Alexandra David-Neel was born in 1868 in Paris. In her youth she wrote an incendiary anarchist treatise and was an acclaimed opera singer; then she decided to devote her life to exploration and the study of world religions, including Buddhist philosophy. She traveled extensively to in Central Asia and the Far East, where she learned a number of Asian languages, including Tibetan. In 1914, she met Lama Yongden, who became her adopted son, teacher, and companion. In 1923, at the age of fifty-five, she disguised herself as a pilgrim and journeyed to Tibet, where she was the first European woman to enter Lhasa, which was closed to foreigners at the time. In her late seventies, she settled in the south of France, where she lived until her death at 101 in 1969.