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Tourism helps reviving traditional Tibetan dancing
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15:34, November 11, 2007

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Before Nyima Cering, a 22-year-old folk dance lover from a western Tibet village, began dancing for tourists, he had worried that the ancestral dances of his village might have been on the verge of extinction.

The village's traditional dance, the Mina Qamo, originated hundreds years ago and was traditionally performed every 12 years to celebrate copious harvests and to pray for good fortune.

"It was passed down from generation to generation during performances as there are no text manuals," said Cering.

"The 12-year time gap between each performance had made young folks in the village less interested in learning the dance. They'd rather spend more time in farm work or land jobs in big cities."

However, the dance has brought some unexpected good fortune for Cering.

As more tourists flood into Tibet, especially since the opening of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway in 2006, Nyima Cering's village rediscovered the charm of the Mina Qamo -- this time as a lucrative new business.

"I organized a dance team with a dozen young folks of my age in my village about six months ago. We have since performed the Qamo almost every night for tourists in exchange for a handsome tip. Now, even more people are drawn to learn the dance to earn money," said Cering.

The Qamo was originally a religious dance performed by lamas in monasteries in Tibet's Gongbu area to subdue the "evil spirits", which absorbed the local animal-mime dances, divine instrument dances and the ceremonial mask dance of the local religion "the Black Sect". "Mina" is the name of the area where Cering's village is located.

"Tourism in Tibet is not just spectacular landscapes, but is also the appreciation of the folk art that boasts such a along history," said He Yi, a tourist from Chengdu, capital of southwestern Sichuan Province.

"I am now greatly reassured that the Mina Qamo will survive in my village, at least for my lifetime," Cering said.

The Mina Qamo is just one of many traditional art forms to have benefited from Tibet's booming tourism industry.

Tibet, with a native population of 2.8 million, recorded more than 3.2 million tourists in the first nine months of this year.

"The surge of tourists flooding into Tibet not only brought economic development, but have also doubled the audiences of Tibetan traditional dancing and other art forms. Tibetan culture preservation is benefiting from the booming tourism," said Yao Weiping, director of cultural development with the regional government of Tibet.

About 3,000 Tibetans were registered as traditional art performers back in 2002. The number exceeded 18,000 this year, said Yao, emphasizing the number had increased dramatically since the Qinghai-Tibet Railway opened.

"We simply make more money by performing traditional dances for tourists than we do from farm work," said Nyima Cering. "In order to attract more tourists, we must dance better, sing better, and understand our ancestors' legacy better. What better way is there for the preservation of our traditions?"

Nyima Cering's comments are echoed by Benba Sinuan, leader of the "Shobalamu" Tibetan Opera Troupe.

Founded in the 1970s, the opera troupe is among the most reputed in Lhasa, capital of Tibet Autonomous Region.

"Despite our popularity among Tibetan people in Lhasa, the troupe almost went bankrupt at the beginning of the 2000 because there were few business opportunities. So in 2004, we started performing Tibetan operas at local hotels for tourists," said Benba Sinuan.

"With a steady and handsome income, more young talented people have been drawn to us in recent years, and we now have adequate resources to refine our performances and better understand the operas we perform.

"There are eight major traditional Tibetan operas, five of which our troupe can play. We are researching the other three, hopefully, to restore the wholeness of traditional Tibetan opera," he said.

Source: Xinhua

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