Like Christmas in America, the Shoton Festival (also Sho Dun Festival) is one of the biggest festivals in China. The festival is held at the Norbulingka palace, Lhasa, Tibet. It began in the mid-11th century. In Tibetan, sho means yogurt and ton means party, so the Shoton Festival is also called the Yoghurt Festival. At the end of the 17th century, the Sho Dun Festival was turned into a feast that combined religious and cultural activities by exhibiting Buddhist paintings and traditional Tibetan drama. According to the ancient Tibetan calendar, the festival is held between August 25th and September 2nd.
There are 3 unique traditions in the Shoton (Sho Dun) Festival, namely:
- Thangka Buddha / The Great Buddha Display
To begin the festival, the monks at Drepung monastery display a large Buddhist tapestry, known as the Thangka Buddha. The Great Buddha is a traditional Tibetan painting. It is approximately 500 m2 and is placed on the hillside outside of Drepung Monastery. Many people begin gathering around 2 a.m. to see this Thangka Buddha, because it’s only up during the festival for 2 hours, beginning at 5 a.m. 100 monks bring the Thangka Buddha from Coqen Hall in Drepung Monastery to the hillside. Two hours later, the monks roll the painting back up and take it back to the monastery. (Article continues after image)
- Tibetan Operas
The Tibetan operas are the highlight of the Shoton Festival. This show begins after the Great Buddha Display. It begins around 10 a.m. and lasts until late afternoon. The operas take place around Norbulingka Park. There are operas for 7 days. Some classic Tibetan opera titles are performed, including Wencheng Princess, Prince Norsang, Trowa Sonam, and Maiden Langsa.
The Tibetan Opera is divided into three parts:
- Wenba Dun (opening ceremony)
The word “wenba” comes from the Tibetan word for mask, and “dun”, which means opening ceremony. This ceremony aims to clean and purify the stage for the rest of the opera.
- Xiong (the show)
The Xiong is the core event of the Tibetan opera. During the Xiong part, a narrator introduces each performance, interspersed with dance and song performances.
- Tashi (closing ceremony)
In Tibetan, “tashi” means advantages. This is the end of the Tibetan opera. The players usually sing a closing song. There is also a joint prayer for good fortune.
- Horse Racing and Yak Race Show
This event is held on the second day at the Lhasa Race. Horse racing here is unlike any other horse racing competition. During the horsemanship show, 6 riders stand on their horses and make a pyramid shape. After the horse racing event, you can see the Yak Race Show. This show is similar to a rodeo.
- Drinking Yoghurt
Yoghurt is an important beverage in the Shoton festival. In this festival you must drink yogurt throughout the entire festival.
A couple videos about the Shoton Festival / Sho Dun Festival:
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