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Gesar epic tradition

Gesar Epic Tradtion is the longest epic in the world. It prevails not only among the Tibetan, Mogols, Tujia, Naxi, Pumi and Yugu people, but also in neighboring countries including Bhutan, Nepal, Sikkim, India, Pakistan, Mongolia, Russia. In 2009, it was incribed into UNESCO world intangible heritage.

If the greatness of an epic is determined by its length and sheer volumn, then Gesar Epic Tradtion with 120 volumns, over 1,000,000 verses and more than 20,000,000 words, will outshine every great epic in the world, such as The Ramayana, The Mahabharata and The Iliad and the Odyssey. Even add up the words of all the great epics ever existed in the world, their length will not exceed that of Gesar Epic Tradition.



With such intimidating volumn, it proves to be an extremely audous and challenging job to memorize and spread this epic for storytellers, who mainly come from poor-stricken nomad families and boast unrivaled memory, special talent and extraordinary life experieces. By far, there is not a single storyteller who can recite all the stories, verses, poems and fables of this epic. Even Sangzhu, the best storyteller by far, who lives to a revered age of 80, can only recite 65 volumns , which accounts to two thirds of this epic.



The story of Gesar Epic Tradtion is intriguing enough, while the story of these story tellers, is no less engaging. These storytellers split into 5 types. Among which, the most legendary and incredible group is categorized as Tuomeng Storytellers. Most of Tuomeng Storytellers are illiterate, until one day, a life-changing dream enables them to read and what is more amazing, to recite this epic without effort. Most of them stated that they had a sound sleep in the wildness when take care of their heads of yaks and sheep, and after they woke up, they can recite passages of this epic, miraculously. It is like a gift from King Cesar. Such mysterious phenomenon defying explanations, triggers heated discussions. A controversial saying holds that the King Gesar preserves the memory of this epic in the form of magnetic field, which exists between heaven and earth, and he will bestowe it to the lucky few people.



Incorporating myths, legends, folk stories, poems, proverbs, folk songs and proses, Gesar epic tradition is a repositary of Tibetan culture. It has enriched, shaped and inspired other Tibetan art forms, such as Thangka, sculpture, mural and Tibten Opera. It also serves a protype of many movies, novels,cartoons and songs nowadays. Even today, it keeps developing by taking in new stories.

Gesar Epic Tradition was mainly passed down orally from generation to generation. Today, a potpourri of handwritten copies and carved woodblocks of this epic has been unearthed in Xigaze and Dege County in Sichuan Province and Lhasa. These artifacts serve as clue to its history and cultural value. It is said the handwriteen and printed versions of this epic from Dege are the most authoritative ones and Ngaxu Village of Northern Dege County was the birthplace of Gesar Epic Tradtion.

Who is Gesar?

Gesar is a semi-deity and the most respected hero of the Tibetan. Gesar’s legendary life involves inspiring and heoric deeds, romantic story, endeavors to conquer counteslss tribes and united the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau into a whole unity.

Gesar's image and story are immortalized in carvings, paintings, murals, woodcuts, embroideries, songs, dances and plays. Thangka, handicrafts and books with the image of Gesar, are deemed as the most auspiciuos tokons which can dispel demons and bring good luck.



What makes Gesar Epic Tradtion Special?

First, it is not only the longest epic in the world, but also a living one, which is recounted in the form of storytelling, movies, novels and immortalized by artworks.

Second, it is an epic shared by various ethnicities and countires.

Third: Hundreds of characters in this epic are brought into life through engaging dialouge, dramatic plot and distinctive behavior.No two figures in the epic are identical.

Fourth: according to UNESCO: “The hundreds of myths, folktales, ballads and proverbs handed down as part of the tradition not only serve as a form of major entertainment in rural communities but also educate listeners in history, religion, custom, morality and science. A continuing inspiration for thangka painting, Tibetan opera and other art forms, the Gesar epic imbues audiences both young and old with a sense of cultural identity and historical continuity.”



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Author: Sophia         Posted on Sep 12, 2013


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