http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/en/RL/00208

Tibetan opera

Inscribed in 2009 (4.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Country(ies): China

Identification

Description

Tibetan opera

Tibetan opera, the most popular traditional opera of minority ethnic groups in China, is a comprehensive art combining folk song, dance, storytelling, chant, acrobatics and religious performance. Most popular in the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau in western China, the performance begins with a prayer ceremony, including the cleansing of the stage by hunters and blessings by the elder, and concludes with another blessing. The heart of the opera is a drama narrated by a single speaker and enacted by performers supported by groups of singers, dancers and acrobats. Actors wear traditional masks of a variety of shapes and colours that contrast with their simple makeup. Performances may take place in public squares or temples (or, today, on stage), with the centre of the space marked by a tree placed on the ground, wrapped in colourful paper and surrounded by purified water and theatrical props. Rooted in Buddhist teachings, the stories told in Tibetan opera recount the triumph of good and the punishment of evil and therefore serve a social teaching function for the community. This multifaceted representative of Tibetan art and cultural heritage also acts as a bridge among Tibetans in different parts of the country, promoting ethnic unity and pride.

Documents

Decision 4.COM 13.23

The Committee (…) decides that [this element] satisfies the criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, as follows:

  • R.1: Tibetan opera represents the essence of Tibetan culture, and is recognized by its practitioners as central to their identity and a symbol of continuity that they endeavour to pass on from generation to generation;
  • R.2: Inscription of the element on the Representative List would contribute to local, national and international visibility for intangible cultural heritage, thus increasing the pride of tradition bearers and providing a viable opportunity for dialogue amongst cultures;
  • R.3: A series of current and future safeguarding measures is proposed, including training for young practitioners, research and publications, thus expressing the will and commitment of the communities, practitioners, civil society and authorities to ensure the viability of the element;
  • R.4: The element has been nominated with the free, prior and informed consent of practitioners and cultural institutes;
  • R.5: The element is inscribed on the National List of Intangible Cultural Heritage administered by the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Ministry of Culture, and on several provincial inventories.

Slideshow

Video


© 2008 by the Culture Dept. in Tibet Autonomous Antonomous Region of P.R.of Region of China

These videos (and many more) can also be consulted through the UNESCO Archives Multimedia website