Tibetan opera, also called aje lhamo in Tibetan,which means Fairy in Tibetan, is an ancient art form hailed as "the living fossil of traditional Tibetan culture".It boasts a history of more than 600 years - about 400 years longer than China's national treasure, the Peking Opera.
With finery costume and resounding aria, Tibetan opera, which is wide in content and various in types of literature, has long been cherished by Tibetan people. It is said that wherever you find Tibetan people, you will find Tibetan opera.
It is said that the art tradition was created by Drupthok Thangthong Gyalpo, a monk and ridge builder in the 14th century. Drupthok Thangthong Gyalpo organized the first performance with the help of seven pretty girls to raise fund to build bridges in order to improve transportation and facilitate pilgrimage. The tradition was passed down and developed into Tibetan opera, popular throughout the region. Usually performances were held on various festive occasions, such as Shoton, in the session in which professional and amateur troupes are summoned to Lhasa to entertain the Dalai Lama and monks in Potala, Drepung or Norbulingka.
Buddhist teachings and local history are the sources of Tibetan Opera's inspiration, so most of its repertoire is based on them. The traditional drama is a combination of dances, chants, songs, and masks. The highlight of Lhamo is its mask. Usually on the forehead of the mask there is a motif of the Sun and Moon. From the mask, the role of the player can be identified. A red mask refers to the King; a green the queen; a yellow lamas and deities, etc. A Tibetan opera performance follows fixed procedures. Each performance begins with the purification of the stage and a blessing to the God. A narrator sings a summary of the story in verse. Then performers enter and start dancing and singing. The performance ends with a ritual of blessing.