As the Dalai Lama celebrates his 80th birthday on Monday, here is a look at how The New York Times covered his early years as the spiritual leader of Tibet, a time when rare glimpses into the Himalayan territory’s politics came mostly from radio broadcasts from India and a few travelers and missionaries from war-torn China.
In December 1933, The Times reported the death of the Dalai Lama’s predecessor, the 13th in the line of spiritual rulers. That was followed by the start of a mission to find his reincarnation in a newborn child, and by international wrangling for influence in the capital, Lhasa.
“The question of succession has its ramifications in widely separated places,” The Times noted in 1934. “In the offices of the Indian government at Delhi; in the India office of London’s Downing Street; in the Kremlin of Moscow; at Kuomintang headquarters in Nanking; at the Japanese military headquarters in Manchuria; at the court of the Manchu Pu Yi; and in the inner councils of the militarists in Tokyo.”
Sir Francis Younghusband, who had led a British expedition to Lhasa 30 years earlier, described the search for a successor in an article for The Times in 1934. “What changes may come, who can say?” he wrote. “British influence may wane. Chinese influence may wax. Or the reverse may happen. In any case, the Tibetans will strive to preserve their soul.”[Source]