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Shoton Festival

Shoton Festival (Yoghurt Festival), usually celebrated in the sixth month of Tibetan calendar, is one of the most important festivals in the Tibetan Buddhism and in Tibetan area. It is one of the traditional festivals with a long history in Tibetan history.

"Sho" means the Yoghurt and "ton" means banquet in the Tibetan language. Shoton Festival means the festival when people drink Yoghurt according to the explanation of Tibetan. Subsequently, as the activities of Shoton Festival gradually changed into an activity with Tibetan opera as a major part, people also called it as the Tibet Opera Festival. This festival is not only popular in Lhasa City, but also in Gyangtse City. The Shoton Festival in Gyangtse City was established later than that in the Lhasa City, and it is called Semuqinbo by the local people.

Prior to the 17th century, Shoton was an exclusively religious observance. According to the commandments and rules of the Tibetan Buddhism, monks were not allowed to go out of monasteries for several dozen of days in summer until the ban was lifted, when they were able to go out of the monasteries and down the mountains, and local residents would offer alms of yogurt (Sho, in Tibetan) to them. In addition to the yogurt banquet, monks also amused themselves with various entertainment activities. This is the origin of the Shoton. During the mid17th century, the government of the Qjng Dynasty (1644-1911) formally conferred tiles of nobility on the 5th Dalai Lama and the 4th Panchen, and the Tibetan religion-politics integrated system was therefore strengthened. The activities of the Shoton were more colorful then, and people began to perform Tibetan opera. Accordingly, the fixed Shoton Festival was established. Later, the religious activities and entertainment activities were mutually combined during the festival, the range of the festival expanded continuously from the Potala Palace to the Norbulingka, and people were allowed to enter into the monasteries for Tibet opera shows. After that, the activities on Shoton Festival were so complete that a fixed set of festival observances came into being.

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