Below is a photo from the 1942 – 1943 Tolstoy Expedition to Tibet, a secret American mission to find a supply route between India and China. The expedition found the a route but political problems between the Tibetans and the Chinese prevented its use. Had the mission been successful the Americans and British could of supported their ally, China, in the fight against the Japanese with weapons and equipment.
Though the mission failed, the expedition took a series of photographs. They are remarkable because they capture Tibet and its people only eight years before the Chinese invasion and occupation. Few if any photographs were taken between the expedition and the early 1980s when China relaxed its iron fist slightly and allowed a handful of Western tourists into the area.
It is unclear what sources of information Herge had on Tibet when writing Tintin in Tibet. It has always been a remote and isolated country where few Westerners have travelled but Herge must of had good photographic sources for his drawing. Did he see photos from the Tolstoy Expedition? Probably not but these photographs are the last permanent record of country and way of life that no long exist.
Source: Travelin Tibet – Note the text accompanying the photos is unconnected to the Tolstoy Expedition.
Herge’s personal and spiritual growth in understanding other cultures and combatting his own prejudices is remarkable. He grew from a young man writing the colonial tracts like Tintin in the Congo to the great writer who received the Dalai Lama’s Truth of Light award for his work on Tintin in Tibet.
To celebrate this I’m declaring today Chang Day in memory of the fictional Chang in The Blue Lotus and Tintin in Tibet and the real life Zhang Chongren who inspired him. Zhang Chongren visited Belgium in early 1930’s, became close friends with Herge and his influence helped shape the next Tintin 70 years of Tintin.
Zhang returned to China in 1936 and the pair lost contact during the turbulent years of the Second Sino-Japanese War. It wasn’t until the 18th March 1981 that the two were reunited.
Let’s celebrate cultural diversity and the undying bond of friendship – Chang Day – March 18th.
Today marks 50 years since the exile of the Dalai Lama from Tibet.
His flight and exile from his native country followed an unsuccessful uprising against the invading Chinese army. Since then, the Dalai Lama has campaign for justice for his people. According to the Dalai Lama, five decades of repression has caused untold suffering amongst the ordinary people of Tibet.
It is somewhat ironic that in The Blue Lotus, Herge went out of his way to depict the Chinese people as being a sophisticated, civilized people, repressed by the brutal Japanese. Eighty years on, it is the Chinese who are the brutal invaders, repressing the Tibetan people who Herge depicted in his greatest book, Tintin in Tibet.
Campaign for a Free Tibet
The Tibetan New Year, Losar, started yesterday (25th) and continues until tomorrow (27th). In the Tibetan calendar, we are starting the Year of the Female Earth Ox or year 2136.
This year, celebrations are muted as many Tibetans forgo their usual celebrations and protest about the on-going civil rights abuses by the occupying Chinese government. A little less than a year ago, a number of protesters were killed during a period of civil unrest. Anyone speaking out for civil rights in the region faces arrest and long spells in prison.
Tintin in Tibet is one of Herge’s greatest works and in 2006 the Dali Lama presents the Light of Truth award to the Hergé Foundation in Brussels in recognition Herge’s significant contributions to the public understanding of Tibetan culture.
Tintin in Tibet was my favourite Tintin book when I was a child and remains so as an adult. I’m sort of glad they aren’t doing it as the film because I don’t think a film can capture the stillness of the book. Instead they are doing movies of The Secret of the Unicorn, Red Rackham’s Treasure and the Crab With The Golden Claws.
The Yeti from Tintin in Tibet always stood out to me as a character. Unlike other characters from the books, the Yeti isn’t motivated by money or power. He’s not a spy, a criminal, a freedom fighter or a repressed minority. He is driven by real emotion to rescue and tend the injured Chang. The Yeti’s loneliness when Chang is taken away by Tintin has real pathos.
Naturally a blog called I Love the Yeti caught my eye. Its looking are the changing face of the Yeti over the years and is best summed up in the post Yeti in Popular Culture and Tintin of course gets a mention.
Can you spot the cover of Tintin in Tibet in this music video?
There are lots more Tintin cameos in this list on Tintinologist.
Three Tintin Books to Become Movies
According to Variety, three books have been selected as the basis of the Tintin movies. But which three? The books were mostly written and set in the 1930’s to 1950’s and not many of them will update. Destination Moon and Explorers on the Moon seem pointless 40 years after Neil Armstrong first walked there. Many of the books have social or cultural aspects that are not popular nowadays such as The Blue Lotus which is heavily anti-Japanese and the Crab with the Golden Claws is about oil and the middle east. Other books just won’t work as popular films, e.g. The Castafiore Emerald in which nothing happens.
Here is my guesses at the three Tintin movies
- King Ottokar’s Sceptre – Has espionage, puzzles and Borduria, a Nazi-like country next door
- The Calculus Affair – Has all the main characters, secret technology, kidnapping features Borduria & Syldavia from King Ottokar’s Sceptre
- Tintin in Tibet – Features a strong storyline, daring feats, lucky escapes, and a child. My money is on Speilberg directing this one