Monlam Festival

Religious in Xiahe

Image by GOTIN Michel / Getty Images

This festival starts three days after the Tibetan New Year, which is usually in February or early March, with significant days accompanied by spectacular processions and prayer assemblies. Monlam Festival finishes with a creative display of monk-sculpted butter lanterns lighting up the 15th evening (and full moon) of the New Year.

On the morning of the 13th day of the New Year, more than 100 monks carry a huge thangka (sacred painting on cloth) of the Buddha, measuring more than 30m by 20m, and unfurl it on the hill facing the monastery. On the 14th day there is an all-day session of Cham dances performed by 35 masked dancers, with Yama, the lord of death, playing the leading role. On the 16th day the Maitreya statue is paraded around the monastery.