Naxi Culture Through American Eyes


In the current bibliographic situation regarding Chinese minorities we can find usually only two kinds of works: academic publications difficult to read and understand for the general reader and illustrated books locally published with scarce information. This is why when a put my hands in Jacqueline S. Pinson's book "What you can't see is medicine-Naxi Culture Through American Eyes" I feel that I have before me a new work that will be able to make the reader love the Naxi people.

Pinson's book is an account of seven years of her family life in a small Naxi village. She arranged the information in nine chapters dealing with the most important events of the Naxi yearly cycle, from the winter season, the time of killing pigs, to be married and to raise a new house, with a variable amount of information about these different events, to the Naxi New Year, introduced with some detail, the Women's Day, the Talbiuq Festival, the Torch Festival, the festival to receive and send off our dead ancestor's spirits, and the Moon Festival.

Maybe it is difficult to find the balance between the personal experiences and the description of the people on who's the book is focused. I think that most of the depictions of the Naxi way of life through her family involvement in it are easily readable and instructive also in a myriad of small details usually left out in the anthropological works, but I consider also that the book lack a little more detailed descriptions of the Naxi rites and festivals. After reading the book I have the taste that the main activity in most of the Naxi's festivals is to eat together, and, though that can be true, as is in most of the celebrations in every culture, maybe it is not need to repeat it on every festival. Some times the reader ends with the feeling that Ms. Pinson offered only some mouthfuls of information between meal and meal.

It is a pity that this lack of proper explanations of ceremonies that lie so far of the western culture, that could be easily solved adding more pages to a book of only 164, fail to make it "The Forgotten Kingdom" of the 21st century. On the other side, the difficulties that a book printed in Chine will have to reach a global audience, will deprive the western readers to enjoy an emotional approaching to the Naxi people and culture.

Jacqueline S. Pinson's book "What you can't see is medicine-Naxi Culture Through American Eyes" Yunnan Nationalities Publishing House. Kunming, 2006

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