Dance of the Sorcerers
The elaborately dressed dancers with imposing masks danced with a slow but steady movement as lamas chant and blow the huge Tibetan trumpets. The crowds were tightly packed at the monastery yard forming a circle round the dancers. As the crowds surged forward a lama with a long branches of leaves drove the crowd back. The ceremony has already started when we reached the temple and I couldn’t squeeze through the crowds to get a better view. Looking around I saw a group of photographers were already on the rooftop of a nearby house. Making my way there I found that I have to pay the house owner RMB20 before I am allowed to climb up the wobbly ladder.
The dancers are all monks wearing masks representing different gods and demons. The entire ritual is rather solemn despite the colorful costumes and masks. This ceremony is an important part of the Grand Summons Festival in the first lunar month, lasting over a couple of hours it will ends with a procession where the monks carry the Domar or sacrificial cakes placed on a triangle stand with a skullcap on top to the nearby woods. After more chanting the Domar were thrown into the fire to feed the hungry ghost. This ritual is aimed at dispelling the demons and evil spirits, by purifying the demons and liberates their souls from purgatory.
This is one of the many ceremonies that are held from the 8th to 15th in the first lunar month at the temples in the Gannan Tibetan autonomous prefectures of Qinghai and Gansu provinces. These ceremonies are held in different days in each temple, which made it easier for us to follow the celebrations as we moved from one temple to another over a few days.