"Tsam" Religious mask dance

Tsam Mongolian religious mask dance

This ancient religious mask dance is one of the most significant Buddhist religious rituals. It was brought to Mongolia in the 16th century from Tibet where it was called cham (movement).

In Mongolia, Tsam was enriched with elements of witchcraft and pagan nomadic traditions. The mystery play formed part of the local Buddhist cult rites.

Mongolian Tsam costumes, masks and stage sets differ considerably from those in other Buddhist countries. The colors contrast sharply with local tastes: the masks were in bold primary colors of red, black, yellow, white and blue.

The decorations used in the festival, and especially the mask colors, had one purpose only: to have a strong effect on the onlookers. Thus the garish colors were meant to startle the crowds from a great distance. They were also very large.

Source: Montsame

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