Shoton Festival, not only for locals

0 CommentsPrintE-mail CRI, September 3, 2009
Adjust font size:

Recently held in Lhasa, the capital city of south west China's Tibet Autonomous Region, the Shoton Festival is one of Tibet's major traditional festivals. The festival this year featured opera performances, singing, local shows and yogurt consumption.   

Aside from the Tibetan New Year festival, the Shoton Festival is one of the most important annual occasions on the Tibetan lunar calendar. This year's festival began on August 20th and ended on August 26th, definitely creating a peak in the number of tourists to the Tibetan Buddhist holy land.

In Tibetan language, Shoton means 'yoghurt banquet'. So as the name suggests, the Shoton Festival is a festival for savouring various types of yoghurt. Talking about the origin of the magnificent Tibetan festival, executive vice Mayor of Lhasa, Chen Zhichang, explains it in this way:

"The Shoton Festival originated 1,000 years ago and prospered in the 17th century, when nomads and farmers offered yoghurt to monks ending their annual summer meditation retreat. Before the 17th century, Shoton was exclusively a religious observance. Other activities, such as Tibetan Opera and horse racing, were added to the celebrations as the festival evolved. Today, the festival not only entertains local Tibetans, but also delights adventurers from around the world. "

Traditionally on this day, pilgrims would offer their family made Yogurt to Lamas who had stayed within their monasteries in the past month to avoid walking on the emerging summer insects and hurting them. In this way, people presented their thanks to the merciful lamas for their love and protection of all forms of life.

Normally, Tibetan people start celebrating the grand festival with a holy and magnificent Buddha painting display ceremony, which is a main activity of the Shoton Festival.

As the first rays of sun touched the Drepueg Temple in northwest Lhasa, thousands of local worshippers flocked to the monastery to view an imposing scene of praying to a portrait of Buddha printed on a huge piece of cloth, called a Tangka.

The 35mX30m scroll portrait of Buddha was gradually unfurled down a mountainside and followers prayed for safety and happiness.

Danzi Ciren, a local Tibetan living in Linzi County, 400 kilometres east of Lhasa, made his way for the pilgrimage together with his wife and daughter to witness the exciting moment in person.

"Usually, our work is very busy. This time we especially arranged our trip to Lhasa to worship Buddha and take part in the attractive celebrating activities. It's really great and fantastic for my whole family."

An Italian woman named Gabriella, who made her way for the pilgrimage from Beijing, is proud of her four previous trips to Tibet. She excitedly told us her feeling about watching the unfurling of the Buddha painting in fluent Chinese.

"The most exciting thing for me is the Tibetan pilgrims. Some of them came from Lhasa and Shigatse, but many of the others have travelled about two to three weeks from Aba county to the Drepueg Monastery. I think their religious belief is the most important thing in their lives. As tourists, we should absolutely show our respect to the ambiance."

During the Shoton festival, festival organizers build an open stage at the square of the Potala Palace and many Tibetan opera troupes perform traditional opera at this stage over several days. With long and loud aria of Tibetan opera, the Potala Palace and even the entire city of Lhasa are bathed in happiness.

Frenchman Bessey, who is on his first ever trip to Tibet, is curious about the wonderful performance he's witnessing.

"Although I don't know exactly because I'm not familiar with it. They seemed very friendly. Many people greeted me anywhere. While I think the performance going down there is vivid."

Performances displaying horsemanship are another main traditional activity during the Shoton Festival, which now combines religion, sports and entertainment altogether. The annual horse race performance is definitely a favourite among Tibetans and has become a major part of the Shoton festival.

There are many items including single-person-single-horse riding, archery on horseback, double-men-double-horse riding, shooting from a horse and even flower-basket-picking on horse back. These breathtaking and cliffhanging performances display the athletes' superb techniques and excellent physical fitness and have been well received by locals and tourists alike.

From yaks to yoghurt, the Shoton Festival is not only a traditional feast for people living in and around Lhasa, it's also a huge attraction for worshippers and followers of Buddhism throughout the country.

Cichangcuo, a nun living in a temple in Beijing, made her way to Lhasa just for a pilgrimage to the Potala Palace during these special days. She has dedicated herself to Buddhism for almost 40 years and has had the chance to worship at the Potala palace, the winter palace of the Dalai Lama, for the very first time.

"I'm so excited to be here to worship the holy Tibetan Buddha and at the Potala Palace as well. I will go all out to promote the Buddhist scriptures to others after this pilgrimage to Tibet. I'll devote myself to this cause."

Nowadays, the festival means different things to local people. Suoci, who is a Tibetan working as a receptionist in a downtown hotel in Lhasa, has a new conception about the one-week festival.

"The festival is a good time for many Tibetans' family reunion and the gathering of friends. I will be sure to enjoy this holiday."

Local people, people throughout china and even people throughout the world can find their own way to enjoy themselves during the Shoton Festival. Friendship, family reunion and entertainment from the traditional Tibetan operas will be among those activities for this year's local religious festival.

PrintE-mail Bookmark and Share


No comments.

Add your comments...

  • Your Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
Send your storiesGet more from