The cham dance (Tibetan: འཆམ་, Wylie: 'cham), is a lively masked and costumed dance associated with some sects of Tibetan Buddhism and Buddhist festivals. The dance is accompanied by music played by monks using traditional Tibetan musical instruments. The dances often offer moral instruction relating to karuṇā (compassion) for sentient beings and are held to bring merit to all who perceive them.
Cham dances are considered a form of meditation and an offering to the gods. The leader of the cham is typically a musician, keeping time using some percussion instrument like cymbals, the one exception being Dramyin Cham, where time is kept using dramyin.
The great debate of the Council of Lhasa between the two principal debators or dialecticians, Moheyan and Kamalaśīla is narrated and depicted in a specific cham dance once held annually at Kumbum Monastery in Qinghai.
In Bhutan, the dances are performed during an annual religious festival known as Tshechu, which is held in each district. The Cham is performed by monks, nuns, and villagers. The Royal Academy of Performing Arts is the main body which promotes the preservation of the culture of Cham and the dances.
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- "༈ རྫོང་ཁ་ཨིང་ལིཤ་ཤན་སྦྱར་ཚིག་མཛོད། ༼འཆ-༽" [Dzongkha-English Dictionary: "'CHA"]. Dzongkha-English Online Dictionary. Dzongkha Development Commission, Government of Bhutan. Archived from the original on 2012-07-29. Retrieved 2011-11-11.
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- Forman, Werner (photographs) & Rintschen, Bjamba (text) Lamaistische Tanzmasken: der Erlik-Tsam in der Mongolei. Leipzig: Koehler & Amelang, 1967 (text translated from Russian)