Tibet's Hidden Kingdom (2001)

National Geographic

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Documentary Description


“Tibet: one of the most remote kingdoms on the roof of the world”

Tibet has seemed one of the most remote and inaccessible kingdoms on Earth. In the 19th century, aware of the colonial designs of European power on central Asia, Tibet expelled westerners and closed its frontiers. The country’s isolation lasted until British colonialists finally managed to penetrate the hidden city of Lhasa. Tibet at the end of the nineteenth century was one of the last great unexplored regions of the world – a mysterious kingdom on the rooftop of the world. As it became aware of the colonial designs of European power on central Asia, Tibet expelled westerners and closed its frontiers. As its isolation deepened, so did Tibet's allure and mystique. European and North American ‘gentlemen’ explorers, government agents, missionaries and adventurers had managed to penetrate nearly every other corner of Africa and Asia. Yet Tibet remained as a tantalizing fruit ready to fall into the hand of the first person to pluck it.



Naturally, therefore, many British military and civil servants thought to pluck it on behalf of Queen Victoria and the British Empire. In 1865, the British first sent Nain Singh, an unassuming Indian Hillman, into Tibet to map its treacherous mountain passes. This documentary follows his travels, triumphs and tribulations through some of the worlds highest altitudes and hottest deserts. Later, Lord Curzon, the British viceroy in India, sent Younghusband with a military expedition into Tibet in 1904, where he forced a treaty upon the Dalai Lama, opening Tibet to Western trade.



Francis Younghusband, a British Army officer, colonialist and explorer, with the help of Nain Sing, managed to penetrate the hidden city of Lhasa and bring to an end the country’s years of isolation. He forced the conclusion of the Anglo-Tibetan Treaty (September 1904) that gained Britain long-sought trade concessions. This documentary cleverly blends authentic black/white images and documents with modern colour footage of the once forbidden land and interviews with historians and Tibet experts. Winner of the Cine Golden Eagle Award. This documentary is part of the highly acclaimed ‘Treasure Seekers’ series, produced for National Geographic.

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