In two of the tree copies of manuscript Dter-gko ssaw – the origin of Dter-gko preserved in Harvard  Yenching Naxi manuscripts collection[1] since the moment of their birth the 360 Dter-gko are  depicted beside another winged deity: according to Dongba tradition they are described as they born together, and such second winged spirit is associated to the reading Yu-ma.

Casella di testo:  Manuscript Dter-gko Ssaw, pg. 3; n. 11161720 in Harvard Yenching Naxi manuscripts collection

Casella di testo:  Manuscript Dter-gko Ssaw, pg. 8; n. 12885250 in Harvard Yenching Naxi manuscripts collection

Yu-ma and Dter-gko, both deities should be considered closely related one another, sharing the same origin of the magical white egg from which they birth.

The closeness between Dter-gko and Yu-ma is confirmed also from one of the version of the story of the manuscript entitled Yu-ma Ssaw – the origin of the Yu-ma, where the latter is again depicted  together with the Dter-gko, in the moment of their common coming forth the white magical egg.[2]

About the origin of the Yu-ma, there’s another version of this story which is related in manuscript Yu-ma Ts’u bpa ngi – belonging to Har la lu k’o ceremony[3] which narrates about the birth of Yu-ma independently from the Dter-gko.

According to Yu-ma Ts’u bpa ngi ‘s version, although coming forth a white egg, the Yu-mas weren’t  birth together with the Dter-gkos, and the birth of the Yu-mas from the egg was caused by some deities which grasped the egg with their sharpen claws.

[pg. 5]

(4) the lion grasped the white eggs and there come forth the (5) Yu-ma with the lion head

[…] (7) the dragon grasped the egg and there come forth the Yu-ma with the dragon head

(8) […] the Khyu-t’khyu grasped the egg, and there come forth the Khyu-t’khyu headed Yu-ma

(2) the Shi-zi grasped the egg, and there come forth the Yu-ma with she shi-zi tail

(3) the Jackal grasped the egg, and there come forth the Yu-ma with the Jackal keen ears.

The tiger grasped the egg, and there come forth the Yu-ma with the tiger head

(4) the jaguar grasped the egg, and there come forth the Yu-ma with the jaguar head

(5) the bear grasped the egg, and there come forth the Yu-ma with the bear head […]

Manuscript goes on with the enumeration of the various deities and animals which grasped the egg and gave birth to Yu-ma; the latter inherits some features belonging to the egg-grasper. Enumeration of Yu-mas’ birth ends at page 7 rubric 5 , with the birth of the 360 Yu-mas of the clouds and the winds.

Joseph Rock quoted a third version of Yu-ma ssaw: in such variant of the Yu-ma birth myth the scholar identified also 3 other types of Yu-ma which he meant as different clans of such deity. He translate and explain as following:

the soul of the son of Muan-llu-ddu-ndzhi made a magic. A white tiger appeared on the high mountain.

The soul of yu-mi-tgkye-sher made a magic. A black tiger appeared on the high mountain.

On the high mountain the white tiger met the black tiger, and the 2 tigers had intercourse.

There were born thousands of clawed Yu-ma.

The Lion-headed, the bear headed, the Jackal headed, the dragon headed and the Ts’u ssi headed.

The soul of the son of Muan-llu-ddu-ndzhi made a magic.

The soul of yu-mi-tgkye-sher made a magic.

The come forth thousands of winged Yu-ma.

The Yu-ma with the head of the Khyu-t’khyu.The Yu-ma with the head of the eagle. The Yu-ma with the head of the pheasant

[…] The soul of the son of  Muan-llu-ddu-ndzhi made a magic.

The soul of yu-mi-tgkye-sher made a magic.

There come forth a white Yak and a black Yak, on the alpine meadow.

These 2 had intercourse, and then were born thousands of Yu-ma. The horned Yu-ma.

The Yu-ma who dwell in the flaming house where the white and the black lands of the gods and of the demons meet.

Their voice is like the thunder. Their eyes flash like lighting

Regardless about both the attestations of the manuscript quoted and translated by Rock, and the  variations in the Yu-mas’ birth myth, there are many common features among this different versions which are possible to set together and underline:

· Yu-ma were generated by direct (sexual intercourse or making a magic) and/or indirect  (grasping the white egg with their claws) interaction of magical creatures and gods, thus they are powerful spirits, deities, or at least minor or semi-deities

· Once they come forth, the Yu-ma inherits some features belonging to the deities which make  them birth (physical parts, powers, attitudes)

· The Yu-ma are powerful beings, which are able to fight against other spiritual beings, as demons and Ssù

· They are always depicted with eagle wings and lion head, an iconography which is evidently close to the one of Dter-gko, thus both are in turn to be related to the Khyu-t’khyu‘s one.

Yu-ma class deity is well and often represented in Naxi – Dongba tradition not just in manuscripts, but also in scrolls, murals and paintings that were studied from Bacot[4], S. Hummel[5] and Joseph Rock with different interpretations. Regardless of the interpretations, what is certain is that the most  frequent Yu-ma iconography in Naxi Dongba art is the one referred to the Yu-ma named T’u-ch’i, which according to Dongba tradition, has been the 1st of the Yu-ma.

Represented with such iconography into Naxi Dongba manuscripts in art is depicted with a lion head, three eyes and a dragon sprouting from the top of its head, with white body, winged and with arms: in his right arm wielding a sword, while in the left one a trident.

He’s depicted while trampling on Du demons.

Some iconological and iconographic features of this deity could be now resumed.

At first, as evinced from manuscripts, the the most frequent pictograph for represent the Yu-ma is the  basic sign which consists in an eagle-winged being, with lion head, and it is attested 42 cases on a global of 69 recurrences of Yu-mas’ related pictographs, with a percentage of 60,87%.

In the other 40%, the Yu-ma appears associated with other beings, like animals, humans or element of nature.

Some Yu-ma are represented with the head of the animal,[6] as in manuscript Yu-ma Ts’u bpa ngi the Jackal headed Yu-ma, or the tiger headed Yu-ma; others[7]

Yu-mas are represented with lion head and wings of the eagle, but also having other animals’ features as the Yu-ma birth with the tail of the Shizi (serpentdeities), the Yu-ma
birth with the claws of the dragon
, the Yu-ma with the limb of the leopard.

Among the attestations of Yuma, there are also cases where the pictograph is closely associated with other pictographs related to animals but not inherits their features, as for instance in Joseph Rock’s manuscript 1191: 13 IV the Yu-ma is riding a pig or the Yu-ma riding a black cow. Association of the Yu-mas as riding something could also be found not just linked to animals, but also in the form of association with other elements, as in Rock ms. 973:31, II the Yu-ma is riding the cloud and the wind, or in ms. 1191:13, IV and 13, VI the Yu-ma is riding the flaming rainbow. There are also recurrences of Yu-ma with more elaborated iconography which is possible to define as totemic or/and teriatropic.[8]

Casella di testo:  Yu-ma miniature from a miniature in manuscript

In such peculiar iconography, the Yu-ma is represented with human features, branding sword and a flagged spear, in a martial position and with ferocious expression.

Casella di testo:  Yu-ma painted on a wall fresco in the Jade Water Temple adjacent structure. Author's picture, summer of 2005

According to  Yu-mas‘  attestations,  retrieved from available Naxi – Dongba  manuscripts, also according to Rock quotations, is possible to  generalize a little more, finding  common features  among various attestations and  evincing five main iconographic typologies:

A. lion head, eagle body and winged

B. riding or associated with animal, natural elements, etc…

C. Yu-ma body (eagle winged, tail, etc..) with other animals’ features (head, legs,
arms, etc…)

D. Yu-ma body, animals’ headed

E. teriatropic: humans’ features (body, two legs, two arms, etc…) and Yu-ma features (branding sword, flagged spear, with lion head, etc…)

A resuming plate for Yu-mas’ attestation is reported below together with a table describing about
the Yu-mas’ associations with animals and natural elements:

From Yu-mas’ iconography and iconology as emerged since here it seems possible to suggest about the close relationship among Yu-ma and the Tibetan winged deity ཝེར་མ Wer-ma, peculiar of the Bon tradition.[9]

The ཝེར་མ Wer-ma and the Yu-ma show commons aspects, as both are considered by respective tradition as powerful protective spirits, they are numbered of 360,[10] and as the Naxi – Dongba Yu-ma follow the 360 Dter-gko so the Tibetan ཝེར་མ Wer-ma follow the 360 ཐུགས་དཀར thugs-dkar.[11]

As the Yu-ma were believed to be attributed of the same powers of the Khyu-t’khyu, so the ཝེར་མ Wer-ma are believed to possess the same powers of the ཁྱུང Khyung, but they are different entities.[12]

The ཝེར་མ Wer-ma are believed as angry, ferocious and fearless.

They are related to the dgralha of the harrows and lances,[13] and considering the Naxi – Dongba Yu-ma as a later local re-interpretation and re-imagination of the the Tibetan ཝེར་མ Wer-ma, the latter’s features were inherits by the Dongba Yu-ma, so for instance the powerful and protective aspect of Yu-ma power could be related with the Tibetan belief of ཝེར་མ Wer-ma as a great hero who “protects the doctrine of Bon, overcoming the lords of foes and opponents,  acting as friends of gods and virtue.”[14]

The differences in the myth which relates about the Yu-mas’ birth could then be related with the believe in 4 lore of ཝེར་མ Wer-ma:[15]

· the ཝེར་མ Wer-ma united with gods, and so the god Wer-ma, subdues of demons were produced

· the ཝེར་མ Wer-ma united with the furies, and so the  Fury ཝེར་མ Wer-ma, subdues of foes, were produced

· the ཝེར་མ Wer-ma united with the Khyung, and the Khyung ཝེར་མ Wer-ma subdues of Klu where born

· the ཝེར་མ Wer-ma united with lions, and so the three brothers, the ཝེར་མ Wer-ma heroes subdues. There was produced the hero-gathering of ཝེར་མ Wer-ma heroes.

More over: “ There was produced the army of 99.000 strong […] their sky-citadel, no one can destroy they fear nothing, these ཝེར་མ Wer-ma forms they are the life of the doctrine of  Swastika-Bon, and have come in aids of the subjugation of foes and obstructions ”[16]

Another point in common among not just in Yu-ma and ཝེར་མ Wer-ma correlation, but in a wider point of view between Naxi – Dongba and Tibetan tradition is about the origin of the physical universe, of primeval men, of gods and demons, alias the myth of the white egg: “ the white egg burst open and its outer shell become the realm of spirits and parasites its inner tegument became the eighty-one evil potent bad, the three hundred and sixty injuries. The white of the egg
spilled on the ground and become the four hundred and four kind disease.

The center of the egg become the three hundred and sixty classes of evil spirits…[17]

The Yu-maཝེར་མ Wer-ma cult, jointed with Ssù, Lu, Shizi, Khyu-t’khyu and Dter-gko exemplified the belief of Naxi – Dongba pantheon, where such supernatural sphere influence plays a capillary direct role with humans’ world, this in a  mood perfectly accorded to the one of the early Tibetans conceived of men, as being continually beset by a whole variety of spirits and demons, who were directly responsible for human aliments and misfortune.[18]

[1] Number 11161720 and 12885250

[2] There are 3 copies known of Yu-ma Ssaw, all preserved in Harvard Yenching collection with number 13812109, 9904030 and 122493949 corresponding to Rock private collection numbers 1247, 1965 and 5095. They all belongs to different ceremonies: manuscript 13812109 belongs to Dter tsu tsu ceremony, manuscript 9904030 to Zo chung bpo ceremony , while 122493949 to Har la lu ko, Dter bpo ceremony.

Manuscripts 13812109 and 9904030 (Rock 1247 and 1965) relates about Yu-ma and Dter-gko birth as the other  copies of Dter-gko Ssaw precedent analyzed.

[3] It is preserved in a copy at Harvard Yenching library, cataloged as number 12250821, Joseph Rock private collection n. 5070. The story of the origin of the Yu-ma here is different form the other Yu-ma Ssaw as related in manuscripts

Another Yu-ma Ssaw manuscript of Harvard Yenching collection, cataloged with number 122493949 and  corresponding to Rock number 5095, belongs to Har la lu ko ceremony, reports a third version of the myth of the  origin of the Yu-mas.
uch differences in the same myth were interpreted by Rock as such different traditions and stories reflects different clans of Yu-ma. Rock also quotes another manuscript 969 which at today is not retrieved yet.

[4] Les Mo-so, plate XIV.

[5] Geheimnisse Tibetischer Malerei, 1949 – Leipzig: 62

[6] 13 occurrences

[7] 9 0ccurrences over the total

[8] Rock also quoted another iconography of Yu-ma which consists in totemic type, with the representations of the deities as having more humans and/or animals parts: heads, bodies, legs, harms, etc…. Rock related about manuscript   8434: 3, V where the Yu-ma has got 9 human heads, or the pictograph of the Yu-ma attested in manuscript 6052: 15, VIII.

[9] Of which there are also 360.

[10] Rock, 1952: 254, (9), 259; Hummel Siegber, 1960 “Der Gottliche Schmied in Tibet” in “Folklore Studies”, vol.  XIX(1960); 251 – 272, published by Nanzan Institute for religion and culture.

[11] Rock, 1973 “The Nichols Mo-so Manuscript of the American Geographical Society”. 236, in Geographical  Review, vol. 27 no.2 (Apr., 1937), pp. 229 – 239, published by American Geographical Society.

[12] Snellgrove D. L., 1980 “The nine ways of Bon: excerpts from gZi-brjid”: 63

[13] Réne de Nebesky – Wojkowitz, 1959 “Oracles and Demons of Tibet”. 324, 333 – 334

[14] l.q.

[15] As according to Snan Gshen Gyithepga 3 – 35 of Tibetan Bon tradition: l.q.

[16] l.q.

[17] Snellgrove and Richardson, 1980: 58

[18] L.q.

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