(TibetanReview.net, Aug19’23) – Shoton, one of Tibet’s most popular festivals, is traditionally best known for, among other things, the competitive performances of the various opera groups from across the land. But this year, while the week-long festival kicked off in capital Lhasa on Aug 16, Tibetan opera artists had to share stage with performers of Chinese operas from Beijing and Jiangsu province in a move clearly aimed at Sinicizing the Tibetan culture and event.
This is not withstanding the fact that China has already greatly Sinicized much of the traditional Tibetan performing arts since at least 1959.
At the evening gala on Wednesday (Aug 16), Peking Opera and Kunqu Opera singers from Beijing and East China’s Jiangsu Province were invited to perform on the same stage with Tibetan Opera artists, reported China’s official globaltimes.cn Aug 16.
Their performances were broadcast online and on news media platforms of the provinces and municipalities that have provided aid to Xizang, the report said, referring to the Pinyin Romanised Chinese name for Tibet Autonomous Region.
“I think the inland operas and Tibetan Opera performed on the same stage will help artists learn from each other, and allow them to improve their performance skills and strive for excellence together,” Xiong Kunxin, a professor at Minzu University of China, has said.
“It will also contribute to the exchanges, interaction and integration between different ethnic groups of China as well as their living in harmony, working together with one heart and achieving harmonious development,” Xiong has added.
Beijing’s latest push to foster a “sense of community for the Chinese nation” – an effort to boost Chinese national identity among ethnic minority regions – was first put forward by President Xi Jinping at the Communist Party congress in 2017, marking a new, more direct phase in the decades-long effort to Sinicize Tibet.
The report said local Tibetan Opera troupes will also perform with troupes from Tibetan-inhabited areas in Qinghai and Gansu, and Sichuan and Yunnan provinces.
Shoton is celebrated from the 15th to the 24th day of the 5th Tibetan-calendar month – usually about the middle of August. It marks the end of a month-long retreat by the monks who are offered yogurt by the laypeople, for Shoton literally means “yogurt banquet”.
The practice began in the 11th century. Later on, summer operas, or Lhamo, and theatricals were added to the festivities heled at the Norbulingkha, the summer palace of the Dalai Lamas, where people picnicked and watched the operatic performances, dressed in their festive best.
Another major highlight of the festival is the unrolling of a giant Thangka painting of the Maitreya Buddha at the Drepung Monastery.