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125. Influence Of Manchu Writing

The formation and maintenance of the performance complex, as a combination of methods aiming at the regulation of psychology and rituals, which may become a rather neutral background on which the shaman acts, is a mechanism of adaptation which possesses great elasticity, as long as it is not disturbed by too strong interethnical pressure and as long as it is not fixed. The fixation may be of two forms, namely, a good oral tradition or an imitation, maintained by a theoretical justification, and a mechanical transmission, i.e. in a written form. The idea of fixation is stimulated by the practical consideration of preservation of the known methods of regulation of the relations between the spirits and the shamans. In fact, should there be such a simple way of fixation or keeping the methods in mind, it would be used at once. However, the effects of such fixation come much later and they are not understood.

The Manchus began to use their present method of writing by the end of the sixteenth century. However, prior to the present writing there existed other methods of writing, such as the Mongol alphabet and orthography, Chinese characters, used directly, as well as in their phonetic function, as with the Nuichen system, and perhaps other systems too; but these were available only to a very limited number of people — the highly educated social group. The introduction of the Manchu alphabet and its spreading among the Manchus occurred during the seventeenth century. It may be supposed that from that time began the fixation of the ritual — its petrification.

In the instance of variations or the terms for «clan» we can observe the effects of this method of fixation: new terms for «clan» were created, while the phenomenon itself continued to exist; however, as soon as the clan was fixed (xala), the phenomenon itself gradually lost its functional importance (cf. SOM. and SONT). This was the first important practical application of fixation of a variable social phenomenon, imposed by the consideration of practical need of administration. A little later, namely, in the eighteenth century, the idea of fixation of clan rituals appeared and the Emperor Chien Lung had it done. This fixation was «rationalized» by him, saying that the Manchus might forget their methods of managing clan spirits. Actually there might have been two distinct motives, namely: (1) the preservation of the Manchu cultural complex, in order to prevent the loss by the Manchus of their ethnical consciousness, and to fortify their opposition to the Chinese, which I suppose, was the chief reason for the Emperor's order; and (2) the fear of losing the proved methods of controlling spirits — a special consideration which in the Emperor's mind was perhaps not a reason, but a «rationalization», a justification of this measure in the eyes of the Manchus. However, as I have already pointed out, there might be some other reasons too, namely, the creation of impressive performances that might impress the Chinese. This fixation, as I have pointed out, found imitators in all Manchu clans which recorded the names of the spirits and the rituals in the clan books of «cholo and «kooli», since this measure was concerning only clan spirits, spirits of ancestors and some other spirits, which may be common to a great number of clans, e.g. chuxa jangin, i.e. the spirits which were known at that time. However, we cannot be absolutely certain whether all spirits, used at that time, were enlisted, or whether they were somewhat selected, in order to be nearer to the model of the Imperial Family (clan). Though perhaps in an incomplete form, the spirits were fixed, as well as the rituals. Since the spirits and rituals were not identical in all clans and they were certainly not recorded with an equal carefulness, some essential differences between the clans appeared. As we have seen, some clans went so far that they preserved the introduction of spirits into the p'oyun saman, which was contrary to the Imperial Family model; some other clans distinguished night and day roads' spirits, and most of them did not include Sakyamuni, as it was in the Imperial Family rituals. It is not incidental that the clan shamans are not called xala saman, but are called p'oyun saman, which is indicative of an interesting fact, namely, that the institute of p'oyun saman, which functionally is a «clan shaman», originated at the period when xala (the old term for «clan») was no more referred to the actual «clan» (an exogamous unit, etc.). Thus it may now be supposed that p'oyun saman appeared at a rather late period, I think, only during the eighteenth century. A complex ritualism which required a ta saman, a certain number of saman and their numerous assistants (all of them p'oyun), could not be performed, for the performers were clan officers, but the clan (now called mokun) was not a sufficiently numerous unit to be able to afford the maintaining or a great ceremonial. So the p'oyun saman complex was always functioning in a greatly reduced form, even before the Manchu disintegration. We have also seen that a great number of clans have lost their written cholo and kooli (ritual) and in many a clan the performances turned into a silent sacrifice. This form of «shamanism», fixed and «ennobled» under the Chinese influence, is now dying out, especially under the influence of the political downfall in China of the initiators — the Imperial Family of the g'joro clan.

In spite of the existence of a clan ritualism, shamanism continued as it was started at an earlier time. In fact, since the introduction of clan «priesthood», the psychological need of shamanism, as well as it social function and the general theoretical conception of the Manchus have not essentially changed. In order to distinguish this unregulated shamanism, the Manchus called the real shamans amba saman — «great shaman» — and the further variations or this complex continued; the latter did not die out, but has been enriched, owing to some special conditions. One of these special conditions was a new possibility of fixation. Doubtless shamanism has made great acquisitions of new spirits during the time when a fixation or the clans' spirits and rituals had been made. In fact, the lists of shamanistic spirits show a great number of shamans who lived, died and became spirits. New foreign spirits were also included. On the other hand, ritualism and practical methods of psychological influence have also been enriched from various sources of interethnical milieu — chiefly Chinese, and partly Mongol and Northern Tungus. Therefore it is questionable, whether there are very many old spirits and old methods (those implied by the constant factors being excluded) in the existing shamanistic complex. The record of everything in a new written form was always attractive to the Manchus, as it always was for a great many ethnical groups, including European groups. So the Manchus began it. However, the great variety of individual shamans and always occurring changes did not permit to record everything. One of the cases is the record of Nisan saman's performance which evidently produced a deep impression upon the contemporaries and the younger generation. That such a fact as an unconsciousness, perhaps a lethargy, which lasted several days, the intervention of Nisan and the recovery of the patient could really happen is quite possible. The text of shamanizing could be memorized by the permanent assistants of the Nishan, whose name was also preserved and transmitted, first orally and later recorded. If such a record could be done, then other records could have followed, using the first one as a model. The recording of rituals and spirits of the clan has also stimulated similar work with amba saman's spirits and rituals.

Moreover, another source of fixation existed; namely, the production of pictures — n'urgan. When the spirits were not numerous there was no need of having many placings; but when their number attained several dozens, and as the spirits of deceased shamans might not have placings of a special form, it became necessary to simplify the placings. It was natural that images of Buddhistic and Taoistic deities should be represented in pictures. This was done by the Manchus, and thus the spirits were preserved in pictures and their number began to increase. As the pictures could not suffice, additional lists of spirits were made, supposed to be recited at the initiation of shamans. At first they were kept in memory, afterwards they were written down. At present a great number of clans possess such lists of spirits and prayers. It remained only to record the rituals, which has also been done in some clans.

The effect of the fixation of spirits, prayers, and rituals was that the shamans who wanted to introduce innovations required by the change of psychological conditions and implied by the existing and ever-changing theories concerning the spirits, or who wished to drop some of the elements which might become a simple burden in the complex, could not do it. The specialists in shamanism, referring to the written records, required a particular strictness: since the old shamans did so, the new ones must do the same, if they want to be efficient in dealing with the spirits. So in some clans the complex has grown far beyond the limits practically needed for the effectiveness of shamanism, and gradually it began to turn into an elaborated ritualism. In fact, the number of spirits has increased to such an extent, that no shaman can introduce them. The prayers are repeated quite automatically, as it is done in the lamaistic service. The methods of psychological effects upon the patients, the audience and the shamans themselves turned into almost professional tricks of jugglers. Such a state of shamanism in some clans is not due solely to the fact of fixation; other causes exist, as well, but the fixation of rituals was one of the important factors which led to the loss of the functional efficiency of shamanism among the Manchus.

However, not everything could be recorded, and formalized: the shamans, when dealing with the spirits, may preserve a certain freedom in the choice of means to produce the necessary psychological condition. Some of them put more stress on the methods which could not be bound by ritualism, and so maintained some direct effectiveness of shamanism by the side of a complex ritualism. One of the effects of this situation was that the shamanistic performances, sometimes lasted several days and again became tiresome for everybody, and thus lost their effectiveness. However, the shamans continued exercising their art of regulation of the psychic equilibrium of the clans with new methods, which thus existed in addition to the written ritualism. It may be supposed that perhaps the same situation was with the shamans, soon after the introduction of written ritualism of p'oyun saman, for the clan spirits. Under the new name of amba saman shamanism survived. Perhaps they will further survive under a third name, even after the last normalization of the present shamanism. To this question I shall revert later on.

Owing to the existence of writing, the formalizing of shamanistic performances went much further among the Manchus than among the Northern Tungus. Therefore the impression produced by the Manchu performances is generally different from that produced by the Northern Tungus performances, the latter being more «emotive» and «sincere».

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