Creatures mythiques animales dans les manuscrits naxis: complete preliminary paper (English)

Today (weekend!!) I finally had the time to create and update the pdf of the complete preliminary paper of my Arras 2010′s topic “Creatures mythiques animales dans les manuscrits naxis“.

Having published it online, I’ll be able to quote this work directly in my definitive paper, which is going to be published in the official acts of the congress: in that way I’ll be able to indicate some parts and some sources which are fully explained and available online, in order to be accorded to the authors recommendations, in particular for the length of the paper itself.

The complete preliminary paper is in English, whilest the final  official publication will be in French, thanks to Madame Nathalie Beaux; it’s available directly from here, below there’s the complete URL.

Livorno 2010 August, the 4th

Créatures mythiques animales dans les manuscrits naxis

Stefano ZambleraXiulong


Créatures mythiques animales dans les manuscrits naxis

Complete study made for Arras Congress: “Les signes d’animaux et de créatures mythiques en Orient et en Occident

This is the complete work I’ve made and written for Arras 2010 congress, focused on the signs dedicated to mythical animals in Naxi – Dongba tradition.
According to the  “recommandation aux auteurs”  edited for “Arras Publication du Colloque”  the paper I wrote in English, from which I derived the slides of the presentation of the the congress presented by Mademoiselle Laura Benedikter was too much longer:  1650.00 characters against the edge of 35.000 permitted by the recommandation. Moreover a French traduction is required for the final pubblication of the acts of the congress, thus for the latter – thanks to Nathalie Beaux –  a complete revision and edition of the written studies of the topics is required.
I truly believe that all the material I’ve written should be helpful to be published here, avoiding dipsersion of data, expecially for the concordances and attestations I’ve realized about the animal-deities signs into Naxi Dongba manuscripts, and the cross references among Naxi – Dongba cultural elements and Tibetan/Indian/Chinese ones.

My study of texts of manuscripts, iconographies, detailed analisys of signs of animals associated to supernatural entities evinced:

·Ssù – serpent cult. Based of the veneration of the serpent-tailed and human-body spirits, a life-god entity. Propitiated for granting prosperity and fertility, closely associated to rain and water, able to provoke terrible misfortunes if got hungry with humans. In this study it’s directly related to the traditions of kLu in Tibet, Nāga
in India and Long in China

·Bird-god cult. Bird deities are powerful, strong, able to suppress the serpents-spirits and devour them. Able to spell charms, allied to Shilo the founder of Dongba tradition. In this study the bird-gods of Naxi – Dongba pantheon are associated to mythologies of Khyungchen of Tibet and Garuda of India.

·Serpent vs. Eagle fight myth, here directly related to the mythologies of kLu versus Khyung-chen of Tibet and Naga versus Garuda of India

As emerged from manuscripts and according to Naxi tradition, I mean the central figure of Dongba Shilo not just as the founder of Dongba religion, but as directly related to the Enlightened Buddha sTompa gShen-rab of Bön tradition.

Methodology of research

According to the theme of the colloque, the methodology of study I adopted mostly consisted in the research of signs from documents, as the signs are pictographs which were made of an animal-based graphic unit, directly relate to deities. Once they’ve been found the study of the functions of signs ad of the context was the way followed: identification of readings and meanings associated to pertinent signs, alias the research of the signs’ phonetic and semantic values, the identification and the interpretation of iconographic motifs associated to the pertinent sign.

Then I studied the context, which here is meant as the study of the signs surrounding the pertinent one in an adjacent part of text (mostly the rubric containing the pertinent pictograph), as the research of eventual relationship with surrounding signs in adjacent parts of text for the identification of eventual association patterns among signs,.

Once sign was identified as pertinent, alias study of the sign and its contexts evinced that by this significant a deity was meant, then a deeper analysis I started, focused on the detailed study of the iconography represented by the sign and its variants, the reconstruction of iconologies, also with the help of cross-studies focused on related (but non necessary Naxi) cultural, iconographic and iconologic elements; this methodology permitted to the author some integrations with non Naxi – Dongba directly related documentation, as Indian, Tibetan and Chinese.

First stage of my study, which consisted in the identification of pertinent signs, was performed by the analysis of available sources which contains attestations of pictographs with an animal-based graphic unit. Nature of available sources evinced the possibility of making use of two kind of attestations: direct and indirect attestations.

  • ·Direct attestations: are those performed directly from documents belonging to Naxi – Dongba pictographic tradition: manuscripts, scrolls, wall-paintings, handcrafts and sculptures. Some hundreds of documents are available online thanks to Harvard Yenching web resources, which consist in a selection from their collection of 598 manuscripts. By this web resource is possible to perform direct analysis over Dongba manuscripts, avoiding the difficulties in retrieving of documents.[1]
  • ·Indirect attestations: are those made and evinced from documents which not belong to Naxi – Dongba tradition, but directly or indirectly dedicated or related to Naxi culture and Dongba, in particular dictionaries, Naxi mythology and Dongba culture dedicated studies.[2]

By this two ways of attestation, the signs I identified as pertinent, alias signs associated and identified as a deity, I then recorded in a concordances’ system, with manuscripts’ page, rubric, reading and meaning.

As introduced upper, further analysis of surrounding contexts I performed for identification of possible association of signs: sources evinced a number of not casual association, here meant as recurring pattern, with peculiar reading and meaning, pertinent inside the context of animal-deities belonging to Naxi – Dongba Pantheon.

Such group of pertinent signs evinced by sources from direct and indirect attestations, on a corpus of 78 manuscripts,[3] according to contexts and to dedicated bibliography, scored 1242 attestations of signs of animals associated to 2 main groups of iconographies of deities:

reptile – gods iconography,
with 513 attestations

bird – gods iconography,
729 attestations

Analysis of context which the pertinent signs belong to, evinced to me  a very complex pantheon of gods with many subgroups of deities, both in reptile and bird forms: reptile and bird iconographies thus here I meant as two main classes of gods, as from contexts they appear to be antagonist, while inside bird and reptile group of deities the different form of spirits are often in close interaction, share a common origin, and acts in strong influence and interaction with/against humans.

The reptile – deities iconographies was thus characterized of different and distinguished kind of supernatural entities:

· serpent-tailed, human headed with trilobate crown, associated to many readings:  Ssù, Llümun, Ssawndaw and/or mute sign

· dragon iconography, associated to the reading Lu

· serpent iconography, associated to the reading Shi-zi

The bird – deities iconographies also contains at least 3 different gods:

· iconography, associated to the reading Khyut’khyu

· iconography, associated to the reading Dtergko

· iconography, associated to the reading Yuma

For full work please, browse the table of contents below, or the menu on the nav-abr of the header, or again on the right frame: data, concordances and statistics here quoted are completely available.[4]

This paper and all linked material here available in English language is recorded under a Creative Commons license, here published and freely shared for academic purpouse, available to every scholar dedited to Naxi People and Culture and Dongba tradition.

Licenza Creative Commons
Créatures mythiques animales dans les manuscrits naxis by Stefano Zamblera is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at

[1] For a detailed description of Harvard Yenching web resource and features please, cfr.:

For an exemple of Harvard Yenching manuscripts pertinent to the theme studied (the Ssù cult) and for crossing references with Joseph Rock manuscripts’ collection please, cfr:

[2] Particular attention was focused on Dongba pictographs dictionaries and monograph studies dedicated to Dongba religious tradition, with an eye especially focused on Joseph Rock and Chas McKhann works . In particular cfr.: Rock J., 1952, 1963, 1972; McKhann C., 1989, 2003c, 2003d

[3] Here manuscripts are grouped in 3 clusters, just for a more comfortable layout. Data are available online:

Table of contents

Bibliography for Arras 2010

After Arras 2010 colloques have been done, and the work is now focused on the writing of the acts of congress, I’m publishing the bibliography which I consulted to prepare my contribution and relative paper.

A selected bibliography focused on Naxi – Dongba and Lijiang  is however  available  online on author’s website:

After official publication of the acts of the congress I’m going to upload other materials and papers derived directly or indirectly to such studies.

Handwritten draftnotes

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Draftnotes page about the serpent-like god Ssu of Naxi - Dongba tradition

Draftnotes page about the serpent-like god Ssu of Naxi – Dongba tradition

A gallery of my draftnotes written while studying for Arras congress: please skip to dedicated page.

Each page is actually saved as jpg, and all are disposed in a gallery (thanks to next-gen); sooner or later I’d like to add an annotated resources on EDITION with this material encoded.

I’m going to implement the annotation of draftnotes by IMT – Image Markup Tool. Files of annotation will be stored on a section of EDITION, and they’ll be linked also from here, once available.

Handwritten draftnotes

Draftnotes page about the serpent-like god Ssu of Naxi - Dongba tradition

Draftnotes page about the serpent-like god Ssu of Naxi – Dongba tradition

A gallery of my draftnotes written while studying for Arras congress: please skip to dedicated page.

Each page is actually saved as jpg, and all are disposed in a gallery (thanks to next-gen); sooner or later I’d like to add an annotated resources on EDITION with this material encoded.

I’m going to implement the annotation of draftnotes by IMT – Image Markup Tool. Files of annotation will be stored on a section of EDITION, and they’ll be linked also from here, once available.

Arras 2010: data, attestations and concordances

This resource contains all data relative to attestations I’ve made preparing my study focused on Naxi – Dongba pictographs with animals’ based iconography and directly associated to deities, which is the theme I’ve to develop for Arras 2010 Congress.

Among such attestations I’ve also included a  which resume and gathers all manuscripts dedicated or related to “Serpent-cult”: such sheet also contains a cross-reference plates among Joseph Rock and Harvard-Yenching numeration system, with available url of Harvard-Yenching online collection.

All item here listed are available as an htm page to be browsed, and as .xls ( Excell ) and .ods ( Openoffice ) editable files.

Study of iconographies and contexts directly form Naxi Dongba Manuscripts evinced many common aspects and features with Tibetan, Indian and Chinese tradition, thus I also implemented such cross-iconographics plates for crossing references among different deities attested.

See You in Arras…

Analysis about the Civil Self Sphere’s Functions of Naxi in the Social Management and Social Change of Modern Lijiang

Analysis about the Civil Self Sphere’s Functions of Naxi in the Social Management and Social Change of Modern Lijiang

Since the end of Qing dynasty, the civil self sphere of Naxi has played an active role in social management. The development and extension of the self sphere is a supplement of official power and help to construct orders in social management; moreover, as a response to the social change, under the circumstance of disorder and threats from the abroad which China confronted, the nongovernmental power among the Naxi society actively supported and participated in the nation liberal movements and contributed to the government change between the old one and the new one. Naxi is a symbol of the minority societies in the southwest China. Through the analysis about the self sphere’s functions of Naxi in the social managemen of modern Lijiang, this paper tries to understand the modern civil societies of ethnic minorities in the front region of China.

The management of the official self sphere is mainly about the management of the king and the officials. The social management of the civil self sphere is mainly about the carry-out of the collective entertainment activities in the villages(e.g. Boat Race, Dragon Dance, temple fair, etc.), the construction of the public infrastructure(e.g. the building of the road and the bridge, the development of the free education or the village school, etc.), the development of the family organizations, societies and rural pacts, and so on. The conventions reflected in the festivals, life rituals, weddings and funerals, and commercial activities were also one of the basic aspect of the civil self sphere. The rituals made the

Rural collective entertainment activities and the construction of the public infrastructure possible and made the rural social management come into true. After the Ming and Qing Dynasties, the civil self sphere in China became more and more vital, played the role of self-government and penetrated into some parts of the common sphere. Even the convergence between the two spheres and the cohabitation between the government and the society appeared.

First, the “self sphere” and the “common sphere” in traditional social management.

In the Chinese traditional social management, there were some management areas called the “common sphere” that both the government and the society could played roles together, such as taxation, agricultural infrastructure, education and so on; at the same time, there were also areas called the “ self sphere” that the government and the society played their roles respectively, including the official “self sphere” and the civil “self sphere”. The official self sphere includes the norms about the palace activities and the contacts between the officials. These norms are well-known as called “Li”.

Second, the active role of the civil “self sphere” of Naxi in the social management of modern Lijiang. The roles of the civil “self sphere” in social management during this period are followed:

1.The civil laws reflected in the festivals, life rituals, weddings and funerals, and commercial activities are conventions;

2.The development of the family organization, the guild organizations and cultural societies among the civil “self sphere” can play a supportive role in the government management;

3.The prosperity of the free education is one of the most important aspects of the development of the civil “self sphere”;

4.The active role of the Conghui(賩会)is also a reflection that the self-organization power of the society is strengthened.

Third, the nongovernmental power among the Naxi society actively supported and participated in the social change and contributed to the government change between the old one and the new one.

1. The civil power spreaded new ideas through the creation of newspapers and the posters;

2. The local progress people and patriotic intellectuals encouraged the people’s passion to defend the Japanese invasion through the societies, book-reading clubs, speeches, artist performance in schools;

3. With the various progressive societies rose and the power to reform the society became stronger, a lot of “red” intellectuals and merchants appeared.

Upon the analysis above, we could come to the following concultions: firstly, at the end of the Qing dynasty, the civil self sphere has been fostered in the ehnic minorities’ societies of Yunnan and the Naxi society of Lijiang was in the middle stage among them. Secondly, both self sphere and common sphere did play their roles in the traditional social management. But the boundary between the two spheres was flexible. When the official power was not sufficient or weakened, the civil power would penetrate into the common sphere. When the self sphere became a supplement of the common sphere, it seemed that the self sphere extended its own scope by itself.

Thirdly, the conflict and the coordination between the civil self sphere and the common sphere existed. When the government supported or acquiesced the natural extension of the self sphere, it’s possible that the coordination and cohabitation between them would appear. If the civil power helped the government to govern, and even it converged with the government, the grassroots social management would be in order; if the civil power was suppressed seriously and the civil interests were ignored or eroded by the government, the grassroots social order would be broke and the crisis would appeared from the bottom of the society. When we manage the contemporary society, we should actively guide and use the power of the civil self sphere to participate the management of the local affairs belong to the common sphere and realize the coordination and cohabitation between them.

Old Resonances, New Practice – Tso Among the Naxi in Southwest China

Old Resonances, New Practice – Tso Among the Naxi in Southwest China

Xiuyun Zhao   Lijiangmuseum

Rotating Saving and Credit Associations or Roscas are popular in many countries, especially in those developing countries. The basic principle of Roscas is that a group of people who know and trust each other contribute a fixed amount of money at regular intervals to a fund. This fund is rotated entirely among the members of the group. The main purpose of organizing Roscas is to give financial support among the members while they have difficulties. There is also a similar association named tso which is popular among the Naxi in Southwest China. However, tso among modern Naxi, instead of its financial function, has already transformed into a kind of social organization where members could be entertained. In other words, the original financial function of tso is not as important as it was to the local people. People’s motivation to engage in tso is “just for fun” or “to be entertained” as most of local people said. In this paper, the author aims to put tso in a specific historical structure starts from Republic China to Modern China to analyse why this happened through the perspective of historical anthropology as well as the tool of gender. The paper will make a conclusion that tso’s change is resulted from the economic development after China implemented a series of political and economic reforms. Simultaneously, the author also mentions that although present tso among the Naxi has a very important function of  “being entertained”  as most participants said,  the “social capital” related to tso practice is another reason for the popularity of tso among the Naxi.

The society of tradition in the management in China has the officer people all can give play to the management domain of effect, if taxes spread out and levy and start construction the water conservancy, initiate education etc., and is called ” altogether land within certain boundaries “; Also there are at the same time the officer people respectively to develop the domain which managed oneself, and are called ” from land within certain boundaries “, ” from land within certain boundaries ” the certainly land within certain boundaries ” with among the people that this includes official again. The official includes palace activity standard and government officials’s contact standard, usual ” ceremony ” speaking from land within certain boundaries, and oneself land within certain boundaries of official is managed chiefly to show into the management to monarch and government officials. Among the people and the clan organisation the development and Hui organized body and local rules and regulations valid for all the inhabitants of a township organisation Huo Yues etc, among the people Zi the land within certain boundaries still Bao Kuos the four seasons and the eight periods and the life ceremony and the wed funerals marriage as well as the trade matter Huo Dong etc the appointment among the people becomes social custom the habit prevailing custom.

1. since the modern times, the operating space that the beautiful river Naxi nationality district society among the people kept bigger, physical strength among the people in the society management certainly the land within certain boundaries domain is positively promising, the society among the people is brisk, and the society certainly organisation ability strengthens, makes the beautiful river Naxi nationality basic level society management appears relatively has the order state.

On the other hand, since the Republic of China, the differentiation of various politics physical strength is made up frequently the politics upheavel the acute change of society, and outside political physical strength is opposite to each other to loosen to directing control of Naxi nationality district. Along with the development of Naxi nationality district society economy, small-scale peasant economy is grown ripening, the popularization of civilization education, as well as the tradition of Naxi nationality community autonomy, the oneself operating space that the society among the people can keep bigger. The society hastens in many unitizations, and the intermediate strata is expanded, and becomes the complicated society that carries on that can undertake many kinds of society functions of role stablize physical strength, and among the people managing the domain to opposite to each other to prolong oneself, arousing the society vigour, oneself strengthens the organisation ability in the society. Is being so, and is making in the society upheavel after the Republic of China of beautiful river Naxi nationality society, even in the outside society political physical strength frequently in the differentiation combination, beautiful Jiang Zhengfu under Kuomintang political power is dominant is close to in is paralysed or the corruption, and having lost the management controlling under the circumstances of the ability of society, the physical strength of dependence society among the people relies on society middle-level harmonious and keeps balance and conformity and control, Naxi nationality society relative stable ground development still and keeping with going on. The management function of many governments is taken on by the society among the people.

This chiefly shows in the development of urban and rural clan organisation, and the private or community stands like a forest, and, 賩(chong)  can be prospered, and the guild organisations such as chamber of commerce etc build, and the civilization mass organizations also enliven very much, thus in the weak district that the official controlled, is positively giving play to the function that the society managed.

2. since the modern times, Naxi nationality district society among the people enlivens, and the society is from strengthening of organisation ability, and it is that the beautiful river Naxi nationality district of modern times realizes one of important society condition of society revolution changes smoothly that the revolution organisation rises.

On the foundation that is being brisk in the society among the people, the dark owing to the national government is rotten fully to be known by people, and the popular feelings deviates, and the secret Party organizition of Chinese Party Dian, Yinnan Province west relies on just physical strength of self to intermediary and later stage in the 40′s, the good certainly organisation ability of Naxi nationality urban and rural is used, and the propaganda takes the mass organizations such as meeting and organized body etc as the open-minded revolution and to opposing the foundation struggling against. At beautiful Jiang Zujian the beautiful river Party branch of the Chinese Party, developed the peripheral organization of party ” Yunnan peasant take a stand against meeting ” and ” democratic youth alliance of China ” built like masses of the people night school, literacy class and brother’s meeting, reading meeting, elder and younger sisters’s meeting and busy season exchanges labour mass organizations such as group and reading meeting and singing team etc on this foundation, and still built the beautiful river staff and workers federation in intellectual and the peasant of beautiful river, and arouses to raise that the masses come to understand, and carries on the revolution struggle. These are all liberated and establish the good social base for the peace of beautiful river. Is that we cultivate the good citizen society today and the foundation to build the harmonious society

3. developing the beautiful river Naxi nationality district physical strength among the people tradition positively promising in the society management.

The Construction of Harmonious Society for the Ethnic Regions from the Perspective of Law Diversity – take the marital customary law of Naxi Na People as an example

The Construction of Harmonious Society for the Ethnic Regions from the Perspective of Law Diversity – take the marital customary law of Naxi Na People as an example


the Lijiang Teacher’s Institute, Lijiang 674100, Yunnan, China

This paper analyses the inner values of “the marital customary law” and “the maternal family” for the Naxi Mosuo People from the viewpoint of the law diversity theory and the informal institutional theory. The behavior of marriage is the essential content of the marital customary law. In the paper, the author analyses the family structure of the maternal family and the patrilineal family, the relations among consanguinity, bringing up children, heirdom, property allocation and family members.

The author suggests that we should deal with the relation between the constitution and the marital customary law properly. The methods of protecting Mosuo’s customs and culture are to exert the ethnic customary law and strengthen the supervision of legislation, justice and law. The Mosuo customary law has a set of unique norm and system for marriage, bringing up children, child planning, property allocation and partition. There is no father-in-law, son-in-law and etc in the maternal family. It is helpful to eliminate family contradiction and promote harmony of families and communities. In fact, the constitution can not be adopted there. According to the international and domestic law, inhabitant has the right to carry out and prosper their cultural tradition and customs. Autonomous regions have rights to adjust regulations and laws according to the condition there. The focus of the paper is the possibility of transforming the customs of the marital family into the law.

The law diversity theory and the informal institutional theory have many advantages. The theories provide guarantee for the development of ethnic groups. It is advantageous to realize the interactivity between the national law and the ethnic customary law. The theories allow the ethnic groups to settle affairs in their own ways on the basis of not hindering the national benefits. Legislators should adjust the ethnic customary law with the national law. There are five parts in the paper. The first part is the values of Mosuo marriage custom; the second part is the content of Mosuo’s marital customary law; the third part is the collision between the national law and the marital customary law; the fourth part is the adjustment between two laws; the last part is the practical significance of the marital customary law in constructing harmonious society.



赵心愚 西南民族大学    South-west Minzu University


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