XINING, Aug. 18 (Xinhua) -- The King Gesar, a millennium-old Tibetan epic poem, is to have its own protection zone on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau, the local government said Monday.
The protection zone covers the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Golog, northwest China's Qinghai Province, famous for natural and cultural relics related to the epic.
According to Doje Gyaincog, head of the prefecture's cultural and sports bureau, with the support of the Culture Ministry, the prefecture will first carry out a thorough survey of storytellers.
The government has plans to grant stable salaries to the storytellers so they no longer need to worry about making a living, but can instead focus on their art.
In addition, natural and cultural relics such as Ayude, birthplace of King Gesar, will be protected and the government will collect libretti, audio and video clips and pictures.
"We have also plans to invite artists to work the epic into symphonies, musicals and dramas to spread the Gesar legend to a larger audience, especially young people," said Doje Gyaincog.
King Gesar, with more than 120 volumes and at least 1 million lines, tells how the half-human, half-god Tibetan king of the 11th Century conquered the devils of other tribes and sought to help ordinary people.
The epic has been recited for generations by what locals call "god-taught storytellers" who are often illiterate and know none of the poem, but begin to tell the stories after experiencing strange dreams.
"The epic is so popular among Tibetans that almost everyone has heard the king's stories or watched performances since they were kids. It's a part of our childhood," said Living Buddha Tsedri from the prefecture's Kere Monastery, who is a trakhan (a Gesar storyteller in Tibetan).
As modernization permeates the plateau, the pool of trakhan is shrinking, and many of the relics are poorly cared for. Many storytellers, mainly herdsmen or farmers, are nomadic and only a few go on to become respected artists.
"There are some 160 storytellers in Golog. Some of them are very old and their health is poor. Once they are gone, we will have lost the heart of the epic," said Tsedri.
King Gesar was listed as national intangible cultural heritage in 2006 and listed as World Intangible Cultural Heritage items by UNESCO in 2009.