retains complete gilt lettering. Octavo, 285 pages, large colour folding map of Tibet at rear, 34 illustrations and maps, 6 folding, Index. Following description from Sequitur Books: (References - Derek Waller's The Pundits: British Exploration of Tibet and Central Asia. University Press of Kentucky, 1990, pp. 193-209. Peter Hopkirk, The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia, Kodansha, 1992. Yakushi D55, Yakushi D356. Marshall 1459) Sarat Chandra Das (1849-1917) was a Bengali scholar of Tibet. Das has been described as "a traveller, explorer, linguist, a lexicographer, an ethnographer and an eminent Tibetologist." Das was also a British spy. Born in Chittagong, Das trained as an engineer in Calcutta. He became headmaster of the Bhutia Boarding School in Darjeeling for Sikkimese and Tibetan boys, many of who would be trained to fill a special place in the British colonial regime, the role of a Pundit. Das became a "pundit" (and an instructor at the school) for British intelligence. Pundits acted as a network of British-trained operatives who were tasked to make inroads in the foreboding inner regions of Asia where white embassies could not gain entry. Tibet and other inland areas were increasingly gaining attention from competing British, Russian and Chinese economic and strategic interests. Derek Waller speculates that the character of Huree Chunder Mookerjee in Kipling's Kim was based on Das (p.193). As a teacher, Das learned Tibetan to speak with his students. He read the limited books on the region available, notably of Bogle (1773-5) and Manning's travels (1811) to Tibet. Manning and Bogle were the last successful British explorations of Tibet, a nation who steadfastly resisted western intrusion. Das's language ability secured him entry with his colleague, Lama Ugyen Gyasto, to Tashilhunpo monastery in 1879, as the Prime Minister wished to learn Hindi from him. In 1881, Das returned to Tashilhunpo and made his way to Lhasa, Sakya, and the Tsangpo River. There he met with Thupten Gyatso, the 13th Dalai Lama (d. 1933) and returned to Darjeeling with a Yak loaded with over 200 Tibetan manuscripts. After Das was revealed to be a British agent, Tibetan authorities increased restrictions on travellers and the Minister who had sponsored his entry was put to death. What makes Das's expedition so interesting is that he successfully brought back a wealth of information on an unknown land to the larger world. The Tibet that Das glimpsed is now gone, with the passage of history and the destructive forces of modernity and Chinese domination. This book compiles the story of Das's journey, his reports, photographs, diagrams, ethnographic observations, of a lost Tibet. Das went on to become an important Tibetan scholar and author of an extensive multi-volume dictionary. The British would not successfully return to Tibet until 1903-4, with Colonel Francis Younghusband's incursions (invasion and massacre of an estimated 5000 Tibetans). Significantly, Younghusband was President of Royal Geographical Society, which notably published the 1902 edition of Das's book, an interesting and dark connection to Das's legacy. Scarce, important classic, rebound, internally clean glossy paper, light spotting on foldouts, small tears, large map of Tibet. VG.