Chamchen, Archive recording of a unique dance: Chamchen [Close shot]Additional title: Black Hat Dance (aka The Great Dance)Additional title: Zhanag Cham
NamesCore of Culture (Organization) (Producer)Core of Culture (Organization) (Donor)
Bhutan Dance Project, Core of Culture
Dates / OriginDate Created: 2005
Library locationsJerome Robbins Dance DivisionShelf locator: *MGZIDF 695B
TopicsDance -- BhutanFolk dancing -- BhutanDance -- Religious aspects -- BuddhismRites & ceremonies -- BhutanFestivals -- BhutanDzongs -- Bhutan -- Bumthang (District)Bumthang (Bhutan : District)Ritual and ceremonial dancing -- Bhutan
GenresFilmed danceFilmed performances
NotesAdditional physical form: For wide shot version, see: *MGZIDF 695A.Biographical/historical: Nyimalung Trenda is held for three days on the 8th to the 10th day of the 5th Bhutanese month. The final blessing day coincides with the anniversary of the Birth of Guru Rinpoche. A Chamjug or rehearsal day is held on the 7th day of the Lunar month.Venue: Videotaped in demonstration at the Nyimalung Dratsang (fixed tripod camera facing South, front view), in Bamthung, on June 19, 2005.Acquisition: Gift; Core of Culture. NN-PD
Physical DescriptionBorn digitalExtent: 1 video file (ca. 10 min.) : sound, color
DescriptionThis is a dance enacting the subjugation of Langdarma by Llhalung Pel-Ki Dorji and was said to be unique to the Monastery of Nyimalung. In fact Tamzhing Monastery in Bumthang also has a version of Chamchen - of which we filmed demonstration steps. Lam Seten (the head monk at Tamzhing and originally from Tibet) said that this dance had been taken to Nyimalung from Tibet, by his great Uncle. The Black Hat dances comprise a cycle of sacred Tibetan dances, which are said to have their source in the dance by which the Tibetan monk Llhalung Pel-Ki Dorji sought to distract the anti-Buddhist, Tibetan King, Langdarma, before pulling a bow and arrow from the copious sleeves of his costume and assassinating him in A.D. 842. The dances are performed with the ritual intention of subjugating and destroying evil and are also used as rites to purify the ground on the occasion of the construction and consecration of stupas, temples and dzongs where the wrathful nature of the dance is seen as frightening malevolent spirits away and wresting control of the site back from their power. The colourful costume of the Black Hat dances, comprising a large black hat covered in magical symbols, (hexagrams, lensa glyphs, mirrors, peacock feathers etc.) rich brocade silk gowns, vajra collars (dorji gong) boots, scarves and a particular apron displaying the wrathful face of one of the emanations of Mahakala known as a Thro-Zhey (literally, wrathful face) are completed by a set of ritual implements carried in each hand. These may vary, but most commonly include a phurba attached to scarves held in the right hand, and a skull-cap decorated with cowrie shells held in the left. The costume identifies the black hat dancers as being powerful yogis (sorcerers or magicians) who's origin shades back into more ancient, pre-Buddhist times. The dancers are said to pound the earth with their thunderbolt steps marking out the sacred geometric figure of a mandala on the ground, whilst their hands create mystical gestures or mudra known as gar based upon traditional tantric texts. As the ritual continues, the evil spirits who are present are attracted by the flickering of the scarves and are then captured and held in the linga a torma -surrounded by a triangular case that holds them fast. The climax of the rite sees these evils spirits destroyed by the flashing blade of the phurba wielded by the main dancer, who has entered a state of limitless compassion which is capable of destroying the body of evil at the same time as liberating its spirit. In Bhutan this very sacred dance was performed by the Zhabdrung himself whose wrathful performances of the Zhanag dance are said to have terrified onlookers by the intensity of his execution of this dance. Today these rituals are commemorated at Punakha Drubchen where the chief abbot of the Drukpa school, the Je Khenpho, performs in front of the public dressed in the Black Hat costume. There are many versions of the Black Hat dances, varying from 5 to more than 21 dancers, and the instruments and costumes used will also change depending upon the specific rituals performed.
Type of ResourceMoving image
IdentifiersNYPL catalog ID (B-number): b19777534Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): 266241f0-e378-0130-0a96-3c075448cc4b
Copyright NoticeCore of Culture
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