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Shoton Festival


In Tibetan calendar, each late June to early July will see Shoton Festival kicks off.  In Tibetan language, "shoton" means “has a yoghurt feast”, so Shoton festival is also named “Yoghurt Festival”. It also known as
Tibetan Opera Festival” and “Buddha Exhibition Festival”. During this Festival, a grand Tibetan opera and Buddhist ceremony will be held. Generally the Shoton Festival begins with the Buddha exhibition and then follows by Tibetan opera and local people’s festivities as well as wonderful yak racing and equestrian performances, etc. To explore Tibet, this is definitely an occasion you cannot miss.
Calendar of Shoton Festival 2014Aug 25, 2014

the 500 square meters Sakyamuni Buddha Image is Revealed for Buddhist Pilgrims to Worship on Shoton Festival


Shoton Festival originated in the middle of 11th century as a religious ceremony initially. According to Buddhism doctrine, kill animals is forbidden, thus the monks are forbidden to go outside during the April to June, a period when all animals are wandering around actively. In the end of June, all the monks are allowed to go outside of the temple again, and people will treat them with yoghurt, and hold ceremony to celebrate and perform the Tibet Opera.
tibetan opera
Tibetan Opera: the most thrilling part of Shoton Festival

The Formation of Shoton Festival

This festival took shape at the Zhebang Temple initially, by the end of 17th century and early 18th century, the Qing dynasty’ emperor canonized the Panchen Lama, thus enforce the political system which political and religious are indispensable. In year 1642, Drepung Monastery became the political and religious center, every June 30th, people will throng into it, to give monks yoghurt and receive their blessings for longevity and health. Since then, Shoton festival became a fixed festival, with continuous enriching activities. Zang opera integrates into the Shoton festivals, marking the integration of religious ceremony and entertainment activity, and the celebrating area is confined around the Zhebang temple.

Main Festivities of Shoton Festival

The Most Sacred Moment—Buddhist Pilgrims Worship the Sakyamuni Buddha  in Drepung Monastery

This festival kicks off with the Buddha image spreading to people when the first ray of morning sunshine reach the mountain of  Drepung Monastery(哲蚌寺) around 8am. ( built during 1416AD, it is the largest Buddhism temple in Tibet, which comprises Cuoqin Palace and Duisonglakang Buddha Palace,etc.)The 500 square meters Sakyamuni Buddha image made of silk will be presented before thousands of Buddhist pilgrims who throng into Lhasa from all over the world.

Accompanied by the stately horn, the overwhelming crowds approach the Buddha image with the most pious heart; they worship his image with prayer gestures and on their knees. This is the most sacred moment of Shoton festival.

After the ritual is over, their family members will pick them up and bring yoghurt, on their way back, they will sing and dance.

on the Mountain slope of Zhebang Temple, monks are spreading the Sakyamuni Buddha Image

Tibetan Opera: Voice from the Ancient and Splendid Civilization of Western China

After Panchen Lama the eighth moved from Drepung Monastery to Potala Palace, Shoton festival was held there afterwards. Citizens are allowed to enter the Potala Palace to watch the Tibetan Opera inside.

Tibetan Opera is a very important part of Shoton festival. On the second day of Shoton Festival, in the Longwantan Park opposite of Potola Palace, the Tibetan Opera will start without stop, from 11am to the dawn. Rehearsal usually begins in early June, and all the actors will gather from all over the county to Lhasa.

It is a very cheering occasion, people gather with their family members and friends on the grassland, enjoying the opera and tasting the milk tea and dessert.

 Zang Opera: Voice from the Ancient and Splendid Civilization of Western China

 Main Ceremonies

1、June 29 to July 1 (in Tibet calendar): The “Xiepo” ceremony will be held. Xiepo ceremony functions as the opening ceremony when the government officials meet the Dalai Lama.

2、June 30: The traditional Drepung Monastery Shoton Festival will be held. The Buddha Exhibition will take place on this day. Several hundred young man will carry the giant silk woven Sakyamuni Buddha image to the slope of Drepung Monastery, before spread it down, for monks and Buddhism pilgrims to worship.

3、July 1: Just like on June 29, the “Xiepo” ceremony will be held in specific places in Potala Palace and Luobulinka by various troupes, which is adapted to a joint performance by 12 troupes on the open platform of Luobulinka, which serves as the official opening ceremony.
tibetan opera

4、July,2: Four Blue mask troupes will perform for the Dalai Lama on this day on the stage of Luobulinka.

5、July 3 to July 6: The majority of festivities will be held during this period by the most famous four troupes. The most renowned traditional operas like Princess Wencheng, Nuosang Prince will be performed within one day.

6、July 7: Zhaxixueba, the most influential white mask troupe, will stage a one-day performance on the Luobulinka open platform. This day marks the ending of main festivities of Shoton festival.

7、July 8 to July 15: All groups will perform around the city of Lhasa which is called “Lhasa Shoton Festival”. Female actresses are allowed to appear on the stage, unlike the prior ones when male take the female characters and play their roles.

 Tibet Handcrafts: masks

 Tibet Handcrafts: mascots


 People wear the masks

8、After July 16: The troupes will tour around cities around Lhasa to stage performance.

9、From August 1: Sela Temple will hold the “Selaqia Show” festival, the Juemulong troupe will go there to perform for several days, thus named as “Sela Shoton Festival”

Shoton festival plays a key role to showcase the Tibet unique culture, customs and to enhance to ethic group’s cohesion and maintain the diversity of culture.

Evolving with time, Shoton festival has become a comprehensive gathering include Sakyamuni Buddha exhibition, entertainment, sports competition, business, products exhibition and tourism. 

Tibetans Wearing the Traditional Costumes

Yak Racing


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