Tibetan Shoton Festival
   2012-08-18 13:35:25    CRIENGLISH.com      Web Editor: Fu Yu

A painting of Buddha unfolds on the hillside of the largest Tibetan monastery, Drepung Monastery in Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region on August 17, 2012. The painting and other traditional Tibetan rituals and activities such as Tibetan Opera at Norbulinka, or Treasure Park, and horse riding competitions are all part of the Shoton Festival, also known as the Yogurt Banquet which began on August 17 and will continue for a week. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com/Guo Jing]

The Shoton Festival is held on first day of the seventh Tibetan month. In Tibetan language Shoton means yogurt.

Before the end of the l6th century, it was purely religious. In light of the monastic discipline at that time, monks stayed in retreat for dozens of days, during which they were forbidden to go out to avoid killing any insects. Afterwards, the lay people would donate yogurts to them. That was the origin of the festival.

Later on in the middle 17th century, the Tibetan opera play was gradually added as a major event, and therefore, it is also known as Tibetan Opera Festival. Since then it has been celebrated regularly, but still outside of monasteries.

Until the early l8th century, the Norbu Linka was inaugurated as the summer palace of the Dalai Lama, and also as the official venue of the annual festival, where ordinary people were allowed access to watch the opera playing.

A set of ritualized programs was thus formed. The opera troupes from different regions gather in Lhasa, and pay their homage to the Dalai Lama on 29th day of the sixth Tibetan month, and begin to play in the Zhaibung Monastery on the next day. On the first day of the seventh month, they will play in Norbu Linka.

Each year prior to 195l, all officials in the Gaxag government, the local government of Tibet, would have whole day off to be the entourage of the Dalai Lama, enjoying the performance in Norbu Linka. Yogurt is a must on the day. Meanwhile, people in Lhasa would adorn themselves with festive attire, and bring with them a lot of food to enjoy the day in Norbu Linka.

In recent Shoton festivals, besides the traditional Tibetan operas troupes in Tibet, those from other parts of China or even from foreign countries also come to contribute their performance. It has become the art festival of Tibet. 

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