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Naxi pictographic script -- Dongba script

2009-12-03 15:15 BJT

Now, as in the past, Dongba priests, do not abandon their productive activities. They cultivate their lands like other members of the community. Only when some member of the community requires their service, to expel the demons that cause an illness or misfortunes for a family, or to conduct a funeral or some other ceremony, they take up their sacred books, dress in their ceremonial robes, and they perform their responsibilities as religious specialists, usually rewarded with gifts of meat, alcohol and, nowadays, cigarettes.

The persistence of the Dongba spiritual tradition over more than eight centuries among the Naxi has created a staggering number of "Dongba Scriptures": The sacred writings of the Dongba religion amount, according to some scholars, at more than 50,000 volumes. These texts describe virtually every aspect of Naxi religion and culture, history, music, dances and medicines, and of course, of their myths and legends. When a Dongba leads a ceremony, he needs to narrate the origin of each one of the spirits or sacred objects that are summoned.

The construction of the Dongba pictograms is really curious. The little more than one thousand pictographs commonly used are possibly derived from only a hundred basic pictographs. For instance, we see that a person is represented much as in the basic lines of a person in a comic strip.

 To represent a person of the different peoples who live in their vicinity: Tibetan, Chinese, Bai, Yi, Lisu or Pumi, they stress some of their characteristics. If they want to express some of a person's activities, the part of the body affected is emphasized: the mouth, hand, leg, etc. In the above image, we see from left to right, the pictograms to represent: "person", "Naxi", "Tibetan", "Bai", and "Pumi."