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Tibetan boy able to recite world's longest epic, after a night's sleep
( 2003-10-22 21:14) (Xinhua)

Allegedly having had a dream, a 13-year-old Tibetan boy has since been able to tell Tibetans' most respected story about a legendary hero -- King Gesser, which is also the longest epic in the world.

This has aroused enormous interest among experts to explain the boy's mysterious capability.

The boy, named Sitar Doje in the Tibetan language, is a fifth- grade student at a local elementary school in Shading Town, Banbar County in Qamdo Prefecture. He said he fell asleep one day when he was 11 years old, and woke up miraculously able to tell the story of King Gesser. Now the boy can talk and sing about the story for six consecutive hours.

The 10-million-word Tibetan epic portraying legendary hero King Gesser has more than 200 parts that have been passed down from generation to generation as oral works of folk art.

According to Tibetan tradition, people who learned to tell the epic story through dreaming are addressed as "God-taught Master." In Tibet, many epic-tellers since ancient times claimed that they had learned to tell the story in dreams.

Cering Puncog, vice director of the Ethnic Institute of the Tibetan Academy of Social Sciences, said there have been many excellent talkers of the King Gesser story in Qamdo Prefecture. He said Sitar Doje became a capable talker probably because he had listened to old talkers' presentations many times, thought of them very often in his mind and dreams, and finally recited the epic as a "natural" talker.

The Cultural Bureau of Qamdo Prefecture has dispatched staff to check the boy's ability and videotape a live performance of the boy.

Cering Puncog said the most interesting point is that the boy was an educated person who has almost finished his elementary schooling, receiving a modern education. So he is far different from old story talkers most of whom were illiterate. Among the 40 best talkers publicly acknowledged in Tibet, only four can read.

For example, Samzhub, a 82-year-old Tibetan folk story-teller, is regarded as the master of talking and singing Gesser. Although unable to read a single word, the old man can tell 65 parts of the epic, totaling more than 20 million words. The Tibetan edition of a five-part King Gesser, compiled according to Samzhub's telling about the long story, was published in 2001.

China has about 140 Gesser story-telling masters. They are mainly from three ethnic groups that had some close relation with the legendary King in their ancient culture: Tibetans, Mongolians or Tu ethnic people. These masters are all now cherished as " national treasures."

According to Cering, far fewer people can talk and sing Gesser' s story, and most living talkers are in their late years. The 13- year-old boy who can talk and sing about the epic indicates that the valuable oral heritage has young successors and can survive in modern times.

To save the epic, the country has published the Academic Works Collection of Gesserology, edited by Zhao Bingli, a research fellow at the Academy of Social Sciences of Qinghai Province.

There are two different views about the time of the creation of the epic: one says that the epic was produced in the period from the beginning of the Christian era to the 6th century, based on the story of a real tribal chief who tamed forces of evil such as ghosts and goblins, and safeguarded a stable environment for people.

Some hold that the epic emerged between the 11th and 13th centuries, when Tibetans hoped for a hero to appear and unify separated Tibet.

The Chinese government set up a special organization to save and catalogue the epic in 1979, and listed the research work as a major research program in every Five-Year Plan.

Currently, Tibet has collected nearly 300 hand-written or woodcut copies of the epic. More than 3 million copies of the Tibetan version of the epic have been printed. The epic has been translated into Chinese, English, Japanese, French and other foreign languages.

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