An annotated collection of Naxi Dongba Manuscripts
Just from the moment that the outside world knew about the thousands of Dongba scripts preserved in the before in the hands of some Dongba priests and later in the main Museums of China, Japan, America and Europe, every person that understood the richness of the thematic of these Dongba script agreed in consider them the Encyclopedia of Naxi history, religion, folklore and culture. If previous translations were not considered to have reached the aim to give the global reader (in Chinese) an outlook of this encyclopedia of Naxi life and culture, with this big project in which 100 books are translated, the aim is considered fulfilled.
The work is impressive in itself; libraries usually have one column of shelves devoted to store this opus magnum. The care with which the material part of the editing process has been carried out make this work a public homage to the Naxi culture. Gold colors are used in front cover, spines and fore edges, paper used of a remarkable quality, the legibility of the characters, pictures of the first page of each text, and even the complimentary summary in English of each of the books translated, all these details make this book a luxury item that makes the reader reach its first pages with the awe one can experience entering a temple: the temple of Naxi wisdom.
The amount of information provided in these books cannot be compared with any other publication, except, maybe with Chinese encyclopedias of the imperial age. The text will be a treasure for all the students of Naxi culture (especially if his price made it affordable in overseas libraries) and even for future generations of Naxi people. It is a monumental work.
The Chinese text is nice to be read, but the reader feels that he has no way to ascertain if the interpretation due to the Dongba text is correct or not. Though it cannot be doubt that the best specialists in the Dongba language and culture participate in this project, as they avoid to show the reader the reason why they choose to translate each pictogram in a due way, they close the way to any alternate reading or interpretation. We consider that this method do not provide to the reader a real understanding of the Dongba texts, and that did not allow the reader with knowledge of Chinese, the language of the books, to read by himself a Dongba texts. Arranging a page of a Dongba manuscript and below it the international phonetic transliteration of his Dongba sound and Chinese literal translation don’t provide any clue of the meaning of each of the pictographs that are translated.
Footnotes are so scarce that the reader read about names of gods, places and persons without an idea of who are they or where are this places, except if you are a Dongba that have learned by memory these texts, but in this case, you do not need the IPA transliteration nor the Chinese translation.
We consider that the method followed by Rock in his Nakhi Naga Text and Related Ceremonies and other books, is more faithful to the text, and can allow the reader to grasp the way the Dongba work out through the text and the polysemic value of some Dongba pictographs, other methods must have been developed to provide the Chinese reader with a real understanding of what is written.
A suggestion, maybe useful for further publications, would be something as to have a picture of the page, if considered needed, then follow a copy in which each of the pictographs in a paragraph (here there is no separation between paragraphs in the translations) is given a number. Below the translation of the text would be given in the order the Dongba would read it. A development of the explanations provided in p. 36 of my recent book.
(1) Tiger (beginning) (2) heaven (3) earth (4) no (5) sun (6) moon (7) not (8) stars (9) not.
And then the translation: "In the old times, when the sky and the earth had not still been formed, the sun and moon had still not been created, the stars had still not arisen (end of the first cell)" (Office: 1989).
Without this clear probe of the translation provided the reading of the book constitutes an act of faith, something suitable for the general reader, that usually would not expend the money to buy so expensive collection of books, but in no way suitable for a researcher that, maybe 50 years later, start to research Dongba documents in one of the libraries where this treasure is deposited.
Here we introduce a summary description of the contents of the Volume I, which deals mainly with worship to Heaven and Worship to ancestors. The first part: Worship to Heaven, contains seven manuscripts: 1. Return of the ancestors. 2. Offering wine. 3. Offering rice and magic medicine. 4. Promise to offer cows as sacrifice in the year to come. 5. Promise to offer chicken as sacrifice in the year to come. 6. Worshipping heaven for childless families offering animals and rice. 7. Welcoming ancestors to return to enjoy the sacrifice. There are another 4 manuscripts dealing with worshipping ancestor: 1. Welcoming ancestors to return to enjoy the sacrifice. 2. Offering animal sacrifice. 3. Offering cooked food. 4. Offering of Meng and En ghosts.
2. Offering wine (pp. 65-86).
3. Offering rice and magic medicine (pp. 87-118).
4. Promise to offer cows as sacrifice in the year to come (pp. 120-158).
5. Promise to offer chicken as sacrifice in the year to come (pp 159-192)
6. Worshipping heaven for childless families offering animals and rice (pp. 193-220).
7. Welcoming ancestors to return to enjoy the sacrifice (pp. 221-258).
The other four manuscripts of worshipping ancestors ceremony.
1. Welcoming ancestors to return to enjoy the sacrifice (pp. 259-298).
2. Offering animal sacrifice (pp. 299-336).
3. Offering cooked food (pp. 338-369)
4. Spring rite - Offering of Meng and En ghosts.
General -Achang - Bai - Baima - Baoan - Bulang - Buyang - Buyi - Chashan - Dai - Daur - Deang - Deng - Dong - Dongxiang - Dulong - Ersu - Ewenki - Gejia -Gelao - Hani - Hezhe - Jingpo - Jino - Kucong - Lahu - Lhoba - Li - Lisu - Manchu - Maonan - Miao - Mongols - Moso - Mulao - Namzi - Naxi - Nu - Oroqen - Pumi - Qiang - Sani - She - Shui - Talu - Tibetan - Tu - Tujia - Uygur - Wa - Xibe - Yao - Yi - Zhuang