Hooker, Sir Joseph Dalton
Darjeeling, India
JDH/1/10 f.122-125
Hooker, Sir William Jackson
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
© Descendants of Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker
Indian Letters 1847-1851
The Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Original MS
12 page letter over 4 folios

JDH has returned to Darjeeling after a trip to the mountains. The Kazi of Lingcham accompanies JDH & likes the Murwa pot. JDH's route passed the Great Rungeet & a spur of Kinchin [Kanchenjunga]. Met Archibald Campbell [AC] in Teesta valley, the former had a hard journey obstructed by Sikkim officials. JDH was welcomed at villages en route & they gave him more than enough food for his party. AC & the Sikkim Rajah camped on opposite sides of the river. The Rajah's Dewan is a rogue. Describes audience with the Rajah, his manners, appearance & gifts exchanged. The camp was in Bhomsong, a valley with tropical forests incl. palms & Sikkim Pandanus. JDH began the march to the Lachen & Lachoon [Lachung]passes, AC came as far as Pemiongchi monastery then left for the Titalya fair. Ascended forest covered Mainomchoo Mt, crowned with Abies webbiana & a wooden temple. Made sketches & meteorological observations. Collected mosses, Rhododendrons incl. R. falconeri & an alpine bamboo. Describes Lama convent at Tassiding, incl. buildings & decoration by Lhassa artists. There was no sign of Hindu religion. On the road were slabs engraved with Tibetan characters. Also visited, Yuksun [Yuksom] on the Ratong River & Doobdee [Dubdi] convents where Cypress trees used to make wreaths. Describes ascent to & view from Jongri yak port above the snow line at 13000 ft. Notes the geology & glacial features of the range & view of Pundim & Kubroo peaks. Vegetation Herbaceous but incl. Tingurisella Pine. Describes marching through snow & danger of snow blindness. Collected strong-scented dwarf Rhodo. which causes headaches, rock lichen, Andrea, a Splachnum, 46 species of fern chiefly Spheropteris. Visited holy lake & Changachelling convents where his likeness was painted onto the wall. The journey was without mishap, the Bhotheas [Bhotias] & Lepcha people were hospitable. At Darjeeling JDH is staying with Muller, whose brother Charles is at Patna, & arranging his collections & museum specimens.


as the only way of preventing his onward progress to the capital of Sikkim. The Rajah occupied a hut on the opposite bank of the stream, (broad rapid about 80yds) Campbell was camped on this in a pretty orange grove & the Dewan took up his quarters in a house hard by. The latter had become great friends with C[ampbell]. as he did also with me, he is a Lhassa educated man, of perfectly agreeable address & person, but the very greatest liar & rogue you can imagine in all political matters & the most unconcerned one. He took me for a spy & brother rogue & probably does so still…next day we had an audience with the Rajah! a little old black man of quick manners & eye; thoroughly Chinese in every thought & action & very sorry indeed to see us so far into his country. he crossed the river in a Bamboo raft: I in a shooting coat lent me by Campbell, my traveling cap & plaid Campbell more respectable. we were received in a shed fitted up so as to show the R[ajah]. off to immense advantage according to the taste of his poor self & people. The shed was hung with faded

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Jan[uar]y 31 1849 *1
My dear Father
I arrived here on the 19th of this month having prolonged my travels in the Mts considerably longer than I anticipated. My last was written from the interior just previous to my starting across Sikkim to meet Campbell on the Tartar river. The Kazi (lest I forget it -- I was wrong about the Casis (more properly spelled Kazi) in my last. The Kazis are generally large land holders, & governors so to speak of districts: they are the advisors of the Rajah & Ranee.*2) of Lingcham accompanying me, a merry little fellow but rather too fond of the murwa pot *3: of which one of his Sepas always carried & full for his masters use. I went W[est]. to the G[rea]t Rungeet passing several villages at all of which I was most kindly received., the people bringing me loads of rice kids fowls baskets of oranges, eggs, milk & vegetables & as this was the case throughout my residence in Sikkim I shall omit all future direct mention of the extreme hospitality of both Lepchas & Sikkim Bhotheas. Of the abundance brought the best example I can give is that I hardly had to buy rice for any of my party; the days allowance for each man is 2lb & 30 people daily had this from the

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presents made me by the villagers -- I rewarded always to the extent of my means & found that generally this had not been at all expected. My only complaint was getting too much, for I several times had 3 kids in one day with things of a common sort, fowls eggs &c in proportion.
Passing below Pemiongchi descended to Rungeet; its bed about 3000 ft wholly tropical in vegetation. Thence over a lofty spur from Kinchin [Kanchenjunga] by many pretty villages on terraces against the hill sides to the Teesta valley -- where I arrived on the 5th day. The Rajahs minister (or Dewan) sent a Poney[sic] for me & Campbell met me about a mile below his camp. When I arrived at Noon I was very glad to have some one to talk to after so long a silence & he too had plenty to tell me of his route from Darjeeling hither; & a little tour he made to within a march or two of the snow up the Teesta river, of the difficulties he met with in the shape of opposition, of the complicated falsehoods that had been invented to impede his progress & the droll conduct of the Rajah & his court, who had been obliged to come & meet him on the river

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as the only way of preventing his onward progress to the capital of Sikkim. The Rajah occupied a hut on the opposite bank of the stream, (broad rapid about 80yds) Campbell was camped on this in a pretty orange grove & the Dewan took up his quarters in a house hard by. The latter had become great friends with C[ampbell]. as he did also with me, he is a Lhassa educated man, of perfectly agreeable address & person, but the very greatest liar & rogue you can imagine in all political matters & the most unconcerned one. He took me for a spy & brother rogue & probably does so still…next day we had an audience with the Rajah! a little old black man of quick manners & eye; thoroughly Chinese in every thought & action & very sorry indeed to see us so far into his country. he crossed the river in a Bamboo raft: I in a shooting coat lent me by Campbell, my traveling cap & plaid Campbell more respectable. we were received in a shed fitted up so as to show the R[ajah]. off to immense advantage according to the taste of his poor self & people. The shed was hung with faded

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China silk, there was no furniture[,] we brought, at the R[ajah]'s request, our own chairs, (the leg of mine poked through the Bamboo floor & kept up a squeaking at in a very high key--) at the upper end of the little room was a high stage 6 feet! also covered with tattered silks & over it a very shabby canopy under which the R[ajah]. squatted cross legs, a little body swathed in yellow silk with a pink broad brimmed low crowned hat on. Such an attempt at display was really humiliating.
He never returned our salutes but looked wistfully at us & then at his courtiers, some dozen of very dirty fellows in silks (Kazis) who were ranged against the wall as mutes -- The conversation was trifling & brief relating to Campbells insisting on having a responsible authority from the Rajah at Darj[eeling]. In the middle presents were brought & white scarfs thrown round our necks as a signal to depart, but we stuck to our seats in spite of all hints & told him of my intention of again travelling in spring to the snowy passes E[ast]. of Kinchin, & of how disappointed I was with the permission coming so late he made no answer

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to all this & we are now about to send the formal announcement of my proceeding in March up to the Teesta to the Lachen & Lachoon [Lachung] passes, which are at the N[orth] E[ast]. corner of Sikkim. My offering to the R[ajah]. was of pieces of red cloth & great beads, with a few such like articles provided for me by Campbell, his return was a noble yak, a splendid brick of Tea --a cwt *4: of Thibet [Tibet] butter in horse hair bags: apricots from Bokhara, plums & Zizyphi from do -- a cwt of salt, with fowls &c &c &c. Bhotea woollen cloth, exceedingly good, & very bad damask silk also some plums sultanas raisins & zante currants, which come in beautifully for Xmas & New Years day. The Dewan chatted with us in the tent several times sipping Tea with great relish & asking many pertinent questions about the Company *5 , Calcutta *6 &c &c. He gave us much excellent information about Thibet-- which he describes as the most wretched poverty struck place in the world.
Bhomsong (the ghat where we camped) is in a deep valley with Tropical forests skirting the river, abundance of several Palms & the Sikkim Pandanus.
We started on the 3d day after & as I was very anxious for Campbell's company he

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kindly assented to accompany me back to Pemiongchi, whence he had to proceed direct to Darjeeling & the foot of the Hills for the annual fair held at Titalya & of which he is the founder, projector & head. -- We followed the same road as that I had come by, but turned off for 2 days N[orth], ascending Mainomchoo a Mt nearly 12000ft high & commanding a splendid view of the whole of Sikkim. Mainomchoo is N[orth] E[ast] of Pemiongchi & on the spur of Kinchin dividing the G[rea]t Rungeet from Teesta. It is forest clad to the top which is crowned with Ab[ies] webbiana. The weather was fortunately glorious for the first night we slept on the snow which was near 2 ft deep & next morning reached the summit where was a a[sic] small wooden Temple in which we passed that & part of the following day. The wood was so dense with small Bamboo, Rhododendrons, Cotoneaster &c that I could not get about at all plunging through snow in such a vegetation being very disagreeable. There was little to be had, so I took sketches & bearings of the peaks, meteorology observations &c whilst Campbell obtained a great deal of information

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from the people who accompanied us. The Mt is neither so productive as the vaster range or snowy passes; wanting the excessive humidity & warmth of the former & the elevation of the latter. I procured a good many nice mosses & young plants of Rhod[odendron]. Falconeri & 2 others one with a leaf nearly as large but quite smooth & varnished, a totally distinct species of which I send seed -- I forgot the size of some of the foliage of those 2 I now have drying: it far exceeds what I told you before of R. Falconeri. I also got you stems & leaves of a new alpine Bamboo, which is never known to flower.
Hence W[est]. to the G[rea]t Rungeet which we crossed higher up than I did in coming, to visit the Tassiding Convents, the oldest & best in Sikkim, There are 3 on an exceedingly steep conical hill rising out of G[rea]t Rungeet about 15000 ft above the bed of that River. These are very curious & ornamented inside with great taste, the carving gilding & frescoe[sic] painting about 300 y[ear]s old is all good: the architecture Chinese or rather Thibetan [Tibetan], the idols fine library pretty good -- & the quantity of Cliasty[?] as on sacred

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tombs & mon mendongs/walls covered with inscriptions -- was exceedingly very considerable. The Lamas & monks were very kind & we spent a most interesting day examining the buildings drawing &c of the extent & beauty of these Sikkim convents no conception had previously been formed there are 18 in Sikkim of various degrees of beauty & antiquity all are ornamented by Lhassa artists -- I have seen from one spot 11 Goompas (Lamas Gumbos) or convents all of great sanctity & chiefly on spurs from the snowy range.-- Tassiding is crowded with frescoe paintings chiefly of Sakya & crowds of Lamas in prayer or teaching, surrounding the figures, as Angels do the Saints on the walls of Europ[ean]. Xs.*7. In Tassiding we did not find a trace of any pure Hindu divinity, all was Trans Himalaya. In the other convents I have visited: all of more recent creation founding, there is much evidence of the mixture of Hindu with Lama worship.
Here we spent new year day & on 1st Jan[uar]y proceeded to Pemiongchi convents, which are in decaying condition. On the 2d of the year Campbell left me S[outh]. for Darjeeling. I walked a little way to conduct him to

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Mendong on the road which I had visited before, it is I think (I have not my notes at hand) 400 yards long & contains 800 inscribed slabs of mica slate engraved in 3 Thibetan characters. I remained the day trying to sketch in the Temples, but the elevation being 7000ft & situate on the tip top of a ridge it was cold. On the 4th I started for Kinchin junga [Kanchenjunga], with a party of 20. Reached Yoksun [Yuksom] on the 3d day the last village in Sikkim & above which are the Doobdee [Dubdi] convents. The head Lama is shut up for 8 years of prayer & sent a handsome present & many apologies, as did several of the monks who were delighted with my drawing their temple & splendid Cypress tress: these trees I had only seen 2 of previously at Tassiding. All are planted & I suspect all ♀ as I could [see] no young plants & the cones were all fertile: they are introduced with great difficulty some say from Nepal, others Bhotan [Bhutan] & others Lhass China. It is exceedingly beautiful & wreaths of it the most elegant I ever saw, we wore them for our hats & they sat well on the long haired Lepchas, keeping the sun off[,] the long apices of the branches dangling down the shoulders. I have an enormous load of specimens dried.
Yoksun is a most curious place on a broad flat, by far the greatest level ground in Sikkim, amongst very lofty & very steep spurs from the perp[etual].snow. The Ratong river runs close by it, & at this valley we proceeded for 3 more marches to Jongri on the E[ast]. bank of the river through a thick close jungle for 2 days about 7000ft. & then ascended to the October snow camping the first night on a hill about 13000 ft & the following at Jongri which is about the same elevation, & of course plentifully snowed at this season.
Jongri is a yak port, or rather was, for it has hardly been visited since the Nipalese [Nepalese] closed the Sikkim pass of Kanglanamo nor was it ever more than a halting place used in the summer months. We found 2 huts more like piles of stones than any home, pitch dark & very low -- I gave them up to the people & slanted my blankets against the wall for a tent. It is a most curious place, really upon Kinchin, the grand snows of which rise on all sides, rugged granite precipices, which have

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pierced the Gneiss & [one word deleted, illeg.] mica--slate rocks carrying them up in shattered peaks & cliffs to 20,000 ft. The spur on which the huts stand has Pundim on a sharp cone 22000 ft on the N[orth]. East; a sheer precipice of 4 or 6000 ft; descending from its apex to a sea of glaciers & beds of snow below: this cliff is too steep to be snowed & shews[sic] a face of burnt red stratified rocks so twisted & contested as to appear like shot silk permeated with broad white veins of granite which caps the whole. Kubroo an immense saddle with a peak of 25000 ft at either extremity rises on the left, a continuous mass of snow, ridges from each conve converge to Kinchin top, & form long shoulders to the latter which terminates in 3 knobs of of -- all Kinchin above 20 000 seems granite. The Ratong winds N[orth]. to the base of the central mass, first through great glacier formed spurs of gavel & sand & rock & then banks of snow. These terraces of gravel &c are eminently curious & perfectly resemble the small spurs & terraces which appear in all the Subhimal valleys & on which the villages are invariably placed. The Jongri spur communicates with Kubroo & stretches S[outh] & W[est]. across the Ratong valley; it is very rounded & covered with conical hills & little Lake beds. -- it is was I expect expect[sic] so shaped by glacial action when it opposed the passages of Berg ice from Kinchin on its way down the Ratong valley, when that, now 12--15000 ft above the sea was an arm of the ocean -- it is totally unlike any other Himal. ridge I have seen. The ground was frozen 16 inches deep. There is none but herbaceous vegetation & dwarf juniper.-- The new I suppose Tingurisella Pine of the ghurkhas [Gurkhas] & [Abies] webbiana were abundant & the only Pines I saw. On the first & only fine day I ascended to about 14000 ft saw the remains of very many plants I had not procured a very few seeds & some Rock Lichens. At night we had snow which fell on the following day so hard that I had to hurry away on the 3d day marching the men with great difficulty through 2 to 4 ft of snow which amongst bushes is very fatiguing work. -- The temp[erature] fell to zero & it was bitterly cold & my Lepchas, most several of whom had never been to the snow before, behaved admirably & not one uttered a complaint, at this elevation too a few steps under any circumstances is fatiguing & the glare of new fallen snow in so transparent rarified[sic] an atmosphere giving soreness at once to unprotected eyes. I cast the veil Mrs C[ampbell]. made me with little pieces for some [of] the party, others hung yak tails over their eyes, pieces of paper; or unloosed their queues *8 & combed their long hair over their fore

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I am extremely gratified with the visit quite as much as with Yangma valley -- two more interesting spots have probably never been visited in the Himala[ya]. I made a large collection of dwarf Rhodod[endrons]. & every thing I could many mosses -- Andrea & a little Splachnum the most novel -- of the dwarf Rhod[odendrons] I have a dozen or two poseys[sic] for the museum, their scent (of resinous leaves) was overpowering: the Bhoteas attribute the headaches of these regions to them & not the rarified[sic] air. I think I can feel my head throb still every time I smell the plants in my collection -- 10 sp of Rhod[odendron]. occur at below Jongri & above the limit of pines, one or two were new to me, but their leaves are so cockled at this season that the specimens are bad.at 6000--7000 ft I gathered in one day 46 sp. of Ferns. Spheropteris the most abundant. At & below 6000 ft is a good (excellent) Botanizing region all the year round.
On reaching Yoksun where I halted, to rest the men, a day, all the villagers came out to meet us bringing large presents, as did the Lamas & monks, no one they said had ever visited Jongri in winter before -- Hence I returned to Darjeeling, first visiting a remarkable holy lake on a lofty forest clad spur of K[anchenjunga]., as also some convents hard by. Thence to Changachelling convents near Pemiongchi, the Lamas of which I knew, they are ornamenting their temple very beautifully. The workmen come from Lhassa, the colors from Pekin -- to my amazement I found myself on the walls, in a flowered coat & pantaloons, hat, spectacles, beard & moustache, drawing in a notebook an angel on one hand offering me flowers, & a devil on the other doing homages I never laughed so much in my life & the Lamas & artists were pleased beyond measure at my recognizing the likeness. They gave me a house & treated me most hospitably. Thence in 4 days I reached Darjeeling; getting drenched on the way, for the weather was very bad. So ended my journey, without slip accident or the loss or hurt of a single man of my sometimes very numerous party. In Sikkim I have not spent an unquiet hour (except on the coolies account in the snow) I had neither Gun nor Pistols arrows or keys & lost nothing whatever. From the simple people, Bhotheas & Lepchas, I have met every attention & kindness & very pleased they will be to see me again, though should the Rajah appose, fear will deter them from coming near me, that I do not anticipate however. A more interesting country for Tourist artist Naturalist or antiquarian can scarce be found, it was untrodden in any walk previous to my visit & I have but flitted over the surface.
My plant collections are very considerable but very deficient in the alpines owing to the lateness of the season.
Ever yr most affect[ionate] son Jos D Hooker [signature]

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On arriving at Darjeeling I find that Hodgson has gone to spend the cold months at the foot of the hills, & that a bed is prepared for me at my kind friend Mr Muller's: his brother Charles has returned to Patna but he remains here another year. My observations I find beautifully copied out & many of them calculated by Mr Muller. I shall remain with him till I get all my collections dried packed & sent to Calcutta for transmission to England, this will take a good deal of *9 time as I have some 50 bundles to arrange & label, besides all the seeds & museum specimens: then I follow Hodgson & we explore the Terai & lower hills together; returning to Darj[eeling].in March.


1. An annotation written in another hand records that the letter was received "Wed[nesda]y March 28." [1849].
2. This text is written at the bottom of page 1 but Hooker has indicated that it should be inserted here with an "x".
3. Murwa is the Hindi name for Origanum majorana, marjoram.
4. cwt is the abbreviation of centrum weight also called a hundredweight, a unit of mass.
5. Probably refers to the East India Company.
6. The city formerly known as Calcutta is now called Kolkata.
7. In this case X is symbol standing for churches.
8. Queue, in this case meaning a plait or braid.
9. The address of the recipient appears here as the letter would originally have been folded in such a way that it formed its own envelope. The address reads "No 6. via Southampton | To | Sir W.J. Hooker | Kew | London."

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