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Tibetan Opera

Tibetan Opera is an important cultural content of Tibetan people' s social life. In China,  Tibet, Sichuan, Qinghai, Yunnan and other areas where Tibetans are living, the opera is very popular among them. This art form, at its content and the performance practices, has strong religious overtones of Tibetan Buddhism.
Tibetan Opera is a very large branch of drama. Due to the natural conditions of the Tibetan Plateau, customs, culture and traditions, dialect differences of the Tibetan Plateau, it has many varieties of art and genres. Tibetan Opera, through monks studied in Monastery in Tibet and pilgrims spread to Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan, these four provinces' Tibetan areas, forming Qinghai Huangnan Tibetan Opera, Gansu Gannan Tibetan Opera, Sichuan Seda Tibetan Opera and other branches. India, Bhutan, Sikkim and other areas also have Tibetan operas spread.

History and Development of Tibetan Opera

In 15th Century, Kagyu Sect Monk, Tangdong Jiebu, determined to build bridges on rivers at snowland for people. He worked hard for 3 years but did not succeed. Later, he found there were 7 beautiful sisters of the devout followers. He formed a opera troupe, wrote and directed the opera according to Buddhism stories, then they performed from places to to places in order to collect money for building the bridge. This is the origin of the Tibetan Opera. 
In 17th Century, the Tibetan Opera separated from the rituals of Monastery, and gradually became the performance for living, which mainly focused on singing and combining chant, dancing and other basic patterns.
Tibetan Opera used to be a square opera with accompaniment of few musical instruments, only a drum and a cymbal. After the liberation of Tibet, the government organized a Tibetan opera troupe, performed some traditional dramas, and also wrote other modern drama. They began to use more orchestral instruments. Meanwhile, the lights, settings and make up have become better and better.

Types of Tibetan Opera

White Mask Tibetan Opera
Maternal drama of Tibetan Opera , the oldest and widely spread opera. It is the meaning of fairy' s white mask drama.
Blue Mask Tibetan Opera
Weizang dialects drama in the central Tibet areas, which is the most traditional, the most developed, and the most influential Tibetan opera.

In addition, there are also Khampa Opera, Ando Opera, Chamdo Opera, Jiarong Opera and Dege Opera in Tibet. 


The performances are usually divided into 3 sections:
  • Dun, the opening memorial ceremony singing and dancing
  • Xiong, the tale or legend of the performance
  • Zaxi, meanings of blessing and welcoming
The performing form: All the actors all stand on the stage in semi-cycle, when it's their turn to perform, they will stand out, other time, they do dancing or vocal accompaniment.


The costume of Tibetan Opera is colorful with unique ethnic and high plateau style. For example, the Blue Mask Tibetan Opera has characters of fat waist, long sleeves, large front and leaving uncovered arm. They love to use animal fur, gold and silver, jewelry and other objects as decorations.
The costumes are mostly based on the clothing of Tibetan Empire. After absorbing the form of clothing of Yuan and Qing Dynasty, become the costumes today.


The mask for them is more local and folk than religious mask. The themes are mostly historical stories and figures in legends. Different masks refer to different characteristics.
Red refers to King, light red refers to minister, yellow refers to living Buddha, blue refers to negative character, and half black and half white refers to double-dealer.