Shoton Festival

Shoton Festival, held in June, is one of the most important festivals for the Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan area, having a long history.

In the Tibetan language, Snow means yoghourt and Dun means the feast. According to the Tibetan explaining, it is a time to eat the yoghourt. Later on, the Shonton Festival gradually becomes the Tibetan Opera Festival. As an important festival, thousands of people from all over the world flood into Tibet to Lhasa with the most sincere heart. The Buddhist disciples cultivate themselves on the mountain. After the cultivation, the families come to the mountain with yoghourt to meet them. On the way home, they eat yoghourt, sing and dance. The traditional festival starts with Buddha show and puts the Tibetan Opera and visiting the Tibetan garden as the main contents as well as the racing yak and horse show. Norbulingka is the center for Shoton Festival.


Originating in the middle of 11th century, Shoton Festival was a purely religious activity. According to the folk legend, the Buddhist disciplines had more than 300 strips and the most taboo was killing. As the summer came, the weather got warmer and warmer with all the things recovering. At this time, the monks could hardly avoid stepping on the animals. Thus, they should stay at temple to cultivate themselves until the end of June. On the released day, the monks went down the hill. The common people wanted to reward the monks, preparing the yogurt to have a picnic barbecue. This is the origin of Shoton Festival.


Firstly Tibetan Opera penetrated into the Shoton Festival, which was the starting combination of religion and recreation, but the scope was still limited in the temple. The first activity center was Drepung Temple. Darai moved from Drepung to Potala Palace. So every Shoton Festival would show the Tibetan Opera in Drepung firstly and then the next morning, they would move to Potala Palace to perform for Darai. In the early 18th century, the Norbulingka was completed, becoming the Darai Palace. So the Shoton Festival had been held in Norbulingka since then. Meanwhile, citizens were allowed to watch the performance. After that, Shoton Festival has formed a set of fixed festival ceremony. In 1959, after the democratic reform, the contents of Shoton Festival are much richer. During the festival, the Tibetan people near Lhasa City will flood into Norgulingka in group with carrying colored baggage and highland barley wine. In addition to watch the Tibetan performance, they also put up the colorful tents and put the carpets, fruits, foods and other thing on the ground, drinking, sing and dancing.


Buddha Unfolding

As the prelude, Buddha Unfolding is the most eye-catching ceremony. At 8am in the morning, the first ray of sun on the halfway of the mountain behind the Drepung Temple embraces the Buddha. With the solemn and open sound, the Buddha of Sakyamuni reveals peaceful face which is covered with colorful silk cloth. Tenth of thousands of believers worship with hands folded.

Tibetan Opera

The Tibetan Opera performance is another attractive point. Starting from the second day morning, the performance will begin at 11am to the dust without respite. It is said, because of the limited time, it is the essence of extraction repertoire. The mats are put on the ground and the relatives and friends sit together leisurely with highland barley wine, buttered tea and various Tibetan snacks in the center. Many Tibetans are listening to the Tibetan Opera while entwisting the Buddha beads.

>>Take a tour to Tibet, and you may have the opportunity to see the Shoton Festival:
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6 Days Lhasa, Gyangtze, Shigatse Tour
8 Days Tour from Zhangmu to Lhasa
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