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The Black-Hat Drum Cham (Wylie: zhwa nag rnga 'cham, THL: zhanak ngacham),[1] performed at the Honolulu Museum of Art.

The cham dance (Tibetan: འཆམ་, Wylie: 'cham),[2][3] 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.[1][4]

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.

Cham contentEdit

Chams often depict incidents from the life of Padmasambhava, the 9th century Nyingmapa teacher, and other saints.[5]

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.[6]


Dzongkhag dancers during a Tshechu in Jakar, Bhutan


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.


Tibetans usually perform the cham dance to large audiences during the Monlam Prayer Festival.[7]


Dances are performed in Bhutan, Lahaul and Spiti district, Sikkim, Dharamshala and Ladakh during cultural and religious festivals.

Cham dance during Dosmoche festival 2018 at Leh Palace

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Pearlman, Ellen (2002). Tibetan Sacred Dance: a Journey into the Religious and Folk Traditions. Inner Traditions / Bear & Co. pp. 21, 32, 180. ISBN 978-0-89281-918-8. Retrieved 2011-10-16.
  2. ^ "༈ 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.
  3. ^ "Tibetan-English-Dictionary of Buddhist Teaching & Practice". Diamond Way Buddhism Worldwide. Rangjung Yeshe Translations & Publications. 1996. Archived from the original on 2010-03-28. Retrieved 2011-11-11. entry: 'cham.
  4. ^ Clements, William M. (2006). The Greenwood Encyclopedia of World Folklore and Folklife: Southeast Asia and India, Central and East Asia, Middle East. 2. Greenwood Press. pp. 106–110. ISBN 978-0-313-32849-7. Retrieved 2011-10-16.
  5. ^ Dancing on the demon's back: the dramnyen dance and song of Bhutan[permanent dead link], by Elaine Dobson, John Blacking Symposium: Music, Culture and Society, Callaway Centre, University of Western Australia, July 2003
  6. ^ Roccasalvo, Joseph F.(1980). 'The debate at bsam yas: religious contrast and correspondence.' Philosophy East and West 30:4 (October 1980). The University of Press of Hawaii. Pp.505-520. Source: [1] Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine (accessed: December 17, 2007)
  7. ^ "Backgrounder: Monlam Prayer Festival". Focus on Tibet. Xinhua. 2010-02-28. Archived from the original on 2012-04-25. Retrieved 2011-02-02.

Further readingEdit

  • Forman, Werner (photographs) & Rintschen, Bjamba (text) Lamaistische Tanzmasken: der Erlik-Tsam in der Mongolei. Leipzig: Koehler & Amelang, 1967 (text translated from Russian)

External linksEdit