She Had A Passion For Traveling And Disguised Herself As A Peasant To Visit Lhasa In 1924, Becoming The First European Woman To Enter This Forbidden City In Tibet

chungking - illustrative purposes only

There are fascinating stories of women in history who risked their lives to do things no other woman had done before.

One of those women was Alexandra David-Néel, who disguised herself to go on an adventure to Tibet’s forbidden city in the 20th century.

Alexandra was born in France in 1868. Alexandra had a passion for travel and exploration at a young age, and by the time she was 16, she ran away from home to see more of Europe. In her early 20s, she was given a large inheritance following the death of her godmother.

Instead of investing her money as her father wished, she used it to travel to India and study Sanskrit and Eastern philosophy. When she returned home to Europe, she didn’t have a penny to her name, so she began writing stories about her travels but hardly made anything from them.

Alexandra decided to enter a career in music and had talents as an opera singer. She studied at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels and eventually started her career by returning to the East and performing with the Opera Company of Hanoi.

Throughout her impressive opera career, Alexandra impressed Philippe Néel, a wealthy engineer. Despite her opposition to marriage and the traditional housewife lifestyle, she married Philippe when she was 36. Their relationship was complicated and, at times, tumultuous, as she mostly married Philippe out of convenience and had no plans to stay in one place.

Over the years, Alexandra became increasingly interested in Buddhism and even wrote a book about it. She longed to return to India to study religion. Surprisingly, Philipe sympathized with Alexandra’s feelings and supported her as she decided to take a long voyage back to India in 1911. She wouldn’t return home for 14 years.

During her travels in the East, Alexandra became a well-versed Buddhist spiritualist and had some incredible mentors. She traveled through India, Tibet, China, Nepal, Korea, Mongolia, and Japan, writing dozens of books about her journies and everything she had learned or discovered along the journey.

Her journeys in Tibet were what people consider to be her most memorable experiences. While she was there, she befriended a young monk called Aphur Yongden, and they were companions for decades.

chungking – illustrative purposes only

Sign up for Chip Chick’s newsletter and get stories like this delivered to your inbox.

1 of 2