Dongba Literature of Naxi People

More than 1,000 years ago the Naxi people created pictographic characters called Dongba script, the only living pictographic writing system in the world today. The Donba shamans used it to record Dongba history, and to write scriptures. The Dongba script has strong characteristics of picture writing: the original Dongba script character stands for a thing, or a concept, not by means of references to agreed-upon symbols for sound or meaning phonemes – though many of these have been added since, representing sound-and-meaning borrowings from the Han Chinese especially – but simply by means of brush strokes intended as images to represent things, or concepts. Even those who are able to recognize Dongba pictographic script characters are not able to chant the Dongba script unless they have studied under a Dongba shaman from early childhood.

The Naxi people have created a brilliant civilization during their long history. The Dongba scripture (Dongba Jing), a religious work written in the Tang (AD 618-907) Dynasty in pictographic script, is their masterpiece. It describes the various aspects of the culture of the Naxi during their long transition from slavery to feudalism, and covers an amazing amount of knowledge on a wide range of subjects, from social history to animal husbandry, religion, philosophy, linguistics, astronomy, geology, arts, literature, medical science, local customs and practices, food and beverages, family relations and relations between ethnic groups. It is a veritable encyclopedia of ancient Naxi culture and society.

The Dongba Jing consist of more than 2,000 volumes, of which 'The Creation of the World', a long epic, describes the origin of mankind and mankind's struggle against the elements and other adverse natural conditions. It sings high praise for the labor and the love of the Naxi people. 'The Chart Route of God' may be rated as a rare gem in this world, while 'The Dongba Dance Manual', one of the oldest dance manuals that exists and which records, in detail, about 60 different ways of dancing, is nothing short of an art treasure. 'The Dongba Dance Manual' is a unique monograph in the history of man on the art of dancing, as practiced by this ancient ethnic Chinese minority, and as such is a source of Chinese pride as well.




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