If you plan your tour of Tibet well, not only will you be able to see the pristine beauty of the region, you could also participate in the numerous highly colorful festivals of region. Hardly a day passes without some festivities, ceremonial observances or pilgrimages occurring in some part of the region or the other. Whichever festival you include in your travel itinerary.
Tibetan New Year
It is the greatest festival in Tibet. In ancient times when the peach tree was in blossom, it was considered as the starting of a new year. On the New Year's Day, families unite "auspicious dipper" is offered and the auspicious words Â¡"Tashi Delek" are greeted. The Tibetan New Year is known as 'Losar', the most popular of all the festivals of the year, when even young Tibetans wear chuba and pay their first visit of the year to a temple with their family early in the morning. On New Year's Day, Tibetans are supposed to offer ornaments called 'Chemar' and chang beer to their household's deity and to the water dragon that takes care of their water supply. Be careful as the chang served is strong enough to get drunk.
After saying 'Tashi Delek' and exchanging greetings with neighbors, Tibetans do nothing but feast on the food and drink that they have painstakingly prepared. They visit each others feasts and have parties full of drinking and singing. The men don't miss an opportunity to enjoy gambling, with games of 'Sho' (dice), 'Pakchen' (mah-jong), etc. On New Year's Day everyone spends time with their family or neighbors and then start paying visits to their relatives on the second day. Children also have a good time New Year's gifts of candies, etc.
Great Prayer Festival
This is the greatest religious festivals in Tibet. Instituted by Tsongkpa in 1409, the founder of the Gelukpa sect. Monks from the Three Great Monastery of Tibet assemble in Jokhang for prayer to ShakyamunÂ¡Â¯s image as if it were the living Buddha. Pilgrims come from every corner of Tibet and donations are offered to the monks.
'Monlam' means 'Prayer' and at monasteries a great Buddhist service is held and 'Cham' (Buddhist dances) are performed. According to the legend, in the first month of the year, Buddha conquered or converted six holy men of false religions. From New Year's Day until the end of 'Monlam', people continue to eat, drink and make merry.
The Monlam Festival, lasting from the first to the 15th day of the first month of the lunar year, is the largest religious gathering in Tibet. Tsongkhapa, founder of the Yellow Sect introduced the festival, in 1409, during the festival, lamas from the three largest monasteries gather in the Jokhang, reciting scriptures and attending an examination for the Gexi degree.
The date of the Great Prayer Festival (Smom-lam) varies. For the three great Monasteries of Lhasa, it is from the 4th to the 25th day in the first month. For Taer (Ku-bum in Tibetan, i.e., ten thousands images of Buddha) Monastery, it is form the 8th to the 15th day of the first month. For Labrang Monastery, it is from the the 3rd to the 17th day of the first month.
Butter Lamp Festival
Butter Lamp Festival On the day of 'Chunga Choepa' the Barkhor Square in Lhasa turns into a grand exhibition site for huge 'Tormas' sculpted from butter in the form of various auspicious symbols and lamps. It is a fantastic night.
'Chunga Choepa' used to be the highlight of 'Monlam' in Lhasa and in the past the Dalai Lamas would come to the Jokhang Temple and perform the great Buddhist service. The question and answer test for the highest-ranking monk of 'Lharampa Geshe' was also held before the Dalai Lama during this festival. These events are now carried out in Dharamsala where the Dalai Lama's government is in exile.
It is the last day of the prayer festival. In order to celebrate Shakyamuni's victory over non- Buddhist opponents, the Lord of New Dzong, a noted patron of Tsongpa, illuminated numerous butter- lamps in 1409. Ever since then the festival flourished.
Butter Oil Lantern Festival the lantern show is held on the evening of the 15th day of the first month. To honor the memory of Sakyamuni, butter sculptures of figures, flowers, birds and animals are displayed along Barkhor Street. People sing and dance in great rejoicing throughout the night.
The lantern show is held on the evening of the 15th day of the first month. To honor the memory of Sakyamuni, butter sculptures of figures, flowers, birds, and animals are displayed along Barkhor Street. People sing and dance in great joy throughout the night.
Saga Dawa Festival
Saga Dawa Festival is a unique festival of Tibet. Saga Dawa means the Disu month in the Tibetan language; Disu is one of the 28 constellations of astrology in Tibetan calendar. Because the Disu appears in the fourth month of Tibetan calendar, this month is called as the Disu month, i.e. Saga Dawa.
The Colorful Lingka Festival
Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet, is very cold in winter and windy in spring, but in summer it is beautiful and charming: bright sunshine, little wind and flowing rivers. At that time, the Tibetans, who love the outdoors, camp out m the lingka (woods) along the Lhasa River. This activity is called "playing in the lingka" or the "lingka festival." According to tradition, the lingka festival starts from the Sa-kya Dawa festival, on the 15th day of the fourth month by the Tibetan calendar, reaches its climaxes at the Incense Festival, on the 15th day of the fifth month, and the Xodoin Festival, on the first day of the seventh month, and ends at the Bathing Festival, early in the eighth month.
The activities at the festival are varied and colorful, centered on worshipping the gods and recreation.
Every time the festival comes round, the Tibetans dress in their best clothes and rush to the lingka from Lhasa. The roads are crowded with automobiles, bicycles and horses carrying people, food and cooking facilities to the woods. Every family sets up a tent in the woods. Most of the tents are white, with simple decorations. People set up cooking facilities, chairs and tables, on which they place all kinds of food, dishes and beverages. They sing, dance, tell stories, play games and drink day and night. Sometimes, they watch films, artistic performance and Tibetan opera. Many take part in sports competitions. In recent years, these activities have become more and more colorful; color TVs, videorecoders, karaoke machines and electronic games have all moved into the tents.
The Sa-kya Dawa Festival celebrates the birth, becoming enlightened and death of Buddha, all of which events occurred in April. On that day, people get up very early, and walk around the inside, middle and outside walls of the Jokhang Monastery, reciting scriptures. Colorful prayer flags are flown, street peddlers sell all kinds of commodities, and storytellers attract large audiences.
Followers of the Red Sect of Buddhism from eastern Tibet attract people's attention with their sturdy bodies, unique costumes and huge trumpets. Buddhist nuns sit by the roadside in groups, chanting scriptures to the accompaniment of drums. All the scripture readers meet in the lingka of the Dragon King Lake north of the Potala Palace. They present hadas (ceremonial silk scarves) and buffer lamps to the dragon princess. They also paddle boats on the lake, singing the praises of the dragon princess.
The fifth month by the Tibetan calendar is the best season for lingka. On the 15th day, the residents of Lhasa dress in their best clothes and pray in the Jokhang Monastery and other monasteries. They also burn incense on high places, and scatter glutinous rice cakes, salt and highland barley wine as a prayer for peace and happiness.
The fourth day of the sixth month by the Tibetan calendar is the Chuba Ccxi Festival. This commemorates the day that the Buddha explained the Catursatya in India. To mark the day, the people of Lhasa present offerings of food to Buddha in suburban monasteries. The first day of the seventh month by the Tibetan calendar is the Xodoin, or yoghurt, Festival. This festival originated in Lhasa's Zhaibung Monastery. Every year, from this day until the 3oth day, the 7,700 monks of the monastery are not allowed to go outside, for fear that they may kill insects by treading on them. During this time, the benefactors of the monastery give them sour milk as a blessing. In the 18th century, the Norbu Lingka in the western suburbs of Lhasa became the summer holiday resort of the Dalai Lama, and the Xodoin Festival was moved there. On the 3Oth day of the sixth month, the "Zhaibung Xodoin" is held, when a large portrait of Buddha is hung from the top of a nearby mountain, and Tibetan opera, drum and yak dance troupes from all over Tibet perform in the zhaibung Monastery. The festival is called the "Norbu Lingka Xodoin." From the first day of the seventh month, when all people, including monks and nuns, can go to the Norbu Lingka Palace to watch Tibetan opera performances. Drinking alcohol, betting and talking loudly are forbidden, and everyone must wear Tibetan boots. The present Xodoin Festival also includes all kinds of artistic performances from other parts of China.
In early August, the weather starts to get cold. Tibetans watch the southeast part of the sky. When a star called "Riqi" appears the Bathing Festival starts.
It is said that the "Riqi" star is the embodiment of the god of medicine. If the light of the star shines on a mountain, the grass there will gain medicinal properties, and when it shines on water; the water will become medicinal water. In the seven nights the star shines, the residents of Lhasa all go to bath in the river. When the night comes, from the east to the west, in the lakes and rivers, there are people bathing. In the beautilul nightlight, people seem to be in a fairy land.
After the bathing festival, the leaves began to be yellow, and there are few people bathing in the river, the activities in the lingka are also disappearing, and the lingka festival of the year ends as well.
Tashi Lhunpo Festival
It is believed to be the day Sakyamuni first preached a sermon with a prayer wheel. On this day, people go to monasteries and temples to pay their homage to Buddha, to offer joss-sticks and to circumambulate holy mountains; they have picnics and enjoy themselves with singing and dancing in the fields.
Horse Racing Festival
The Horse racing festival held in Nagqu is the grandest of the racing festivals and events held throughout Tibet each year. Dressed in traditional military attire, the Tibetans proudly display their riding skills, attracting enthusiastic crowds of locals and pilgrims. Lasting several days, many songs, dances, and performances of Tibetan drama take place during the festivities to celebrate the heroes of Tibet's past.
August is the peak season for Nagqu grasslands, with big wind and rain in the night and shines bright at daytime. The annual grassland horse-racing festival is held. There is a wide lawn at the north side of Nagqu. The local people called this as "Zhong Yin Ka Duo" grassland. During the horse-racing festival, there will be thousands of tents setting up on that area. It makes the grassland look like a small town. The horse racing festivals and fairs are the traditional occasion for horse trade. The buying and selling of horses at these fairs attracts Tibetans from near and far for celebrations during the colorful week of activities.
Shigatse is the second largest town in Tibet. Shigatse has long been an important trading town and administrative center. The main attraction in Shigatse is Tashilhunpo Monastery, the seat of the Panchen Lama. Built in 1447 by a nephew of Tsong Khapa, the monastery once housed over 4000 monks. Apart from a giant statue of the 27 meters high Maitreya Buddha, the monastery is also famed for its Grand Hall, which houses the opulent tomb containing 85 kilograms of gold and masses of jewels of the forth Panchen Lama. The temple is also famous for its gold and silver craftsmen, who still use traditional techniques to craft gold and silver products. At the same time, there is "resources exchange meeting held in Nagqu. This is a large trading event with lots of rich people there. Their necks and waists are full of jewelleries, and you will find all kinds of clothing. That is the most convenient and economic time to visit and understand the tradition of Nagqu in North Tibet.
When the summer retreat for their intensive training is over, monks are served with yoghurt. That is said to be the origin of ' Shoton', which is also called the 'Yoghurt Festival'. At Drepung Monastery there are 'Cham' dances and the grand thangka is unveiled early in the morning. After devoutly viewing the thangka, the people go onto the Norbulingka and other popular spots for a lingka (picnic). 'Shoton' is also known as the 'Tibetan Opera Festival' due to the competitive performances of Ache Lhamo (Tibetan Opera) that are held at the Norbulingka.
It is the opera festival and the greatest festivals in Tibet. In ancient times pious folks went into mountain hermitages for penance, and on the last day of which Yoghurt was served for meal followed by entertainment of folk songs and daces. Since 7th century, opera performances were held for days in Norbu Lingka. Presently, opera contests and distribution of prizes are held for seven days.
Shoton means yoghurt, Legend has it that Tsong Khapa, and founder of the Yellow Sect made it a rule that all the Lamas must keep the mind on meditation from the fourth month to the sixth month of Tibetan year. Abstinence is broken by the end of sixth month. Then they may go out and ordinary people would give them yoghurt in charity and have picnic and entertainment hence the festival. Later it became theatrical festival of Tibetan opera. So it is also called Tibetan Opera Festival. During the Shoton Festival, teams of Tibetan opera and theatrical troupes would come to Norbu Lingka to give performances. There is also trade fair here.The Shoton (or Xuedun) Festival is one of the grandest festivals in Tibet. Prior to the 17th century, Shoton had been an exclusively religious observance. The month of June on the Tibetan calendar was reserved for self-cultivation and meditation for all the monks who were not allowed to go out of monasteries until July 1, when local residents would offer alms of yogurt (Sho, in Tibetan). From around the mid-17th century, Tibetan local operas were added to festival celebrations which were held around monasteries and in Lhasa the Drepung Monastery. From the beginning of the 18th century, the main site of the festival was moved to Norbu Lingka and celebrations became formalized which include shining of the Buddha's portrait, folk amusement at the local park and performances of Tibetan operas. Popular fairs are also organized during the festival.
For a whole week in early July when Venus appears in the sky every year, Tibetans will bathe themselves all day long in rivers across the region, believing that bathing may cure illness and get rid of misfortune at a time when water is purest and mildest.
On this starlit night Tibetan people take a ceremonial wash in the waters of their local rivers or natural springs. This is a seductive and tranquil festival.
It is believed when the sacred planet Venus appears in the sky; the water in the river becomes purest and cures diseases. During its appearance for one week in the sky, all the people in Tibet go into the river for bathing.
Bathing Week (September) coincides with the appearance in the sky of Venus, considered a sacred planet. Tibetans believe that at this time the water in the river becomes its purest and has curative powers. Therefore, Tibetans consider it opportune to take advantage of this one-week period each year to bathe in the river!
It is believed when the sacred planet Venus appears in the sky; the water in the river becomes pure and can cure diseases. During its appearance for one week in the sky, all the people in Tibet go into the river for bathing. This is a special Tibetan day. It is held from the 6th to the 12th day of the 7th month. The timing is perfect; the water is clear and warm in the river. Everybody, young or old, will jump to the river to wash oneself. People will group together according to sex.
The Onkor Festival (Harvest Festival) is one of the most popular and busy festivals in the rural areas of Tibet, except the Losar Festival. It is said that the Onkor Festival has enjoyed a history of more than fifteen hundreds years. According to the relevant Tibetan documents, aqueducts were constructed in the Yalong area at the end of the 5th century AD, people began to use wooden ploughs to plow, and the agricultural production was comparatively developed. In order to ensure the plenteous harvest, the Tibet King sbu-de-gung-rgyal asked the hierarch of Bon religion for guidance. Following the tenets of Bon religion, the hierarch of Bon religion taught the peasants to walk around their field, beseeching the Heaven for a plenteous harvest, which is the origin of the Onkor. But the Onkor was not a formal festival at that time, only an activity before reaping the crops.
During the late years of the 8th century, Tibet came to the Silver Age of Tibet Buddhism when the representative sect was the Nyingmapa sect, and the Onkor activity therefore was tinged with the features of the Nyingmapa sect. In the 14th century, Tsong Khapa, the founder of the Gelugpa sect came to Tibet. Through rectifying various sects of Tibet, the Gelugpa became the main sect in Tibet with dominant authority. More features of the Gelugpa sect were added into the Onkor activities of the time accordingly. Along with the evolution of the time, the contents and forms of the Onkor changed continuously
Water Thanksgiving Festival
The festival is mainly celebrated to pray for rain and child. A lama brings frogs, snakes and toads made of sticky rice with him. Each family sends one or two deputies. They come to the raceway together. The lama patters, placing the animal figures in the water. While returning, they open the rain gear and make a racket, indicating it has begun to rain. After then, they worship a round pagoda which contains a knife and a boiler symbolizing procreation. The married women without babies will vow to the pagoda god for a baby. The woman, who gives birth to a baby, has to repeat the worship for her vow at the pagoda.
The Mountain-Circling Festival in Menba
The Bon carries the traditions of worshipping the nature of the primitive religion. Stiff and high mountains which are devoutly worshipped by the believers are often regarded as the Holy Mountains. The Menba people believe that since the holy mountains are the way to the heaven, in order to bring the spirit to the heaven after death, they should have an intimate knowledge of the way to the heaven. So the religious activity of walking around the mountain came into being because of worshipping the nature. For example, the Menba people in Metok often go to walk around the main Holy Mountains such as Samdub Baishi, Butha Tseben and Yundi Ning.
People often walk around the Samdub Baishi Holy Mountain usually in June and July, but during the period they only walk around the foot of the Samdub Baishi Holy Mountain. Every day they can walk around the holy mountain once. In winter the people begin to climb the peak of the Samdub Baishi Holy Mountain, and they can walk around the peak three times each day. The people believe that if they walk around the Samdub Baishi Holy Mountain, their spirits can enter the heaven after death.
About worshipping the holy mountain, there are a number of taboos, such as never make noises, never cut the trees, never carry the earth and rock and never hunt in the holy mountains.
Kongpo Traditional Festival
Long time ago, when Tibet was in danger of large scale invasion, the Kongpo people sent out an army to defend their homeland. It was in September and the soldiers worried that they might miss the New Year, highland barley wine and other good things. So people had the Tibetan New Year on 1st October ahead of time. To memorize those brave soldiers Kongpo people present three sacrifices and stay up at night from then on. And now it has become the Kongpo Festibal for entertainment like Kongpo dancing, horse race, archery and shooting.
Kongpo Traditional Festival (November or December) originated long ago at a time when Tibet was in danger of a large-scale invasion. News of this threat occurred during the month of September, and the soldiers worried that they might miss the New Year celebration with its highland barley wine and other good things. Therefore, the Kongpo people declared an early New Year for October 1st. The festival continues to this day and memorializes the brave soldiers who were prepared to defend their homeland and miss the New Year celebration. The festival begins with the presentation of three sacrifices and then continues nonstop with such entertainment as Kongpo dancing, horse racing, archery, and shooting.
Gyantse Damma Festival
It is said that Gyantse King, Pabasangbu had a lot of prestige in the Geshar Dynasty. After his death, his disciples held the worship to memorize him. But it was interrupted because of the war. In 1408, the Gongsang Raopa King, the son of Paba Sangbu, resumed the worship. Gongsang Raopa held the worship and recreational activities to memorize his father. Activities include the display of Buddha Portrait, sorcerer's dance in a trance, wrestling and bearing contest. When the Zhaxi Raodan enthroned the Gyantse-King in 1447, the horsemanship, archery, Tibetan opera, dancing and singing were supplemented, forming the Gyantse Dama Festival still being observed today.
To drive away evil spirits and to welcome the New Year, the Ghost-Exorcising Festival is held on the 29th day of the 12th month in the Potala palace, Lhasa. Such activities as sorcerer's dances in a trance are also held in monasteries in Tibet.
Dispelling evil spirits is a Buddhist event in the Qambaling Monastery in Oamdo.
At the eve of Tibetan New Year, religious dances are performed in monasteries for driving off of evil spirits of the past year. At night, in every household, traditional means of driving off evil spirits are carried out by burning bundles of straw and throwing rubbish in the crossroads. The Year's End Dumpling is served for supper.
At the end of the Tibetan year, religious dances to drive off evil spirits are help in monasteries all over Tibet. Every household burns bundles of straw and throws rubbish on the streets. The Year-End-Dumpling is served for supper.
Tibetan Meadow Festival
It is one of the traditional Tibetan festivals, which is similar to the Spring Festival of the Hans. It is celebrated on the early first month of Tibetan calendar. The festival lasts about one week.
Prior to the festival, every family tidies up the house. According to the customs of the Tibetans, people pour out sewage and rubbish toward the west when the sun is setting down the west. It means to have all stuff harmful to the human health disappear. Afterward, every family brews highland-barley wine, makes seedcakes and cheesecakes, and prepares blood sausage, mutton sausage, fresh milk and other festival food.
On the 1st day of the Tibetan New Year, the hostess of every family has to get up at dawn. She goes to the riverbank with a pail to carry water. She puts some fresh milk in the water and carries back. All family members wash up with the water. After washing and dressing, all enjoy playing with the "Dragon Lantern" and burn joss sticks to pray for the abundance on grassplot and water as well as strong livestock. After then, the family will have a dinner together. Prior to the dinner, each one has to take some "Zamba" flour, which means he or she is a "Zamba" eater and bears the ancestors in mind. During the first three days of the festival, it is a custom for the villagers not to go out of the village. All of them watch the sorcerer's dance in a trance, which is a kind of the traditional religious dance. The dancers wear a mask and dress cassock, dancing to the accompaniment of cymbals, gongs, drums and trumpet shells. They take a rest for a while and continue to perform until it is over.
In addition, young men and girls dance and sing to the rhythm of the sounds of gongs and drums, flute and Erhu (a two-stringed bowed instrument). In three days, people bring along with the old and young to drop around in the village greeting to each other for a merry festival.
During the festival, according to the local traditional custom, the girls and married women often "rob" foods from men, who neither complain nor oppose. Young men in some villages hold the "yak race". During the game, two persons stand around 10 meters away from each other, both holding a yak string marked in the middle. The one who draws the rival over the mark will be the winner. When drawing, they keep deadlock for three minutes, then take a rest for one minute to go on. The one who draws the rival over the mark in at least 2 of 3 rounds will be the final winner. At night, girls and young men mainly gather inside or outside the village singing and dancing.
Molang Qinbo Festival
It means the Large Dharma Transmission Ceremony, It originated from the first praying ritual initiated by the Zongkeba in Tibet in 1409. During the ceremony, the lamas from the three large temples and other monasteries will assemble in the city, reciting the scripture in groups. In addition, the examination will be given to acquire the "Gexi" scholarship degree. During February, another dharma ceremony comes off, which is named "Congjue" in Tibetan. The activities are similar to those of the Large Dharma Transmission Ceremony. The only difference between them is that "Congjue" ceremony is smaller than the other. Therefore, it is referred as the Small Dharma Transmission Ceremony.
Eagle Adoration Festival
Benri Mountain, a famous one in Tibet, is located about 6 km away from Linzhi County of Tibet. There is a temple of Ben-Sect on the mountainside. With a history of more than 1,200 years, it is one of the oldest temples, where a traditional festival Eagle Adoration is celebrated on April 30 of Tibetan calendar.
The temple was built around 757 and received endless streams of pilgrims at that time. But up to 1330, it was in decline. Very few believers came, and the lamas and monks left because of different reasons. The temple fell into desolation.
A Lama searched for all temples of Ben Sect and various denominations in Tibet, intending to compose a scripture of Ben Sect. He was recognized as Living Buddha when he was 8 years old. He started studying the Ben Sect theory, collecting and writing the Ben scripture at the age of 13. When he passed by the temple and saw the desolation, he felt upset for the Ben Sect and feared the sect would disappear if no measures were taken. Therefore, he was determined to save it by establishing the regulations and systems and teaching the knowledge on the Ben Sect what he learned in order to resume its former prosperity.
The Living Buddha was dead on a severe malady before his goal was fulfilled. At his last minute, he called on all monks in front of his sickbed and said, "After I pass away, the affairs of the temple are to be implemented in line with what I have designed and I won't be reincarnate. In one year, I would become 100 eagles and return to see you and the temple. I would show up every year. The day coincided with April 30 of Tibetan calendar.
In the next year, on April 20 of Tibetan calendar, 100 eagles flew from the east of Benri Mountain as what the living Buddha had said. They turned around three times around the temple and flew to the southwest. Year after year, it repeated. People yearn for and appreciate what he did. They set April 20 of Tibetan calendar as the worship date. Whenever on this day, the residents near the temple will get dressed up and gather to the temple. They perform joyous dance. In addition, people will hold contest to welcome 100 eagles and pray for bumper harvest as well as prosperity of human and livestock. At last, they tell the eagles about the temple, and then go around the temple three times in groups. It is said that if it is a fine day, the devoted disciples of the Ben Sect could see one hundred hovering eagles.
Every October 15 on the Tibetan calendar, the Tibetans, especially Tibetan women, would gather in Lhasa around the Jokhang Temple to pray for happy marriage and true love.
The Yangle Festival in Dege
Late summer is the time for celebrations for Tibetans who have the most festivals of the year.We were lucky to visit the Dege County of Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in western Sichuan Province in early July of Tibetan calendar when the Tibetans celebrated their Yangle Festival, a harvest celebrating festival.
From mid-May of Tibetan calendar every year, monks gather in their monasteries and year, monks gather in their monasteries and chant the Yangle Scriptures together for 45 days. From July 1st of the Tibetan calendar, monks leave their monasteries and go around the area interpreting the Yangle Scriptures to people, performing Tibetan operas, dancing for people to dispel evil spirit, and giving baptism to those Buddhism followers.
On that day, Tibetan people in their holiday best bring with them wine and food and gather at a big open ground to enjoy the Tibetan opera while visiting the commodities fair held at the site.
This year's Yangle Festival was sponsored by the Menzha Monastery at Keluodong Township, about 40 kilometers from Dege County. It was the first time for monks from the monastery to host such an event and gave performance of Tibetan opera. The monks, with a number of about 100, prepared for over a month for the event.
It is one of the Tibetan special festivals in Aba County, and has developed from religious events to a folk and commercial holiday. The "Zha" means "the pottery", and the "Chong" means "the market". That is to say, it is a grand pottery fair.
During the festival, people from the borders of Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai Provinces gather here to do business. The festival falls on May 20 of the lunar calendar, when people met to recite the "True Sutra". Today, the assembly for chanting "True Sutra" gradually developed to the spectacular folk festival.
On the fair, besides reciting the "True Sutra", it will be held many activities, such as horserace, wrestling and Guozhuang Dance, etc. At the same time, many merchants from everywhere come here to deal in the pottery business. The pottery is the favorable ware here, though there are many other articles on the market. As the pottery was the main product available in the market at that time, people termed it "Zhachong" (pottery fair).
Nowadays, a new city on grassplot has been built up at the place where the original pottery fair was held. This traditional festival of the Abas (people living in an autonomous area called "Aba") has been promoting economic prosperity in this area. In February 1985, the date of the Zhachong Festival was determined on June 15 to 17 of each lunar year under the consultation of the County's People's Government with representatives of all circles.
Harvest Festival in Tibet
Wearing festive dress, farmers from Lunbugang Township in Maizhokunggar County, Tibet Autonomous Region in Southwest China, walk in their fields Tuesday to mark the annual Tibetan Harvest Festival. The direct translation of the Tibetan word for the festival means "walking around the crop fields" and local farmers across rural Tibet observe the tradition before harvest. Many places also hold horse races, dancing and other activities.
Universal Prayer Festival
It is called "Zamling Chisang" in Tibetan, meaning "Universal Incense Offering Day." The event is to commemorate Padmasambhava's Subjugation of evil spirits. People go to monasteries and burn juniper branches.
Great Prayer Festival
The Great Prayer Festival is held from January 4-11 on the Tibetan calendar, usually in February of the Gregorian calendar.
It is known as "Monlam" in Tibetan, meaning "prayer." It is the grandest religious festival in the year.
The event was established in 1049 by Tsong Khapa, the founder of the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama's order, who organized a great prayer meeting in the Jokhang Temple to commemorate Sakyamuni in the first month of the Tibetan calendar.
As the grandest religious festival in Tibet, religious dances are performed and thousands of monks and Buddhists gather for chanting before the Jokhang Temple. Examination for the Geshe degree (the highest degree in Buddhist theology), which takes the form of sutra debates, is held. Philosophical debates are held among candidates for Doctorates of Metaphysics.
It attracts enthusiastic crowds of locals and pilgrims. Pilgrims come from every corner of Tibet, and some even prostrate themselves step by step all the way to Lhasa. They crowd to listen to sermons and make religious donations.
The highlight of the festival is the "Sunning of the Buddha" ceremony, during which a thangka of Buddha measuring 30 meters by 20 meters is unfurled on a hillside. The festival is accompanied by lively drama performances, dances, and prayer assemblies throughout the entire period.