Event Detail


Last Seen in Lhasa

Claire Scobie
Monday, 15 Mar 2010
Pacific Place Conference Centre, 5/F One Pacific Place, Admiralty
Claire Scobie tells the tale of how she went to the Himalayas in search of a rare red lily, but instead became an expert on the reality of modern Tibet through her friendship with an unusual Tibetan nun

We are delighted to welcome to Hong Kong Claire Scobie to lecture on the ‘Last Seen in Lhasa’. In this lecture, Claire Scobie tells the story of how she went to the Himalayas on an expedition in search of a rare red lily, but instead became an expert on the reality of modern Tibet through some seven journeys across the country and her friendship with an unusual Tibetan nun. Her eponymous book, Last Seen in Lhasa, won the Dolman Best Travel Book Award.

Claire Scobie went to Tibet seeking inspiration and adventure, but in particular to search for an unusual rare red lily. Her expedition took her to Pemako, an area undisturbed by foreigners, where the myth of Shangrila was born in a land of snowclad peaks, glistening waterfalls and vast virgin forests. Scores of European garden species, from rhododendrons to lilies originate in the SinoHimalaya region, so Ms Scobie led an expedition to find a rumoured red lily that had never been introduced to the West. The expedition was principally based around the Yarlung Tsangpo River, whose canyon at 17,657 ft is the deepest in the world, ultimately feeding the deltas of the Bay of Bengal. Her expedition involved seven westerners, a Tibetan guide, sherpas from Nepal and about 30 local porters, trekking for months, contending with leeches, biting moths and constant downpour.

In a country of contrast and paradox, she soon forged an unlikely but deeply influential friendship with Ani, an unusual itinerant Tibetan nun, who had often slept open in the snow as well as caves on her journeys. Ms Scobie eventually made a pilgrimage to the sacred Mount Kailash with the nun.

In this lecture, with a keen eye, Claire Scobie chronicles the many faces of a rapidly changing land, one both steeped in ancient religion but embracing modernity. She tells movingly about Tibet’s botany, Buddhism, Chinese invasion, subsequent marginalisation, the grief of the Tibetans, Lhasa's modern consumerism, the beauty of Tibet's hidden valleys and her own search for enlightenment. She explores the changing landscape of this ancient Himalayan realm with sensitivity and wit, but looks closely at the benefits to Tibetans of the recent arrival of materialism, with Lhasa being transformed by modern Chinese architecture into a growing sprawl of utilitarian apartments, factories and at least a dozen army barracks.

Travelling in disguise to holy sites and forced to denounce the Dalai Lama, her friend Ani is one of thousands of Tibetan nuns who, under Chinese rule, risk daily persecution for their faith. Ms Scobie herself was threatened with guns and herded into a PLA army truck for three days of interrogation by the Public Security Bureau. Ani the nun was philosophical about these events: though her parents had been tortured by the PLA during the Chinese invasion of Tibet of 1950, she had forgiven, as instructed by her lama’s teachings, a lesson soon learnt by Ms Scobie.

Claire Scobie hails from England and read history at Cambridge. She then worked for the Telegraph Magazine and in 1997 won the Catherine Pakenham Award for Best Young Woman Journalist of the Year. On moving to India she started a career as a freelance journalist. She writes for numerous publications including the Daily Telegraph, Glasgow Herald, the Observer Magazine, Sunday Times Magazine and is a contributor to the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Sunday Life, Marie Claire Australia and the Qantas inflight magazine, The Australian Way. Her footage of Tibet has been shown on BBC3 and Channel 4 television.

There is no pre booking required for this lecture which is held in conjunction with the HK Literary Festival. Tickets on sale from 18.30, drinks from 18.30, lecture starts 19.30. Members HK$100 non members and guests HK$150

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