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Tibetans celebrate Shoton Festival


09-03-2016 06:41 BJT

In southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, the annual major celebration Shoton Festival has opened at the historic Drepung Monastery. The Shoton, or Yogurt, Festival is one of the most important traditional festivals in the region, second only to the Tibetan New Year.

Jubilation fills Tibet's regional capital Lhasa.

A huge Thangka Buddha portrait is exhibited at Drepung Monastery in Lhasa, capital of southwest China

A huge Thangka Buddha portrait is exhibited at Drepung Monastery in Lhasa, capital of southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, Sept. 1, 2016. Buddhists and believers thronged Lhasa for the start of the traditional Shoton Festival on Thursday. The Shoton Festival, also known as the Yogurt Banquet Festival, is a week-long gala held since the 11th century. (Xinhua/Jigme Doje)

Here at the Drepung Monastery is the Grand Buddha display.  It's one of the major activities of the Shoton Festival

With the first ray of morning sunlight, this huge Thangka painting begins to make its appearance. The painting is a portrait of Sakyamuni, founder of Buddhism. 

The 600-year-old Thangka is 40 meters long and 37 meters wide.  It's only brought out from Drepung for Shoton. 

Believers come to pray for peace, happiness, and good health.

Shoton means "yogurt" and "feast" in Tibetan.  The festival originated in the 11th Century as a purely religious one.

Since the second half of the 17th Century, it gradually became a major event including the Buddha display, Tibetan opera performances, and horse and yak races. It is also known as the Tibetan Opera Festival.

In May 2006, Shoton was included on the first China Intangible cultural heritage protection list.

This year's festival will also feature as many as 11 events including the Lake Namtso hiking contest, Tibetan chess competitions, painting, calligraphy and photography exhibitions.  There will also be a themed carnival and a series of online promotional activities.

The festival will run through September 7th.

Drepung Monastery is one of the six major monasteries of Tibetan Buddhism. Drepung Monastery was built hillside, covering about 250,000 square meters. It was built in the year 1416, during the Ming Dynasty. In recent years, the government has increased efforts to preserve it.

In 1982, Drepung Monastery was listed as a national key cultural relics protection units. In recent years, China has invested over one hundred million yuan on the preservation and protection of the cultural relics and ancient frescoes at the monastery.

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