Annual Bullfighting Festival Held in Tibet’s Shigatse Prefecture
2019-09-15
Fighting yaks at the Bullfighting Festival in Shigatse prefecture-level city in Tibet
 
While Spain may be the in place to go for bullfighting, Tibet actually has its own traditional form of bullfighting, which bears no resemblance to the Spanish form of the tournaments. Featuring two huge yak bulls, Tibetan bullfighting is done between the bulls themselves, and is a more natural event than you might think.
 
Two raging bulls lock horns during a bullfight in the Tibetan prefecture of Shigatse
Two raging bulls lock horns during a bullfight in the Tibetan prefecture of Shigatse
 
Held in Tsesha Township in the Shigatse Prefecture of the Tibet Autonomous Region every year in around September, the Bullfighting Festival is one of the many Intangible Cultural Heritages of the region. Located in the small town of Tsesha in Bainang County, directly south of the city of Shigatse, this amazing festival is a popular event for the local people of the region, and yak owners from all across the region converge on the grasslands outside the town to celebrate the festival and compete in the bullfighting contests. The festival was held on September 9 for this year, and herds of yaks in colorful traditional decorations were driven to the bullring to fight for the prestigious crown.
 
An aerial photo of the bullring in Tsesha Township of Shigatse
An aerial photo of the bullring in Tsesha Township of Shigatse
 
The festival is held after the harvest in the golden autumn time, and has been a long-standing tradition in Shigatse for centuries. People gather on the grasslands for the festival in the hundreds, and the festival includes other contests, including sheep counting, known as “Khotse” in Tibetan, which was one of the original events that gave rise to the Bullfighting Festival. Adorned in colorful robes and decorations, both yaks and people enter the bullring, with family members and friends joining in for support.
 
Yaks fight during the Bullfighting Festival in Tsesha Township of Bainang County in Shigatse City
Yaks fight during the Bullfighting Festival in Tsesha Township of Bainang County in Shigatse City
 
Fighting actually comes naturally to the yaks, who often fight in the wild for dominance over the herds. When two dominant yaks are put in the ring together, they will naturally fight to decide which is the stronger and dominant make for the herd of dri (the female of the species) to propagate strong offspring. As they fight, tsampa is sprinkled continuously around the ring by the owners, to pray for their yaks and encourage them to fight.
 
Yaks wearing traditional decorations are driven to the bullring to fight for the crown
Yaks wearing traditional decorations are driven to the bullring to fight for the crown
 
When the winner of the match is decided, by the adjudicators, rather than by a defeated and bleeding yak beaten by the stronger contender, tsampa powder is thrown between the two bulls to separate them. The winner of each match is festooned in white hada in recognition of their triumph, and the winner of the bullfights can win as much as 30,000 yuan in cash, and often decent farming equipment, such as rotovators. Second, third, and fourth place winners also walk away with prizes, such as motorcycles and washing machines, and cash prizes of up to 15,000 yuan.
 
Local residents and visitors watch a bullfight at Tsesha Township in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region
Local residents and visitors watch a bullfight at Tsesha Township in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region
 
This amazing festival in Shigatse brings in crowds of people from around the area, even traveling from as far away as Lhasa, to see the awesome spectacle of fighting yaks, cheering loudly for their favorite contenders. So Shigatse is the second largest city after Lhasa in Tibet and also one of the best Tibet Tours destination in Tibet including spiritual tours at Tashi Lhunpo Monastery.
TAG: Tibet festival tibetan ullfight yak fighting shigatse yak fighting shigatse festival yak festival bullfighting festival

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