The Cham Dance, associated with some sects of Buddhism, is a lively dance which employs dancers wearing masks and ornamented costumes . The dance is accompanied by music played by monks using traditional Tibetan instruments. The dances often offer moral instruction relating to compassion for sentient beings and are held to bring merit to all who perceive them.


actual size

This picture is of a Black Hat Dance (shana) which is not generally considered a cham dance. Examples of chams, masked dances, can be seen at

Nomenclature and etymology

Cham may also be orthographically represented as tscham or chaam.

Cham Dance as morality play and mystery rite


The dances also often depict incidents from the life of Padmasambhava, the 9th century Nyingmapa teacher and other saints. [1]

Cham Dance of the Council of Samye held in Kum-Bum Dshamba Ling

The great debate of the 'Council of Samye' or 'Council of Llasa' between the two principal debators or dialecticians, Mo Ho Yen and Kamalaśīla is narrated and depicted in a specific Cham Dance once held annually at Kum-Bum Dshamba Ling, Tibet.[2]

Meditative rite and offering

Chams are considered to be 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. [1]



In Bhutan, the dances are performed during an annual religious festival known as Tsechu, which is held in each district. Only monks or male members of the Royal Academy of Performing Arts are allowed to perform a Cham dance in Bhutan. [1]


Chinese officials have prohibited the festival in the past, and still discourage participation. Cham dances are considered illegal in Tibet by the governing body of the Peoples Republic of China.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Dancing on the demon's back: the dramnyen dance and song of Bhutan, by Elaine Dobson, John Blacking Symposium: Music Culture and Society, Callaway Centre, University of Western Australia, July 2003
  2. 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] (accessed: December 17, 2007)

Further information

  • Pearlman, Ellen (2002). Tibetan Sacred Dance: a journey into the religious and folk traditions. Rochester, Vermont, USA: Inner Traditions. ISBN 0-89281-918-0cs:Čham


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