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32 rare images of French Missionaries in Yunnan , 1933

Mission to the Land of the Three Rivers (1933-1952) In 1035, St. Bernard of Menthon built a hospice on the Mont Joux, the most ancient pass through the Alps.

Related: Lamas performing Cham Dance in Tibet

The hospice was run by a congregation of canons, with the aim of assisting mountain travelers and providing shelter.

In the 16th century the hospice, together with the pass, was named Great St. Bernard.

The hospice’s fame was also due to the dogs used in mountain rescues, named after this patron saint of mountaineers and climbers.

Between 1933 and 1952, the canons of the Great St. Bernard sent 4 missions to Yunnan province.

Their area extends from north to south, confined between the natural barriers of the Yangtze River, the Salween River and the Mekong river, from Yanjing (known in Tibetan as Yerkalo) to Weixi.

The views offered by the three rivers, separated by mountains reaching heights of more than 4,500 meters, are breathtaking and unique.

During the mission’s twenty years in Yunnan, the canons took over the French M.E.P.’s mission stations.

They built a shelter, began the construction of a hospice on the peak of Latsa, and opened many schools, in particular Hualuoba school.

Most notably, the canons were able to enter an almost impenetrable universe of diverse ethnicities, religions, customs, and traditions.

At the Canons of the Great St. Bernard’s archives in Martigny, ample materials with extraordinary documentative and anthropological value were unearthed.

This exhibition was the result of extensive research financed by CASCC (Center for Advanced Studies on Contemporary China).


Sacred dances and rites at Kangpoudong Lamasery. Every Tibetan New Year they resort to these rites to evoke the arrival of Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) in Tibet

Summer 1938: view of the hospice at the Latsa pass

Construction of Hualopa School

A rope bridge
A perpetually snow-capped mountain at the border between Yunnan and Tibet
Father Jules Detry, author of numerous photographs on show, with the St. Bernard dogs in front of the Great St. Bernard Hospice
Friar Louis Duc and lay missionary Robert Chappelet playing
Friar Louis Duc in Weixi vineyard
Missionaries in the Weixi mission open parcels from Europe 
Weixi Bridge
Workers dig the Latsa hospice foundation
A Weixi family
Fathers Angelin Lovey and Henry Nanchen in the company of Yerkalo’s village chief
A porter on the mountain path to Latsa
The missionaries’ Chinese language teacher
Pilgrims on the way to Kawakarpo
A family converted to Christianity
Fathers Paul Coquez and Jules Detry demonstrate the movie camera to curious children
Transporting a horse across the river by canoe
The first expedition’s missionaries with Xiao-Weixi school children
Father Paul Coquez preaches in Xiao-Weixi
Church in Bahang
The witch doctor from Cezong and his grandson
Girls in their festive dress for their first communion
Each student of the Hualopa School is given a patch of land for cultivating at will
A porter rests against his pannier
The missionaries’ traveling caravan
Father Angelin Lovey visits a Lama
Father Jules Detry visits a Lama
Sacred dances and rites at Kangpoudong Lamasery. Every Tibetan New Year they resort to these rites to evoke the arrival of Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) in Tibet


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