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35. Decorative Art As One Of Manifestations Of Psychomental Complex

Artistic manifestations of the Tungus may give us some light as to the psycho-mental complex of the Tungus. However, I now find myself in a rather difficult position for the ethnographic collections needed for illustration are beyond my reach, while my diary notes are not quite sufficient to treat this side of the Tungus complex. For instance, the musical manifestations are of great demonstrative interest for they show the cultural character of groups and they also reflect the physiological complex, in so far as the latter determines the choice of forms of musical self-expression. Moreover, the musical manifestations, like other cultural phenomena, permit other groups to establish cultural influences over the Tungus [229]. Yet there is another quite special function of the musical complex, namely, that connected with shamanism. The latter will be discussed in Part Four, while I now give up the idea of representing musical manifestations in general, since the principal material is recorded on phonographic rolls which are beyond my reach. The dancing is closely connected with the musical manifestations. But this branch of Tungus artistic manifestations is very poorly represented in general. I have already made some remarks in my previous work (vide SONT Ch. VIII) and I shall touch upon this problem in discussion of shamanism. Owing to this I shall confine myself only to remarks and some illustrations of the decorative art among the Tungus.

Ornaments and play of colours are important artistic manifestations, seemingly closely connected with the physiological reactions.

Amongst the Tungus groups one may distinguish three ornamental complexes, namely, (1) the Northern Tungus complex, (2) the Nomad Tungus complex which is an adaptation of the Buriat complex, and (3) the Manchurian complex closely connected with the Manchu-Chinese complex. I shall shortly describe them for they complete the picture of influences and they may also give some additional light as to the existing complexes.

The ornamental motifs of the Northern Tungus usually consist of combinations of the following elements: (1) simple straight lines; (2) double lines; (3) short lines — dashes; (4) points; (5) circles; (6) rectangles. These geometric elements may be combined into various designs of more or less regular geometric appearance. There are different methods of their expression, e.g. carving of bones, wood, rarely metals (e.g. shamanistic paraphernalia); painting with different colors; cut work of skins and cloth; stamping, especially birch-bark and-skins (very rarely); sewing of designs particularly with white reindeer hair; mosaic work with pieces of coloured skins, birch-bark and various kinds of cloth and fur, trimming with beads of different colour and size; and others. In one and the same piece there may be a combination of different forms, e.g. carving and inlaid work, embroidery of designs and combination of coloured skins, and so on.

As specimens of bone carving the most frequent are found in gilbaun (RTM, Ner. Barg.) which is an important element of reindeer harness and loading. It is made from fifteen to twenty centimetres long of a piece of bone, in the form as shown below.

With two thongs fixed at and passed through the holes it is fastened to the back part of the reindeer saddle, so that the following reindeer is attached by its bridle in this way to the first reindeer. Among the Tungus of Enissy region the bone piece of the reindeer harness usually is also a piece to be carefully ornamented. The best specimens of wood carving are wooden parts of the reindeer saddle which, as a matter of fact, present still more varieties as ornamental motives. Since the form of saddle has its ornamental function, I give these forms as well. The carved ornamentation of the saddle may be emphasized with colors.

From the specimens of ornamentation it may be seen that the form of objects sometimes implies variations of the ornaments. This may be seen in the gilbaun in which there may be found triangles for ornamental connection between two parts. I give here below a specimen of ornamentation of a saddle which is particularly interesting. It may be seen that the central design is conditioned by the outer form of the saddle and this form is not a common form. There are five elongated circles partly covered with the central design, and two lower circles are connected so that they make a wavy line, a motif rarely encountered in Tungus ornament.

As a matter of fact it is found, for there is a combination of semi-circles which may easily result in a wavy line as an ornamental motif. This motif is also met with rather frequently, but usually pre serving a point in the centre of the segment which is a little more than half-circle.

Great variety of forms, material, and colour combinations is observed in the boxes made of birch-bark which as a rule are always ornamented. In former times the coats and especially the women's coats, were very richly ornamented with strips of skin, beads of different colors, and reindeer white hair. Specimens of old costumes are now preserved only in the museums, but I could see some pieces of old costumes and a coat made for a special occasion. Among the Yukagirs and Yukagirized Tungus they were met with at the end of last century and perfectly described by W. Jochelson to whose work I may refer the reader.

The combinations of colours are well represented in the ornamentation of birch-bark boxes, covered with the reindeer skin (usually with fur), loaded on the reindeer, and that of the woman's coat. However, at the present time the complex ornamentation has given place to combinations of strips of colored tissues, — the Tungus of Transbaikalia and other regions now use tissues of Russian production.

Ornamentation is encountered on almost all instruments, utensils, and weapons, used by the Tungus, e.g. handles of knives, powder horns, wooden parts of guns, long hunting knives (used as spears), staves for reindeer riding etc. The parts of dress, especially women's moccasins, headdress covering the forehead, various bags and other things made of skins are also ornamented. Ornamentation may be lacking on man's clothings, also common bags and, of course, on those things which cannot be ornamented because of the material wed.

On the whole the Tungus belongings even now produce the impression of being purposely made for delighting Tungus eye, and attract the aesthetic attention of other people. When a Tungus group is in the process of travelling it produces an impression of people who know no hardship of living under the conditions of the taiga, — everything seems to be done for pleasure.

Sometimes, one may meet with ornaments of Yakut type, but this is only observed and then very rarely, chiefly among the Reindeer Tungus of Manchuria. Indeed, the things of Yakut origin rarely met with in Transbaikalia have different ornaments. The Buriat ornaments, especially on moccasins also rarely on coats, begin to penetrate among the Reindeer Tungus, by the side of rare manifestations of Russian motifs. However, both Buriat and Russian motifs are very rare, — they become important only among the Nomad Tungus and settled Tungus living on agriculture. In spite of prevalence of Buriat and Russian ornamental complex one may also very rarely meet with the old Tungus motifs.

There is no little doubt that amongst the Tungus who use Northern Tungus ornaments, as described here, the art of ornamentation is in a state of decline. As shown, the best specimens known from historic records of early travellers and collections are no more found among the present Tungus groups. The Russian dress which had already penetrated among the Tungus greatly impoverished application of ornament to the costume. Yet, introduction of tissues has put great limitations as to the ornamentation. The greater the Russian influence, the poorer the ornament. This may be seen in studying Tungus groups in Transbaikalia, where the ornament used to be better developed among the Barguzin Tungus, much less among the Nerchinsk Tungus, and preserved only in traces among the Reindeer Tungus of Manchuria.

* * *

The Buriat complex is quite different both in the sense of motifs, method of execution, and colours. There are two important characters of this complex, namely, «sun and moon», and «sheep-horn». The «sheep-horn» as a term is translation of the Buriat term (chusin eber) for this ornamental motif. This motif is a more or less complicated imitation of horns, always in pairs. It may be combined with the «sun»and «moon» also with the «geo-metric ornament» consisting of lines, triangles, squares etc [230]. Again, the penetration of the Russian complex reduces even this relatively simple ornamental complex, so that among the Nomad Tungus it is found in a simplified form as compared with the Buriats. It may be also noted that combinations of colours are not so daring as among the Reindeer Tungus in dresses, — black and blue colors prevail, while red, yellow, green are only moderately used. However, in utensils, boxes, bags etc. red colour is still common. Some variations of colors are introduced by the bright colored dresses of Buddhist priests and monks, but on the whole the Nomad Tungus complex does not produce an impression of gaiety and joyfulness of character of the people. Yet, it is much poorer than that of the Tungus of Manchuria who use the same motifs.

The ornamental complex of the Tungus of Manchuria is quite different as compared with that of the Reindeer Tungus. Although these groups are living under conditions similar to those of the Reindeer Tungus, with the only exception that they use horses instead of reindeer, they have adopted a different shape of coat, seemingly borrowed from the early Manchus in their dress influenced by the Mongols. Together with the new cut of dress new ornamental forms intimately connected with the dress, were introduced. These ornamental motifs probably come from a still further area, namely, China [231]. However, the Tungus of Manchuria have at least partly preserved some early ornamental motifs.

The most essential ornamental elements are those already indicated as characteristic of the Northern Tungus and some others, - (1) combination of lines produced by pressing with a special instrument, — a stamp made of bone or hard wood, — skins, and especially birch-bark; designs of stamps are different: there may be, for instance, V-shaped, X-shaped, W-shaped and other variations, — this is quite an individual invention; (2) dots (usually of double lines) made with stamps and treads; (3) simple and complex spirals and horns; I call «simple» the form, as shown above, which may be further complicated by giving elongated and angular forms; (4) swastika with its variations, especially «endless swastika» of Chinese type; (6) meander; and (6) varia as for instance «bat», «butterfly», «flowers» etc. chiefly of Chinese origin.

Besides the ornamentation of birch-bark, widely used for various boxes, receptacles etc. the chief application of ornament is seen in clothing, the ornamentation of which is made with ready made patterns of different colours or of the same color but emphasized by stitches, dots, etc. It may be noted that the Khingan Tungus much more than other groups use line ornamentation of birch-bark utensils and much less ornamentation of their clothings, which on the contrary is especially rich among the Kumarchen.Yet, in so far as general characteristic of colour combinations is concerned the latter are neither rich, nor bright and daring as in the Northern Tungus complex. There are even introduced colours like gray, green-brown, light brown and others which can make no sharp design.

The ornamental motifs have special names only in rare cases and usually they are designated with the names of objects with which they are associated or with the material used for ornamentation. However, there are a few terms some of which I shall now give. The ornament in general is called ilga (Bir. Kum.) [corr. ilxa (Manchu Writ.) ilya (Man. Sp.)]; a circle with a point in the centre — esaci ilga (Bir.) — «the eye having ornament which in other groups may also be «the sun» as well; four points distributed in diamond shape are called lawda uja — the tiger's footprints; encircled swastika (used on the cradle) — deliksan (Bir. RTM); swastika in general atesakan dey'i (Bir.), — amsakan (could not be identified) birds; swastika on shaman's coat — sa-man'i g'evan'i ilga, - «the shaman's headdress ornament»; an ornament commonly used among the Manchus ↓ is called coko fatka (Manchu Sp.) — «the chicken's foot»; s'ilpa (Bir.), salpa (Bir. Khin), selpe (Bum) [cf. selfe (Manchu Writ.), — «slash in the side of a coat» (usually ornamented), perhaps cf. salate || salayatai (Mong.) salal II salayala (Mong.) — «branched».] -the ornament on the slash on the side of the coat; {ornament reminding sheep-horn} — n 'an’jan (Kum.), the etymology of which is not clear; on'o (RTM) = moritin (Ner.) — «the ornament on the reindeer loading boxes». To the above terms there ought to be added terms like n 'iriptitil, — an ornament on the shaman's coat; ormu (Khin.), — «the ornament on the moccasins (cf. orumus)» evidently connected with the parts of the dress; terms like torgadan (Nerc.) (cf. targa — «a tissue») — the strips sewn upon the coat in general; monyav-daptin (Nerc.) [cf. monggoraku (Manchu Writ.) — «ribbon, strip facing the edges of a dress»] — in general ornaments on the clothings made of different material; s'irinan (Ner.), — the ornament sewn with threads (s'ira, etc. «the threads») which merely designate the material used. It may be here noted that the «sheep-horn» is lacking, and the names of a great number motifs are merely conventional «starters», — the names of motifs are of a late «origin». However, among the Manchus it is called goxon ilxa (Man. Writ.) or koyong ilga (Manchu Sp.), i.e. the hook.

* * *

The finding of a hidden meaning in ornaments, and their «mysterious» functions etc. are very common in ethnographic literature. Without denying such a possibility in some and perhaps rare cases, I shall now give some considerations as to the complex ornaments met with among the Tungus.

Almost every complex ornament may be dissected into the elements and then there appears a very interesting phenomenon, namely, the elements grouped are usually simple, but their complexity and variations originate from geometrical manipulations with the elements. The most common geometrical manipulations with an element or with a group of elements are, - (1) simple repetition along the lines; (2) repetition by rotation about a point; (3) mirror-like reproduction and repetition by rotation, both alternating. In the case of repetition along a straight line, the ornament may change its direction owing to the shape of the material ornamented, so that a circular line, broken line, all kinds of curved lines etc. are met with, the principle of ornamentation being the same. Mirror-reproduction may be repeated twice and even thrice, which naturally will produce very complex design. The repetition by rotation about a fixed point may give varieties depending on the angle, e.g. which may be 180° 20°, 90°, 60° which will produce a corresponding number of repetitions, two, three, four, and six. I have not observed more than hexagonal complexes. There may be also noted a special technical method of varying ornaments, namely, using of positive or negative patterns, and yet even combination of positive and negative patterns in the same complex. Such a complex may receive a special name if it is used as a conventionalized unit connected with a definite cultural element, as it seems to be in the case of the swastika in a circle (deliksan, vide supra). A much more complex case is that of the swastika repeated endlessly and mirror-like by means of a continuation of lines at right angles. This ornamentation complex has been borrowed from the Chinese together with the cultural element jambol, — a tobacco pouch.

By the side of these motifs and their combinations there may also be, though rarely, stylized animals such as the bat, the butterfly and the «dragon»borrowed from the Chinese. These patterns of Chinese decorative art are met with on Chinese and Manchu articles in great numbers so there is no need to go to the Goldi to seek for patterns as will be later shown. It may be noted that lately a new movement has made its appearance; namely, the use of asymmetrical ornament which includes birds and flowers undoubtedly of Chinese-Manchu origin. The objects so ornamented greatly differ from all others. The choice of colours for these ornaments has also been influenced by Chinese taste.

I have just rejected the supposition that the Tungus of Manchuria have been influenced by the Goldi. In fact the Goldi ornament as it was known in the XIXth century and even later when the Goldi were visited by B. Laufer, L. J. Sternberg and I. A. Lopatin included no typical Northern Tungus elements, but it used very largely «spiral», «horn»and other curved motifs, and it was especially rich in animals and plants which were not evidently introduced under pressure of the recent Chinese-Manchu complex. The same is typical of the Gilak ornament. However, there is no need to suppose, as I. A. Lopatin does (op. cit., p. 335), that the Goldi ornament is their own invention which has «evolved» from stylization of animals and plants. Indeed, bats, butterflies, dragons, fish etc. were essential components of the Chinese-Manchu complex; to make addition of lizards, toads, cocks (indeed this fowl is not geniune Goldi element!), reindeer, etc., perhaps also met with in Chinese patterns, would be quite natural. The problem of interest is that this art has grown in Goldi soil in so far as I could see more than, for instance, among the Manchus, which, however, does not yet prove that the Manchus had not before a better represented decorative art. Yet another point of interest is that among the Gilaks the original forms — the Chinese-Manchu patterns — are better preserved, as for instance the dragon, two fishes, etc. which seems to indicate that the Gilaks did not add much adaptation of the original patterns [232]. This re-adaptation and other complications of the Chinese-Manchu complex make of the Goldi complex something distinct as compared with the original Tungus forms and forms used by the neighbours.

Analysing one by one the elements, and complexes, especially in connection with the objects ornamented, one may clearly see that the decorative art of Tungus of Manchuria has been borrowed from the Chinese-Manchu complex, partly directly, and partly through the Dahurs, but some elements of the old Northern Tungus complex are preserved, especially in the ornamentation of birch-bark, wood and bones.

Near to the problem of decorative art is that of design and sculpture if one is allowed to speak in these terms of small artistic manifestations observed among the Tungus. As a matter of fact, I have met very few specimens of this kind. It is true that the Tungus have occasion to manifest it, for instance, in carved wooden placings for spirits representing different animals (vide infra Ch. XVI), but they are executed in a conventional manner in which form they are transmitted from generation to generation. However, I was impressed by the fact that with a few cuts made in a few minutes on a piece of wood, the Tungus arrive at representing not only the kind of animal needed, but they supply it with certain expression: movement, rigidity, anger, smile, etc. In looking for pictures made by them I could not discover them, but I frequently saw the Tungus with help of charcoal or other coloring matter, reproduce by hand the most complex designs for patterns of ornamentation. This has revealed another side of the problem of design manifested in complex ornaments, namely, before making an ornament the Tungus has it in a mental picture (imagination!) and then he (or she) may make a pattern which would be adjusted to the idea. So that, if the design as a whole may be dissected into the elements and repeated by rotation and mirror-reflection, there will be made only the necessary unit of the complex. By this I do not want to say that the complex forms do not sometimes result from the operation based upon the principle of simple trial. In fact, the small children, especially among the Tungus of Manchuria, like very much to play with birch-bark (or lately paper) and scissors or knife, making patterns. The same may be also observed among the adult persons. Yet, when the ornament is finished, they make sometimes additions for «embellishing» the design, to make it fuller, even sometimes with asymmetrical elements. These cases are indicative that the outcome of technical effort sometimes does not correspond to the existing taste. However, in the greatest number of cases of creation of a new pattern, the design undoubtedly is in the mind of the artist. The fact of absence of design of realistic specimens of the milieu has compelled me to experiment by asking the Tungus to reproduce from memory various animals and plants. These reproductions in most cases are clear and represent characteristic features of the objects, so that there is no doubt as to the understanding of the picture. For instance, in representing different kinds of deer, the form of the antlers, the form of the anterior part of the head or the high, curved nasal bone of the alces with its spade-like antlers will be accentuated. In representing the wild boar, the peculiar distribution and form of the bristles and teeth will be indicated. These pictures are realistic, sometimes being simple reproductions and sometimes impressionistic pictures pointing out distinct peculiarities. The same is true of the representation of plants [233]. Indeed, the Tungus are not reluctant to represent realities by which they are surrounded, — for this there is no «religious» reason [234], no prohibitive reason, - but, seemingly, the Tungus are not attracted by these forms of artistic self-expression. They are more impressed by and they merely like better the rhythm of geometrical design than the faithfulness in reproduction of the milieu, although they are not devoid of feeling of realities and necessary technique for their reproduction. Perhaps, this constitutes a very essential difference between the art of such groups as the Chukchis, Koriaks, Eskimos, whose artistic effort is chiefly directed to the expression of movement of animals, to a realistic representation of the milieu, At the same time it constitutes an essential difference between the Northern Tungus decorative complex and particularly that of the Tungus of Manchuria and that of the recent modern Chinese complex, the elements of which may always be very easily distinguished in a Northern Tungus complex.


229. For instance, there are some Mongol musical elements and some Chinese elements which have been assimilated by the Tungus groups. There is a problem of musical instruments, very limited among the Northern Tungus, and a problem of method of singing, also other aspects all of which may bring interesting light as to the cultural influences.

230. The chief characteristics of this complex may be seen in the work by B. E. Petri Ornament of Kuda Buriats (in Russian) in Publ. of Mus. Anthr. and Ethn. Vol. V, pp. 215-252. St. Petersburg 1917-1925. Indeed, there are some differences among Buriat groups but they are not essential.

231. Cf. B. Laufer The decorative Art of the Amur tribes (vol. IV, The Jesup North Pacific Expedition, Memoirs of the Mus. of Nat. History, 1902) dealing especially with the Goldi ornament.

232. Indeed, the Gilak cultural complex included a great number of elements received from the Manchus and Chinese, so their «primitiveness» is extremely doubtful. First, L. von Schrenck, and later L. J. Sternberg believed them to be romantically primitive, which was implied on the one hand, by the trend of ethnography of the last century, — to find «primitive peoples», — and on the other hand, by the fact that none of these investigators were, familiar with the groups of Manchuria and the Chinese complex of pre-Manchu period, the chief cultural source of Manchuria after the downfall of Yuan Dynasty. It is natural that this group, which lived on the big commercial road, such as was the Amur River for centuries, — was under the strong influence of their powerful neighbours.

233. The above given characteristic of Tungus ability is not one which may be generalized over all Tungus individuals; among other ethnical groups, and as in reference to other cultural characters the individuality is of great importance: There arc individuals who are good artists and there are individuals who are very poor artists, in general. Yet, there are some Tungus, especially women, who make very fine ornaments, but they are unable to make any good picture representing plants or animals. 234. In this and similar ways a great number of facts of this kind among other ethnical groups was «explained» by ethnographers who have usually been wrong.

 
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