Shoton is the transliteration of two Tibetan words which mean 'Yoghurt Banquet'. In ancient times, folks went into mountain hermitages to do penance. On the last day of the festival, Yoghurt is served as meal followed by folk songs and dances.
To celebrate the Shoton Festival, artists give the performances at Norbulingka. Besides, an annual ceremony of showing the Buddha's paintings is held at Drepung Monastery. Tibetan local operas were added to festival celebrations which were held around monasteries in Lhasa.
Date: 30th, Jun of Tibetan calendar
Place: Lhasa, Shigatse
Origin of Shoton Festival
Each year, from the end of the June to the early of July in Tibetan Calendar, is the Shoton Festival in Tibet. In Tibetan language, Shoton Festival is the festival for eating yoghurt. Later, the Shoton Festival gradually became the festival of which main activity is Tibetan opera performance. So people also call it "Tibetan Opera Festival”.
Before 17th Century, Tibetan Shoton Festival was just a kind of religion activity. At that time, according to the laws and regulations of Buddhism, dozens of days, from Jun 15 to Jul 30, monks were forbidden to go out during those days, in order to avoid killing little bugs by stepping on them accidentally. When the monks passed these forbidden-out-days, they all went out of the temple and the local people would prepare yoghurt for them. Monks ate yoghurt and also prayed outside. This is the origin of the Shoton Festival.
Celebration of Shoton Festival
Before democratic reforms, each year on June 29, Tibetan opera troupes of each prefecture will go to the local government department of Tibetan Opera to report for duty. They do some simple performances, then go to Norbulingka to see Dalai Lama, and go back to Drepung Monastery at night. The next day (June 30) is the Shoton Festival of Drepung Monastery, the opera troupes will perform here. On July 1, the opera troupes of Lhasa, Qiongjie, Yalong, Deqing, Nimu and other areas will joint perform at Norbulingka. From July 2 – 5, the Tibetan opera troupes of Gangtse, Angren, Nanmulin, Lhasa, etc. will perform in turns, each troupe for a day. During the festival, Lhasa citizens and villagers living at suburb will wear festival costumes, take food and go to see the Tibetan opera. Besides, an annual ceremony of showing the Buddha's paintings is held at Drepung Monastery. That's the reason why people also call it Tibet Opera Festival.
After democratic reforms, except for Tibetan opera, there are also other troupes and amateur singing and dancing groups will take part in the performance.
Now, along with the reform and opening-up, the development of economic and the improvement of the cultural quality of people, Shoton Festival has become a cultural stage for making friends as well as inviting investment since more and more people know and take part in this festival.