Younghusband and Curzon in the NYT

The historical ones that is. The New York Times gives a short history of Sir Francis Younghusband’s expedition to open trade with Tibet, and the storming of Gyantse in 1904. The history comes from the usual source, but what is interesting in the article is how how the Chinese communist government uses this history to “re-educate” and integrate Tibet into Greater China:

These days, Gyantse resembles other towns in central Tibet. Its dusty roads are lined with shops and restaurants run by ethnic Han migrants, whom many Tibetans see as the most recent wave of invaders. But Chinese officials prefer to direct the world’s attention away from that and to the brutal events at Gyantse in 1904, which conveniently fit into their master narrative for Tibetan and Chinese history. The Chinese government insists Tibet is an “inalienable” part of China, and it has appropriated the 1904 invasion as another chapter in the long history of imperialist efforts to dismantle China — what the Communist education system calls the “100 years of humiliation.” In that Communist narrative of Gyantse, the Tibetans are a stand-in for the Chinese who were victimized by foreign powers during the Qing dynasty.

The “you should be grateful we invaded you to protect you from those invaders” line is typical form for the Chinese government, so none of this will be new to our readers. But if you are unfamiliar with the historical Younghusband and Curzon, I recommend reading the NYT article.

Younghusband leading the expedition in 1904
Younghusband posing in front of expedition leaders in 1904

About Younghusband

Sir Francis Edward Younghusband (1863-1942) was a British explorer, army officer, military-political officer, and foreign correspondent born in India who led expeditions into Manchuria, Kashgar, and Tibet. He three times tried and failed to scale Mt. Everest and journeyed from China to India, crossing the Gobi desert and the Mustagh Pass (alt. c.19,000 ft/5,791 m) of the Karakoram mountain range in modern day Pakistan. Convinced of Russian designs on British interests in India, Younghusband proactively engaged in the nineteenth century spying and conflict over Central Asia between the British and the Russians known as the Great Game. "Younghusband" is a Canadian who has spent a number of years bouncing back and forth between his home country and Japan. Fluent in Japanese and English with experience in numerous other languages from Spanish to Georgian, Younghusband has travelled throughout Asia. He graduated with an MA from the War Studies Department at the Royal Military College of Canada, where he focussed on the Japanese oil industry and energy security issues. He has recently returned to Canada from Japan, and is working in the technology sector.
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5 Responses to Younghusband and Curzon in the NYT

  1. Marcus wolf says:

    I love the word But… I am not a racist but…. I am not a homophobic but…. Anyway I love reading the articles on this site but recently there hasn’t been much thought or argument provoking posts.
    Am I interested in hotels in north Korea or wooden houses in the birches of Russia? Yes! Do I care? No!

    Can we have some posts on some of Kaps contentious points or even a what if based on how would australia look like if we had a civil war where the states turned against each other for controls of minerals? Or whether the usa would support Indonesia would invade the top end of Australia and then the Americans then liberate Australia yet strangely occupy our mineral fields.

    Just my two cents worth as I fly in fly out like an economic refugee from perth in Australia.

  2. s says:

    in 1997, a movie called Hong He Gu (literally Red River Valley — not to be confused with the American West story) was made.
    It is about Tibetan fighting alongside Han against the imperial invader Younghusband.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0223998/
    http://movie.douban.com/subject/1305182/

    i had not seen the movie myself.

    the result of the movie (and impact) was average, neither great or bad in terms of critics or box office. but the interests was revived in 2008 when one of the photos taken during the filming was uploaded in the internet accusing PLA soldier disguised as Lama monks — the fact was PLA soldiers were called in to cast as extra, which was quite common before the CGI age in PRC and USSR.
    http://www.zonaeuropa.com/200803c.brief.htm

  3. s says:

    ….the (of course fictitious) story seems like the Chinese version of Pocahonta — a strayed Han man and a Tibetan lady……a more clever plot should have made it a Tibetan man and a Han woman IMHO

  4. s says:

    p.s.1. the NYT article actually has link to that movie.
    p.s.2. the NYT is almost a direct word by word copy of the BBC page it linked to. wiki has a less glorious description of that expedition.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_expedition_to_Tibet#The_Battle_of_Guru

  5. Michael says:

    I missed the part of the article where they explained why 1000+ soldiers were needed to investigate whether there was a Russian in Lhasa:P