Tibetan traditional mask dance. Qiangmu, which means dance of the vajra (thunderbolt), is the term used in contemporary China for a Buddhist religious dance-drama, the term nuo (exorcist ritual) is also sometimes used in China rather than the term cham which we find used more widely in the Himalayan region. The art is believed to have been first innovated by Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) and Samye Temple is said to be the earliest site. Mask dances (‘cham), with occasional use of giant puppets to represent Guru Rinpoche or other religious figures are part of the religious art of areas affected by Tibetan Buddhism. Lamas specialize in mask dance and the making of images for these performances related to Esoteric Buddhism. The dances are practised today in areas where Tibetan Buddhism has spread historically including the Himalaya region (Nepal, Bhutan, India, and various Western countries).

(See also Butter Sculptures and Puppets, Himalaya.)