Song and dance, Zang opera and Thangka painting
The Zang people are good at singing and dancing. People who can talk can sing, and where there is crowd, there is dance. Tibetan dance and song are twins, impossible to be separated from each other. If they sing, they are sure to dance, and they dance while singing. There are a great variety of Tibetan dances, and we only take some common dances as examples.
Guixie (circle dance) is a kind of self-pleasing song and dance popular in countryside of Tibet. When dancing, people hold one another's hand into a circle, and they are divided into different teams with one team singing a song and the other teams joining in the chorus. The songs rise one after another, and people stamp on the ground as rhythm singing while dancing. It is often seen at the edge of villages, open ground or wheat-beating ground in farming areas. On festive occasions, people dance from morning till night, and return home after thoroughly enjoying themselves. Because words of "Guoxie" is easy to understand, the sounds are harmonious, and the words can be created extemporaneously, Tibetan people often exchange their true feelings and pour out their cherished desire for nice and happy life through the song and dance style.
Duixie (tap dance) is a kind of song and dance in countryside from Lazi to Dingri. It started in the middle of the 17th century. In one of the "Xuedun Festivals", when performing Zang opera, Jongba Zang opera group from the latter Tibet alternated a kind of dance, which was accompanied with six-stringed instrument and took stamping as rhythm. Then it became cheerful and enthusiastic folk dance of the latter Tibet. Later it was improved by actors and dancers, and became urbanized Tibetan tap dance. It is the most popular in Lhasa and Rikeze, and is often seen at open ground, street, courtyard and "Linka" (parks).
Zhuoxie (drum dance) is mainly popular in Shannan, Lhasa and Rikeze. Drum dance is generally played by male performers. The dancer wears colored clothes and cloak hat made of white cloth, wears an apron around waist and ties a string of small bells around the leg. They also pass two silk girdles through the two iron rings on a flat leather drum, and tie one around the left thigh and another around the waist. The dancer waves a pair of feather hammers with both hands to rap the drum while flitting to and fro. The drum rumbles, the bells jingle, the rhythm is cheerful, and it is full of power. When the high tide of the performer comes, the dancer begins to show drum-beating skills. He beats the drum while singing at first. Then when the dancing morale becomes high, he stops singing and begins to perform some acrobatic movements, such as "flinging the waist while beating the drum", "flinging the braid to beat the drum", "beating drum while moving bended knees", etc, which make people's morale reach the high tide. Then he finishes beating drum in fanatical and exciting atmosphere.
Zang opera is called "Ajilamu" or simply called "Lamu" in Tibetan which means "sister fairy maiden". It is a kind of public square opera, which has play, vocal music, separate roles, accompanying band and special masks and clothes, and its main form is song and dance. According to legend, at the beginning of the 15th century, it was created by monk Tangdongjiebu of the Gelu Denomination for the purpose of collecting alms to construct a chain bridge over the Yarlung Zangbo River. It was popular in the 17th century. Materials of the plays are mostly drawn from folk stories. The performing process is divided into three parts: Wenkedun (rite of coming on the stage), Xiong (main part), and Zhaxi (rite of wishes at the end of the performance). The time is different for different plays: short ones last several hours while long ones are performed for 2 to 3 days.
The main school of Zang opera are: white nuo (means "exorcise" and is a provincial opera featuring masked dancing) school, blue nuo school, Jiangga'er school, Xiangba school, Juemulong school, etc. The Juemulong School is the most famous among them. Though it was the last school that came into being, because it brought forth many new ideas on such aspects as vocal music, dance, trick and comedy performance, it surpassed the old-timers as the latecomer. Local Zang opera teams of the Juemulong school spread all over Tibet, Ganzi in Sichuan, and over India, Bhutan, etc. Its performing forms include dance, speaking, chanting, fixed vocal music, etc. The plays of Zang opera are very rich, and the eight great Zang opera plays are the most famous ones, such as "Langsaweiba", etc. Drum and cymbals are the only accompanying instruments for traditional Zang opera, and actors wear masks when they perform. Dark red mask stands for king, light red mask stands for ministers, yellow stands for Living Buddha, blue stands for hunter, green stands for female, white stands for ordinary male, black stands for negative character, and mask with half white and half black stands for double-dealer. Since the 17th century, twelve famous opera troupes of the whole Tibetan region gather in Lhasa in July every year, and perform for Dalai, officials, monks and ordinary people. So Xuedun Festival is also called "Zang Opera Festival".
Thangka is transliteration of Tibetan, and it means a kind of scroll cloth painting, which can be hung up. It is also called "scroll Buddhist painting" and "Zang cloth painting", and it is a peculiar painting of the Tibetan Buddhism. Religious figures, historical events and doctrines are main describing targets, and Thangka is usually hung in temples and farmhouses. When making it, they select linen cloth and rough woolen cloth as background, and silk and satin are used as background of some precious ones. Flaxen threads are sewed at edge of the background cloth, and the cloth is stretched tightly on specially made wood frame. They smear a kind of paste mixed with animal size and talcum powder on the cloth and use mussel shell to scrape the paste to make it flat and smooth. Then it can be used to paint after the cloth becomes dry thoroughly. After painting, they take it off from the wood frame, mount it with brocade and add a scroll to it. The width of different paintings is different. Small ones are only several cuns wide, and big ones are tens of meters wide. For example, the giant Thangka kept in the Potala Palace is more than 50 meters long. There are a great variety of Thangkas, such as embroidered Thangka, appliqu¨¦ Thangka, tapestried (a type of weaving done in fine silks and gold threads by the tapestry method) Thangka, painted Thangka, Thangka with silk-woven picture, and Thangka with piled embroidery. The most characteristic is the Tangka with "piled embroidery". It is composed of carefully chosen brocade with different colors and designs. All the threads sewed on the cloth are made by tangling colored silk and horse tail hair. Some are partly inlaid with jewelry, and the technology is very complicated and exquisite. This excellent artwork composed organically of jewelry and piled embroidery is quite rare treasure in traditional Thangka art.
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