ABSTRACT

Owing to its strategic location in Central Asia, Europeans edged closer to Tibet during the nineteenth century. Hence the seeking and acquisition of systematic knowledge of Tibetan landscapes and societies became an ambitious goal for the British Empire. The gathered knowledge often depended on the aid of local informants-such as in case of the British Library’s Wise Collection. The set of maps and drawings of this collection are probably the most comprehensive set of visual representations of mid-nineteenth-century Tibet and the Western Himalayas. They were made in the late 1850s by a Tibetan lama and commissioned by a British official. In Lange’s research of the Wise Collection, she used the materials as a case study to examine the processes by which knowledge about Tibet was acquired, collected, and represented. Her work therefore focuses on how Tibet was shown through visual culture, particularly through drawings and maps. This chapter thus argues that the collection can be regarded as a visual history of a hidden exploration of Tibet. It also explores what kind of knowledge about Tibet was acquired and represented in the Wise Collection, before concluding with a discussion of the collection’s potential as a visual historical source.