Accepted Paper:

Performance of Epic Gesar and modernization in Kham and Amdo Tibet  


Lijing Peng (Trinity College Dublin)

Paper short abstract:

Performance of Tibetan Epic Gesar features a pervasive system of practices involving the production and dissemination of knowledge. In the modernization of Tibetan cultures, epic performances demonstrates interesting aspects when traditional cultural forms confront the economic and political changes.

Paper long abstract:

This paper investigates current Epic Gesar performances across different Tibetan cultural groups and the status of the transmission of this tradition. The related field researches were carried out in Tibetan-inhabited areas outside Tibetan Autonomous Region, where diversified national ethnic policies and socio-economic structures bring different elements to the modernization processes. In Kham Tibetan area inside Sichuan Province, the national propaganda of the conscious preservation of Epic Gesar causes the textualization and visualization with modern techniques of this tradition; and the best singers among the youths are invited to learn the performance for the sake of preservation and to play the role which was traditionally undertaken by the spiritualists with specific artistic and religious talents. In Amdo Tibetan area inside Gansu Province, the traditional spiritual performances of Epic Gesar are well preserved in an oral form. These performances are being carefully studied by local scholars who point out the value of this performance style as a distinct cultural form. This demonstrates an alternative reaction to modernization. In the linguistic aspect, both the textualization and the modern researches illustrate the performance contents in standard national language, and therefore clear out the stratification of languages within one performance practice. The prayer before the epic singing which is performed in classical Tibetan language is not taken in any texts and shown in any academic work; thus the important religious essence of this tradition has been eliminated as an important strategic to turn a religious practice into a cultural one in the process of modernization.

Panel Heri006
Heritage as social, economic and utopian resource