Tibetan and Himalayan Library - THL

THL Title Text

Gifts at Wutai Shan:
Rockhill and the Thirteenth Dalai Lama

JIATS, no. 6 (December 2011), THL #T5717, pp. 411-428.

© 2011 by Susan Meinheit, IATS, and THL

[page 411]

Abstract: This paper discusses the 1908 meeting at Wutai shan between the Thirteenth Dalai Lama and William Woodville Rockhill as reflected in three special items in the Library of Congress. The Library’s earliest Tibetan books came from Rockhill between 1899-1901 and included xylographs and manuscripts acquired in Tibet and Mongolia between 1888-1892. Additional volumes were given to the Library by Mrs. Rockhill in 1942. Included in that donation were two gifts which Rockhill had received from the Thirteenth Dalai Lama at Wutai shan: a xylograph of the Sūtra of the Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Verses and a thang ka of Jé TsongkhapaRje tsong kha pa. This historic meeting is described in a letter written by Rockhill to President Theodore Roosevelt, also kept at the Library. These three items are examined in the context of the historical and cultural setting from which they originated.

Introduction

In June 1908 a unique meeting took place at Wutai Shan. The Thirteenth Dalai Lama (Ngawang Lozang Tupten Gyatsongag dbang blo bzang thub bstan rgya mtsho, 1876-1933) had recently taken up residence on the sacred mountain after fleeing the British invasions of Tibet in 1904 and spending almost three years in Mongolia and six months at KumbumSku ’bum Monastery in AmdoA mdo (Gansu).1

[page 412]

Thirteenth Dalai Lama Photo (Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, George Grantham Bain Collection, LC-B2-1092-4, http://www.loc.gov/pictures).

During his exile, the Dalai Lama learned of an American diplomat’s travels to Tibet and knowledge of Tibetan language and literature, and had begun a correspondence with him through his agents in Beijing, hopeful of getting his advice about whether to return to Tibet. That scholar/diplomat was William Woodville Rockhill (1854-1914), America’s first Tibetologist. The meeting between Rockhill and the Thirteenth Dalai Lama which resulted from these contacts is generally acknowledged as the first meeting of an American official with a Dalai Lama. Tsepon Shakabpa describes it in his Political History of Tibet, as “probably the first contact between Tibet and the United States.”2

Prior to his first diplomatic posting to the U. S. legation in Beijing in 1884, Rockhill had studied Tibetan in Paris and published two translations from the Tibetan KangyurBka’ ’gyur; Udanavarga (Aphoristic Verses) in 1883 and The Life of the Buddha and the Early History of His Order in 1884. During leaves of absence from his official position, he undertook two journeys to Tibet and Mongolia, although he never reached LhasaLha sa. The first trip in 1888-1889 is recorded in his book, Land of the Lamas. The second is the subject of his Diary of a Journey through Mongolia and Tibet in 1891 and 1892.

Rockhill was also responsible for the beginning of the Tibetan collection of the Library of Congress with his gifts of thirteen Tibetan books between 1899 and 1901. Rockhill eventually donated fifty-seven xylographs and eight manuscripts to the collection, all of which had been acquired during his travels in Tibet and Mongolia. In 1908, Rockhill also purchased for the library a complete DegéSde dge KangyurBka’ ’gyur in 103 volumes. In 1942, an additional twelve volumes were given by Mrs. Rockhill, including the two special items described in this paper. Included in the Rockhill collection is a Beijing print of the pilgrimage guide to Wutai Shan written by Changja Rölpé DorjéLcang skya rol pa’i rdo rje (1717-1786), the great lamabla ma responsible for translation and printing of Mongolian texts in Beijing.3

[page 413]

W. W. Rockhill at KumbumSku ’bum Monastery, February 1892 (from “Driven out of Tibet,” The Century 47, no. 6, [1894]: 881, as reproduced in Cornell University digital collection, Making of America).

Rockhill had, in fact, already visited Wutai Shan several years before the 1908 meeting. He briefly describes his September 1887 journey in an article, “An American in Tibet,” published in November 1890 in The Century Magazine where, among other details, he mentions the presence of about five thousand monks, mostly Tibetan and Mongolian, and the current number of temples in the valley as only sixty-five.4 His article published in the June, 1895 issue of The Atlantic Monthly, “A Pilgrimage to the Great Buddhist Sanctuary of North China,” describes this first trip in greater detail. He recounts the joy of getting away from the crowded and dirty conditions in Beijing to make a holiday visit to “the greatest of Buddhist sanctuaries of north China.” Because of his interest in Tibetan literature he specifically mentions Tibetan books which he saw there: a set of canonical works in the Lion’s Den Temple (Shizi wo) which was presented by the emperor; the large prayer wheel in the Temple of the Pagoda (Tayuan si) containing a full set of the KangyurBka’ ’gyur in 108 volumes, which he refers to as a giant “revolving bookcase”; and the walls of the Pusa Ding lined with shelves of illuminated manuscript copies of the canon in Tibetan and Mongol, written in gold and wrapped in yellow satin. Rockhill had even hoped to find Sanskrit texts there, based on his readings of a Chinese history of Wutai Shan which mentioned that in the reign of Yongle, the Ming dynasty emperor sent an official and a lamabla ma to the Western regions to look for Buddhist texts and that they had procured copies of Indian books on palm leaves for the emperor, who engraved them on copper plates and sent the first copy printed to the Pusa Ding at Wutai. However Rockhill was disappointed not to find any sign of these, and expressed the hope that future visitors might yet discover them.

[page 414]

William Woodville Rockhill, American diplomat, head and shoulders portrait, facing left, seated at desk, ca. 1903 (Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Control #: 90708049, http://www.loc.gov/pictures).

He also gives precise descriptions of Wutai Shan at that time, mentioning the local tradition which said that previously there had been some three hundred and sixty temples in the valley. He describes the principal place of worship, the summit of the hill named the Peak of the God, built in the late fifth century, with 130 marble steps leading to the central chapel full of images of “every god, saint, and genius in the lamaist pantheon.” He writes:

This place is visited every year by thousands of Mongols, Tibetans, and Chinese. I met, during the three days I stopped there, lamas from Urga, near the Russian frontier; from Amdo, near the Koko-nor; and from the Amur, – all come alike to worship Jambal (the Indian Manjushri, the Chinese Wen-shu P’u-sa), who lives in the Land of Bliss, where every good Buddhist longs to go, and who gives special heed to those who call on him from Wu-t’ai shan.5

Thus, Rockhill already had an appreciation for Wutai Shan when he set out on his new mission. By this time, however, he also had become a skilled diplomat who had drafted the Open Door Policy (1900) and negotiated the Boxer Settlement (1900-1901). He was now U. S. Minister to China posted to the American Legation in Beijing, and one of the first so-called China Hands. In diplomatic terms the meeting was perhaps somewhat complicated, reflecting the U. S. China policy of the times. The wider context and implications of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama’s meetings with various officials is discussed in Elliot Sperling’s excellent paper in this volume.6 Here, however, a brief glimpse at events which followed may be useful for understanding its historic importance, before focusing on the meeting itself. Both the Russians and British had already advised the Dalai Lama to return to LhasaLha sa, and this was Rockhill’s advice as well. The Dalai Lama decided, however, that before doing so he would accept the emperor’s invitation to visit Beijing. Thus, the Dalai Lama arrived in Beijing on September 28, 1908, and once again contacted Rockhill. Rockhill’s diary entry for October 6 reads:

[page 415]

Called on Dalai Lama at noon....I found him less cheerful than at Wu-tai-shan. Short talk. Says he will send a Kampo [abbot (khenpomkhan po)] in a day or two to talk with me.7

The imperial audiences were marked by ceremony and proper honors, but also by humiliation as the intent to govern Tibet more directly became apparent, and a new title was given to the Dalai Lama to reflect this subordinate status (“The Most Excellent, Self-Existent Buddha of the West” became “The Sincerely Obedient, Reincarnation-helping, Most Excellent Buddha of the West”). The Dalai Lama had audiences on October 14 with the emperor and empress dowager, and was also invited to confer a long life blessing for the empress dowager in honor of her birthday on November 2. In a strange twist of fate, both the emperor and empress dowager died within two weeks, he on November 14 and she on November 15.8 The Dalai Lama conducted their religious services at Yonghegong Monastery and shortly after began his return journey to Tibet. After his departure, Rockhill wrote another eighteen-page letter to President Roosevelt:

W. W. Rockhill, letter to President Theodore Roosevelt, June 30, 1908 (reproduced from the collections of the Manuscript Division, Library of Congress).

I said that I saw absolutely no way out of the difficulty...He must take the bitter with the sweet, and the only suggestion I could make was he should not delay too long....His pride has suffered terribly while here and he leaves Peking with his dislike for the Chinese intensified. I fear that he will not cooperate with the Chinese in the difficult work they now propose to undertake of governing Tibet like a Chinese province, and that serious trouble may yet be in store for my friend the Dalai Lama, T’ub-tan gyatso, if not for China..... The special interest to me is in that I have probably been a witness to the overthrow of the temporal power of the head of the Yellow Church, which, curiously enough, I heard twenty years ago predicted in Tibet, where it was [page 416] commonly said that the thirteenth Dalai Lama would be the last, and my client is the thirteenth.9

The momentous events of the following years are well documented: The Dalai Lama’s return to Lhasa in 1909, only to be once again driven into exile by the almost simultaneous invasion by Chinese forces, the end of Manchu rule in 1911, the Dalai Lama’s return from exile in India and his 1913 declaration of independence, and the famous prophesies of his last testament, foretelling the tragic events yet to come to Tibet.

Historical circumstances aside, however, the meeting at Wutai Shan may also be viewed on a personal and cultural level, as reflected in three special items in the collections of the Library of Congress. These historical artifacts reflect the nature of the meeting in a somewhat different light, as a rather unique and personal meeting between two cultures in an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust. While the political complexities of 1908 have faded into history, with however their implications still being played out, these special items: a book proclaiming the wisdom of emptiness, a painting depicting the beauty of enlightened beings, and a letter, expressing wonder and excitement, capture another dimension of the first official meeting between Tibet and America. They capture a unique moment in time.

The letter, dated June 30, 1908, is kept in the Theodore Roosevelt Papers in the Manuscripts Division of the Library of Congress. In twelve typewritten pages Rockhill describes his meetings with the Dalai Lama to President Roosevelt, and abandons his usual rational demeanor, beginning:

Dear Mr. President:

I have just had such an unique and interesting experience that I cannot forbear writing to you at once about it.

He describes the circumstances which led to the “Tale Lama’s” arrival at Wutai Shan and reveals that they had been in communication since 1905 through the Dalai Lama’s two agents in Beijing. Rockhill states that it was he who had suggested meeting at Wutai Shan, and that the Dalai Lama quickly accepted and urged him to make the journey. So on June 13 he left Beijing with a mule pack train and arrived five days later at Wutai Shan. The letter continues to describe in minute detail their first meeting, and how the Dalai Lama’s appearance surprised him:

I had imagined a rather ascetic looking youth, bent by constantly sitting bow-legged on cushions, with a sallow complexion and a far-away meditative look. On the contrary I found a man of thirty-three, with a very bright face, rather dark brown, a moustache and a small tuft of hair under his lower lip... His ears were large, but well-shaped; his hands good and thin...

[page 417]

While drinking tea, Rockhill was given a chance to show he could speak Tibetan which caused the Dalai Lama’s eyes to brighten and “he gave a smile which showed all this teeth.” This first meeting lasted a half hour, but the Dalai Lama asked Rockhill to remain and meet again after two days for another meeting lasting an hour and a half. During this second meeting the conversation went further, discussing Tibet’s relations with India, the recent trade convention, the proposed visit of the Penchen LamaPan chen bla ma to Beijing, and the Dalai Lama’s possible visit to the emperor. The Dalai Lama asked Rockhill’s opinion as to whether to return to Tibet or wait until the British had completely left. Rockhill says that he urged him to establish close trade relations with Tibet’s neighbors, especially India. However Rockhill reveals little more about the substance of these conversations in the letter, but rather writes that the Dalai Lama presented him with several gifts and expressed that he “knew that I was a friend of Tibet and the Tibetans and that he wished to have a friend whose opinion he could ask when necessary.” For his part, Rockhill told the Dalai Lama that “he and Tibet had many well-wishers in America and in other countries, who hoped to see him and his people prosperous and happy.” He summarizes the meeting as follows:

The Tale [Dalai] Lama seems to me a man of undoubted intelligence, open-minded, a personage of great dignity.....I felt a deeper and more complete satisfaction with these two interviews with the mysterious potentate and incarnation of the god Shenrezig [ChenrezikSpyan ras gzigs] than would any one who had not, like myself, given so many years of their life to Tibet....It was all too extraordinary. I could not believe my ears and eyes.10

The glowing descriptions of Rockhill’s letter are in stark contrast to the usual dry and scientific writings of his academic and diplomatic works, and perhaps reflect the influence of their dramatic and special meeting place, and the powerful presence of the Dalai Lama. Roosevelt’s reply was equally effusive:

I think that is one of the most interesting and extraordinary experiences that any man of our generation has had....Really, it is difficult to believe that it occurred! I congratulate you, and I congratulate the United States upon having the one diplomatic representative in the world to whom such an incident could happen.11

The meetings are also mentioned in Rockhill’s personal diaries, located at Harvard’s Houghton Library,12 but far more succinctly, with nonetheless a distinctly personal touch:

Thursday, June 18 [Rockhill’s first day at Wutai Shan]. Some Chinese officials called. We went and visited temples. My friend Khampo Lozang Tenzin [page 418] [Khenpo Lozang TendzinMkhan po blo bzang bstan ’dzin] also called and said the Tale’ Lama would receive me tomorrow. Read in afternoon and took a walk.

Friday, June 19. Received by Tale’ Lama about noon. Very interesting and affable. I enjoyed it greatly. Afterwards called on Khampo Lozang Tenzin. Hailed in afternoon but we went to shops and bought a good gawo and some turquoise and odds and ends.

Sat., June 20. Fine Day. We went shopping in the morning and then climbed a hill to take photos....Khampo has called this afternoon to say the Tale’ Lama wishes to see me tomorrow. I said I was at his wishes. The Khampo gave me some presents.

Sunday, June 21. Received by Tale’ Lama at noon. [An illegible sentence follows: the Dalai Lama apparently asked Rockhill if he could repair his camera]. Interview hour and a half with Tale’ Lama.

Monday, June 22. The Khampo came to say goodbye at 7:00. We left at 8:30 am.... Beautiful day. Walked ....miles. [This is despite Rockhill’s frequent problems with gout.]

It is worth noting that Rockhill and the Dalai Lama continued to correspond long after their meeting, and these letters are also preserved in Harvard’s Houghton Library.13 For example, the Dalai Lama wrote to Rockhill from Darjeeling in 1911, addressing his letter to Rog-Hil (the Tibetan transcription of Rockhill), then Ambassador to Russia in St. Petersburg. Rockhill even suggested a joint Anglo-Russian scientific mission to help protect Tibet. Unfortunately, Rockhill passed away in 1914, only six years after the 1908 meeting, while on route to China to become an advisor to the new Chinese government of President Yuan Shikai (1859-1916).

The Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Verses (Tibetan Collection, Rockhill # 68 [B], Asian Division, Library of Congress. Photo by Harold E. Meinheit, May 2007).

Two other treasures in the Library’s Asian Division were the very gifts presented by the Thirteenth Dalai Lama to Rockhill during the second Wutai Shan meeting. Neither is included in his handwritten catalog of his collection, since they were both given to the Library in 1942 by his widow. Handwritten inscriptions on both, discovered only in recent years, are the only clues as to their special provenance.

The first is a fine Tibetan xylograph of the Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Verses (Pakpa Sherapkyi Paröltu Chinpa Gyé Tongpa’Phags pa shes rab kyi pha rol tu phyin pa brgyad stong pa). The text is a Tibetan print, on light colored Tibetan paper, in excellent condition, measuring twenty-two inches by four inches. It is wrapped in heavy yellow brocade, lined with blue silk, and tied with a long multi-colored cloth strap between two heavy wooden boards.

[page 419]

Rockhill’s note on cover (Tibetan Collection, Rockhill # 68 [B], Asian Division, Library of Congress. Photo by Harold E. Meinheit, May 2007).

Rockhill’s small handwritten note is pasted to the cover. It reads:

The Prajna paramita in 8000 slokas in Tibetan. Presented to W. W. Rockhill by the 13th Dalai Lama (Ngag dbang blo bzang thub bstan rgya mtsho) at Wu-t’ai Shan (Shansi) on June 21st 1908.

A small red seal is printed on the first and last folios. The same seal is seen on some of Rockhill’s other books, and may be the one he purchased near DegéSde dge in his previous travels.14 The volume actually contains three titles, the first being the instructions (loktapklog thabs), in five folios, written by the SeraSe ra monk, Tsewang GyamtsoTshe dbang rgya mtsho, from Yeshé GyentsenYe shes rgyal mtshan’s (1713-1793) monastery (Chödra ChenpoChos grwa chen po). The second text is the sūtra itself, in 428 folios, and the third is a commentary (chenbumchan bu) in thirty-six folios (Pakpa Sherapkyi Paröltu Chinpa Gyetongpé Kabü Nekün Selwar Jepé Chenbu Shechin Lamgyi Drönmé’Phags pa shes rab kyi pha rol tu phyin pa brgyad stong pa’i dka’ bu’i gnad kun gsal bar byed pa’i mchan bu shes phyin lam gyi sgron me), written by Yeshé GyentsenYe shes rgyal mtshan at Tsechok Trashi Samten LingTshe mchog bkra shis bsam gtan gling in either 1731 or 1791 (female iron pig years).

Sūtra opened to first two folios (Tibetan Collection, Rockhill # 68 [B], Asian Division, Library of Congress. Photo by Harold E. Meinheit, May 2007).

From the colophons we learn that this volume was newly printed by Tendzhin PüntsokBstan ’dzin phun tshogs from the blocks carved at Tsechok Samten LingTshe mchog bsam gtan gling, the monastery of Yeshé GyentsenYe shes rgyal mtshan located near LhasaLha sa. Yeshé GyentsenYe shes rgyal mtshan was the main tutor of the Eighth Dalai Lama (Gyelwa Lozang Jampel Gyamtsorgyal ba blo bzang ’jam dpal rgya mtsho, 1758-1804) and in fact the colophons state that the Eighth Dalai Lama wrote the dedication for the printing, at the request of Gelong Chömdzé Gelek GyentsenDge slong chos mdzad dge legs rgyal mtshan, who also wrote the original manuscript (mapéma dpe). Many of Yeshé GyentsenYe shes rgyal mtshan’s disciples asked for the volume to be printed.

However it is the colophon which follows the sūtra itself which is most interesting for us. The sūtra is followed by a one folio verse in praise of Yeshé GyentsenYe shes rgyal mtshan, and then a colophon beginning on folio 427 authored by the Thirteenth Dalai Lama on the tenth day of the waning moon of July/August, at the Second Potala, the Norbu Lingka. He informs us that this new print from the Tsechok LingTshe mchog gling blocks was made in the fifteenth sixty-year cycle (rapjungrab byung), female [page 420] fire bird (me mo bya) year, or 1897. The volume had therefore been printed only a few years before his exile, and was perhaps an especially appropriate gift to Rockhill from the colophon’s author, the Thirteenth Dalai Lama.

The Library’s second treasure presented to Rockhill at the June 21 meeting is an especially beautiful scroll painting (tangkathang ka),15 also a gift from Mrs. Edith Rockhill in 1942. In her letter to the Chief of the Indic Section, Dr. Horace Poleman, she says:

I have found among my husband’s things an interesting rolled Tibetan picture on silk. In my husband’s writing on the back is the following note: Presented to me by the Dalai [Tale’] Lama – Wu-tai-shan – June 21st 1908. W. W. Rockhill. ....My husband made a trip to Wu-tai-shan to meet the Dalai Lama – so I know this is correct....I feel as if these things out of a past which is rapidly being forgotten should be in some place where they would be recognized and appreciated.16

After arriving at the Library of Congress, the scroll painting was loaned to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, where it was featured in the Tibetan exhibit for nearly thirty-five years. Fortunately the curators of the exhibit decided it was time for an update, and they discovered a note on the back regarding the possible loan from LC, which I could confirm based on Mrs. Rockhill’s letter. It was returned to the Tibetan rare book cage in December 1999.

The scroll painting measures 113 centimeters by 70 centimeters. The central image is Jé Tsongkhapa Lozang DrakpaRje tsong kha pa blo bzang grags pa (1357-1419), emanating on “curd white clouds” from the heart of Maitreya, the Buddha of the Future, residing in Tuṣita paradise. In the upper left is Śākyamuni Buddha. In the upper right corner is a lamabla ma identified in gold lettering as Jé Gendün Chökyong GyamtsoRje dge ’dun chos skyong rgya mtsho (1810-1884 or 1888), most likely the GelukpaDge lugs pa lamabla ma, the Fourth TarshülThar shul, Gendün Chökyong GyamtsoDge ’dun chos skyong rgya mtsho,17 born at Domé Tsongkhé Rigyü Repkong Chaji LumkharMdo smad tsong kha’i ri rgyud reb kong cha ji’i klu mkhar, who is perhaps the lamabla ma of the donor monk shown in the lower right corner. This would suggest the probable dating of the scroll painting to the mid- or late-nineteenth century. On either side of TsongkhapaTsong kha pa are his two main disciples, Gyeltsap Darma RinchenRgyal tshab dar ma rin chen (1364-1432) and Khedrup Gelek Pel ZangpoMkhas grub dge legs dpal bzang po (1385-1438).

Scroll painting of Jé TsongkhapaRje tsong kha pa (Rockhill Tibetan Collection, Asian Division; digital image provided by Michael Horsely, photographer, Paper Conservation Section, Library of Congress).

[page 421]

Surrounding the central image, and connected by trailing vines, are the eight disciples of TsongkhapaTsong kha pa, known as the eightfold pure retinue (khor dakpa namgyé’khor dag pa rnam brgyad). We can identify them by the gold lettered inscriptions (sometimes incomplete or mis-spelled) on their lotus thrones, which read, from left to right:

  1. Rje bla ma ’jam dgar ba ’jam dba’ [sic = dpal] chos bzang la ma mo.
  2. Gnas bstan [sic = brtan] bzang... sgyong [sic = skyong] la na mo (who is holding a small book wrapped in blue silk).
  3. Gnas bstan [sic = brtan] rin chen rgyal mtshan na la na mo (holding a long book).
  4. Gnas bstan [sic = brtan] byang [chub seng ge].
  5. Dge shes dbal [sic = dpal] skyong ba la na mo (holding a small book).
  6. Dge shes ’jam dbal [sic = dpal] bkra shes [sic = shis] la no mo (holding a bowl).
  7. Dge shes shes rab grags la na.
  8. Rtogs ldan ’jam dbal [sic = dpal] rgya mtsho la na mo (with teaching gesture).

In the bottom row, on our left, is the protector guardian king of the Northern direction, Vaiśravaṇa (Namtösérnam thos sras), riding a snow lion and holding a mongoose, in the center is Vajrapāṇi (Chana Dorjéphyag na rdo rje), and in the right corner, the donor monk paying homage. In a handwritten note rolled up with the scroll painting, Rockhill states that the Dalai Lama and the Tashi (PenchenPan chen) Lama are represented – it is unclear which figures they might have been thought to be.

The natural pigments containing precious minerals lend a special ethereal beauty to the painting, as especially seen in the golden peach colored halo surrounding TsongkhapaTsong kha pa. The surrounding dark blue brocade is still vibrant despite its age. However, prior to its return it underwent a conservation treatment assessment by the Smithsonian Anthropology Department, which provided photo documentation and noted extensive loss of pigment, and some fading of the brocade, especially in areas where other objects had been in front of it in the case. As a result, in 2005, a complete evaluation and conservation treatment was provided by the Library of Congress Paper Conservation Section’s Research Conservator, Linda Stiber [page 422] Morenus. It then underwent a very careful consolidation, with 1 percent isinglass in DI water and ethanol, to prevent further loss of pigment. Based on scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and micro analysis performed by the Preservation Research and Testing Division, the orange colorants were identified as red lead, and the bright green colorant, seen for example in TsongkhapaTsong kha pa’s halo, was identified as “either emerald green, first synthesized in 1814, or Scheele’s green, first made in 1788, and having substantial copper and arsenic content.” Our conservator speculates that the use of these synthetic pigments, would seem to date the scroll painting as not earlier than 1820.18 A complete textile evaluation was also provided by a textile conservator from the Smithsonian’s Center for Material Research and Education, who describes the fabric as blue damask satin of Chinese, mid- to late-nineteenth-century origin, showing both natural and early synthetic dyes. She also noted that the Chinese dragon’s head and much of its body are missing, “though it is not clear whether the absence of the dragon’s head is intentional or accidental....” [A curious observation]. By presenting the image of the scroll painting here, it is hoped that Tibetan art historians will be able to provide further information and guidance as to the possible origin and dating of the painting, and that all may enjoy it’s special beauty and historical legacy.

Together these three items document a historic and unique meeting of Tibet and America, during complex times, and we are fortunate to preserve them in the Library of Congress collections. They capture more than a diplomatic meeting of two representatives of distant countries, but rather the spirit of friendship, respect, and wonder, perhaps reflecting the special qualities of the meeting place itself, the sacred Wutai Shan.


[1] William Rockhill, “The Dalai Lamas of Lhasa and their Relations with the Manchu Emperors of China, 1644-1908,” T’oung Pao 1, series 3, no. 4 (1910): 1-104. Several secondary sources give alternate periods. Rockhill states he arrived in Mongolia in November 1904 and left in the summer of 1907.
[2] Tsepon Shakabpa, Tibet: A Political History (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1967), 221.
[3] For a complete list of the Rockhill Tibetan Collection, see my paper presented at IATS 2006, “The Rockhill Tibetan Collection at the Library of Congress.”
[4] William Rockhill, “An American in Tibet: An Account of a Journey through an Unknown Land,” The Century Magazine 70, no. 1 (1890): 10.
[5] William Rockhill, “A Pilgrimage to the Great Buddhist Sanctuary of North China,” Atlantic Monthly 75, no. 452 (1895): 766-68.
[6] Elliot Sperling, “The Thirteenth Dalai Lama at Wutai Shan: Exile and Diplomacy,” Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies, no. 6 (December 2011), http://www.thlib.org?tid=T5720.
[7] William Rockhill, “Rockhill Diaries,” in William Woodville Rockhill Papers, bMS Am2121 (3084), cited here and throughout the article by permission of the Houghton Library, Harvard University. All spellings given as they were in original sources, with current phonetics in brackets on the first occurrence. From other references in his diary, the “Kampo” referred to is the Buriat Lama, Dorjieff.
[8] See Rockhill’s report in U. S. Department of State, Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States with the Annual Message of the President Transmitted to Congress December 8, 1908 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1912), 116-17.
[9] Rockhill letter to Roosevelt, November 8, 1908, Theodore Roosevelt Papers, Presidential Papers Microfilm, Series 1 (Library of Congress Manuscript Division).
[10] Letter from Rockhill to Roosevelt, June 30, 1908, Theodore Roosevelt Papers, Presidential Papers Microfilm, Series 1 (Library of Congress Manuscript Division).
[11] Letter from Roosevelt to Rockhill, August 1, 1908, Theodore Roosevelt Papers, Presidential Papers Microfilm, Series 2 (Library of Congress Manuscript Division).
[12] Rockhill, W. W. Rockhill Papers. Thanks to Houghton Library for allowing me to read the diaries. Difficulty in reading Rockhill’s handwriting and fading made some passages illegible to me.
[13] I have heard possible publications for them in the future.
[14] See William Rockhill, “Notes on the Ethnology of Tibet,” in Report of the U. S. National Museum (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1895), 720, plate 29.
[15] This digital image was created before consolidation by photographer Michael Horsely of the LC Paper Conservation Section.
[16] Undated letter [1942] from Mrs. Rockhill to Poleman. The gift is recorded in the Report of the Librarian of Congress Fiscal Year 1943.
[17] TBRC knowledge base, P267, where his dates are given as from the Gangchen Khedrup Rimjön MingdzöGangs can mkhas grub rim byon ming mdzod [Treasury of Names] as 1810-1888, and the Geluk SungbumDge lugs gsung ’bum [Collected Works of Gelukpa Scholars] as 1810-1884.
[18] Linda Stiber Morenus, Condition and Treatment Record, Paper Conservation Section, LC, Master Control Number 2005.1173. Also, David & Janice Jackson, Tibetan Thangka Painting: Methods & Materials (Boston: Wisdom, 1997).

Note Citation for Page

Susan Meinheit, “Gifts at Wutai Shan: Rockhill and the Thirteenth Dalai Lama,” Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies, no. 6 (December 2011): , http://www.thlib.org?tid=T5717 (accessed ).

Note Citation for Whole Article

Susan Meinheit, “Gifts at Wutai Shan: Rockhill and the Thirteenth Dalai Lama,” Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies, no. 6 (December 2011): 411-428, http://www.thlib.org?tid=T5717 (accessed ).

Bibliography Citation

Meinheit, Susan. “Gifts at Wutai Shan: Rockhill and the Thirteenth Dalai Lama.” Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies, no. 6 (December 2011): 411-428. http://www.thlib.org?tid=T5717 (accessed ).

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