“It is an urgent task to salvage the cultural heritage of minority ethnic groups in northeast China, especially the Shaman culture,” said Xiao Shanyin, a CPPCC (Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference) member at the ongoing fourth session of the CPPCC Ninth National Committee.
This will not only help promote cultural prosperity, but also be beneficial to national unity and consolidation of national sovereignty, he added.
Many minority ethnic groups live in northeast China, including the Manchu, Mongol, Oroqen, Daur, Hezhen and Xibe. During the reign of Qing Dynasty Emperor Tongzhi, some Koreans were forced to leave their homeland and settled down along the Tumen and Yalu rivers, becoming the ancestors of the present Korean ethnic group in China.
The Manchu, Korean and Xibe peoples settled down and began farming early, so their civilizations were more advanced than others. The Mongol on the western prairie used to live on herding, but turned to farming during the Qing Dynasty. The Oroqen, Ewenki, Daur and Hezhen previously lived a nomadic life or fished. Only in recent years, have they begun to change the production environment and operational methods involved in their basic livelihood. As a result, materials or historical documents about themselves are rare. With the passing of the older generation, there was a great danger a long history would also disappear, as well as the techniques and experiences for living.
Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, a variety of folk cultures, such as epics, legends on the origin of the earth, origin of a tribe, ancient folk songs and old stories have been collected, compiled, translated and published.
For example, the legendary Wars in Paradise and epics Shaman of the Nishan, Mama Wubuxiben of the Manchu and Yimakan of the Hezhen, as well as oral cultural forms of other ethnic groups, have enjoyed a growing reputation both at home and abroad.
The languages these minority ethnic groups use all belong to the Altaic family. They believe in Shamanism as other peoples in north and northeast Asia do. The region, in fact, can be seen as the homeland of Shamanism. For thousands of years, people here showed piety toward the primitive religion and preserved such traditions as worshipping nature, totemic animals and plants and their ancestors.
Shamans of the Manchu ethnic group from different families kept hand-written materials recording the history and culture as well as life experiences of their ancestors. Shamans of the Mongolians preserved some hand-written books on medicine. The cultural relics in this kind can be seen as living fossils of human civilization. They provide important material for the study of culture of our ancestors, history of development, geographical sphere and culture of different ethnic groups.
Northeast China has retained most of these cultural forms and has attracted experts and scholars on anthropology, ethnology, sociology, culture and primitive religion from home and abroad. However, in the past, foreigners searched for such things and took photographs of the Shaman in a plundering way. Some local people, prompted by short-term interests, sold cultural relics to foreigners. Consequently, many real things about the Shaman were lost to foreign countries. What’s more, a lack of money led to difficulties in protection by Chinese themselves, including story recording, material collecting and sifting.
Xiao proposed to develop tourism centered on cultural relics in these regions. He urged that more money should be put into the collection of cultural relics to help provide fresh insights on national history.