Part of National Museums Liverpool
The Charles Bell Tibet collection of nearly 200 objects and photo albums is an important archive of the Anglo-Tibetan encounter of the early 20th century.
Sometimes, correcting mistakes found in the museum’s records leads to new and completely unexpected connections.
Author: Bell, Charles Alfred
Description: A typed object catalogue from Bell's handwritten notes on a wide variety of objects from his personal collection. This information often contains, the date he obtained an object, its provenance (including where and who he acquired from) and the person responsible for giving him the information. The process of writing the inventory began in December 1912 and continued until the late 1930s.
Having retired from the Indian Civil Service in 1918, due to health problems, Bell was recalled to service in 1920. His decision to return rested upon the decision to send him to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, a place that he had never been granted permission to visit, but which the 13th Dalai Lama had repeatedlyinvited him to. While waiting in Gyantse Bell received the call that he could proceed to Lhasa and so during November 1920, Bell, the chief medical officer Mr Dyer (who was later replaced by Col. Kennedy) and a large entourage of staff and advisors, including Palhese, Rabten Lepcha (Bell's 'photo orderly') and his Confidential Clerk, Achuk Tsering (who would die of influenza only days after reaching Lhasa) travelled to Lhasa, arriving on 17th November 1921.
Bell stayed in Lhasa for 11 months, witnessing many festivals and political disputes. His own life appears to have been in danger during the Butter Sculpture Festival, due to the 13th Dalai Lama's willingness to listen to Bell's position on taxes and developing the army, something deeply opposed by factions of the ultra conservative monastic community.
This mission was to be the highlight of Bell's career and has been described as the pinacle of Anglo-Tibetan relations in the 20th century.
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