Lost Horizons: British Travellers to Tibet and the Himalayas in the Twentieth Century

  • Tom Neuhaus
Part of the Britain and the World book series (BAW)


Tibet and its surrounding areas have become known to Western audiences either as a remote and mystical realm of fantasies or as the location of a bitter conflict between an oppressive China and a long-suffering local population. This dichotomy is reflected clearly in the way in which the travel industry advertises Tibet to tourists. The website of the Rough Guides introduces the area by referring to its contemporary fate:

With its spellbinding scenery and intense religious practices, Tibet (Bod to Tibetans, Xizang to the Chinese) has exerted a magnetic pull over travellers for centuries. But look just a little below the surface and it is all too apparent that Tibet’s past has been tragic, its present is painful, and the future looks bleak. Tibet today is a sad, subjugated colony of China.1

The Lonely Planet, on the other hand, acknowledges these problems but places more emphasis on Tibet’s potential for a fantastical and spiritual experience:

For a while images of the Buddha were replaced by icons of Chairman Mao. Today, Tibetan pilgrims across the country are once again mumbling mantras and swinging their prayer wheels in temples that are heavy with the thick intoxicating aroma of juniper incense and yak butter. Monasteries have been restored across the country, along with limited religious freedoms. A walk around Lhasa’s lively Barkhor pilgrimage circuit is proof enough that the efforts of the communist Chinese to build a brave new (roof of the) world have foundered on the remarkable and inspiring faith of the Tibetan people.2


Sustainable Tourism Western Representation Interwar Period Western Modernity Modern Warfare 
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    Lonely Planet, ‘Introducing Tibet’, at http://www.lonelyplanet.comhttp:///china/tibet (accessed: 27 June 2011).
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© Tom Neuhaus 2013

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  • Tom Neuhaus

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