The Life of King Gesar is the only living epic in the world today.
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There are still more than 100 folk artists scattering in Tibet, Inner Mongolia and Qinghai and singing of the great achievement of the Tibetan hero King Gesar.The Life of King Gesar is a heroic epic collectively created by China's Tibetans. Originating in the folk oral traditions passed down among Tibetan generations for some 1,000 years, it has been collected as a work composed of 120-odd volumes, with more than 1 million verses, totalling over 20 million words. It has been called the Orient's Homeric Epic.
The immortal epic evolved during the transition period between the 3rd and 6th centuries as the Tibetan clan society gave way to the emerging slavery society. The diverse elements of the epic were consolidated after the establishment of the Tubo Kingdom (early 7th-9th centuries). It was further refined and gained wide fame during the shift from a slave society to a feudal society in Tibet from the 10th century to the early 12th century.
With resurgence of Buddhism in Tibet around the 11th century, Tibetan monks began participating in efforts to compile and popularize The Life of King Gesar. The basic structure of the epic took shape and the earliest transcripts emerged. The work of consolidating the epic was mainly undertaken by monks of the Nyingma (Red) Sect.
Based on such folk literature as fairy tales, legends, poems and proverbs passed on by the Tibetan people, The Life of King Gesar came into being and further developed, representing the leading achievement of ancient Tibetan culture. The epic relates the heroic achievements of Gesar, who lived without fear of his rather formidable enemies, subdued monsters, helped the poor and controlled the strong, and brought benefits to the common people.
The epic warmly praises the truth that justice and brightness will be victorious over evil and darkness. It also reflects the important historic stages of national development and basic social structure in Tibet, conveying the good wishes and lofty ideals of the masses and depicting the complicated relationships between China's ethnic groups and the process of final unification. The Life of King Gesar is a great work featuring the study of ancient Tibetan social history, class relations, exchanges between ethnic groups, moral concepts, folk customs, traditions, and culture. Thought of the Oriental Homeric Epic, it is of high academic value.
China is home to many nationalities. History has closely united the peoples of the Han and various ethnic groups. Therefore, The Life of King Gesar embodies the great spirit of the Chinese people and their lofty ideal of pursuing justice and a happy life. The evolution and development of the epic are a cultural phenomenon not often Seen in Tibetan history, or in histories of China or the rest of the world for that matter.
The evolution of the epic spanned a long historical period, encompassing several stages of Tibetan history, including the late primitive society, the dictatorship of the slave owners, the slave society, and the feudal society. The epic continues to meet with widespread fame in the society of today's Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.
These important periods in Tibetan social development have greatly influenced the popularization and development of the epic and are reflected directly or indirectly through its words. At the same time, The Life of King Gesar had tremendous effect on Tibetan culture during different periods, resulting in its important position in Tibetan cultural history. No other work comes close to the epic in its ability to reflect the history and cultural development of the ancient Tibetan society. Nor has any other work been able to so thoroughly influence the cultural development of the Tibetans. In this sense, the Life of King Gesar can be thought of as a work of social and literary power.
Different from the Tibetan epic The Life of King Gesar and the Mongolian epic Jangur, the epic Manas of Kyrgyz ethnicity features not just one hero, but eight generations of a family.
Jangar became an orphan at the age of two, and began to fight around the age three. When he was seven years old, he had become a well-known hero. This is the story of the epic Jangar.
More about Chinese Epics
- Epic Manas
Epic Manas Different from the Tibetan epic The Life of King Gesar and the Mongolian epic Jangur, the epic Manas of Kyrgyz ethnicity features not just one hero, but eight generations of a family.
- The Epic of Jangur
The Epic of Jangur Jangar was written between the 15th century and the first half of the 17th century in the Weilate region of Mongolia.
- The Life of King Gesar
The Life of King Gesar The Life of King Gesar is the only living epic in the world today.