Tsam dance was born during the 8th century. It's one of the most important ritual of Tibetan Buddhism. Young lamas dance it, wearing costumes and masks that symbolize different apostles, devils, animals, or real persons. The dance principally stages characters of Buddhist legends and animals that symbolise good and bad influences. For example, the garuda and the lion (powerful beasts of air and earth), deer (symbol of beauty in the animal reign), or the crow (soothsayer).
The Mongolian tsam dances have an important artistical side. They include dances, musics and luxurious costumes, and have a didactic side since they represent a scenary or some persons from Buddhist philosophy. It's also supposed to bring good fortune to people. In the 19th century, more than 500 among the 700 monasteries of Mongolia had their own vision of the dance.
The costumes and masks used for tsam dances in the early 20th century have been kept in several museums. The most famous of them is the Choijin-Lama Museum in Ulan Bator. The costumes have recently been used to make the tsam ceremony rise (it had ceased during the socialist period).