Daughter of Tibet
Rinchen Dolma Taring

 

The picture of the little Tibetan girl who used to travel all the way from Lhasa to attend Queen's Hill School (MHS), was the cause of much interest to some of the visitors to our website, particularly Lochan Gyawali, our contact in Kathmandu.  The picture, sent to me by Susan Eason from her great-great-grandaunt and former headmistress of MHS/Queen's Hill, Carolyn Stahl's collection of photographs, had a neatly typed note on it by Miss Stahl to say:

"A Tibetan woman of the higher class from Lhasa.  A pupil in Queen's Hill 1916 - 1919.  Was Eleven when she came.  In school she was not the subdued phlegmatic looking person shown here.  She was an energetic high-spirited girl, quite capable of holding her own among the other girls.  She dressed in English clothes and quickly learned English and entered into all the school life.  She began in the First Grade and finished in the Fourth.  The journey from Lhasa to Darjeeling took seventeen days on horseback, the whole way across mountainous country."

Lochan began his investigations and with the help of his friends, Sophia Khatum and her sister Farida (ex-MHS late eighties/early nineties) identified this little, high-ranking Tibetan girl - the first ever to have received a western education, as Rinchen Dolma Taring or Mary Tsarong, as she was known in Queen's Hill School.

Picture sent to Carolyn Stahl in 1921 with the words "Sincerely - Loving Pupil Mary Tsarong.

A hand-coloured version, skilfully crafted by Jane Wilson in New Zeland.  She has noted on the bottom of the photograph - "Rinchen Dolma (later Mary Taring) aunt of Tsering Yangzom and student at Queen's Hill School later Mount Hermon School) 1922 - 1925".

 

Not only had Mary Tsarong attended Queen's Hill (former name for Mount Hermon), she had written a book about her life entitled "Daughter of Tibet - The Autobiography of Richen Dolma Taring," originally published in 1970 with a reprint in 1986 (ISBN 0 86171 044 4).

Especially interesting is the chapter about her school days in Queen's Hill.  She writes with a certain honesty, and describes her journey from Lhasa to Darjeeling, an arduous and hazardous journey on horseback that took her and her troupe thorough raging winds and blizzards, over dry, barren rocky terrain; past towering mountains, frozen lakes and narrow gorges till finally they reached Nathu La, one of the high passes that gave Tibet access to India.  The weather was so cold that the leather mask she wore to protect her face, stuck to her skin.  On her first trip to school, she was left at Yatung for six months to  stay with the MacDonald family, thence travelling to Darjeeling via Kalimpong with the two MacDonald children for their admission  to Queen's Hill School.  While at school she gained a deep respect for her headmistress, Miss Stahl, who, when approached by Mary to ask permission to go to the pictures at the instigation of  other girls, would say "Of course - Mary cannot see movies in Tibet."  She also had an encounter with Miss Stahl when one day she bought "forbidden fruit" from near the railway station, and hid the pears in her navy drill bloomers. Unfortunately, she ran into Miss Stahl half-way up the stairway, and at that very moment, a pear fell out and went rolling down the stairs!  Miss Stahl asked "What's all this?"  But on seeing Mary's face screwing up, and thinking she was on the verge of  tears,  just stood still and said nothing further.  Miss Stahl obviously had a soft spot for Mary.

Mary Tsarong was the first Tibetan girl to receive a western education; the Prince of Taring the first boy.  His education was at the prestigious Anglican school, St. Paul's, Darjeeling.

Mary came from one of the oldest families in Tibet.  She married Dasang Dadul Tsarong, one time Commander-in-Chief of the Tibetan army, then later she married Jigmi Taring, a prince of Sikkim.

Following the annexation of Tibet by China in the 1950s and the flight of the Dalai Lama in 1959, she spent her life in Dharamsala in India dedicated to work among the Tibetan refugee children.  She died on 29th July 2000 at the ripe age of ninety in Raipur, near Dehra-Dun, India.

References to Mary and her book can be found by doing a Google search with "Daughter of Tibet"  or "Rinchen Dolma Taring."

 

 

 

 

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