Tibetan is one of the 56 ethnic groups in China with a relatively large population and a wide geographical distribution.
Tibetan originated in the middle reaches of Yarlung Zangbo River in Tibet, and are currently concentrated in the Tibet Autonomous Region, Qinghai Province, Gansu Province, Sichuan Province, and Yunnan Province.
Due to the vast distribution of Tibetans, their living areas and production methods are different, as well as the exchange and integration of cultures, customs, festivals, and sacrificial activities with neighboring other ethnic groups, Tibetan folk dances of different styles have gradually formed.
There are many types of Tibetan dances which the variety is innumerable if to divide it from the rhythm of music and the style of dance
But if it is divided from the form of dance, it can basically be divided into two categories: “folk dance” and “religious dance”.
However, the most common classification is to divide Tibetan Dance into 4 categories, including “Gzhas“, “Bro“, “Gar” and “Acham“.
Any collective self-entertainment circle dance that focuses on singing and dancing is generally called “Gzhas”;
It is the Tibetan dance “Hsien Tzu” or “Xianzi” in chinese pinyin. This kind of folk self-entertainment dance was once popular in Batang, Chamdo, Garzi and Tibetan areas in Qinghai Province. Among them, the most charming and unrestrained dance is the “Xianzi” from the area of Batang. Therefore, as long as people mentioned “Xianzi”, “Batang” is always be added as “Batang Hsien Tzu”.
When Hsien Tzu dance is performed, it is accompanied by a six-string instrument, and people sing while dance. The singing has obvious trill and drawl. The dance adopts drag steps, point-turned steps, sway sleeves, akimbo trembling steps with melodious tunes, and stretch and smooth dance
It is a Tibetan transliteration, “Sgor” means circle, and “Gzhas” means dance. Sgor Gzhas spreads in the vast agricultural areas of Tibet. Mostly, in Shigatse, Gyantse, Shannan areas.
When the sun on the plateau yellowed the barley on the field, the farmers couldn’t restrain the joy of the harvest, so the shelling field became lively. In their spare time, men, women, and children joined hands in a circle dance and sang joyously. Hymns to thank Buddha for the gifts
“Stod” means the upper part in Tibetan language. The regions of Tingri, Latse, Sagya and Ngari are in the upper reaches of the Yarlung Zangbo River that are collectively called “Stod”.
“Stod gzhas” was originally a kind of song and dance interspersed with local Tibetan opera performances in the 17th century, with a strong sense of rhythm, similar to tap dancing. After being introduced into Lhasa, it has been processed and transformed into a fixed form of singing and dancing.
It usually consists of four parts of “Byang gzhas (slow song)”, “Gzhas ago (song head)”, “Mgyogs gzhas (fast song)” and “Gzhas btsud (song end)”, using Dulcimer, Tibetan Guitar, String bell to play
The dance steps generally start in the second of the two fourth beat , and changing every three steps. The beginning and end of the song are relatively fixed and can be used universally.
The “Stod gzhas” music is passionate and unrestrained, tactfully and lively, and is good at lyrical; singing and dancing are beautiful, and full of rhythm
In terms of style, “Stod gzhas” can be divided into Tingri Stod gzhas, Latse Stod gzhas and Lhasa Stod gzhas
Generally speaking, Tingri Stod gzhas is characterized by simplicity and deepness.
Latse Stod gzhas is characterized by cheerfulness and jumping,
Lhasa Stod gzhas is characterized by soft, bright
Nang ma gzhas
Tibetan opera is called “Aji Lhamo” in Tibetan, which means “fairy sisters”. It is one of the oldest dramas in Tibet. It originated from the Tibetan religious art in the 8th century and is known as the “living fossil” of Tibetan culture. Among them, the “Gesar” Tibetan opera is an important part of Tibetan opera. It demonstrates the story of the Tibetan heroic epic “Gesar” in the form of Tibetan opera.
“Bro” is generally referred to by Tibetans as “performing circle singing and dancing” and is very popular throughout Tibetan areas.
“Sgor bro” is the homophonic “Guozhuang” in Chinese. With the popularization of Chinese in ethnic areas, the title “Guozhuang” has basically been used in place of the traditional “Sgor bro” in Tibetan areas of all provinces.
“Sgor bro” is a collective circle song and dance, a self-entertainment dance that Tibetan are very familiar with and love. Because of the different dialects in different regions, so that it was called in different ways. For example: it is called “Suo” in the Sagya area; it is called “Bo” in Gongbo Gyamda areas;
There are three types of Guozhuang, including those in the pastoral area, those in the forest area and those in the farming area.
The styles are different, generally speaking, the dance is bold and enthusiastic, strong and soft; the men’s movements are strong and powerful, and the women’s movements are graceful
“Acham” is a kind of song and dance that is spread in Tibetan monasteries, and belongs to the most important religious dance category of monastery’s sacrificial dances.
On major religious events, Tibetan monks wear colorful robes, masks, ribbons and shields, and dance the majestic “Acham” with musical instruments such as horns and suona.
The emergence and spread of “Acham” are inseparable from the emergence and development of Tibetan Buddhism. At the same time, due to the existence of different sects of Tibetan Buddhism, the “Acham”, commonly known as “Buddha Dance”,is different in many aspects such as dance form, use of props, and performer’s attire.
In the 7th century AD, the Indian monk Padmasambhava came to Tibet to promote Buddhism, which was popular in India at that time. However, the “Bon religion” worshipped by the primitive polytheism in Tibet had taken root in the hearts of local people, and had adopted an attitude of rejection of foreign religions.
In order to promote Buddhism in Tibet, the wise Indian monk Padmasambhava adopted the method of combining Indian Buddhism and the primitive Bon religion in Tibet. It not only preserved the Buddhist teachings and respected the only supreme god, Tathagata, but also took all of deities of Bon religion as a protector of Dharma, which was in line with the Tibetans’ psychology of worshiping primitive polytheisms, so that Tibetan Buddhism was born in the Tang Dynasty in Tibet.
With the establishment of Tibetan Buddhism, Padmasambhava created a procedural dance in the sacrificial rituals, using various deities masks, absorbing a large number of Tibetan folk dance components and choreographed, which became an integral part of the religion itself, and is also used for religious dances in sacrificial activities such as driving out ghosts and praying for gods, benefiting the future life, preaching the destiny of Buddhism, explaining cause and effect, and performing Buddhist scriptures.
This sacrificial dance was later adopted by various sects of Tibetan Buddhism and called it “Acham”.
It originated in the Ngari area and can be traced back to the ancient Xiangxiong civilization period, and later developed during the Guge period. There is a record of “Gar” in the mural story of the Red Temple Hall at the Guge Ruins. It is a kind of ancient Tibetan court music and dance, combining elements such as rap, singing, and dancing.
Currently, the popular folk “Gar” dance, the dancers wear local costumes, the female dancers have arms linked together (the number of female dancers can be more or less), and a male dancer holds a drum to accompany her, sings and dances while change the queue, the dance rhythm is slow first and then becomes faster and faster