Lost ritual scripts of Dongba Culture retrieved

By Ding Chunyan and Wu Jin
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, January 1, 2017
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Xi Shanghong, a 74-year-old priest of the Naxi people, an ethnic group mostly inhabiting China's southwestern Yunnan Province, was more than happy to know that a copy of a lost script of an ancient ritual praying for longevities and abundant offspring was discovered in the National Museums of World Culture in Sweden.

Xi Shanghong, a 74-year-old priest, displays the ancient ritual of the Dongba Culture from a copy of a local pictographic brochure preserved in the American Library of Congress. [Photo Courtesy of ADCA]

In addition to the two copies found in the British Library in 2013, the latest discovery strengthens his hopes to revive the religious ritual in Xi's lifetime.

Known as Dongba Culture, the rituals, songs, customs and handicrafts representing the unique lifestyle of the Naxi people, has long aroused immense interest of Western explorers, botanists, writers and missionaries as studies of ethnic culture flourished among occidental academic societies, some 100 years ago, said Zhang Xu, head of Beijing Association of Dongba Culture and Arts (ADCA), a non-governmental organization working to protect and revive it.

Zhang made her remark at an annual session focusing on ADCA's efforts in rescuing and preserving Dongba Culture via digital platforms. The forum, on Christmas Day in Beijing, was held under the auspices of the Beijing Foundation of Social Science Circles.

According to Zhang, early researchers of Dongba Culture failed to pass down their academic legacy to later generations, causing a loss of the culture in the past few decades.

To carry on the mission to save the culture from extinction, she leads a team looking for manuscripts preserved in different foreign libraries, including those in the United Kingdom, France and Sweden, so that copies of the pictographic recordings can be passed on to local priests, like Xi, who are able to resume the chants and rituals based on them.

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