In 1923, a fifty-five-year-old Frenchwoman named Madame Alexandra David-N el disguised herself as a male pilgrim and ascended to the ancient Tibetan city of Lhasa. David-N el’s recounting of her journey is one of the great travelogues of the twentieth century, filled with adventure and danger and set against the spectacular backdrop of one of the world’s most remarkable cultures.
Tibet was still forbidden to Westerners when David-N el, accompanied by her adopted son Yongden and aided by her fluent knowledge of Tibetan dialects, made the dangerous journey into its spiritual and cultural heart. En route, she faced rugged terrain, outbreaks of disease, and the constant threat of expulsion; she also became the first Western woman to be received by the Dalai Lama, as well as a recognized expert on Tibetan religion and culture.
Alexandra David-N el was born in Paris in 1868. After studying eastern religions in Paris, she toured the Far and Middle East and North Africa as an opera singer. In 1904 she married Philippe Fran ois N el in Tunis: they separated almost immediately, but he financed many of her later travels and they regularly wrote to each other up to the time of his death in 1941.
David-N el spent years traveling throughout Asia, where she studied Buddhism and became a Lama. She wrote several books about her travels, including My Journey to Lhasa and Magic and Mystery in Tibet. She was awarded many honors, including the Grande M daille d’Or of La Soci t de G ographie. She died just before her 101st birthday, in 1969.
“Frenchwoman Alexandra David-N el was exceptional.”
– His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Pub Date: 08/2005
Size: 8.08h x 5.36w x 0.91d