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Disease and the Yi Nationality's Exorcism Ritual Art

Author: LuYan
Tutor: DuanBingChang
School: Yunnan University
Course: Chinese Ethnic Art
Keywords: Yi nationality exorcism ritual art disease treatment ceremony
CLC: K892.3
Type: PhD thesis
Year: 2013
Downloads: 59
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Yi society has preserved three exorcism art rituals to this day:Weining Yi’s "tsho21nthe55dzi21"((?)), Chuxiong Yi’s "lo21ma21t(?)21"((?))and "zy21mo21la3(?)21(?)33"((?), and Jiangcheng Yi’s "(?)33gε11"((?)).The tsho21nthe55dzi21exorcism mask dance is found in Bandi District, Weining County, Guizhou Province, performed as a play for the purpose of implementing change, and is held every year on the third to fifteenth day of the first month of the lunar calendar. The play has six characters, all of whom wear masks (except the child being carried by one of the players). The masks are made of wood and worn with clothing that matches the colors and shapes of the mask. The masks are very simple with almost no decorative carving; they are anthropomorphic masks with humanity as their theme. Tiger body painting is found in Shuangbai County, Chuxiong Yi Autonomous Prefecture of Yunnan Province. Every year, from the eighth to the fifteenth day of the first lunar month, the Yi in this location hold an exorcism ritual. The participants in Xiaomaidichong Village, Fapiao Township, Shuangbai County paint themselves as tigers and are called "lo21ma21ts(?)21"((?)), while the participants in nearby Ezu Village, Damaidi District paint themselves as leopards and are called "zy21mo21la33g(?)21(?)33"((?)). Both paint their whole bodies in an imitative fashion, and their costumes’ appearance is vivid, colorful, and three-dimensional. Face painting is found in many Yi areas; Jiangcheng County Yi’s "(?)e33gε21"((?)), which means "to wipe the face", is held every year from the third to the fifteenth day of the first lunar month in Bobie Village, Guoqing District. The nature of the makeup is very simple, with randomly placed black and white paint on the face, without a fixed pattern; the symbolic value is strong, while the imitative nature is reduced. However, regardless of the forms’ complexity or simplicity, their deep significance is the same:that is, Yi people’s fear of disease and yearning for life and health. The term "to exorcise", called [no21] and written (?) in Yi, refers to disease. The disease radical in the Chinese writing system is "疒", pronounced [n(?)51] in Chinese, referring to an invalid or pregnant woman resting in bed. In the classic Chinese text, Explaining and Analyzing Characters,"疒", is defined as "a sick person who looks like a horizontal chopstick. All diseases should carry this radical." The Proto-Tibeto-Burman reconstructed form for disease is*na.The original Chinese character for exorcism (傩) of epidemics was written "难" referring to the exorcism ritual of the Zhou dynasty."傩" is a phonetic loan character of "难" According to the Middle Chinese rhyming dictionary Guangyun,傩was pronounced with the initial consonant of the character诺*n and the rhyme of何*a, while难was pronounced with the initial consonant of the character那or奴*n and the rhyme of干or案*an. But in Lu Deming’s Explanation of "The Classic of Rituals",难is pronounced with the initial consonant of the character乃*n and the rhyme of多*a; in the rhyming dictionary Jiyun, with the initial consonant of the character囊*n and the rhyme of何*a. In The Book of Songs,难can rhyme with the upper register歌rhyme*a, for example in the poem Sanghu,难rhymes with那, and in the poem Xisang,难rhymes with阿. From The Book of Songs rhyming and pronunciation concordance relationships, we see that难was pronounced in two ways, with the rhymes of歌*a and元*-on. By the Han dynasty,歌was pronounced as the simple vowel*a:Chinese transliterations of Sanskrit from the Later Han Dynasty and Three Kingdoms Period uses歌to transliterate Sanskrit’s*a. Yu Min believes that, during the Later Han Dynasty,歌was pronounced*a and鱼was pronounced*o. We think that, at an earlier time,歌*and鱼were pronounced*a and*a. Tibetan na-ba means "sickness, pain" and nad means "disease". In Tibetan,-d and-n are nominal suffixes. Tibetan form nad is cognate with Chinese’s*nan "难"(-n also served as a nominal suffix in Chinese). The correspondence between "吾" and "我"(both meaning lst person singular) is similar to that between Tibetan ηa and Jingpo ηai33(lst person singular). The-n suffix appears not only in Tibetan, but also in Jingpo, for example (?)an31"meat." Chinese’s鱼rhyme admittedly corresponds to Tibeto-Burman’s*a, but it is clear that the歌rhyme and Tibeto-Burman’s*a also have a correspondence relationship, for example Tibeto-Burman’s*ηa"lst person singular" and Chinese*ηar "lst person singular." From this, we see that Tibeto-Burman’s*na "disease" and Chinese*nar "难(傩) exorcism/disease"~*nan "difficult" are cognates.Historical linguistics research strongly supports our argument that the character傩, now meaning exorcism, originally meant disease. At the same time, this helps explain why the title of the Book of Diseases 《难经》, one of ancient China’s four classics of medicine (also called The Emperor s81Diseases Book) has难in it;"难", pronounced [no21] in ancient times, was referring to a book of disease treatment.After understanding the deep relationship between exorcism and disease, we can understand why ancient exorcism ritual art cannot be divorced from the topic of disease; even more, we can understand why exorcism masks and images are exaggerated and grotesque: they are the image of hallucinations brought on by disease. Disease led to the Yi concept of the soul and the concept of ancestor worship; even the entire Yi religious belief system and disease are inextricably linked. As a result, the Book for Guiding Spirits, a Yi cultural text for mourners to guide the deceased spirit to the netherworld, touches on many topics of disease and medicine. There is even a text on medicine specifically for mourners, the Book of Animal Sacrifice and Medicine Offerings. Across all exorcism rituals, whether Chuxiong’s exorcism by tiger, Weining’s "tsho21nthe55dzi21" or Jiangcheng’s face painting, the shared core message is the expulsion of epidemics and prayers for health.An interdisciplinary approach is adopted for this study for two main reasons. To begin, exorcism is an elusive concept to define in contemporary cultural context. Moreover, exorcism-related culture, art, and other phenomena, which are equally elusive, also make it harder to research exorcism. Therefore, for the theoretical framework, this dissertation has integrated research insights from anthropological studies of religion, art, medicine, as well as linguistics. It is then applied to the analysis of the three Yi exorcism art rituals—Weining Yi’s "tsho21nthe55tzei21"((?)), Chuxiong Yi’s "lo21ma21ts(?)21"((?)) and "zy21mo21la33g(?)21se33"((?)), and Jiangcheng Yi’s "(?)e33gε21"((?)), as well as Yi ideologies of diseases and practices in disease prevention and treatment. Data include first-hand field notes and ancient Yi scripts, as well as secondary sources such as recent ethnic studies and ancient Chinese historical texts.By clarifying the core meanings of傩"exorcism/disease," this dissertation helps to elucidate Yi’s theory of diseases and traditional practices in treatment. They are two complementing systems involving both the use of natural medicine and supernatural forces. Simplistic as they are, they have been passed on from generation to generation and continuously improved. The Yi theory of diseases and treating practices has contributed to the sustainment and growth of a whole people group, which should not be neglected.Usually, knowledge about medicinal power of animal parts and herbs is accumulated through observation by many generations and circulated through visits among neighbors and relatives. As for diseases occurring unnaturally, supernatural means such as offering sacrifices, chanting and exorcism, are called for. Family altars are widespread among Yi households. Whenever a family member suffers from a serious disease, offerings would be made diligently to ancestral spirits to seek their protection. If small-scale rituals such as family offering fail, experienced personnel with high power such as毕摩((?)[bi33mo34) or苏尼((?)[su33(?)i33]) priests may be asked to perform bigger and more professional and elaborated rituals. In addition, grand exorcism rituals for the whole people group or village are also held regularly. For these reasons, exorcism ritual art will continue as long as there are human diseases.

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CLC: > History, geography > Customs > Chinese customs and habits > National customs of the total Chi
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