For centuries Tibet has been a place of intrigue in Western minds. From as early as the time of Herodotus (484-425 BCE) the mythical perceptions of Tibet were already present in the West. In Herodotus’s third book of his work Histories apodeixis he describes fox-sized ants who would lived nearby tribes of people who lived north of the Indians. The fox-sized ants would dig up the sand to construct their underground homes while unearthing amounts of gold dust in the process. In the mornings gold-seekers would quickly come to gather up as much sand as possible before fleeing from the pursuing giant ants.1
As centuries passed the beliefs associated with Tibet in the West were no longer confined solely to these types of “mythical” and “mystical” beliefs, by the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the British perceptions of Tibet were now not only based from that of myth but also of historical images derived mainly from the academic research of British officials. The British perceptions of Tibet and Tibetans during this period were diverse, and in some cases conflicted by opposing perceptions, but they were largely rooted or influenced by British imperialist aims. To many British perceptions, Tibet was a mysterious and unexplored frontier that intrigued curiosities, imperialist desires, as well as fears; to others Tibet was the land of a people who were believed to be an immoral, dirty, ignorant and over-religious race of people; and to others Tibet was the land of a degenerative form of Buddhism that acted as a blinding influence on the Tibetan people with a despotic ruling class of Lamas who extorted the Tibetan people. However, although the British perceptions of Tibet in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries were diverse, they were heavily influenced by the imperialist colonial desires of the British.