Book release / Marching into View : The Tibetan Army in Historic Photographs 1895 – 1959

The book Marching into View: The Tibetan Army in Historic Photographs 1895–1959 (Potsdam, edition-tethys: wissenschaft/science vol. 5, 209 p.) by Alice Travers was released on July 1st 2022.

The launch took place during the eponymous photo exhibition held in Prague during the 16th IATS.

It is now available for download on the French open access academic repository HAL:


This volume seeks to shed light on one of Tibet’s little-studied secular features: its military institutions prior to 1959. It uses archival photographs, an underused historical source, to discover aspects of the Tibetan army history that scarcely appear in the written sources, such as its material culture (soldiers’ clothes and uniforms, insignia, military flags and banners, music band).

It focuses on the army of the Lhasa-based government known as the Ganden Phodrang, during the reigns of the 13th (1895-1933) and 14th Dalai lamas (1950-1959) and during the intervening period of regency (1933-1950). The Tibetan army, created to defend its Buddhist government, was mainly composed of two types of troops serving as a tax or corvée duty: a corps of permanent or regular troops (tenmag), whose first appearance dates to the 18th century; regional militia (yulmag), who guarded the borders and were summoned to serve alongside the Lhasa government’s regular troops when needed.

Assembled here for the first time are 168 photographs of Tibetan militia and regular soldiers, drawn from twenty-six museums, public and private archives in Europe, North America and Asia, and taken by thirty-five different photographers. This produces a variety of visual discourses on the Tibetan army that is rarely seen with other topics and helps to reposition the Tibetan army at the centre of the enquiry, as seen under a number of spotlights.

The volume shows how the Tibetan soldiers (both militia and regular troops) became progressively more visible in photographs during this period of time and how the various changes in the material culture and external appearance of the regular troops mirror the evolution of Tibet’s internal and international politics.

You can get the book on Garuda Books.

Table of contents



Chapter 1. Camouflaged: looking for Tibetan soldiers and militia in early photographs (1890–1913)

Chapter 2. A new visual identity: the modernisation of the Tibetan army under British influence (1913–1938)

Chapter 3. The re-Tibetanisation of the Ganden Phodrang army (1939–1950)

Chapter 4. Towards Sinicisation: the aftermaths of the 17-Point Agreement (1951–1959)

Chapter 5. The lion and the vajra: the history of Tibetan military flags through film and photography

Chapter 6. “God Save the Queen” in Tibet: the military bands of the Ganden Phodrang army

Conclusion. Lessons about the history of the Tibetan army from archival photographs and films