Sho Dun Festival in Tibet

Shoton Festival or Sho Dun Festival  (Tibetan: ༄༅། ཞོ་སྟོན།; Chinese: 雪頓節; pinyin: Xuĕdùn Jié), commonly known as the Yogurt Festival or Banquet is an annual festival held at Norbulingka or “Jewel Park” palace in Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region.

The festival is celebrated in the summer, from the 15th to the 24th of the 5th lunar month – usually about the middle of August, after a month’s retreat by the monks who stay within their monasteries to avoid walking on the emerging summer insects and killing them.

It began in the 16th century with a banquet given by the lay people for the monks featuring yogurt. Later on, summer operas, or Lhamo, and theatricals were added to the festivities. The operas, “last all day with clashing cymbals, bells and drums; piercing recitatives punctuating more melodious choruses; hooded villains, leaping devils, swirling girls with long silk sleeves. In the past dancers came from all over Tibet, but today there is only the state-run Lhasa Singing and Dancing Troupe.”

The beautiful grounds of the Norbulingka are filled with partying groups shielded from the wind by gaily coloured hanging walls of rugs and printed canvas. There is much feasting and visiting between family groups and bonfires are common at night.