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Smith College

Publication Date

Spring 2008

Program Name

Mongolia: Culture and Development


Tsam, the sacred and complex Buddhist ritual dance, although only introduced to Mongolia in the 19th century, established itself as a significant ceremony before being halted by the purges and destruction the communist era. The 18 years of religious freedom that democracy has heralded have resulted in tsam’s successful reestablishment as a religious ritual in a growing number of monasteries across the country. Tsam has also taken its place as an icon of Mongolian culture for foreigners, a cornerstone of many performance groups’ representation of Mongolian cultural heritage. As based on interviews with performers, administrators, designers, and audiences of performance groups and monks and lamas involved in tsam in monasteries, as well as a month’s experience apprenticing in the studio of tsam mask maker Bochchandas, I was able to explore multifaceted relationship between these two equally important but exceptionally different forms of tsam dancing. This paper, in coordination with a series of documentary photo essays, will explore and explain the ways the artistry of the aesthetic of tsam is the primary link between these two categorizations of the dance in their separate cultural spheres.


Dance | History of Religions of Eastern Origins

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