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Hugh E. Richardson

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Title: Hugh E. Richardson  
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Subject: Yongle Emperor, Foreign relations of Tibet, Sławomir Rawicz, Michael Aris, Tawang Town, Deshin Shekpa, 5th Karmapa Lama, Tawang Monastery
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Hugh E. Richardson

Hugh Richardson,
Hugh Richardson, 1936, Tibet
Born (1905-12-22) December 22, 1905 (age 108)
St. Andrews
Died December 3, 2000(2000-12-03) (aged 94)
Nationality British
Occupation Diplomat, Tibetologist
Spouse(s) Huldah Rennie, m. 1951
Parents Colonel Hugh Richardson
Awards Light of Truth Award, Honorary Fellow of the British Academy

Hugh E. Richardson (22 December 1905–3 December 2000) was a British diplomat and Tibetologist. His academic work focused on the history of the Tibetan empire, and in particular on epigraphy.

Biography and career

Born in St. Andrews, he studied classics at Keble College, Oxford. He joined the civil service in 1930, and represented Britain in Lhasa, capital of Tibet, from 1936 to 1940 and again from 1946 to 1950, in the final years having become the diplomatic representative of the recently independent India. After his retirement from public service he returned to St. Andrews and spent the remainder of his life as an independent scholar.

He was an accomplished linguist who spoke Bengali fluently, a skill he put to use when conversing with Rabindranath Tagore, and his fluent Tibetan was described by the Tibetan politician Tsepon W.D. Shakabpa as "impeccable Lhasa Tibetan with a slight Oxford accent." [1]

He was an advocate of the right of Tibetans to a separate political existence, a case he made in two books, Tibet and Its History (1962) and A Cultural History of Tibet (1968), and at the United Nations when the issue of Chinese oppression of Tibet was raised by the Irish Republic, represented by Frank Aiken, during the 1959 UN General Assembly debate on Tibet. There, in the words of one commentator, "he acted valiantly as a man of honour in a cause which has been largely lost because of the notions of political expediency, where sides are taken without regard to principle and in order not to risk aligning oneself with a potential loser, however deserving he may be" - a position which reportedly earned him the displeasure of both the British and Indian delegations to the UN Assembly.[2]

He later wrote: "The British government, the only government among Western countries to have had treaty relations with Tibet, sold the Tibetans down the river and since then have constantly cold-shouldered the Tibetans so that in 1959 they could not even support a resolution in the UN condemning the violation of human rights in Tibet by the Chinese."

Richardson also said that he was "profoundly ashamed",[3] not only at the British government's refusal to recognise that Tibet had a right to self-determination, but also at the government's treatment of the 14th Dalai Lama.[4]

Personal interests

"His hobbies were ornithology, botany and gardening and he was also an enthusiastic photographer. Another of Richardson's passions was golf, which he introduced to Tibet, although he noted that the ball tended to travel 'rather too far in the thin air'."[5]


  • 1949 “Three ancient inscriptions from Tibet” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal 15, (1949): 45-64.
  • 1952. Ancient historical edicts at Lhasa and the Mu Tsung / Khri Gtsung Lde Brtsan treaty of A.D. 821-822 from the inscription at Lhasa. London: Royal Asiatic Society Prize Publication Fund 19, 1952.
  • 1952-3 “Tibetan inscriptions at Zva-hi Lha Khang” London: Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, (1952): 133-54 (1953): 1-12.
  • 1954 “A ninth-century inscription from Rkong-po.” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. London, (1954): 157-73.
  • 1957 “A Tibetan Inscription from Rgyal Lha-khang” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society London, (1957): 57-78.
  • 1964 “A new inscription of Khri Srong Lde Brtans.” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society London. (1964): 1-13.
  • 1965a "How old was Srong-brtsan Sgam-po ?", Bulletin of Tibetology, vol. 2, no. 1, 6-8. Repr. in Richardson 1998: 3-6.
  • 1965b "A fragment from Tun-huang", Bulletin of Tibetology, vol. 2, no. 3, 33-38. Repr. in Richardson 1998: 7-11.
  • 1968 with David Snellgrove. A Cultural History of Tibet. 1995 2nd Edition with changes. Shambhala. Boston & London. ISBN 1-57062-102-0.
  • 1969 “The inscription at the Tomb of Khri Lde Srong Btsan”, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (1969): 29-38
  • 1969b “Tibetan chis and tschis.” Asia Major 14 (1969): 154-6.
  • 1972 “The rKong-po Inscription.” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society London. (1972): 30-39.
  • 1973 “The Skar-cung inscription.” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. (1973): 12-20.
  • 1974 Ch'ing Dynasty Inscriptions at Lhasa. (Serie Orientale Roma v. 47). Rome: Instituto italiano per l'africa e l'oriente. 1974.
  • 1978 “The Sino-Tibetan treaty inscription of A.D. 821/823 at Lhasa.” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society: (1978): 137-62.
  • 1983 “Bal-po and Lho-bal” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 46 (1983): 136-8.
  • 1985. A corpus of Early Tibetan Inscriptions. (James G. Forlong Series no. 29). Hertford: Royal Asiatic Society, 1985. ISBN 0-947593-00-4.
  • 1987 “Early Tibetan Inscriptions: Some Recent Discoveries” The Tibet Journal 12.2.Dharamsala: Library of Tibetan works and archives, (1987): 3-15. (reprinted with 2 short notes added) Bulletin of Tibetology n.s. 3. Gangtok Sikkim Research Institute of Tibetology, (1987): 5-18. High Peaks, Pure Earth. London: Serindia, 1998: 261-275.
  • 1988 “More Early Inscriptions from Tibet” Bulletin of Tibetology. New Series 2. Gangtok Sikkim Research Institute of Tibetology. (1988): 5-8. High Peaks, Pure Earth. London: Serindia, 1998: 276-278.
  • 1989 "Eary Tibetan law concerning dog-bite", Bulletin of Tibetology, new ser. 3, 5-10. Repr. in Richardson 1998: 135-139.
  • 1990 "Hunting accidents in early Tibet", Tibet Journal, 15-4, 5-27. Repr. in Richardson 1998: 149-166.
  • 1995a “The Tibetan Inscription attributed to Ye shes ‘od” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. 3rd Series 5.3. (1995): 403-404.
  • 1995b “The inscription at Ra-tshag Dgon-pa” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 58 (1995): 534-9; High Peaks, Pure Earth. London: Serindia, 1998: 286-291.
  • 1997 Adventures of Tibetan Fighting Monk with Khedrup Tashi, White Orchid Books; ISBN 974-87368-7-3, Orchid Press, 2006, ISBN 974-8299-17-1
  • 1998 High peaks, pure earth: collected writings on Tibetan history and culture, Serindia publications, London.



  • Tibetan Studies in Honour of Hugh Richardson. Edited by Michael Aris and Aung San Suu Kyi, p. 284. (1979). Vikas Publishing house, New Delhi.
  • French, Patrick. Tibet, Tibet: A Personal History of a Lost Land (2003) Knopf. ISBN 1-4000-4100-7

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