A detailed account of British envoy George Bogle’s historic excursion to Tibet in the late-18th century.
In 1774, the East India Company sent a young Scottish envoy named George Bogle to Tibet on a fact-finding mission, instructing him to determine whether a trade route could be opened up between China and India. Teltscher draws on the journals and letters Bogle wrote, forming a compelling picture of his time in the country. What makes Bogle’s recollections so fascinating is that many of them bare very little relation to the job he was sent to undertake, instead focusing on the mannerisms, customs and wide-eyed innocence of the locals he encountered on his travels. Naturally, these locals were similarly intrigued and beguiled by Bogle, and he noted his uneasiness at being a “Specimen of my Countrymen” as the journey unwound. Teltscher (India Inscribed, 1997, etc.) details the month-long trek to the Panchen Lama’s residence in Dechenrujbe. She then pores over the finer points of the meetings between the two. The author clearly has a proclivity for the lighthearted exchanges between Bogle and his exalted company, noting that their conversations took in an eclectic array of subjects, such as crocodiles, watches and binoculars. As Bogle’s time in Tibet stretched from months to years, the author notes his adoption of many of the country’s customs—such as his love for wearing Siberian fox skins—and this behavior further endeared him to the Lama, who appeared to bestow enormous affection on the Scotsman. Sadly, Bogle’s dream of traveling with the Lama to meet Emperor Qianlong in 1780 was not realized due to his inability to obtain a passport, and so Teltscher brings her account to a close with a Bogle-less account of the journey and subsequent meeting between the two.
A gripping narrative and wonderfully entertaining reading.