Spotlight: the exploration of Tibet (Antonio de Andrade)

Just over 388 years ago, on 30th March 1624, Portuguese Jesuit missionary Antonia de Andrada set sail from Agra. He eventually ended up in western Tibet and wrote a book based on his adventures, becoming the first European author to write a work about Tibet.

But of course there is much more to this story than just the book. Even today, Tibet still is often seen as a mysterious and unknown place, and many people attribute mystic properties to it. Part of its mystic appeal may lie in the fact that Jesuit missionaries never succeeded in converting Tibetans to Christianity. The first Jesuit expedition, which ran from 1624 to 1635, was followed by another unsuccesful attempt in 1940. This attempt to renew the mission even saw the missionaries ending up in prison!

Another interesting tidbit: Tibetans have 10 times more nitrous oxide in their blood than lowland inhabitants and up to two times greater blood flow. This allows for the blood to take up oxygen much faster, making up for its lack at high elevations.

Find out all about the expedition on the Biodiversity Library Exhibition. And while you're at it, gaze at the literature associated with it. Just two examples of illustrations are found below.

A Lanius schach

The wild yak

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