Outlook of the Naxi culture


This book is an encyclopedic treatise of the Naxi and Moso cultures, with chapters dealing with the origin and history of the Naxi, their language, religion, customs, ethics, astronomy, literature, science, philosophy, government, medicine, architecture, trade, communications and economy. The length and deep of the different chapters is very uneven and sometimes even surprising. After a general introduction a short chapter deals with the history of the Naxi through the Chinese dynastic history. Most of the mentions to the Moxie and other peoples living in and around Lijiang are mentioned here. After this chapter there is a long description of the archaeological findings in the Lijiang and Yongning regions, which, even though not necessarily related with the Naxi, can provide some clues about the former inhabitants of these lands.

The language of the Naxi is carefully described in the second chapter, with some tables that compare Naxi language with other languages related and the different dialects of the language. Dongba and Geba scripts are only succinctly described. Equally short, for the length of this book, is the description of the Dongba religion, but this shortness is compensated by the lengthy descriptions of the chapter dealing with Naxi culture, more than one hundred pages dealing with their food, clothes, architecture, marriage, funeral, birth, festivals and rituals, and divination. Along this chapter the variations of the Naxi culture are fully considered, and many of the paragraphs deal with the characteristics of the Naxi people around Lijiang, of the Moso around Yongning, the Ruarke (1) in Baidi Township, or the Masha in Weixi County. Their attempts to give some light to the complex variations of the Naxi culture, are only in part successful, with the bulk of the information provided related to the standard Naxi culture of the Lijiang plains.

The fourth chapter deals with the ethics of the Naxi and Moso people in different aspects of their lives: specially in their family, social and religious life. The next is a short description of the Naxi astronomical knowledge and its relation to the Han Chinese conceptions of the universe.

The seventh chapter, with more than 200 pages is the longest in the book. It deals with the literature and arts of the Naxi. The detailed introduction to the Naxi literature includes descriptions of the genres of both the folk and Dongba sacred literature, as well as the main writers of the "modern" literature, from the 16th century to the present times. Music, dance, painting and sculpture are also introduced in this chapter.

From the end of this chapter to the last pages of the book different aspects of the Naxi and Moso culture are treated summarily, as technology, education, sports, philosophy, government and military issues, news and publishing, medicine and hygiene, construction and famous buildings, commerce, communications and economic development, etc.

We consider that this book is not only a valuable reference to different aspects related with Naxi and Moso life and culture, but a starting point to discover the rich and diverse cultures created by the historical activities of the Mu Kings and the geographical environment in which they were framed, cultures developed as a result of the adaptation of the Naxi people to different geographical and political conditions. It is a pity that the localism inherent to the development of Chinese science and politics make the writers of this book avoid the research with the same deepness of the Naxi cultures in Sichuan Province, preventing them of create a big picture of the culture of the Naxi nationality.

(1) Ruarke and Masha is the denomination of the naxi people living in Baidi and Weixi.

Naxi zu wenhua daguan (Outlook of the Naxi culture). Yunnan Nationalities Press. Kunming. 1999

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