Shoton Festival is a great festival in Tibet, a celebration to mark the end of the monks' Yarné, their hundred day summer retreat. This festival starts on the last day of the sixth month in Tibetan Calendar and lasts for a few days.
"Shoton" in Tibetan means yogurt banquet. As Tibetan operas are performed and Buddha paintings are exhibited at this time, it is also called "Tibetan Opera Festival" or "Buddha Exhibition Festival". Shoton Festival is the most important and attractive for the Tibetans with full of ethnic songs and dances along with famous Tibetan opera performing at Norbulingka Palace. Hundreds of thousands of Tibetans gather at Drepung Monetary,Sera monastery to see the famous Buddha Thangka.
Origination of Shoton Festival
Tsongkapa master had initiated a rule on monks to concentrate on meditation in monasteries from April to June according to Tibetan lunar calendar to avoid killings and earning demerits during that days. After finishing these days, the local Tibetan laymen use to serve them curds, perform Tibetan opera and will go for picnics and later strengthen to new festival in Tibet.
What to See in Shoton Festival
Appreciating traditional horsemanship
- Hundreds of Tibetan people gather at Drepung and Sera monastery with well ethnic dress up.
- Lamas carrying the giant Jampa Thangka and hanging on foot hill of Gebeiwotse mountain early in the morning.
- The sound of sutra bugle reverberating through the valley.
- Giant hanged Jampa thangka at Drepung and Sera monastery.
- Tibetan opera performance at Norbulingka Palace.
- Woderful yak racing and horsemanship display.
- Hundreds of journalist from all over the world.
- Sangsol (burning of Tuja leaves along with Tsampa and butter) at the whole cities.
- Crowded Tibetan peoples throwing White Khada on the giant Thangka.
When to Go for Shoton Festival in 2018 and 2019
Shoton Festival is held in midsummer, usually on July 1st of Tibetan calendar and the date is different every year. It has been celebrated on Aug. 11th, 2018 and will fall on Aug. 30th, 2019 in solar calendar. In fact, it is also the most comfortable travel season in Tibet, when the climate is pleasant and there is more oxygen in the air than other seasons. However, Tibet train tickets, air tickets, hotels, tour guides, vehicles at that time are in great demand because Tibet have already embraced its peak tourism season since April and Chinese students still spend their summer holidays there. Our 2019 Shoton Festival tours are designed in advance to help you make an early plan so as to book train/air tickets and hotels as well as tours as early as possible.
Photography Plan for Shoton Festival
Generally, you can shoot the Tangka unveiling ceremony at Drepung Monastery in the morning and Tibetan opera performance at Norbulingka.
The Tangka unveiling ceremony is normally held around 8:30am in Drepung Monastery, and you can take photos all the morning. You need to rush to Drepung Monastery at 4am in order to shoot the entire process of “Sunning the Buddha”. At around 8:30am, the large Thangka will be slowly unveiled on a special platform, and pilgrims rush up to throw white Hada on the giant Thangka. Countless Hada fly in front of the Buddha forming a great scene.
Tibetan Opera Performance
Then appreciate Tibetan opera performance at in the afternoon. Actually, Tibetan Opera is performed from about 11:00 a.m. until dusk every day at Norbulingka and at another park near the Potala Palace. Due to the limited time, the performances are only a distillation of actual Tibetan Opera.
On Shoton Festival, Buddhists will go to mountains to cultivate themselves, and after cultivation, their family members will go and meet them on the mountains. On their way home, they eat yoghurt, sing and dance.
During Shoton Festival, the main activities of the celebration are centered in Lhasa. Take good care of your photographic equipment and avoid them to be damaged by squeezing when there are too many tourists. Keep safe when climbing and shooting.
Restaurant and Accommodation in Lhasa
There are lots of snack stands at the side of highway, which is at the foot of Drepung Monastery. The gate in front of Norbulingka is filled with some food stands, where you can taste local snacks.
It is advisable to reserve a room in advance in Lhasa city, as there may be no room available during Shoton Festival.
Most Recommended Tour Packages of this Festival
Lhasa4 Days Lhasa Impression Small Group Tour
This classic Lhasa city group tour is the best choice for tourists who have limited time or visit Tibet for the first time. After visiting the must-sees in Lhasa, you will have a comprehensive impression of Tibetan culture and pave the way for your revisit in the near future.
Lhasa5 Days Lhasa Small Group Tour with Three Major Monasteries
The 5 days tour features the major monasteries of Tibet, Drepung monastery,Sera monastery and Ganden Monastery, which are 3 main Yellow sect Monasteries in Lhasa. Through this tour, tourists may have a better understanding of the largest and mainstream leading sect of Tibetan Buddhism.
Just a Reminder
Joining in a small group tour is the very BEST way for solo travelers or traveling Tibet on a budget!
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