Sho Dun Festival is a traditional religious festival in Tibet, China. Sho Dun means "eating yoghourt" in Tibetan, so it is also called Yoghourt Festival. Because of the ceremonious Tibetan Opera performance and the magnificent Thangka Buddha displaying, some people also call it Tibetan Opera Festival or Buddha Displaying Festival.
The Sho Dun Festival is celebrated Since the first day of the seventh month of Tibetan calendar and will last for about 8 days. Before the 17th century, Sho Dun Festival is a totally religious festival. Buddhist has over 300 disciplines, among the most serious taboo is killing lives. During summer, the temperature becomes warmer, and the insects will emerge. To avoid killing small insects and break the discipline, monks and lamas have to stay in the monasteries. This prohibition will last until the end of the sixth Tibetan month. After that, the monks and lamas can leave the monasteries. Local people will reward the monks and lamas with home-made yoghourt and host celebrations and bouquets. This is the origin of Sho Dun Festival.
The traditional Sho Dun Festival start with Thangka Buddha Displaying event, as well as Tibetan Opera performances and picnics. Moreover, there will be yak racing and horse riding shows. The festival events centered in Norbulingka, western suburb of Lhasa. During the festival, a "tent city" will be built in Norbulingka and the surrounding forest, almost the whole Lhasa City will move to the green world.
Thangka Buddha Displaying ceremony
The Buddha displaying in Drepung Monastery can be seen as the opening ceremony of Sho Dun Festival. At 8 o'clock in the morning, under the first auroral, a 500 square meter Sakyamuni Thangka made of colorful silk will be slowly unfolded and displayed on the hills behind Drepung Monastery. At the time, thousands of believers put their palms together devoutly and make the moment holy and pious.
Tibetan Opera Performance
When the 5th Dalai Lama migrated to the Potala Palace, the Sho Dun Festival events started to show on the air stage of Potala Palace. In the 18th century, the 8th Dalai Lama built the new summer palace in Norbulingka. So, the main venue was moved to Norbulingka, and local residents were allowed to the palace to see the opera. In this way, the events of Sho Dun Festival became more complete and formed the fixed festival.
Tibetan Opera performance is the highlight of Sho Dun Festival. The story, singing tune, dancing posture, monologue, mask and costume all has the history of over 600 years. Nowadays, there are 12 opera troupes perform during the festival. Among the troupes, the six White Mask troupes has a long history and representing the oldest Tibetan Opera schools, while the new Blue Mask troupes represent the new schools Of Tibetan Opera. From the second day of Sho Dun Festival, the Tibetan Opera troupes will perform form 11 o'clock to nightfall. The stories of Tibetan Opera include Wen Cheng Princess, Norsa Dharma, Prince Norsang, etc. for the time is limited, the troupes will only perform the selections, otherwise, a full opera show may last for a few days.
Carnival & Picnic
Tibetans very enjoy carnivals and picnics. During the Sho Dun Festival, Tibetan families will come to Norbulingka. They pitch up colorful tents, spread pad or carpet, and prepare drinks and foods. Under the white poplar trees, on the green grassland and on the riverside, Tibetans gather together and enjoy a large feast. People singing, dancing, play Tibetan chess and cards, some families also host stands or carts for visitors and tourists.