An Atlas of the Himalayas by a 19th Century Tibetan Lama

A Journey of Discovery


Diana Lange's patient investigations have, in this wonderful piece of detective work, solved the mysteries of six extraordinary panoramic maps of routes across Tibet and the Himalayas, clearly hand-drawn in the late 1850s by a local artist, known as the British Library's Wise Collection. Diana Lange now reveals not only the previously unknown identity of the Scottish colonial official who commissioned the maps from a Tibetan Buddhist lama, but also the story of how the Wise Collection came to be in the British Library. The result is both a spectacular illustrated ethnographic atlas and a unique compendium of knowledge concerning the mid-19th century Tibetan world, as well as a remarkable account of an academic journey of discovery. It will entertain and inform anyone with an interest in this fascinating region. This large format book is lavishly illustrated in colour and includes four separate large foldout maps.

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Diana Lange, Ph.D. (2008), Humboldt University Berlin, is a Research Associate at that university. Her research is located in Area Studies (Asia) with a specialisation in history of knowledge and exploration, material and visual cultures studies and cultural interactions.
"No archive is perfect. No archive story is perfect either, but Diana Lange's ‘Journey of discovery’ comes close.(...) Highly readable, expertly crafted and based on fieldwork experience, linguistic and anthropological skills and a wide range of archival scholarship, Lange's book is the thrilling story of her quest as much as a deep and very compelling analysis of the lama's pictorial cartography. Far from a mere collection and comment of material, it immediately appears as a multifaceted and thoughtprovoking reflection on the way geographical knowledge is collected and constructed, translated, forgotten or re-discovered. As such, it does not only relate to the European gaze on Tibet and the Himalayas in the 19th century, but proves an important contribution to the study of pre-20th century Asian maps and the question of geographical representation more generally." - Felix de Montety, Université Grenoble Alpes, France, Journal of Cartography 81 (2023).
"Diana Lange's study of the unique maps of 19th century Tibet found in the British Library's Wise collection is an absolute must for every Asian studies library and serious private collection. It is an outstanding and highly readable work that will be enjoyed by students, specialists and the general reader alike." - Alex McKay, IIAS Leiden
"By unraveling the process that led to the production of these geographic paintings Diana Lange was able to give an enlightening analysis of the complex social, cultural and political context in which these beautiful artefacts were created. By investigating their subsequent history she was also able to give a compelling exploration of the process that led them to come to England and become part of the Wise collection." - Hildegard Diemberger, University of Cambridge
"As there are few scholarly investigations of Tibetan mapmaking, Lange’s monograph stands out as a substantial contribution to this emerging discourse. (...) An Atlas of the Himalayas by a 19th Century Tibetan Lama will have great appeal to anyone working on nineteenth-century Inner Asian and Himalayan geography, ethnohistory, visual culture, and cartography." - Melissa R. Kerin, Washington and Lee University, in: The Journal of Asian Studies
List of Illustrations
Note on Transliteration

1 The Wise Collection: An Overview
 1.1 Key Data
 1.2 Cataloguing in the British Library
 1.3 Overview of the Maps and Drawings (Sorted by the BL Shelfmarks)
 1.4 Dating the Material

2 The Wise Collection: Reading Maps and Drawings

3 The Wise Collection: A Biography

4 The Wise Collection Key Players: William Edmund Hay and the Tibetan Lama
 4.1 Hay’s Way to the Western Himalayas
 4.2 Hay in Kullu
 4.3 “A Very Fair Draughtsman”: The Lama from Lhasa

5 Historical Background
 5.1 British Exploration of Tibet in the Mid-nineteenth Century
 5.2 The Tibetan Perspective
 5.3 Knowledge Production in the Nineteenth Century

6 Peoples and Costumes of the Himalayas

7 Putting Lhasa on the Map
 7.1 Potala and Surroundings
 7.2 Jokhang Temple and Surroundings

8 Places and Events in Lhasa
 8.1 Néchung State Oracle
 8.2 Ache Lhamo Performance at Tsémönling Monastery
 8.3 Rope Sliding at the Potala Shöl Area
 8.4 A Kalachakra Ceremony in the Potala Déyangshar
 8.5 A Governmental Ritual in the Chinese Guandi Temple (Gesar Lhakhang)
 8.6 Disposing of the Dead at Lhasa
 8.7 Sharing Knowledge on Religion
 8.8 Visual Narratives on Tibetan Wedding Ceremonies

9 Journey to the South
 9.1 The Eastern Kyichu Valley
 9.2 Samyé Monastery and Surroundings
 9.3 Ceremonies at Samyé Monastery
 9.4 The Northern Yarlung Valley
 9.5 The Chonggyé Valley and Southern Borderlands

10 Journey to the West
 10.1 The Western Kyichu Valley
 10.2 Yamdrok Lake and Surroundings
 10.3 Gyantsé and the Nyang Valley
 10.4 Shigatse and Surroundings
 10.5 Lhatsé, Shelkar and Dingri
 10.6 From Ngamring to Saga
 10.7 Tradün and Surroundings
 10.8 Lake Manasarowar and Surroundings
 10.9 Mount Kailash and Surroundings
 10.10 Gartok and Gar Gunsa
 10.11 Western Tibetan Borderlands
 10.12 The Lama’s Journey to Kullu

11 Travelling in the West: The Ladakh Indus Valley and Zangskar Valley
 11.1 The Ladakh Indus Valley
 11.2 The Zangskar Valley

12 Decoding the Wise Collection

List of Tibetan Words
All interested in the exploration of Tibet and the Himalayas, and anyone concerned with collecting, traditional cartography, visual representation, cultural interactions on that theme.
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