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Experience Tibet’s Festival Events in August

August 25, 2014 Destination Global No Comments Email Email

“August is a rainy season, but tourists to Tibet will increase instead of decreasing because various traditional festivals are going to be celebrated,” said Mr. Kunga, an experienced tour guide of Tibet Vista Tour. “The major festivals are Ganden Thangka Festival, Horse Racing Festival of Nagchu, Shoton Festival and Ongkor Festival. Actually, there are dozens of interesting festivals in Tibet.

Festival season in Tibet

1. Ganden Thangka Festival

Celebrated on June 15 in Tibetan calendar, Ganden Thangka Festival is the highlight for many Tibetan Buddhists. Thousands flock to Ganden Monastery to make offerings to Buddha to get blessed. Those living in remote areas will walk a long way to the monastery. Traditionally, they arrive in the pre-dawn hours, climb to the top of a hill nearby, and watch sunrise as they chant prayers. Some even walk for weeks to arrive at the monastery before sunrise. The major activity is unveiling a gigantic Thangka of a Buddha figure surrounded by hundreds of symbols. The crowd rush forward to touch their foreheads on the Thangka once it is finally revealed. This year, the festival is going to be held on August 10.

2. Nagchu Horse Racing Festival

Nagchu Horse Racing Festival is celebrated on Changtang Grassland every August. It is the grandest event in northern Tibet. A few days before the festival, thousands of traditionally dressed Tibetans from different areas gather on the grassland and set up their tents. After a grand opening ceremony, various competitions and trades will start, such as horse racing, yak racing, tug-of-war, rock-lifting, archery, group dancing, Tibetan opera and commodity trading. This year, the festival will start on August 10 and last for at least one week.

Nagqu is about 400km north of Tibet. Instead of driving there, you can reach the festival site by Tibet Railway, by taking train from Beijing to Lhasa. You can get off at Nagqu station, the last station before Lhasa.

August is also the best time to visit the Changtang Grassland. Travelers will have a spectacular view of the lush grazing land and a large number of yaks and sheep, with gentle breezes and mild sunshine. Surrounded by Kunlun, Tanggula and Gangdis mountains, the grassland is one of the five largest pastures in China, and a paradise for thousands of wild animals, like yaks, bharals, Tibetan wild donkeys, white-lipped deer, etc.

3. Shoton Festival 

Shoton, falling on the last day of the sixth Tibetan lunar month, is a great occasion for both Tibetans and tourists. This year, it will be celebrated on August 25 in solar calendar, and last for a few days. Shoton literally means “yogurt banquet” in Tibetan language, because it used to be a purely religious festival for monks to celebrate the end of meditation by eating yogurt. But it has developed into a famous celebration combining tradition and modernization. It usually starts with unfolding a huge piece of Thangka at Drepung Monastery on the early morning of the first day, followed by other activities in Norbulingka, like Tibetan opera, dancing and singing, and yak/horse racing.

4. Ongkor Festival 

It is an ancient festival with a history of more than 1,500 years. It is celebrated for three to five days in the farming areas of Tibet when all crops are ready for harvest. All villagers, men and women, young and old, put on their best holiday clothes, hold colorful flags, and carry a “harvest tower” built with barley stalks to walk around their fields to pray for a good harvest. The festival is not only for the famers to wish for a good harvest, but also a good time for them to relax. Thus, entertainment activities are held, including horse racing, archery, singing and dancing, Tibetan Opera, stone lifting and wrestling.

“In fact, it usually rains at night and truns sunny in the daytime, so your trip in Tibet will not be affected,” said Kunga. “In addition to enjoying the interesting festivals with locals, you can also view stunning scenery on the roof of the world.”

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