- by Caroline
- Last Updated: 2020-03-19
Shoton Festival, also called Sho Dun Festival, is a traditional religious festival for all the Tibetans that live not only in Tibet Autonomous Region, but also in Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, and Yunnan provinces. It starts from late June or early July of the Tibetan calendar, which usually is in August of the solar calendar. In the Tibetan language, “Sho” means yogurt, “Ton” means banquet, so, you can consider it as a feast of eating yogurt. Accompanied by the wonderful Tibetan opera performances and the ceremony of unfolding huge Tangka, it is called the “Tibetan Opera Festival” or “Unveiled Buddha Festival” as well. Besides the main activities, people can watch breathtaking yak or horse races for optional. The Shoton Festival of 2020 will start from 20th to 26th in August.
It is dated back to the middle of 11th. Century, the Drepung Monastery was the first place to hold the Shoton Festival. It was absolutely a religious event of Buddhism from the beginning. According to Buddhist teaching, there are more than 300 commandments, among which the killing is the most severe sin to avoid. The insects increase to large numbers in Summer; thus, the Gelug Sect of Buddhism has strictly regulated lamas to stay only in Monasteries during April to June of the Tibetan calendar, for keeping away from the damage on those tiny creatures. This action is called “Ya Le” or “Peaceful living in Summer,” and it would last for nearly two months initially. Lamas could break the ban and go out until the end of June, while the laypeople would offer them Yogurt as a reward for their hard practice. Besides, a banquet would be held in the wild ground, where people performed Tibetan opera to celebrate the open moment. With time passing by, this celebration has developed into an annual Buddhist feast and finally become the Shoton Festival with such a big scale nowadays.
Where to Hold the Shoton Festival?
Lhasa is the first city to hold the Shoton Festival. There are big celebrations around three places---the Drepung Monastery, Norbulingka, and the Potala Palace. Compared with the other two, Norbulingka, which is used to be the summer palace for Dalai Lama, is the central venue.
What to Expect During the Shoton Festival?
1. Prolog ---The ceremony of unfolding the huge Tangka
A huge Tangka embroidered with a picture of Sakyamuni is kept in the Drepung Monastery as a priceless treasure. On the first day of the Shoton Festival, this 500 square meters Tangka will be carried out by about 100 lamas and delivered to the west of the monastery, where there is a platform for the exhibition. It begins at 8 a.m. when the horns are heard all over the valley. People get excited when the Tangka is opened up little by little on the hillside. Lamas start to chant scripture, and laymen offer white (one kind of saintly scarfs represent for best wishes) to Buddha for a blessing.
Thousands of hada flying in front of the Buddha picture makes it a remarkable scene that will impress anyone on the spot. Two hours later, the Tangka will be rolled up and sent back to Drepung Monastery, waiting for being brought to light the next year.
2. Eating Yogurt
After the solemn unveiling ceremony, the rest part of the Shoton Festival is full of entertainment. Tibetan families will have a picnic in Norbulingka, which is a national park opened for the public now. The dressed-up Tibetan people come to the park early in the morning, set up colorful tents, put the mat on the ground, prepare food and beverages in advance. They celebrate the festival by singing, dancing, and eating the symbolic food Yogurt, drinking butter Tea, or Qingke Liquor. They also invite friends to share their happiness. The harmonious atmosphere covers every corner of the park.
3. Tibetan Opera
Another vital activity for the Shoton Festival is to watch the traditional Tibetan Opera. From the second day on, there are Tibetan Opera performances that started at 11 a.m. and ended up till the dark. The troupes usually perform at Norbulingka and another park named “Long Wang Tan” (the pond of dragon king) near the Potala Palace. The original Tibetan opera typically last for several days while the performances for Shoton Festival have to be concentrated into a short one due to the limited time. But it will not affect the passion of either the performers or the audiences. During this time, the Tibetan opera troupes from Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu and Yunnan provinces will come to Lhasa for competition. On the other hand, it’s also an opportunity for them to exchange skills; therefore, get improvements.
Overall speaking, the Shoton Festival is one of the most popular feasts for Tibetan people. You can understand Tibetan culture and Buddhism more deeply after participation. So, what are you waiting for? Contact us and join in a tour for the Shoton Festival this year!
Related Articles & Posts
Saga Dawa Festival
The Saga Dawa Festival is considered highly significant in Tibet. It's celebrated during the fourth month of the Tibetan Calendar, for remembering the birthday, enlightenment, and death of Sakyamuni. ...
Saga Dawa Festival celebrated at Mt Kailash
Saga Dawa Festival is usually celebrated at Mt Kailash. The famous Tarboche Flagpole, a huge pole that lies on the Kailash Kora route, would be replaced with new prayer flags and raised up again. Local Tibetans circumambulated the Tarboche Flagpole in clockwise direction to welcome the newly rising ...
Tibetan Festivals Calendar
Great Tibet Tour provide you the 2019/2020 calendar of Tibetan Festivals such as Losar Festival, Saga Dawa Festival, Gyantse Horse Racing Festival, Nagqu Horse Racing Festival, Shoton Festival, etc. Let's see the event details. ...
Losar Festival - Tibetan New Year
Tibetan New Year, called as “Losar” as well, is the most important festival for Tibetan people. Where does it come from? When is Losar? What activities are there during Losar Festival? How do Tibetan people celebrate for Losar? Check this post and find the answer. ...
Nyingchi Peach Flower Festival – Smile with Your Lover in Blooming Flower Bush
With the lowest elevation in Tibet, Nyingchi has the same stunning scenery as Switzerland. Especially in March – April, the peach flowers are blooming in the mountain. Do you want a journey to the most romantic place in Tibet? ...
Nagqu Horse Racing Festival
Nagqu Horse Racing Festival is the greatest annual event in northern Tibet. During festival, you can enjoy an attire feast, taste delicious Tibetan food, and enjoy singing and dancing. ...
Butter Lamp Festival
The Butter Lamp Festival was held on the 15th of the first month in Tibetan Calendar. It’s a tradition that commemorates all of Buddha’s miracles. You will feel a happy atmosphere during that Festival. ...
As a holy land located in the far west of Asia, Tibet is an ideal destination for a vacation. Having a Tibetan vacation, you can renew, refresh and purify your body and mind. ...
Holidays in Tibet and Nepal
Nepal and Tibet are both popular travel destinations for travelers. Have a holiday in Tibet and Nepal will offer you a unique experience by exploring different nature and culture. ...
Tibet Holiday Package
We offer hand-picked group tour and private tour packages to travelers all around the world. As an international traveler who wants to have a holiday in Tibet, you can book our tours and free yourself from planning itineraries on this massive land. ...