Since the communist Chinese assumed control of Tibet in 1959, many aspects of Tibetan culture have been threatened. Lhamo, Tibetan opera is
one of these. As Chinese troops tour all over the world masquerading as Tibetan opera, it is left to exiled Tibetans in India to preserve the
distinctive art form at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts.
Lhamo: Opera from the roof of the world is the first book in English to provide an introduction to this fascinating field. From the history and
origins of Lhamo, the book describes opera in Tibet and looks at each aspect of the performance today. Synopsis of nine enchanting opera
stories are included.
The performing Arts have always formed an important part of Tibetan culture with their deep roots in history, religion and social life. So much
so that the Tibetan Institute of performing Arts (TIPA) was one of the first institutions founded by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 1959 when he
was forced into exile. Despite this rich heritage there have been very few publications o this theme. At a time when Tibetan culture is facing the
danger of extinction, the publications, recordings and documentations of various facets of it is not only important but urgent.
Tibetan Opera (Lhamo) is one of the most precious part of the performing arts and is completely unique to Tibet. Characterising it's
distinctness, His Holiness the Dalai Lama said in his address at the Shoton festival on 20th April, 1992". It (Lhamo) is therefore a profound
tradition that demonstrates our unique identity". I am therefore, extremely grateful to Joanna Ross for writing this book.
Joanna Ross worked in TIPA as a volunteer. It was due to her enthusiasm for, and interest in, Tibetan Opera that I suggested that she should
compile a record of it. The author researched the history of Lhamo extensively so that the book covers material not only in the TIPA repertoire,
but also stretches back to record opera stories last performed in Tibet. It is therefore hoped that this book will provide useful references to
students, scholars and artistes in the future.
I would also like to thank all those who have assisted Joanna in bringing out this book.
Finally I would like to thank Paljor publications for showing interest in this book and agreeing to publish it.
In a message to the Tibetan institute of performing arts (TIPA) in 1979, His Holiness the Dalai Lama affirmed that it was due to the importance
he- and all Tibetans- attach to their performing traditions that the institute was the first Tibetan organization to be set up in exile. It was felt that
through the preservation of their arts Tibetan cultural individuality would be conserved. As time moves on and fewer and fewer people have
first-hand knowledge of Tibet prior to 1959, it is of paramount importance to the future of Tibet that Tibetan culture is well-documented and
passed on to future generations.
Historically in Tibet there had been no need for such an institution; performances of opera and drama were constantly touring the country or
were available locally. Apart from a few basic amenities in Lhasa, Tibet was a land without electricity, adequate communications of modern
comforts. Life was dominated by the county's unique culture in the form of Buddhism, astrology, Tibetan medicine and the songs and dances that
expressed so well the people's love of colour, laughter and fun. These aspects of life were a mainstay of existence for the pastoral people of the
mountain highlands. Since the communist Chinese took control of Tibet in 1959, all this has changed.
In the alien world of exile institutions such as TIPA have become vital to the Tibetans' cultural survival. In addition to entertainment, TIPA
provides a focal point for the cultural distinctiveness of Tibetan performing arts which reinforces the country's former uniqueness and
independence. The popularity of TIPA's performances both in Dharamsala and on tour reflects the breadth and depth of interest in Tibetan
It is for those whose curiosity has been aroused by the intriguing world of Tibetan opera that this book has been written. It does not claim to be
an academic work on the subject, but attempts to provide an insight into this fascinating and little-documented art. For this reason Tibetan words
are written as they are pronounced in Lhasa dialect rather than in the more complex form transliterated from Tibetan, for example the opera ‘Gro
ba bzang mo is written as Drowa Sangmo.
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