Most of LOST LHASA documents the peaceful years that Heinrich Harrer spent in Tibet. The map of Tibet and its border with northern India is shown inside the front cover, with a line marking Harrer's route from Dehra Dun near the Ganges River in India, up into the Himalayas far northwest of Mt. Everest. After escaping from a prison camp in April, 1944, and climbing for 18 days to Tibet, then stuck in Traduen until December, 1944 while they waited for permission to travel further, they waited in Kyirong on the border of Nepal until November, 1945, when they escaped again. "To avoid large cities, we decided to move even farther north, into the Changthang region--the famous Tibetan Plateau. Here we would see only nomads and brigands; government officials avoided the area." (p. 43). Walking into Lhasa like starving beggars on January 15, 1946, "We thought of our adventures and of our comrades still in the internment camp at Dehra Dun." (p. 47).
Heinrich Harrer is famous, now, as the author of the best-selling book, SEVEN YEARS IN TIBET, which told the same story. LOST LHASA was not published until 1991, when the 2000 negatives which he had kept became the best reminder he had of the years he had enjoyed most. There is a lot of writing in this book to tell the entire story again, and in places where there aren't many pictures, the people are still fascinating. A young couple, who had given Peter Aufschnaiter and Harrer each a dried apricot on a 20,000-foot pass two months before, had much to complain about after they reached Lhasa. "They were surprised that they had to work for daily necessities, even if it was only a place to spend the night or a cup of tea. They felt that people in Lhasa were greedy, demanding things that in the Changthang you wouldn't think about. . . . We invited them to our modest home, where we had lots of barley, rice, and butter, and we supplied them for their return to the Changthang, their nomadic home, where they had plenty of meat, butter, cheese, milk, and where nature would provide for all their needs." (p. 65).
Picture captions are jumbled together. The caption under the picture on page 116 explains "Noblemen and women . . ." with everyone in winter clothes "in front of the Kumbum monument in Gyangtse [above]. The girl [right] sits behind three fancy teacups, complete with stands and cover." also explains the picture of a young child on page 117 with very short hair and a necklace of beads sitting behind a table with four teacups. My first clue that it was a picture of a girl was the covers on the teacups. The 7-inch-square picture on page 116 shows plain cups and saucers. I did not realize that four teacups with stands and covers were on the table in front of the kid until I tried to measure the height of each cup to see if they were taller than the kid's head in the picture. Allowing for perspective, it might be possible for a knob on top of the fourth teacup to be mistaken for an earring, just below one of the kid's ears, but the earring pictures are elsewhere in this book.
Several trips to Lhasa are described in this book, including "When I returned in 1982, I found that the Chinese had destroyed the medical school that perched atop Chagpori and replaced it with a radio tower." (p. 208). A Glossary on pages 218-219 explains terms like Dob-Dob (monk-police) and Tsampa (parched barley flour, the Tibetan's staple food). Notes on the pictures on page 220 identify two of the people in the picture on page 116 and explain that the picture following it is of the daughter of Surkhang Wangchuk, the governor of Gyangste. Harrer had fled Lhasa and was staying with the governor of Gyangste when the Dalai Lama with a caravan that contained more than a thousand animals came through on the flight from Tibet to the Chumbi Valley. Harrer left there in March, 1951. "Meanwhile, the Dalai Lama returned to Lhasa to find posters of Mao plastered against the walls of the Potala." (p. 207). Among the brighter aspects of the nostalgia in this book is the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the Dalai Lama in 1989 because he "opposed the use of violence. He has instead advocated peaceful solutions based upon tolerance and mutual respect, in order to preserve the historical and cultural heritage of his people." (pp. 216-217). This book is a monument to that tradition.