[ the other image ]

Past Nobility

  • Gallery image
  • Gallery image
  • Gallery image
  • Gallery image
  • Gallery image

In December 2007 I helped a friend photograph the erstwhile residences of Lhasa's former ruling elite. My friend was doing historical research on the Tibetan aristocracy. She had asked a descendant of one of the noble families, a well-known author and public figure, to give us a tour through these mansions. With him as a guide all doors were open.

After 1959, the spacious residences of the former nobility were divided into small units for ordinary compatriots. The residences usually feature generous courtyards where much of daily life takes place. Children play, adults do their laundry, prepare food on the solar cookers, or indulge in a game of dice and a bottle of liquor.

These crumbling old houses with their courtyards and cramped living quarters have a very special atmosphere. At first sight, they appear to be islands of Tibetan life in a city that is otherwise rapidly becoming Chinese. However, far from being enclaves of Tibetan tradition, these communal mansions are actually relics of a socialist past.

Several of these aristocratic houses are currently being converted into heritage hotels. Wealthy tourists may soon succeed their current occupants. However, some of the families living in these mansions would not mind: the new developments on the outskirts of the city promise better facilities as well as more space and privacy.

Privacy Policy

Plain and simple: I take the principle of minimal data collection serious and try hard not to collect or process any personal data beyond the basics required to serve and maintain the website.


  • We do not use cookies.
  • We do not use third party analytics.
  • There is no contact form that would allow you to enter personal data.
  • We do not use advertising to run this website.

In order to serve this website, your IP address and information about your browser, operating system and screen resolution need to be collected and processed. theotherimage.com is a simple, handcrafted, static website hosted by Netlify. It uses fonts by Adobe Fonts (formerly Typekit). Both Netlify and Adobe automatically collect usage data, either generated by the use of this website or from the service infrastructure itself. This data is used for accounting and analytic purposes as well as for technical maintenance by these two companies. Neither Netlify nor Adobe use cookies to track you. Specifics can be found in their respective privacy policies.

The videos on this website are hosted by Vimeo. Depending on your browser configuration, Vimeo may use cookies and other tracking technologies as stated in their respective privacy policies.

If you have any questions about this privacy policy, please write to: Martin Saxer, LMU Munich, Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Oettingenstr. 67, 80538 Munich, Germany.

This privacy policy has been updated on 30 December 2018.