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69. Liquidation Of The Corpse

The next important step is putting the corpse into the coffin. This moment may coincide with that of burial amongst the Tungus, and they may be separated by months, as amongst the Manchus.

In former days amongst the Northern Tungus the usual way of burying was to put the corpse into a wooden box erected on piles. Such a construction is shown in a water-colour illustration in SONT (facing p. 14) [413]. This form of burial was described by Th. von Middendorf amongst the Tungus of Yakutsk Gov., by R. Maack in the Wilui district, also by W. Sieroszewski amongst the Yakuts who, under the influence of their neighbours, the Tungus and Yukagirs, used this form of burial (op. cit. pp. 619-621). However, the Yakut shamans were not buried but were put in coffins. Amongst all Tungus, small children are even now buried only by hanging the corpse covered with birch-bark, on a tree or putting it into a hollow tree trunk. The Manchus also practise this form of burial for the children below the age of three years. The body is covered with oat-straw and laid on the tree branches, — pucheye n'alma tedure chuang! (Manchu Sp.), i.e. «dead people for lying bed» (chuang).. The shamans are sometimes also buried in this way.

For erecting a burial place the Tungus usually find two trees not very large, located at a distance of about two metres. The trees are cut about two metres above the ground. Instead of trees there may be used especially erected posts on which there are fixed cross-beams about six or seven centimetres thick serving for supporting planks, on which the body is deposited. Then the body is protected with planks, on which the body is deposited, as well as with planks from all sides and fastened with cross-beam and a system of wooden nails and fasteners. Such a construction is very solid and cannot be destroyed by the animals. Any trees or wood can be used for this purpose.

At the present time this is the usual way of burying amongst the Kumarchen, and the Khingan Tungus. I have been told by them that sometimes they simply put the corpse on the erected platform without wooden protection, but I could not find out in which cases they practise this and I observed no such burials. The Reindeer Tungus of Manchuria, within the memory of old people used to bury in the same manner, and their predecessors in the region (nguyal, vide SONT, p. 64 and others) did the same. Instead of coffins they also used a hollow tree which was naturally a mere simplification of practice. Even now, although formally Christians, they sometimes bury in hollow trees which they put straight on the ground. At the end of the last century the Birarchen generally practiced burial in erected coffins. The shamans are still buried in this manner. Amongst the Tungus of Barguzin and Nerchinsk this form of burial is still practiced when the Tungus can do it, i.e. at a certain distance from the Russians.

The children are buried in a simplified manner, namely, when the child is very small it is put into the cradle which is erected on the branches of a tree and there left; when the child is above the cradle age the corpse is put in a hollow tree, cut into two halves, and put either on a tree or erected on piles.

L. von Schrenk has left [414] a description of Orochi tombs which differ only in details from the above given description and the fact that the coffin was made first and put on the erected piles (trunks of trees). The description of V. P. Margaritov [415] does not differ from that given by L. von Schrenk. It may be pointed out that at the time of L. von Schrenck the Olca used to bury persons who were murdered in the coffins lifted, - i.e. exactly as described by him amongst the Orochi. Yet we find mentioning of the elevated coffins among the Kidans and perhaps the Sien-pi in South Manchuria, true without indication whether this practice was general or exceptional one [416].

The burial in coffins on erected piles is called in Tungus. Barguzin and Nerchinsk, — gula — which means any wooden angular construction, e.g. storehouse for grain amongst the Russians, dwellings in the lower world etc [417]. The Nerchinsk Tungus also use a special term bilo. The Reindeer Tungus of Manchuria, as well as other groups of Manchuria, call it g'iramk'ivun which is from gira(n), — «bone».

If we summarise the above facts it would be clear that this method of burying is connected chiefly with the Tungus, and formerly it was evidently practiced amongst the Manchus (preserved for young children and shamans), Olcha (preserved for murdered people), Goldi (preserved for children). In the Yakutsk Gov. this form is known amongst the Yukagirs and Yakuts influenced by the Tungus. Outside of the present Tungus area, but in their vicinity, it is known, in historical time, amongst the Sien-pi who might include some Tungus elements. Indeed, many other parallels may be found in more remote regions.

Under the influence of other ethnical groups some new and different methods are also introduced and old ones simplified. Instead of coffin described above the Birarchen very rarely use a canoe in which they put the corpse and leave the current of the river (the Amur) to carry the canoe together with the corpse. Amongst the Orochi the burial in a canoe is also known, but the canoe is used as a coffin and is not left to be carried by the rivers [418].

Amongst the Manchus the coffin must be made of pine tree with a roof with a double slope, by which the Manchu coffin differs from those used amongst the Chinese, and Dahurs, — the Dahur coffin is a flat and long box. The coffin is usually put straight on the ground and protected with wooden planks; afterwards it is covered with earth, so that the burial looks thus like a small mound. The size of the earthen mound depends on the importance of the person. This way of burying now is nearly general amongst the Birarchen, who, however, sometimes also put the corpse into the earth, but not very deep. Amongst the Goldi, Orochi, also Yakuts the coffins are left open on the ground and sometimes protected only with a fence. As a matter of fact, the putting on ground may also have place amongst the Tungus who usually bury in erected coffins. Amongst the same groups, as result of recent Chinese influence the Chinese coffins begin to penetrate as a common practice. So, for instance, amongst the Manchus Chinese coffins are now bought and kept for a long time, as just is practised amongst the Chinese. The Tungus of Manchuria, when they can afford to have Chinese coffins, do the same, but amongst them it occurs rather rarely. The ornamentation of Chinese style with paintings is now gradually introduced too. It is likely that the sumptuous coffins, met with amongst the Goldi and Orochi, are of the same origin.

Although amongst the Manchus influenced by the Chinese the grave lege artis must be digged in depth between nine and twelve feet and not less than seven feet, also the place and direction are defined by the specialists (Chinese fortune-tellers) and the time (hour and day) are also fixed, but practically it is not so. I have seen graves so shallow that the coffin could not be covered, so that required being protected by additional planks and covered with stones and earth to form a low tumulus. The usual Manchu direction of the head to south-west.

Amongst the Tungus living in Russian territory the practice of burial in earth has been gradually introduced under the Russian influence. In fact, Russian authorities and the Church attempted to convince the Tungus of the necessity of burying in the earth, — the first chiefly for hygienic considerations and the second owing to the existing Christian tradition. However, it is far from becoming a general practice. The Tungus who live near the Russians do practise this form of burial, but the Tungus who live at a long distance preserve the old method. In fact, there are serious difficulties for digging frozen earth, even in summer remaining so in most of territories occupied by the Tungus. Yet, since the Tungus are not numerous and have no iron spades, sometimes the digging cannot be done at all. Indeed, the graves are very narrow and never deep, — at most one metre. No special coffin is made, but the bottom and walls of the grave are protected with wooden planks between which the corpse is deposited and covered with one or two planks Again, under the Russian influence the Tungus have begun to make regular coffins.

Amongst the Birarchen the burial of Manchu or Chinese type was recently practiced only as a temporary disposal. After a certain number of years they used to take out the bones and, after their careful cleaning, to transport them to the clan cemeteries some of which were located in the Russian territory, in the basin of the Zeia River. If carrying of bones is too difficult the bones may be collected and burnt, so that only ashes will be transported to the cemetery [419]. This practice is not typical of the Tungus and ought to be regarded either as due to the foreign influence or as result of breaking of the old practice of burial in the erected coffins. The removal of bones and their cleaning are known, e.g. in Kwantung amongst the natives (local Chinese), also amongst other far distant groups. However, the idea of removal of the bones is very common amongst the Koreans and is not quite hostile to the Manchus who ascribe some psychomental troubles amongst the clansmen to the badly chosen place for burial, and in which case the place may be changed. The Birarchen explanation why the bones are carried to the cemetery is that it is impossible to carry the corpse while the bones can be so carried, therefore the corpse must be left to decay and bones must be cleaned, for when uncleaned they smell bad. The idea of a clan cemetery may be also of a recent origin for amongst most groups no practice of cemeteries is known. When the Tungus of Manchuria were organized by the Manchus the latter might give them the idea that they must have definite places for burial of clansmen. By these remarks I do not want to solve the problem whether the Birarchen have received their practice from other ethnical groups or follow some very old practice, or even have themselves created a new practice. All three suppositions are admissible.

Amongst the Manchus the place for burial lege artis must be chosen according to the Chinese book already mentioned. In spite of it, cemeteries are gradually formed if several clansmen are buried in the same place which would show itself to be «good». The Tungus of Manchuria when familiar with this practice do the same, but usually have no specialists for finding the place and therefore they act according to the old practice. The practice amongst all Tungus living in a state of continuous migration is the same, — they bury at a short distance from the place where death occurred, - for transportation of the corpse at a long distance is extremely difficult and very often absolutely impossible. The place is usually chosen, if possible, on the slopes of mountains, and preferentially on the northern slopes. The place is usually covered with forest and thick shrubs. An important condition of choice is that the place of burial must not be near any path, which incidentally may be haunted by other spirits and thus the way to the burial can be shown to the spirits by the path.

There is a definite orientation of the burial amongst all Northern Tungus groups; namely, the head is orientated to North-West, or West-North-West, the reason of which is that the souls are going to the other world in North- (West-North-) West direction. The children are orientated with the head to South-East or South-East-South, for the souls of children may return to the spirit which distributes the souls. However, I meet with a contrary fact amongst the Reindeer Tungus of Manchuria who assert that they bury children in the same orientation to North-West as the adult people. Here the question is, however, how big are the children meant by these Tungus. Amongst the Khingan Tungus I have seen a small child buried in its cradle on a tree, so that the face (in a semi-sitting position as it is always in the cradle) was turned to North-West, in which position the head was turned to the South-East.

413. Another illustration is reproduced from my photograph by M. A. Czaplicka (op. cit., Plate 15).

414. L. von Schrenck, op. cit. Vol. III, p. 144 (which are his notes from diary).

415. V. P. Margaritov, op. cit. p. 30.

416. cf. E. Parker One Thousand Years, etc. p. 297.

417. Lately among the Khingan Tungus it was extended to the wigwam. However, this term is associated chiefly with the idea of elevated square dwellings, [cf. guli (Ang. Tit.), — to hung up on elevated platform, storehouse, also on trees etc. Indeed, the Buriat ulgoxu, has nothing to do with guli; a derivative gulimachin cannot be translated as E. I. Titov does.]

418. cf. V. P. Margaritov, op. cit., p. 30.

419. Burning of bones has a curious parallel among the Kidans who as I have shown (SONT) incorporated some Northern Tungus.

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