Shoton Festival, as one of the most popular and greatest festivals in Tibet, is held on the late June and early July of the Tibetan calendar. In Tibetan language, shoton means “yogurt banquet”, so it is also called as “Yogurt Festival”. what’s more, many Tibetan people also call it as “Tibetan Opera Festival” or “Buddha Exhibition Festival” for the performance of Tibetan opera and exhibition of Buddha paintings during this festival. There are mainly 3 parts of Shoton Festival, including Great Buddha Display, Tibetan Opera Show and Horse & Yak Race Show, demonstrating the religion, tradition, culture and customs in Tibet.
Shoton Festival originates in the 11th century, and became the nationwide ceremony until the 17th century when the 5th Dalai Lama introduced the Tibetan opera into the celebration. As the largest festival in Tibet, Shoton Festival also represents the deep-rooted tradition, appealing culture and pious Tibetan people. Therefore, numerous travelers from all over the world are attracted to Tibet to not only enjoy the stunning view of natural scenery and monasteries, but also experience this traditional festival.
Shoton Festival in 2018 will begin on August 11th, and end on August 17th in 2018. August is the peak travel season and the comfortable time for traveling to Tibet as the climate is pleasant, oxygen content in the air is more, and most people are in summer holidays. So you’d better book your tickets or accommodation as early as possible in case that you can not fulfill your Tibet tour.
This festival starts with the Buddha painting(Thangka) unveiling ceremony at the Drepung Monastery which is the momentous section. The Thangka is a 500-square-meter painting of Sakyamuni, and will be open on the hillside in the early morning for 2 hours, and then moved back to the monastery.
Tibetan opera show is another big activity which is started on the second day of Shoton Festival from 11 o’clock in the morning to the dusk. Tibetan people and tourists can celebrate the festival by watching the opera and eating yogurt in the park of Norbulingka and the Potala Palace. Local people sit on the mat with their families and friends drinking buttered tea and eating dessert. During this period, different opera troupes in Tibet come to Lhasa to perform diverse Tibetan operas. Meanwhile, opera teams from Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunan will come to Lhasa during festival to communicate and learn from the opera. In fact, Tibetan operas are quite long, and can last fro several days so the opera performance in the Shoton Festival is shortened. Due to the limitation of time, the operas that performers want to present to the audience are essential versions.
Those opera teams will have a performance tour around every corner of Lhasa city from the July 8th to 15th of Tibetan calendar, therefore, the whole course is called as Lhasa Shoton. Once after the 16th day, some opera teams would go outside of Lhasa downtown to have opera performance. The last activity is held in Sera Monastery, called as Sera Shaton. In spite of Tibetan opera performance lasting for several days here, Horse and Yak racing, local music and dances will be performed alternately.