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Culture

Tsam-Religious Dance

The ancient religious mask dance, or Tsam, is a significant religious ritual which reflects Buddhist teachings through images. It is a theatrical art performed by skilled dancers wearing magnificently ornamented costumes, which represent characters of different holy figures and devils, animals, and people.
Through story, music, and dance, the wide range of personalities of the characters are depicted. To symbolize positive and negative attributes, characters from popular stories, and animals such as the Khangarid (lord of flies), lion (the king of wild animal), stag (the beauty among animals), crow (the soothsayer) and various domestic animals are imitated. Furthermore, the colors and decoration of the costumes are clues as to the nature of the personalities of the characters.
Tsam mask dancing is included in the art form called "Doigar," which embodies independent imagination, one of the ten kinds of wisdom according to ancient Indian philosophy. The Tsam dance ceremony was first introduced to Mongolia in the 8th century, when the famous Indian Saint Lovon Badamjunai was invited to Mongolia to sanctify the construction of the first Tibetan Buddhist temple, Samya. From that time, the Tsam dance was performed following the traditional teaching of Nyambdeyan, and during the 16th century, it became popular in Dash-Ihum temple Uigien Namjra and other places. Eventually, more than 500 monasteries of the 700 Mongolian monasteries had their own local variations of the ceremony.

 
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