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Shoton Festival

Shoton Festival, also known as Yoghurt Festival or Tibetan Opera Festival, is one of the grandest traditional festivals in Tibet. It begins on the 30th of the 6th Tibetan month. In the Tibetan language, "Sho" means yogurt and "Ton" means banquet. Therefore, the Shoton Festival is a festival of yogurt banquet. However, as time past, the Shoton Festival becomes a festival of traditional Tibetan operas. It is mainly celebrated in Lhasa and Xigaze. It features in “Sunning the Buddha”, Tibetan opera performances, song singing and trade fairs.

The Shoton Festival has its beginning prior to the 17th century. By Buddhist discipline, monks are confined in their monasteries for several dozen days until summer is over. The day the “confinement” is over the local people treat the monks to banquets, at which yogurt, fruits and other seasoning food are served as their sacriface to thier spiritual master and a way to show thier respect. And local style operas and songs were performed. This is said to be the origin of the Shoton Festival. With time going,it gradually became one of the most grandest, important festival in Tibet prior to Tibet New year.
During the festival, stage performances and other recreational activities last for days in Norbulingka, creating an extra-vibrant scene. Tibetan opera troupes or folk dance groups from Tibet, Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan all come to perform. However, in early days, Drepung Monastery was the center of the Shoton Festival. So it was also called the Drepung Shoton Festival at the time. In the middle of 17th century, the Fifth Dalai Lama moved his residence from Drepung Monastery to the Potala Palace and added opera performance to this festival. After Lhasa's Norbulingka was built in the early 18th century as the summer residence of the Dalai Lama, it soon became the main venue of the Shoton Festival.

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