L. Austine Waddell’s Lhasa and its Mysteries: With an Account of the Expedition of 1903-04
Waddell seems to have fudged his numbers here, but his logic is sound. The accepted numbers for the ages of the Dalai Lamas these days are closer to ten, twenty-one, eighteen, seventeen.
For, notwithstanding the magnificent defense which the Himalayas afford to India on the East, it is not the Himalayas but the vast and lofty plateau to the north of them and of Tibet, the great desert wall of the Kuen Lun [Kunlun] plateau (see map) which forms India’s scientific frontier against the great rival power in the Central Asian lowlands, namely Russia. This vast and stupendously high plateau of Kuen Lun is indeed an effective barrier between the two great rival empires of mid-Asia.
This statement supports the statement in Wang and Nyima’s The Historical Status of China’s Tibet: “To subdue the Tibetan authorities and rule out the possibility of Russia having a finger in the pie, the British plotted the second armed invasion of Tibet.” (85-6)
The rhetoric that Waddell uses in Chapter IV mirrors directly the rhetoric used by Wang and Nyima when they say they were “forced to fight [the] Qamdo [Chamdo] battle.” The author describes the mission, bizarrely, as “peaceful” simply because the mission would not have fought if it had gotten what it wanted.
General MacDonald engages in a kind of pre-emptive disarmament. “As several of the Tibetans were seen fingering their loaded matchlocks menacingly General Macdonald deemed it necessary for the safety of the Mission to disarm them, and passed an order to that effect . . . “ MacDonald felt this necessary even though, moments before, the “Depon rode out and said that his men had orders not to fire, and that the General and the Mission could come up to the walls.”
Waddell, again, uses the word “Mission” to describe the British force even though he has just described a parley between Generals and demands from each. Also, Waddell’s translation of the “Depon’s” statement looks particularly dubious in one respect: The Depon might have said something more like, “my men have orders not to fire until you pass the walls” or “anywhere before the walls is all right to stop” but the Depon probably wasn’t recommending putting two armed forces within punching distance of each other. General MacDonald had good incentive to misunderstand this statement (if it’s accurately recounted) as an invitation to come up to the walls, to provoke a standoff.