Anna Louise Strong Reference Archive
In the first week in Lhasa I was not sure that I would even try to climb the Potala Palace though it was clearly the most spectacular trip. I was discouraged by reading books. These said it was thirteen storeys high and it looked it, though you can't count from below because the structure is embedded in the cliff. What especially perturbed was a British writer's description of "a climb of 440 feet up stone ramps and perpendicular ladders slippery with centuries of butter fumes and drippings from butter lamps, — greasy ladders whose springy hand-rails come only part way down".
Since I climbed even the single flight of stairs in the guest-house with much puffing in the thin Lhasa air, the thought of thirteen perpendicular ladders appalled. Stone ramps I might mount by taking time, perpendicular ladders, no!
When our party scheduled the trip for an afternoon after another hard morning's tour, with an evening theatrical performance to follow, the program seemed too much. I asked Feng-feng to climb the Potala for me and take notes; if she then thought I could make it, I would go by myself later, when the party went to Shigatse, a trip I had decided not to make. Feng-feng returned with a notebook of data and added: "I don't think you'll find the Potala any worse than other trips you've made."
"Are those perpendicular ladders in sequence on outside walls where you could fall a long way, or are they just from one. floor to the next?"
"I didn't see any perpendicular ladders at all," replied Feng-feng. So I asked how far she had gone and she said to the roof.
'To the Dalai Lama's apartments?" "Of course! That was the main trip." Since Feng-feng is notoriously honest, it seemed that the British writer had been making his tale picturesque. I later found that other writers have become "dizzy with success" on climbing the Potala, and have elaborated details that just aren't there, perhaps believing nobody would ever come to check. A Frenchman who made the trip a decade ago discovered that "the five colossal tombs of the greatest Dalai Lamas spring from the floor of the Red Palace and shoot up through various storeys and emerge through the roof as five glittering pagodas covered with sheets of gold". While there are several tombs of past Dalai Lamas in the Red Palace, only two of them — the Fifth and Thirteenth Bodies — are "colossal", shooting up through three storeys; none of them pierce the roof. I verified this by observation and by photograph; it was also confirmed by my guide.
'They'll probably take you up the rear side, the way the Dlai Lama goes," said Feng-feng. "They say that made is easier." Of course, I thought, the Dalai Lama lived there every winter. He wouldn't have perpen-dicular ladders to his home. "Can you see it all if you go by the rear way?" I asked.
"You can't see all of the Potala, no matter which way you go," replied Feng-feng. "But you will see all that counts. You'll start high up and miss the lower floors, but these are mostly store-rooms and rooms for servants and retainers. You'll start with the Dalai Lama's throne room, the place where Young-husband forced the treaty in 1904. From there you'll climb three or four storeys to the roof and see the Dalai Lama's apartments and the view, and then go over to the Dalai Lamas' tombs. The only thing worth seeing lower down is the bed-rock chapel with the statues of King Srontsan Gambo and his two wives. You can climb down to it if you like, but it's six or seven stories down and back."
We decided to omit Srontsan Gambo and we set the date a week ahead.
Meantime we saw the Potala Palace every day from the valley below it. Wherever we went in Lhasa city or to villages and farms north, south, east, west of Lhasa, the Potala loomed high. Every side was different and every view of it impressive. Sir Charles Bell, British representative in Lhasa earlier in the century, called it "unquestionably one of the most impressive buildings in the world". He says it is nine hundred feet long, and covers the top and most of the sides of the Red Hill. He speaks of the "baffling magic" of its architecture, words unusually poetic for a British diplomat.
Yet with the deep blue sky above it, and the barley fields below, and the circle of mountains around it, the word "magic" is not inappropriate for the effect produced by the Potala. In part this is due to an architectural style common in Tibet, though not elsewhere; the Potala is said to have taken the fortress-castle overlooking Shigatse as its model. The walls slope inward from the base, as if they followed the lines of the mountain. The door and window frames also slope inward, and are wider at the bottom than at the top. The building thus seems to grow out of the hill in which it is in part embedded. The circle of mountains behind it becomes a natural setting, and the Potala seems a jewel set in a great ring. Of the upper palace, the central part is a deep crimson color, known as the Red Palace; this is bordered on both sides by white structures. Above them all, across the top of the palace, runs a wide band of maroon color, bordered by white and bearing four monograms in gold. This is topped by a gilded roof set with several glittering golden-plated pagodas.
It is throughout irregular and not only because the walls are sloping. The white margins on both sides of the Red Palace are not of equal width. No single storey seems continuous on a level across the entire structure. Even the estimate of thirteen storeys is approximate. For after climbing from the throne room to the roof and coming down again, I could not say whether I had climbed three storeys or four, because there were many half-flights and flights of differing lengths. In crossing from the Dalai Lama's apartments to the Red Palace with its tombs, we went up and down occasional short flights of stairs. All this irregularity of the palace fits it more closely into the landscape; it is like the irregularity of mountains.
The Potala Palace is not old, as buildings go in Tibet. While a fortified castle was built on this site as long ago as the seventh century by King Srontsan Gambo, this was later destroyed in war, so that practically none of it remains. Much of the present structure was built three centuries ago in the time of the Fifth Dalai Lama. The work took forty years, and when the Fifth Dalai Lama died during that period, the regent concealed his death for many years, since only the people's loyalty to the "god-king" could have extorted the tremendous amount of unpaid labor needed. The work was all done by manual labor and by serfs. The Red Palace was built at that time, and two round fortress towers to the west and east of it, symbolizing the sun and moon. The Sixth Dalai Lama enlarged and enriched the palace, adding especially a building low down on the northeast side, known as the Dragon King Palace. The White Palace and the Dalai Lama's private temple at its base were built after 1910 by the Thirteenth Dalai Lama.
The usual approach is from the south, the way by which pilgrims have come for three centuries. Here the huge southern wall, massive and white, sloping inward, is pierced by a long stone ramp of steps that, after a long swing to the west, turns and enters the lower part of the palace. It was on these steps that beggars and sick people lay, when the Dalai Lama was in residence, soliciting alms from visitors. These steps also bore the great throng of lamas carrying lights, in the great Prayer Festival at New Years.
At the foot of the ramp, and along the base of the southern wall, a small ragged village contains people who did common labor for the maintenance of the palace, sweeping its interminable irregular levels of earth and stone, carrying water-jars up its steep steps to the apartments above, where there is neither plumbing nor electric light. In the village is a prison, once visited by Sir Charles Bell. He found a prisoner confined for life in a small, dark, airless cell and asked: "Does not the severity often kill a man soon?" To which the jailer answered: "Yes, it does." . . . More recently, after the March rebellion of 1959, a dungeon was found under the Potala containing poisonous scorpions, into which prisoners had been thrown for quicker killing. This was revealed to the world only after the Dalai Lama fled to India; it became part of the exhibition opened in Lhasa on the horrors of past serfdom.
The southern approach was described to me by Feng-feng. "We climbed about two hundred stone steps and came to a gate on which were hung two trolls of the law. We turned through the gate and climbed another fifty steps to another gate, also with two scrolls of the law. Through this we came to the big 'devil dance square', where the mass ceremonies and stage performances are held on festival days. Then we started our visit to the Dalai's private temple and the White Palace. We came to a big room with dirty mattresses and hangings piled in a mess. This was the East Chapel, and the place where the Young husband Treaty was signed by force in 1904. It was also the place where the rebels made their headquarters during the rebellion. They insulted the holy places at random. Everywhere they had made their toilet; the place was full of filth and smells. Also there were empty boxes that had held shells and cartridges; they were marked in English. There were empty bowls, such as are used for holy water under images; these were thrown everywhere. There were lamas' robes and hats and army boots made in Kalimpong."
Feng-feng added: "From here we climbed through the palace to the roof and the Dalai Lama's apartments. This is the room where I think you will begin."
My way to the Potala and the East Chapel was not through the shabby village and the stone ramp of two hundred and fifty steps. I was to go by the north side, by "the Dalai Lama's way". We took an auto road below the southern wall, where a group of women were reaping a ragged patch of barley — our guide called attention to one of them, a nobleman's daughter who was demonstrating fellowship with the serfs — turned sharply to the right around the rocky west wall, and then again to the right on a steep road up the northern side of the hill. Even in low gear it was difficult climbing. Finally we stopped; our auto could climb no further.
On our right as we dismounted the high wall of the Potala soared into the sky. On our left was an outer wall protecting a steep road. Beyond this wall, far down, we saw the Dragon King Palace, embowered in trees, built by the Sixth Dalai Lama for a retreat. A short way up the steep road a wide breach had been made in the outer wall, through which the compound of Lhasa City Hospital appeared in direct sight; empty shell-cases and bits of clothing lay around.
"This was the place from which the rebels shelled the hospital," said our guide. We hardly needed the information; the hospital was the clear target below.
From this point the Dalai Lama had been carried in a palanquin. These are out of fashion in today's China; they are tainted with exploitation. But a conveyance exists whose use implies not exploitation by a higher class, but infirmity of health. As our auto stopped, a jeep came up behind us, and from it jumped men carrying a hospital stretcher, which they offered for my use. I looked at it and didn't like it. I looked up the steep rocky road and liked this less. I suggested that by taking time on the road we could dispense with the stretcher.
"Then you'll be tired before you really start," said Feng-feng. "The others were tired when they reached the tombs; they never went as far as the tomb of the Thirteenth Body. I think it was a pity." This was such good sense that I meekly lay down on the stretcher.
The men went up the hill with me as if they were carrying baggage. Feng-feng was quickly left far behind. I could get no glimpse of what we were passing; I could see only the sky and the high wall. Suddenly the stretcher upended so that I thought I would slide off; I clutched the poles beneath me and the bearers also held me against the poles. We were clearly going up steep stairs. As we levelled off we plunged into darkness where I could not see my hand in front of any face. When I raised it a few inches, it struck a roof. When I pushed elbows outward they struck walls on both sides. We were clearly in a narrow, dark tunnel. I called out to let me down, but the bearers paid no heed and Feng-feng was too far behind to reach. So I made myself as small as possible and trusted that the "baggage" would not be brushed off by the roof.
The blackness changed to a dim light; space was visible. The stretcher was lowered for me to dismount. I stood in a very large room with cement floor. On one side was a long sloping roof with cracks of light; on the other a canopied platform bearing a formal divan now partly hidden under a pile of draperies. The walls were bare and discolored except for a few irregular strips of old silk. Heaps of many-colored silken draperies lay on the platform and even on the floor. Half a dozen men, some of them holding butter-lamps, were picking draperies up from corners and putting them into orderly piles. We had come by the back way into the East Chapel. It had been the rebel headquarters. The sweepers and cleaners of the palace were beginning to bring it into order.
Feng-feng arrived — she had been left far behind — and brought with her Comrade Thupten Tsairo, our guide to the palace. He was well acquainted here, having been a lama of the Potala Palace for many years. In 1949 he had left to become a layman, and in 1952 he had entered a school maintained by the Military Area to train civil servants. Now he was head of the West District of Lhasa on whose territory the Potala stood.
He told us that the monastery to which he had once belonged was only one of the many activities in the palace. Its monks lived in the west end of the structure; they had duties in personal attendance on the Dalai Lama, and in services at the many tombs. There had been one hundred and seventy monks here before the rebellion; one hundred and twenty were left, most of them temporarily staying in Jokhang Monastery for political instruction. Some of the remaining fifty or sixty had probably gone with the Dalai Lama to India, others were? known to have gone home after the rebellion, one had been killed in battle.
The room in which we stood was, he said, the throne room in which past Dalai Lamas had been crowned. It was the room which Col. Young husband had used when he forced the signing of a treaty in 1904 by the i«nt, when the Thirteenth Dalai had fled to interior China from the British troops. Normally, it was a from of some splendor, whose walls were covered with colorful silken drapes and whose floors held the long matttress-type of seats covered with rugs on which lamas squatted to read scriptures and prayers.
"In the past no armed men were allowed in this room," he said. "During the rebellion, the armed rebels came in on the morning of February 11th, Tibetian calendar (March 20th by Western calendar), found the lamas sitting on mattress pads and reading the scriptures in the center of the room and pushed them aside. They pulled down the drapes to clear the room for their use, and tossed their drums and weapons in the corners on top of the drapes. They camped here and all over the lower chapels and made their toilet in the chapels and the corridors. The sweepers are now cleaning things up."
The men to whom Thupten Tsairo thus called attention did not seem excessively busy. They seemed more interested in staring at us than in cleaning the room, it was a long time since the rebels had made the mess and there were still bits of their hardware in corners, Feng-feng told me, however, that ten days earlier on her first trip, the dark corridors had been hard to walk because there had been so much human excrement scattered about and the small chapels had smelt vilely ! the filth; this had now been cleaned up. I had never seen men filthier than the sweepers, but they had an attractive good humor. One of them went to an adjoining room and brought back a small armchair in green and gold brocade which he offered me as a seat. I did not know whether this was on orders of Thupten Tsairo or whether it was the sweeper's own idea. But thereafter the sweeper followed me through the palace, even up to the roof, carrying this green-and-gold brocaded chair, and planting it down for me whenever I stopped.
I asked our guide: "Since you lived so long in the palace, possibly you know whether the two treasuries mentioned by a British writer of the past are still in the Potala, the private treasury of the Dalai Lama and the emergency treasury for national needs.  They were mentioned in a book written twenty years ago."
"There are three treasuries," replied Thupten Tsairo. "The Dalai's personal treasury, that opens from his private chapel on the roof, the emergency treasury, which could only be opened in the presence of all the cabinet ministers, and the treasury of the Potala Monastery for the needs of the lamas. They were all locked but not sealed when the People's Liberation Army took the Potala from the rebels. They were opened once for inspection by the Military Control in presence of the lamas' representatives, to see if they contained arms. No inventory was taken for the inspection was brief, but it was seen that there was considerable gold, silver, baskets of silver dollars and piles of silk brocades. Then they were locked and sealed shut."
"Would you ask the sweepers what they think should be done with the treasuries?" I said.
The sweepers looked stunned; clearly they had never thought of things so far beyond their control. Then they rallied and began a rapid discussion. One old sweeper gestured with both hands in argument, putting his butter-lamp on the floor. He was reported by Thupten Tsairo to Feng-feng in Chinese and by Feng-feng in English to me.
"He says the treasuries should be given to the present government because it is feeding the lamas of the Potala better than their own treasury did. The others agree and the young man has added: 'In the past we sweepers were hungry and not paid, and now we get paid.' "
"If the Dalai Lama comes tack," I continued, "should he get his private treasury again?"
This seemed to stun them more than the first question. To ask about the Dalai Law and his treasury must have seemed little short of sacrilege to men who had spent their lives sweeping his arther ledges and cement floors. But again they quickly revived to the joy of discussion. They came up with a reply.
"If the Dalai Lama comes back, ten to give to him and to the government, isn't it the same ?"
"Tell them the state oracle couldn't answer better," I laughed.
Before leaving the room I tried to arrange a stand for my camera, hoping to get a picture in the dim light. Thupten Tsairo offered to give morelight. He spoke to a sweeper, and several men left the room and pulled apart the rafters of the sloping roof to let in light. With surprise I saw that this chapel, lasting thorough centuries, was roofed in part by rough boards, not even nailed in place.
The contrast between the bed-rock appearance of the Potala and the flimsy construction of many details, continued as we left the East Chapel and went up to the roof. It was a zigzag route, amaze of corridors and irregular stairs. Some stairs were of solid rock that seemed part of the cliff or wall; these would be followed by the type of steep stair we call a "ship's ladder", with wooden treads reinforced by strips of iron at the place where the ball of the foot struck. This made them slippery, so one went slowly and took care. But the hand-holds were good; there were no difficult ladders and no grease from butter.
At one point in a corridor Thupten Tsairo showed me a rough door, pasted over with strips of paper on which were seals. "This is the emergency treasury," he said. It did not seem a very solid vault. Any capable burglar might have opened it. To get away with the loot from Tibet might have been harder. Safety lay in the many lamas and sweepers who could raise alarm.
The zigzags and the uneven flights of stairs were so many that I could not tell whether we had climbed three, four or even five storeys when we finally came out, without exhaustion, on the roof from which the Dalai Lama's apartments opened. We looked far down on a wide valley, on the city of Lhasa and the river, with the Turquoise Bridge in the foreground and the golden roofs and spires of Jokhang Monastery beyond. This was the Dalai Lama's promenade in his winter residence. His apartments are woven into the roof, opening from it in irregular places.
We went first into what seemed a small reception room. Along the lacquered walls were ranged eighteen statues of disciples of the Buddha, with bowls for water in front of each, all now turned upside down. "When the Dalai Lama is in residence, the bowls are kept full of water, but when he moves to Jewel Park, then the bowls here are emptied. It is the same with the butter-lamps. They are lit when he is here; at other times only the lamps in the chapels near the tombs are lit, where the lamas from the monastery come to pray." So Thupten Tsairo explained, as he offered us tea, with candies and biscuits. I accepted the tea,—it was the pale, unsweetened tea of China, not the buttered tea that Tibetans would prefer. It was made of freshly boiled water, carried up for us from below. All the water for hundreds of bowls in front of Buddha statues in all the rooms, had to be. carried up those thirteen floors. There was no running water in the palace, no plumbing nor electric light. I refused the biscuits, which came from a box that seemed to have been there a long time.
Returning to the roof and crossing an open space decorated by strange gilded animals, we entered the Dalai Lama's private chapel. It was a large room, suited to service for perhaps a hundred people, but so full of gilded and lacquered pillars, and of silken chutze — long cylinders of silk hanging from the ceiling, each made of hundreds of smaller silken scarves that it would not have been easy for many people to see a speaker on the canopied platform. The room was rich with thick brilliant carpet, with hangings, with carved and painted walls. Several porcelain statues stood on the floor. Everything was as fresh and orderly as if the Dalai Lama were there. "Did the rebels get up here?" I asked. Thupten Tsairo replied that as soon as the sweepers of the palace saw what kind of hooligans the rebels were, they came upstairs and dropped the trapdoors which were at the top of every steep ship's ladder so that the rebels could not come up. If the rebels had remained longer or had had any compelling reason for coming upstairs they might have cut their way, but they did not do this.
Just inside the private chapel to the left Thupten Tsairo lifted a dark padded hanging and showed me a sealed door. "That is the door to the Dalai Lama's private treasury," he said. "It is one storey down but the only entrance is here."
Crossing the roof again, we entered other rooms of the private apartments, most of them small, and connected by narrow corridors, with many high thresholds over which one might easily trip. All were heavy with carving and lacquer, padded with rugs and hangings, lined with Buddhas in glass cases or painted on walls. One was clearly the bedroom, for it had an elaborately carved low bedstead in dark wood, with the carvings rising on all sides of the mattress, which was covered with a rug and a piece of lion skin. The room was hardly bigger than a monk's cell and its one, small window was in a recess, so that the view was not insistently visible. Even so high above the ground, the window gave little light to the room. One wall was solidly filled by a glass case, containing three large "longevity Buddhas".
The room beyond, equally small, seemed meant for morning devotions. It differed from the bedroom chiefly in that the elaborately carved wooden frame with the rug-covered mattress was smaller, too short for sleeping, with a lectern in front of it to hold Scriptures so that the Dalai Lama might squat on the mattress to read. Several rooms had these low, carved mattress-seats with lecterns for reading; some were larger, as if for receiving a tutor or reader. All of them were painted, lacquered and carved from floor to ceiling with Buddhas, disciples, demons and gods. Incense flooded the air from floor receptacles; these had been lit while we were viewing the chapel. The scent, at first pleasant, became at last a bit heavy. Our guide said the incense was kept on when the Dalai Lama was there.
Only one of all the carved and painted rooms seemed a fairly pleasant place for living. This was a rather large corner room to the southeast, where a wall and a half of glass doors made a break in the endless Buddhas, and opened on a narrow cat-walk type of porch with a sweeping view. Light came into his room, and Lhasa, the river and the hills. Here for a moment the eye escaped from the carved, lacquered religious routine. The construction of the glass doors was a bit flimsy; it would hardly be tight against the storms of winter. Other places also in the elaborately ornate apartments showed occasional primitive construction, not weather-tight, contrasting curiously with the luxurious finish.
* * *
A short distance across the roof from the apartment of the living Dalai Lama, and down a half-flight of stairs, we reached the upper level of the Red Palace, where the tombs of the previous "Bodies" stand. The Dalai Lama is by theory one continuous being, many times incarnated. In speaking of his historic acts, one may loosely speak of the Fifth or the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, but in the tombs one refers strictly to the Fifth or the Thirteenth Body.
In size most of the tombs are modest, this being determined by the length of time the incarnation lasted and the amount of gold and silver accumulated to build the tomb. These tombs are in dim rooms without windows, lit only through the hall and the entering door; they are further concealed behind carved screens of metal through which, peering, one gets a vague glint of the rounded top of the receptacle holding the body. By contrast with these dark places, a small chapel among the tombs, filled again with carved and painted Buddhas, in which lamas were officiating with small butter-lamps, seemed almost brilliant with light. The tomb of the Fifth Body is one of the two large ones — it runs three storeys high, some sixty feet — but it also is dimly seen.
The tomb of the Thirteenth Body is the exception. It has its own three storey pavilion with windows on two sides, so that it can be clearly seen. It also runs up through three storeys, stated as seventy feet high, slightly higher than the Fifth. The large space that we entered was like a room thirty-five or forty feet square of which all the walls were painted with scenes from the life of the Thirteenth Body, while the central part of the room was cut away so that the tomb rose through it, leaving the outer part of the floor as a balcony, on which we could walk all around the tomb, and view it on three levels and from four sides. The light from windows in the outer walls was hardly brilliant but it was adequate for a time exposure. I took a photograph of the upper storey of the tomb which is, I think, unique. I was also given information about the manner of burial and the location of the body, which I think is unknown to the West.
The three-storey tomb begins on the lower floor as a golden rectangular form, like a normal burial vault or enclosed room. On top of this rises at the second floor level a huge golden sphere. The third storey consists of a tall cone, which shoots from the sphere almost to the roof. Here it is topped by what at first glance seems a crown, but which closer scrutiny shows to be a bell, upended over the tip of the cone. This is known as a "chakub", and is a sign of protection; on the bell's upper edge rise a sun and a moon.
The entire tomb, from lower rectangular vault to upper bell-crowned cone, is covered with thick plates of gold, encrusted with many jewels. Some people have estimated that a ton of gold went into the tomb. I don't see how anybody knows.
I took it for granted, and I think the handful of Westerners who have seen the tomb have taken it for granted, that the body lay in the larger lower vault in a recumbent position. To my surprise, Thupten Tsairo said that this is not the case. The lower storey, he said, is an enclosed room containing property of the Thirteenth Body, and especially presents given to him, grain, tea, and golden gifts of many kinds. The body is in the central golden sphere, not recumbent, but seated in the Buddha position, with knees bent and legs crossed in front. It has been made into a golden Buddha statue.
"How do you know all this?" I asked.
"I was present at the burial," he replied. "I was a lama of the Potala and I saw the body prepared for burial. It was first rubbed several times with salt, to absorb fluids and preserve it, then it was painted all over with clay, to close pores and make a base, and then this base was lacquered with gold leaf. Then the golden statue was seated in his robe in the Buddha posture, and around him were placed the things he used in intimate daily life, his favorite scriptures, his writing materials and other intimate objects. Then this was all enclosed in the golden sphere as if in a small round room."
We returned across the roof to the apartment of the Fourteenth Body, living still but absent in India. As we left this apartment by the main door back to the White Palace, we saw that a sentry of the People's Liberation Army stood on guard outside the apartment, to which, however, he did not apparently hold the key. Two pallets on the floor indicated that the entrance was thus guarded night and day, by soldiers who do not enter.
"Very few people have entered since the Dalai Lama left," said Thupten Tsairo. "It has been open only to a few or two close retainers of the Dalai Lama who have business in connection with its contents, your party of foreign correspondents, and those who are responsible for keeping the place safe against the return of the Dalai Lama or whatever other disposition the future may bring."
We went back down the dim corridors and steep ship-ladders, through the throne room that the rebels dismantled, and out the dark tunnel through which we had come. I refused this time the proffered stretcher, for the road lay downward, though it was long and steep and rocky to the car. I stopped at the breach in the wall that the rebels made to shell the city hospital. The many buildings of the hospital lay in the sun below me, and I knew that the shell-marks were repaired.
I understood why the Dalai Lama did not like his Potala Palace but preferred the new palace he had built in Jewel Park. And why the Panchen Erdeni, for his Lhasa residence, also passed the ancient Potala by. I thought of the "way of life" that had endured here for centuries, in which the highest of the land — the symbol and incarnation of godhead, endowed also with temporal power — spent his winter nights at higher than 12,000 feet elevation, in small lacquered rooms painted all over with Buddhas, with only the dim light of butter-lamps, and only the warmth of charcoal braziers, and only the water that was carried to two hundred and fifty stone steps and thirteen more storeys on the backs of serfs.
In March of 1959 that "way of life" had ended. I wondered if the Potala Palace, that looked from afar like a jewel, would ever be opened again except as a museum. It was already the highest and would be one of the most impressive, of all the museums of the world.
1.It was after this visit that the facts came out that in 1951 the Dalai Lama shipped gold treasure out of Lhasa into Sikkim to the amount of about one thousand mule-loads and a value variously estimated in India from $4,000,000 to $100,000,000, the latter being the guess of the rather sensational "Blitz". Its presence in Sikkim was revealed in early 1960 when the Dalai Lama, wanting funds, transferred the treasure by plane to Calcutta. The reason for the wide variance in estimate is that the Indian government, according to Mrs. Menon, vice-secretary of Foreign Affairs, permitted it to enter the country as an "unexamined shipment", without customs duties.
The exposed fact that the Dalai Lama kept this hoard abroad for eight years secretly while asserting constant loyalty and praise of Peking, and while writing a "Hymn to Mao Tse-tung" which compared him to Brahma, Creator of the World, will not raise his reputation with the people of today's Tibet. Nor will the fact that India permitted the violation of her own laws on foreign currency as well as the laws of China, in an amount of millions of dollars in order to finance a rebellion against China, endear India to anyone in China or in that part of China called Tibet.