The Shoton festival is heled in the middle of the summer in Lhasa and a lot of people from around Tibet gather in Lhasa. Even the government offices in Lhasa have holiday for a week. It is one of the best chances to see more local festivals, Tibetan opera, local traditional dances, locals are having picnic so you will have an authentic Tibetan experience if your Tibet travel is during the Tibetan Shoton Festival.
Shoton Festival is one of the grandest transitional festivals in Tibet. In local language, Sho refers to yogurt and Ton means banquet and eating. Therefore, Shoton Festival is namely a feast day to have yogurt.
In truth, this ‘yogurt festival’ was originally an utterly religious event, starting in mid-11th century. At that time, people sacrifice yogurt to monasteries. Since late 17th century, it had become an important festival with Tibetan opera and thangka unfolding ceremony, backed up by entertainment and religion activities. Since it was hosted by Lhasa government, it has changed into a famous celebration combining tradition and modernization.
The Shoton festival for 2016 was begun from 1st Sep and it will last long until 7th Sep 2016. During the great Shoton festival, a giant Buddha painting (thangka) unveiling ceremony in Drepung Monastery is the most remarkable. The 500-square-meter (598-square-yard) painting of Shakyamuni Buddha is gradually open on the hillside back of the monastery as the light in the very first morning strike on the large thangka at eight o’clock. The ceremony is called ‘Buddha basking in the sun’.
Tibetan Opera is another big draw which is to be carried on since the second day of the festival from eleven o’clock in the morning until dark. Shows can be admired in Norbulingka and Lukhang (Dragon King Pond) Park behind the Potala Palace. The locals sit on mat with families and friends, drink butter tea and chang ( the local Tibetan barley beer ) taste dessert and watch the opera while waving the prayer wheel or finger the rosary in hand. During the period, different schools of Tibetan opera will compete with each other, and teams from Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan will come to the holy Lhasa to improve their skills by exchanges.