Tibetan opera is known as Lhamo or Ache Lhamo in Tibetan. During your Tibet travel, you will often find the Tibetan opera performance in villages and if you visit Lhasa during the Lhasa Yogurt festival. The cultural wisdom of Tibetan for thousands of year and clearly reflected in the Tibetan opera. Many Tibetologist consider Tibetan opera as the living fossil of Tibetan culture. Legend has it that in 14th mystic Thangtong Gyalpo found the culture of Tibetan opera to raise the fund for building iron bridge throughout the Tibetan Plateau. He received the help from 12 sisters to perform in the Opera. Which are the first Ache Lhamo (Meaning sister goddess)?
All the performance of the Tibetan Opera is base on some ancient Indian Buddhist folk tales. The Opera of Princess Wencheng is also base on the historical. Another reason for his troupe to travel far and wide is to spread the teaching of Lord Buddha in the form of entertainment. Most of the stories of the performance are hard work and struggle of the good people and ultimate triumph of the good over the evil. Right now there are nine major traditional Tibetan Opera.
The procedure and the performance style has not changed much since the 14th century. Nowadays, we follow the same opening rituals are enacted before the commencement of every performance, authentic costumes are worn, singing, dance, and musical tradition are strictly adhered to.
There is no much information about the development of Tibetan Opera until the time of 5th Dalai Lama. According to some source, it is said the mask and Custome of the hunter are designed by the fifth Dalai lama base on his dream. We have some wall mural about the Tibetan opera in The Potala Palace.
In the early 19th century, every county in Tibet has they own amateur troupe performing locally during different occasions. Most famous troupes are Tashi Sholpa of Shol village below Potala palace, Chongye Phundun of Chongye in Shanan Prefecture, Shangpa of Jang Village, Gyalkhara, Chungpa of Quxul village, and Kyormulung of Tulung county are the most popular. These troupe would regulation take part in the official festival in Norbulingka, Drepung Monastery and Sera Monastery
Notable troupes including Tashi Sholpa, Chongye Phundun, Shangpa, Gyalkhara, Chungpa, and Kyormulung are much sought after and are always a regular part of the official festivals at Norbulingka, Drepung Monastery, and Sera Monastery. The Tashi Sholpa is the oldest and most of popular of all the Tibetan Opera Troupe in Tibet. This troupe has their own dance for Good luck which is commonly performed during inaugurate special occasions such as big official gatherings and construction or opening or construction of a monastery. The performer would wear whiteboard mask to represent Thantong Gyalpo, the founder of Tibetan Opera. Since he lives for 140 years, his representation symbolizes longevity and good health.
Traditionally, there are nine different Tibetan opera performance. These stories are each exclusively played by the particular troupe. Sukyi Nima, Drowa Sangmo and Pema Woebar exclusively perform by the Kyormulung troupe. Prince Norsang is solely performed by Gyalkhara as their main performance because of their monastic background. The troupe from the Muru Monastery perform only Deep Tenpa. The Chungpa Troupe perform Drimed Kunden.
People from all walks of life in Tibetan are familiar with arias. They would often sing it during all the social gathering, religious festivals and even while walking lonely in remote places.
Tibetan Opera was started by Thangtong Gyalpo in 14th Century. He was born to the peasant family in Shigatse County in 1361. As a child, he was sent to the Local monastery to learn about Buddhist Philosophy. During his childhood in the monastery, he is a smart child and easily able to learn everything. Later he came to Lhasa for further his studies. In Lhasa, he found many people are not able to cross the river in the boat for they don’t have money to pay for. He begs the boatmen to let these people cross for free of cost, instead of letting them cross for free, the boatmen have beaten Thangtong Gyalpo. After this incident, he has generated a very strong desire to build the bridge over the River.
He selected seven sisters from his labor during the construction of a bridge at Chowo Ri. He thought them songs and dances, with them he formed a first Tibetan opera troupe. Girls wearing beautiful costumes, they traveled around Tibet performing to raise funds for the projects. The girls sang and dance while the yogi himself beat the Drum and cymbal. Tibetan is so impressed with the performance and they hailed the girls as the goddess. Since then they are known as Ache Lhasa (Sister Goddess). After a while, the performance of Tibetan opera itself is called Ache Lhamo.
The group was able to raise fund for 58 iron bridges and 60 wooden bridges across Tibet. Some of his iron bridges are still standing in different places in Tibet and Bhutan.
Now in Tibet is custom for us to install statues and images of Yogi when we are occupying a new home. During the Tibetan opera performances, it is custom to have a ritual dance and installation of his statues in the middles of performance ground or stage and pay homages to him.
The Performance of the Tibetan Opera
Traditionally Tibetan Opera Or Ache Lhamo is usually performed outdoors on a circular stage where all the audience would sit around the circular stage to enjoy the show. The Stage may or may not have a tent above the stage.
Initially, all the members of the troupe would come to the stage to pay homage to the image or statue of Thangtong Gyalpo. follow by the dance of the Hunters (Ngonpa) while the Ngopas are dancing the auspicious dance. The seven Lhamos ( angels) and the Narrator will appear on the stage. After the dance, the narrator will initiate the play by narrating the part of the story. followed by song dance and singing of arias.
Supsiquently the actor would play the stories. During in the play, they will be lots of jokes, singing and dancing as the part of the story and audience.
By the end of the play usually with the victory of the good over evil. There will be dance and song follow by the offering of incensed to the god of the world out of gratitude.
Tibetan Opera in Modern Time.
Tibetan opera has been list intangible culture of Tibetan People and Chinese National by the UN, Central Government in Beijing and Regional Government of Tibet Autonomous Region of China. There have been many efforts from the Government in all the levels preserve and promote it. Now all the county in Tibet, as they own troupe. They would have a competition every year in the Norbulingka for a week-long traditional Tibetan Holiday of Yogurt festival in Lhasa.
Many schools in Lhasa has Tibetan opera class as the extra curriculum. The most popular stories in the Tibetan opera in Tibet now is of the Princess Wencheng. When you are in Lhasa, you can visit the Village Drip Tsechokling to see the live performance of the Princess Wencheng.
I-Tibet travel and Tours is fully committed to responsible and Sustainable tourism practice in Tibet. Our privilege to be able to host you in Tibet also makes our responsibility in protecting nature and contributing back communities.
As a Local Tibetan travel agency in Lhasa. Our staffs are 100% local Tibetan tourism professionals. Additionally, We only use local Tibetan guides, other tours crews, and local business. 100% of the travel money goes to locals. Besides, We use 3% of the net profit into Environmental and social initiatives.
Being Tibetan, We know how vital the Tibetan environment is for the entire world. Mountains, glacier, and rivers are all cherished in our culture. We do our best to reduce the environmental impact of your tours in Tibet.
Following are Our ways:
a) No Small plastic bottles in the tour
All the drinking water are provided in the bigger container. So all visitors are asked to bring his/her own water bottle. In this way, we reduce hundreds and thousands of small plastic bottles. All the bigger containers are provided back to the manufacturer for reuse.
b) Incentives for practice
Incentives are given to guide and drivers. Who follow our strict directories on ethical practice towards sustainable and responsible tourism practice.
c) Staff Training every winter
Winter is a low season in Tibet tourism. We provide skill training required for the practice of Responsible and Sustainable tourism practice, first Aids and emergency first responder training. One of our managers is certified Humanity Supply Chain management by fritz institute. We work closely with individuals from institute like Tibet Eco Travel initiatives and Local Tibet Red Cross society and other NGOs.
d) Tree Plantation
Some portion of the tour money are save for our 1000 Tree plantation project. We will plant trees when we will have enough funds.
e) Smaller group size
All our tours are a small group to reduce environmental Impact. Since traveling in a smaller group has less impact on committed in an area than a big group. Therefore all our tour groups are small.
f) Trekking tours and environmental care in the wilderness of Tibet
During your trekking Tours, you will be walking across a very fragile ecosystem. We do take extra care in our trekking tours preventing environmental effects. Following are how are take care of our environment our trekking tours.
1: We nothing leave mother behind.
We make sure we take all our rubbish and leave nothing behind.
2: We protect the grassland
A little destruction of Tibet’s fragile environment is irreversible. So, in the trekking tours, we will not make drainage surrounding your tent. Instead, we will provide trekkers with a better tent with bathtub style floors which prevent water from getting into the tent. We don’t put a small tent toilet. Even if we try to put the grass back, it is not the same. So when you are answering your nature called please enjoy the view.
3: Collecting the garbage along the way.
We have a saying in Tibet, “if you can’t help, don’t harm.” Here is our helping part. We always have extra yaks carrying the Garbages, our yak men will be collecting while waiting for the clients at the campsite. Yak man walks faster than all, and they have free time at the camp. While cook prepares for meals and drinks, We pay yaks men’s incentives in collecting the rubbish around the camp.
I-Tibet travel and tours, identify its self as a social enterprise. For this, we dedicate 3% of our annual net profit to Social and environmental projects. Every winter we buy winter clothes for small children and donate to schools. In this way, besides donating winter cloth, we are also encouraging them to go to school.
It is important to make our guest understand Local Culture, Beliefs, and Ethics. Hence it will make it more comfortable during Our special tour arrangements. Like, your home visit, culture programs, and our others.