Youngest sto­ry­teller chants heroic tales re­ceived dur­ing dreams

China Daily (Canada) - - TIBET - By PALDEN NY­IMA andDAQIONG in Lhasa

As the youngest known sto­ry­teller of The Epic of King Ge­sar, 25-year-old Sithar Dorje rev­els in his role as a nascent mes­sen­ger for the an­cient Ti­betan mas­ter­piece.

“I feel proud of trans­mit­ting the heroic sto­ries of the war­riors to the au­di­ence,” he said.

Sithar’s in­ter­est in the King Ge­sar tales started early, at the age of 9, in a re­mote vil­lage in Ti­bet’s east­ern Qamdo pre­fec­ture. It started with a dream dur­ing a rest break at school:

Stand­ing on a vast grass­land cov­ered with flow­ers, sheep, horses and yaks, hemet two tall red-faced war­riors wear­ing ar­mor on horse­back. They said they were min­is­ters of King Ge­sar, and asked him to join them on a trip.

He was taken to a gi­ant tent in the middle of a camp filled with sol­diers and horses. In the tent, the two war­riors com­manded him to swal­low a stack of scrip­tures, and au­tho­rized him to tell the King Gear sto­ries to the hu­man world. When he left the camp, he found he had one foot on the earth and an­other on a rain­bow in the sky.

“I was awak­ened by my class teacher,” he re­called. “I thought the ex­pe­ri­ence was not a dream, but real.”

He awoke feel­ing his stom­ach was so full that he wanted to vomit, even though he had missed his break­fast that morn­ing. Then, dur­ing a Ti­betan les­son, he sud­denly be­gan to talk to him­self about some­thing his class­mates did not un­der­stand.

“The self-talk­ing lasted for two hours, and all my class­mates were scared and peep­ing at me from out­side of the win­dow. On the con­trary, my Ti­betan teacher en­joyed my chant­ing,” he said.

The Ti­betan teacher was pleased, be­cause what came out of his mouth was the great Ti­betan epic of King Ge­sar.

Since then, Sithar Dorje’s name has spread on the grass­land. He has been in­vited to count­less wed­dings and par­ties to tell the sto­ries, gain­ing ever more praise for the way he de­liv­ers the tales of hero­ism, magic and ad­ven­ture.

“In my home­town, Ti­betan peo­ple treat­ed­me­like a Liv­ing Bud­dha,” he said.

When ac­counts of his sto­ry­telling prow­ess reached Lhasa, the cap­i­tal city of the Ti­bet au­ton­o­mous re­gion, he was re­cruited by Ti­bet Univer­sity in 2010. He stud­ied Ti­betan his­tory and the lan­guage. Upon grad­u­a­tion in 2014, he was of­fered a job at the univer­sity’s China Ti­betol­ogy In­sti­tute.

At the in­sti­tute, he is tasked with telling and record­ing the Ge­sar sto­ries so they can be pre­served and made avail­able as au­dio record­ings, videos, and in books, in­clud­ing elec­tronic ver­sions. Seven books based on his sto­ries have be­ing pub­lished so far.

With ad­vanced lit­er­acy in both Ti­betan and Man­darin, and as the first KingGe­sar sto­ry­teller in Ti­bet with a univer­sity de­gree, Sithar Dorje can reach a va­ri­ety of au­di­ences, said Nam­gyal, one of his col­leagues at Ti­bet Univer­sity.

“With clear ar­tic­u­la­tion, Sithar Dorje is dis­tin­guished from other sto­ry­tellers be­cause he makes his sto­ries un­der­stand­able to most of his au­di­ences with dif­fer­ent di­alects,” Nam­gyal said.

He can re­cite 105 episodes of King Ge­sar’s story in to­tal, con­tent equal to more than 20 printed books. Two teach­ers at the univer­sity, which is tasked with preserving the King Ge­sar epic, are des­ig­nated to as­sist in preserving his store of lit­er­ary trea­sures.

Jamyang Drakpa, a class­mate, is a good friend and a fan of the sto­ry­teller, though he ad­mits that he doesn’t have a full ap­pre­ci­a­tion of Sithar’s sto­ry­telling mas­tery.

“I hardly un­der­stand a word he sings, how­ever, I en­joy the melody and the rich fa­cial ex­pres­sions he makes dur­ing his per­for­mance,” Jamyang said.

Now in his se­cond year of grad­u­ate stud­ies, Sithar wishes for more time to spend with fam­ily or play soc­cer, which he loves. But his work­load is heavy.

“I al­ways miss my time on the soc­cer field, but one happy thing for me at the mo­ment is that I can spend some time with my par­ents in Lhasa,” he said.

As for the fu­ture, the King Ge­sar dreams keep com­ing.

“With one new dream ev­ery year, new sto­ries are born in my brain con­stantly,” he said.

Con­tact the writ­ers at palden@chi­nadaily.com.cn

XIN­HUA PHOTO CREDIT / HERE

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