Everybody Clap Your Hands

Upon reaching Lhasa after invading Tibet , Francis Younghusband wrote:

“On the very day after our arrival I and all my staff donned our full-dress uniforms, and with an escort of three hundred men, including some of the Royal Fusiliers and a sort of band from the Gurkhas, we marched right through the city of Lhasa making all the noise we could.”

He goes on to note the Tibetans clapped and cheered loudly being most impressed. A Tibetan account challenges this account noting that Tibetans clap their hands in order to drive out evil spirits:

“When the British Officers marched to the Tsuhlakhang [Jokhang] and other places, the inhabitants of Lhasa were displeased. They shouted and chanted to bring down rain, and made clapping gestures to repulse them. In the foreigners custom these are seen as signs of welcome, so they took of their hats and said thank you.”

If ever there were a clearler example of cultural misunderstanding between invaders and the invaded then this is it. Something we could all do to remember these days.

About Chirol

Sir Ignatius Valentine Chirol (1852 - 1929) was a journalist, prolific author, world historian, and British diplomat. He began his career as a foreign correspondent and later became editor of the London Times. After two decades as a journalist he joined Her Majesty's Foreign Ministry as a diplomat and was subsequently knighted for his distinguished service as a foreign affairs advisor. Additionally, he wrote a dozen books on foreign affairs including The Far Eastern Question (1896), Serbia and the Serbs (1914), The End of the Ottoman Empire (1920) and The Egyptian Problem (1921). He is generally credited with popularizing "Middle East" in reference to the Arabian Peninsula with his book The Middle Eastern Question (1903). "Chirol" is a US citizen and graduate student studying Defense and Strategic Studies and government contractor. As with the historical Chirol, he has traveled to over two dozen countries and lived abroad for many years. Chirol speaks English and German fluently with basic knowledge of manyl of others.
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6 Responses to Everybody Clap Your Hands

  1. Chris says:

    That is very interesting.

  2. subadei says:

    _Tibetans clap their hands in order to drive out evil spirits:_

    Must make for rather quiet rock concerts and soccer games.

    That aside:
    _If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat._ Sun Tzu.

  3. Curzon says:

    Subadei: A wise quote, as was much of what Sun Tzu had to share with the world. But I think that refers to the strategy of the opposing enemy, not cultural mores.

  4. subadei says:

    Certainly, Curzon, but I beleive Chirol may have been making a loose reference to current affairs in Iraq. In such a case, cultural mores _are_ an element of strategy, IMO.

    PS: Additional concern regarding the Tibetans: I gather the clapper is _not_ a popular Tibetan commodity.

  5. Chirol says:

    Subadei: Indeed I was making that reference. Understanding one’s surrounds is key to military victory whether that’s geographical knowledge or nowadays cultural knowledge. I found this a particularly blatant and ironic example.

  6. astontom says:

    It was in one of the Tibet films, don’t you know.