Dancing Skeletons: Characters of Cham Dance

Dancing Skeleton Facec.1919 Dancing Skeleton costume on display at the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh

This bank holiday weekend brought a meandering stroll through the inspiring National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh. Located on Chamber Street, between South Bridge and the Grassmarket, the National Museum of Scotland is still one of my favourite places to visit after this 4th or 5th trip. There were some fascinating anatomy-related finds that I came across for the first time on Monday; one of which was the costume of the Dancing Skeleton. (Level 3, World Cultures, Performance And Lives)

Tibetan Cham Dance is a lively costumed dance associated with some sects of Buddhism, often performed at Buddhist festivals. With monks providing the accompanying music with traditional Tibetan instruments, the dances are considered a form of meditation and an offering to the gods.

Dancing Skeleton Fullc.1919 Dancing Skeleton costume on display at the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh

One character from the Cham Dance is the Citipati, or ‘Dancing Skeleton’. Cheerfully dressed, their costumes are made from cotton and are decorated to show the bones of the skeleton in bright and illustrative way.  Their somewhat intimidating eye-less skull mask is fashioned from papier-mâché and sheet tin, showcasing a crested headdress of smaller skulls. Despite their daunting presence, their intention is not to frighten but to remind and inspire the audience of the transience of human life and the fleeting presence of the organic body.

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2 thoughts on “Dancing Skeletons: Characters of Cham Dance

  1. Pingback: Tibetan Skeleton Dance: Cemetery Protectors of Truth | WilderUtopia.com

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