Masked Dancers, Monlam Festival at Lhasa

Masks were an essential part of the festivities, both religious and secular. As the animist origins of Tibetan Buddhism are generally understood, it is not surprising that such masks were employed by dancers, monks and performers during various ritual enactments. Many of the dances performed at the Monlam Festival re-tell historical events from long ago. In addition to masks representing deer, other fierce images are used as well as the image of the snow lion, the symbol for Tibet, present on the national flag. Note the sumptuous silk robes, composed of Chinese silk brocade. Below, the monk dancers are relieved to take these heavy masks off. They wear knitted caps to protect their heads from the rough interior of these hand carved wooden masks.

Originally appeared in Lost Tibet, by Brooke Dolan & Ilya Tolstoy