Longest oral epic told in mysterious ways
Among Tibetan's various cultural elements that are mysterious to outsiders, the King Gesar epic is certainly among the most outstanding. Hailed as the longest heroic epic in the world, it has circulated in diverse ways for thousands of years.
Besides the Tibetan region, the King Gesar stories are also popular today among ethnic minorities in China including the Mongolian, Tu, Sugu and Naxi peoples. And even among neighboring countries including Mongolia, India, Bhutan and Nepal, the epic has long been well-known.
As the magical hero in the mind of Tibetans, King Gesar is said to have been born in the current Ashul Grassland in Dege county, Ganzi Prefecture, Sichuan Province around the 11th century when Tibetans were in deep misery brought by tribal wars. King Gesar fought against enemies and evils to finally bring peace and unification to the region.
Out of deep love and respect for him, Tibetans chanted praise for King Gesar for centuries from generation to generation, hence the epic King Gesar stories have been compiled and circulated until today.
Now with the legendary figure becoming a symbol of Tibetan culture, the various ways of unfolding the epic story are also being brought to a wider audience, and they are no less interesting and mysterious than the epic itself.
On the 23rd of last month, a series of King Gesar-related Tangkha paintings were exhibited in Beijing. The Tangkha were drawn in accordance with Gesar rapper Tshe-sgrub Tulku's description of King Gesar's story. At the exhibition, he performed the "Yuanguang Gesar," the most mysterious of the five ways of telling the King Gesar story. Many of the attendees were witnessing it for the first time.
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