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Origin of “the mind’s Tibet”

Bugs Bunny in Tibet 1946 comic: Bugs Bunny’s Dangerous Venture
Hugh Richardson (1905-2000), Britain’s last representative in Lhasa, was the first person to mention the phrase “the mind’s Tibet” to Patrick French. Richardson, who in a 1943 treaty gave up British extra-territorial rights in China, mentioned to Patrick French in a letter about “a quotation from Newbolt which I can’t find, ‘The mind’s Tibet where none has gone before.’”
Patrick French describes this Tibet as:
“A Tibet of the mind, a notion of pure, distant land, a place of personal escape, the heart of lightness. For some, it may be glimpsed through music, or fasting, or drugs, or prayer, or excessive exercise, or perfect love. It is the imaginary paradise, the cool correlative of the desert island with palms, coconuts and Gauguin’s women.”
Patrick French looks from the origin of the line in all the writings of Henry Newbolt, but without any success until he comes across it in the September 1904 edition of the Monthly Review. It was here that the poem( which Patrick French finds mediocre) titled “Epistle to Colonel Francis Edward Younghusband” appeared and the line “the mind’s Thibet” was first written.

Epistle to Colonel Francis Edward Younghusband

Across the Wester World, the Arabian Sea,
The Hundred Kingdoms and the Rivers Three,
Beyond the rampart of Himalayan snows,
And up the road that only Rumour knows,
Unchecked, old friend, from Devon to Thibet,
Friendship and Memory dog your footsteps yet…
Though wide apart the lines our fate has traces
Since those far shadows of our boyhood raced,
In the dim region all men must explore―
The mind’s Thibet, where none has gone before…
The victories of our youth we count for gain
Only because they steeled out hearts to pain.

The poem by Newbolt, a celebration of British invasion of Tibet lead by Francis Younghusband , links the invasion of Tibet in 1903-1904 to his own schooldays at Clifton College where he had been a contemporary of the young Francis Younghusband. The British force also had the support of King Ugyen Wangchuck of Bhutan; British Empire made him a Knight for this exemplary service.

Writes Patrick French in his book, Tibet, Tibet: A Personal History of a Lost Land

“…Lord Curzon and Colonel Francis Younghusband, both believed (wrongly) that Czarist Russia had taked control of the Dalai Lama’s government.
Following a bloody military campaign in which the British and their Indian mercenaries killed nearly three thousand poorly armed Tibetans, the army reached Lahsa, only to find that the Dalai Lama, the embodiment of the Tibetan state, had fled.”

And so was the “mind’s Tibet” lost forever.


Found the poem in :
Tibet, Tibet: A Personal History of a Lost Land by Patrick French


About the Image:
Bugs Bunny’s Dangerous Venture , 1946
Found the image at an article about Dream World Tibet - Western and Chinese fantasies.(University of Zurich website with the original article in German, the link is to it's translated page)
The write-up looks at Tibet through the kaleidoscope of Popular Culture.
It asks:
What did Dagobert Duck(we know him as Disney's Scrooge McDuck), the Theosophin Helena Blavatsky, the director Martin Scorsese, the painter Nicolas Roerich, Adolf Hitler, some neo-Nazis and Lobsang Rampa, author of the bestseller "The Third Eye", in common?

And answers:
They are all interested in Tibet - each in its own way.

It's a great article, visit the original German Site


  1. A draft letter to Henry Newbolt written around 1908 by Younghusband

    For years I have felt there is something wrong with our present religion…Christianity itself itself is puny and childish – not great enough for strong healthy full blooded Northern races. All that meekness and humility and peace and submission is only fit for a subject race such as it sprang from…We have to realize we are in the veriest infancy of our race and that the greatest men are to come.

    Younghusband Collection in the India Office Library.( Mss. Eur. F197/)
    Page 229

    I found it in at page, 268, Younghusband: the last imperial adventurer, Patrick French
    Chapter Fame in disgrace and diversion in Kashmir


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