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Naxi pictographic script -- Dongba script

2009-12-03 15:15 BJT

The Naxi have a pictographic script that has "now received worldwide recognition because it is the only living pictographic script in the world." It is also commonly referred to as the Dongba script.

It is called the Dongba script because is primarily utilized by Dongba priests and shamans when they carry out their different ceremonies, rituals and exorcisms.

The Dongba script is believed to have arisen in approximately the 12th century, though some scholars have argued for a much later date. Although the Dongba religion is heavily influenced by the Bon Tibetan tradition, their writing doesn't seem to have Tibetan influences, at least in its purely formal aspect. The religious concepts defined in the pictograms, on the other side, are deeply influenced by the Bon religion, and by the Hindu cults that influenced both Bon and Tibetan Buddhism.

The love of the Naxi for their culture is evident as, despite intense governmental pressure in the past, the Dongba religion and script continued to be embraced in the more remote Naxi areas. Now, following the advent and phenomenal growth of tourism in Lijiang, accompanied by a significant shift in governmental policy, the Dongba shamanic tradition and the rituals associated with it are now actively encouraged and taught to the younger generation.

To whatever one chooses to ascribe the motives behind this, this intrinsic hallmark of Naxi culture is beyond doubt on the rebound, not only saved from near oblivion, but thriving. The Naxi pictographic script, deservedly famous, is by far the best known feature of this unique culture.