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The Dance of Gesar of Ling
By Ana Fuentes
The Dance of The Lobedu
By Lori Waselchuck
Inspired by nomadic culture, the Dance of Gesar of Ling is as integral to Tibet as its snow mountain landscape. Gesar of Ling is a gigantic oral epic, sung by Tibetan bards, which has been written down over the last few centuries in many different forms. Versions of it can be found in Tibet, Mongolia, China, and among tribal peoples of Inner Asia.

The Gesar sung and read in North-eastern Tibet, principally in Kham, or Qinghai province records the life and religious beliefs of the warlike high altitude nomad herders. Their wealth are herds of yak and dri (female yaks), cows, horses, and sheep. They live most of the year in yak-hair tents or fortress castles in the Winter. They are followers of Tibetan Buddhism but their daily ritual life combines elements of Indian Buddhism with shamanistic practices found across Inner Asia, including some elements of ancient Chinese alchemical Taoism.

Known as the warrior King, Gesar ruled the land of snows in the mid-seventh century and was born in the region of Kham, eastern Tibet, where these photographs were taken. The legend of Gesar is a cultural depiction of good versus evil. For Tibetans he is the ideal of warriorship, confident yet humble, conquering his enemies with keen command, and overcoming them with his gentleness and intelligence.
Yet, the dance does not depict the physical outer display normally associated with conventional battles. The inner meaning of Gesar portrays the clash of our interior landscapes, the battles with our inner demons. The conflicts and the victories heralded through such warrior traditions are demonstrated through the legend of Gesar.
This lore combines alchemical magic with skill in weaponry. Their religion is a peculiar kind of Buddhism which does not turn away from the world to a purer sphere, but achieves enlightenment by seeing the phenomenal world as sacred in every detail. This means that the Buddha in the epic teach not ascetic denial of worldly things, but alchemical transmutation of the ordinary into magical reality. Magical reality is enlightened reality. The enlightened world is made up of the kind of things found in expositions of alchemical Taoism: power places, gods, heroes, animistic spirits, and vital energies.

(Excerpted text from the writings of Tibetan scholar and translator, Robin Kornman, Research Associate, Joint Centre for International Studies, Milwaukee & Madison, Wisconsin, USA)

© Images by Ana Fuentes