Flights From Lhasa

Forty years after the Chinese invaded Tibet, Orville Schell looks back to 1904 when Colonel Francis Younghusband led a British expeditionary force into the holy city of Lhasa. Despite many brutal losses, the Tibetans and their culture remained largely unchanged, but Younghusband was never the same.

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“And then we saw, rising steeply on a rocky prominence in the midst of the valley, a fort-like dominating structure, with gilded roofs, which we knew could be none other than the Potala, the Palace of the Dalai Lama,” wrote Col. Francis Younghusband, as he approached the outskirts of the "Forbidden City" of Lhasa in l904. He was leader of a British expeditionary force launched the year before from India to assure that Tibet did not ally itself with Czarist Russia against Britain.

“The goal of so many travellers’ ambitions was in sight!” Younghusband wrote. He and his expeditionaires had just won the race to Lhasa, becoming the first British to reach the closely guarded city in nearly a century. Almost every one of the few Westerners who had managed to penetrate this elusive city had a similar cathartic feeling upon first gazing on the fabled Potala, the Dalai Lama’s majestic winter palace, which sits perched triumphantly on Red Hill on the edge of old Lhasa.

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