Beyond the High Himalayas by William O. Douglas with Tibetan money in 1951

Discussion in 'World Coins' started by willieboyd2, Feb 25, 2021.

  1. willieboyd2

    willieboyd2 First Class Poster

    The 1954 film "Rear Window" has a scene where actress Grace Kelly is reading a book.

    Grace Kelly reading book

    The book is Beyond the High Himalayas by William O. Douglas and published in 1952.

    I have an interest in old travel books and I obtained a copy from the usual source and read it.

    William O. Douglas was a US Supreme Court Justice who liked to travel. In 1951 he spent some time in Ladakh, Northern India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

    Part of his trip involved trekking in the Ladakh area and there he travelled with an Indian trip manager and with porters to carry the supplies.

    Ladakh which was close to Tibet which Douglas could not visit as the country was closed to foreigners.

    Occasionally Douglas would discuss money and he mentions that (in 1951) an Indian rupee was worth US 20 cents and an Afghanistan rupee was worth US 30 cents.

    In Ladakh he met refugees fleeing the Communist Chinese invasion of Tibet.

    In one chapter Douglas describes a song sung by Tibetan women describing the currency inflation caused by the invaders:

    In the religious city of Lhasa this year
    Chinese soldiers have arrived like hail
    Whether as liberators it is in doubt
    Or to tie the throats of the poor
    For things that formerly cost a tranka
    We now pay a full do-tse
    So let us dance!

    In a footnote Douglas notes that a tranka was worth about US five cents and a do-tse about seventeen dollars.

    The "tranka" had to be the Tibetan tangka but what was a "do-tse"?

    Tibet had several forms of money at the time (1951) and English spellings of the Tibetan currency names varied.
    There was the silver tangka and the silver srang.

    Tibet Tangka, Silver, Undated
    Base Silver, 27 mm, 3.60 gm, probably minted 1912-25 at Dokde (Dodde Valley) near Lhasa

    Tibet 1-1/2 Srang, Silver, 1937
    Silver, 23 mm, 5.65 gm, minted 1936-1946, date cycle 16 year 11 (AD 1937)

    A srang was worth about 6-2/3 or 6.667 tangka, thus a srang was worth about 33 US cents.

    I did find a couple of references to the "do-tse", it was not a coin but a unit of money. One reference mentioned that 40 do-tse is 2000 "sang" and another that 100 silver do-tse was 5000 "sang".

    Thus a do-tse was worth 50 srang. 50 srang would then (1951) be worth around US $16.66, close to the seventeen dollars quoted by Douglas.

    The unusual Tibetan coins and currency disappeared by the late 1950's when the Chinese authorities ordered the residents to use Chinese money.

    Parthicus, THCoins, PaulTudor and 7 others like this.
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