Posted on: 19 January 2013

Yarkund Mission, Palace and Monastery, Leh - 1873

This photograph, looking towards the rocky outcrop on which the palace and monastery of Leh, the capital of Ladakh, stand was taken by Edward Francis Chapman in 1873 and is from an album which forms part of the collection of Sir James Robert Dunlop Smith. The official purpose of the 1873 mission was to conclude a commercial treaty with the Amir of Yarkand and Kashghar. The mission had a deeper purpose, it was also to gather sufficient intelligence about this largely unknown area so as to be a step ahead of the Russians in what came to be called the Great Game, the struggle between Great Britain and Russia for mastery over Central Asia. The Mission would obtain geographical and historical information on the area, as well as survey its natural resources, while pressing diplomatic relations on the principalities that they traversed via Kashmir through Tibet into Chinese Turkestan. The mission was under the command of Sir T. D. Forsyth of the Bengal Civil Service, who wrote an accompanying report, Forsyth, T.D., 'Report of a Mission to Yarkund in 1873' (Calcutta 1875). This view is entitled 'Leh, the capital of Ladak, view from Joint Commissioner's Garden' in Forsyth's report. Ladakh is the cold desert region in the high Himalayas in the eastern part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Leh is located on an ancient trade route between India, Tibet and China, near the river Indus, and is known for its Tibetan Buddhist monastery, the Tsemo Gompa, and its palace and fort, all erected by the Namgyal rulers (16th-17th centuries). The derelict palace is a nine-storey structure on a hill, built by Semge Namgyal (ruled 1590-1635).

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Tsemo Gompa...a DESTINATION and a Tibetan Leh Saga.