Face Music - Projects - Tsam Dance Masks - Mongolia
  • Traditional Dance Masks of Buddhists - Tshoijoo - Yama

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P & C December 1998
- Face Music / Albi

- last update 03-2016

Tshoijoo - God of Dead, also Defender of the Faith - Yama (Sanskrit)

Dharmaradja or Erleg Nomun Khan (Mongolian)

Damdin-Tshoijoo (Erlik Khan) swore to respect the holy Buddha (burkhan bagash), and he is the rebirth of Boghdo Zonhova (name of a high lama). He is very ferocious and wipes out his enemies and distinguishes between good and bad, truth and untruth. He sends people into paradise or the underworld.
His wife is Zamindi (Idam), and his mother is Lkham (Käli). He presents himself in three parts: the exterior, the inner and the mysterious one in his own name. He represents many underworld powers (erlegiin elch).

- He is the King of the Dead, the Underworld and Hell, adopted from the Indian Pantheon. He thus belongs to the group of the "Dreadful Gods". His wife or mother is Lhamo, the Queen of the Dead (Käli) and, simultaneously, the patron saint of the Tibetians. Yama, however, is the most important mask in the tsam. Only the most flawless monk of the monastery is allowed to play this role.


  • - dark blue face colour
  • - (In colour symbolism dark blue and black stand for severity and intimidating dignity)
  • - huge bull head
  • - two big, slightly curved horns, the ends of which are gold-coated
  • - crown made from skulls, with five jags and gold-coated (symbol of the victory over the five elements), silver ornamentation, often towered by a thunderbolt
  • - on or behind the horns, there may often be found a flame-like ring of rays (aureole)
  • - in the middle of the forehead, there is situated the Third Eye of Wisdom
  • - big ripper teeth in wide-open jaws
  • - on the chest, there is applied the golden "Wheel of Religion" or a mirror
  • - long costume, rich in ornament
  • - gold or silver jewellery

- In one hand he holds a magic mace in the form of the skeleton of a child, and in the other hand he holds a bowl made from human skull.

- Very slow and forceful, the forward movement is so slow that the mask hardly moves at all.

back to the Projects Dance Masks - Tsam Masks Mongolia

P & C Face Music - Ulaanbaatar, September / October 1999 - Albi
English translation: Hermelinde Steiner