The Xuedun Festival, or the Xuedun Festival, is one of the traditional festivals that have a long history in Tibet. In Tibetan, "xue" means "yoghurt," and "dun" means "feast." So Xuedun Festival is a festival of drinking yoghurt. Later, because the performance of Tibetan Opera became the main content of the festival, it was named the "Tibetan Opera Festival." As the festival traditionally begins with a Buddhist Portrait Unfolding Ritual, it is also called the "Buddhist Portrait Unfolding Festival".
The festival is held on the 30th day of the 6th Tibetan lunar month, and the period varies from 5 to 7 days. Its content today is much richer. When the festival comes, people wear festival dresses, carry such daily articles as food and tents and gather in Norbu Lingka to watch opera while playing and relaxing. There are also activities like yak racing and tests of horsemanship.
People set up stalls around the Norbu Lingka, and sell their goods, which gives the old Xuedun Festival new life and vitality.
Before the 17th century, the Xuedun activity in Tibet was a kind of pure religious activity. According to Buddhist regulations and discipline, monks were not allowed to leave temples for dozens of days in the summer, and they had to stay in the temple until the prohibition was lifted. During the days when the prohibition was lifted, monks left the temples and went down the mountain to the village. Common people would prepare yoghurt to give as alms. Lamas not only drank yoghurt to their hearts' content, but also enjoyed themselves with various entertainments. This is the origin of the Xuedun.
Ⅱ. History and Development
In 1642 when the Gelug (Yellow) Sect began its rule over Tibet, the 5th Dalai Lama ordered the operas to be performed in the Zhebang Monastery at the Xuedun event. During the celebration, yoghurt was served, and local style operas and songs were performed. But religious and entertainment activities were still restrained in monasteries.
In the beginning, the Zhebang Monastery was the center of the Xuedun Festival. This is because when the Gelug Sect established its rule over Tibet, its religious and political center was set in this monastery, and the Ganden Pochan was the once the residence for 5th Dalai Lama. After the Potala Palace was rebuilt in 1682, the 5th Dalai Lama moved his palace to Potala from the Zhebang Monastery; from then on, the Xuedun Festival was performed first in the Zhebang Monastery and then shifted to the Potala Palace the next day.
At the beginning of the 18th century when the 7th Dalai Lama reigned, the Norbu Lingka was constructed, and it became the summer palace of the Dalai. The Xuedun Festival began to be held in it. City residents and common people around the city were allowed to enter
the garden and watch the opera.
Over the past 200 years, Xuedun gradually became a fixed festival for the masses held in the Zhebang Monastery, the Potala Palace and the Norbu Lingka, with the Norbu Lingka as the center.