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Folk Acrobatics

Qamgar Tashoi, or "flying rope game above the Potala Palace", originally was a form of traditional folk acrobatics.

A huge crowd of people before the Potala Palace on the 2nd day of the 1st Tibetan month enjoy the festival atmosphere. A wooden pole some 30 meters tall is erected by the stele on the Dazha Road near which a person beats a copper gong while singing. Presently, that person climbs up and down the pole, balancing on one leg or hanging upside down from the top, or, while lying on his back, revolves round the top of the pole.

It is said that this pole-climbing performance originated from the Qamgar Tashoi. In the past, people entertained with a stunt performance on a rope the end of which was fastened to the golden roof of the Potala Palace and the other end to a pole erected in the square. The performer would fit a wooden chain wheel bound to the chest onto the rope and then soar down from the top of the Red Palace to the stele by Dazha Road, a fairly long distance involving a vertical height distance of over 130 meters. The speed was very fast so that the friction between the wooden wheel and rope produced sparks that could burn through the rope and cause the performer to fall to his death. The performers used to be farmers required to do corvée labor. The people in the Tonglha Village, in the Sagya area, especially were involved in this form of corvée, so that they could be levied a lower land tax and possibly avoid going hungry. There was little choice so they performed the dangerous feat whether they wanted to do so or not. Because the Qamgar Tashoi was very dangerous, families of the performer, especially the mother, worried greatly and this produced many sad songs over the years; as one song lamented: "The mother of a performer died not of starvation, but of worry". The tragedies often occurred because the rope was broke or the wooden chain wheel failed, arousing public condemnation. Later, the local government of Tibet gave orders to ban this "flying rope game" and change it to a pole-climbing performance (1957)

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