The shaman and the white stone -characteristics of Qiang religion


Two of the main specific characteristics of Qiang nationality religion are their belief in the white stone, and the presence among them of shamans performing the typical labours depicted in the Siberian shamanism.


The main religious specialists of the Qiang are known as "shibi". They have not given up their productive activities but enjoy the respect of the rest of the community. As the Qiang have no written language they are the keepers of their sacred traditions, transmitted through them, from one generation to the next.

They know the history and laws of the community; and people think that they can communicate with the spirits.

They preside over the cult to the mountains, they can heal sickness, expel devils and bad spirits, avoid disasters, call the souls, practice divination, and preside also over the building or repairing of the house, weddings, and choosing name ceremonies for the new born.

They must preside also funeral ceremonies for the dead, they must know some witchcraft to foretell the future with different adivinative methods, expel devils, and step in a red pot or in the blade of a plough.

Their tools are: drum of goat skin, cap of monkey head, magic stick, gongs.

All these characteristics point to the classical shaman works and tools.

The drum of goat's skin is very important in their sacred ceremonies; it is possible that, as happens with Siberian shamans, it helps them to reach a shamanic state of conscience. They think that the sacred knowledge can be acquired through the drum. One of their myths tells that a hungry goat ate the sacred books the gods give them, and the only way of recover the lost knowledge is beating a drum of goat's skin.

They know an impressive corpus of sacred scriptures that can be divided in three levels. The scriptures of the superior temple are these related to the ceremonies of the gods. Of the middle temple, are those related with weddings and funerals, the human world; of the inferior temple, are related with the devils' world.

In Maoxian County and other places the shamans have illustrated books, without words.

White Stone

In Qiang lands white stones are find everywhere: In the peaks of the mountains, in the middle of the forest, on the roof of the buildings or in the inners rooms of a house. They are a symbol of the respect of the Qiang people for all their gods (except the God of Fire who never is represented with a white stone).

On the roof of every Qiang tower usually there are five white stones. They symbolize the God of Heaven, God of Earth, God of the Mountains, God of the Trees and Goddess of the Mountains. The most important of them is the God of Heaven, who can protect the people and their animals. This god usually is venerated in shrines inside every house.

In these shrines are also revered the gods of the family: the ancestors' god, the goddess of the women, the gods of the men. And in some places are also worshiped in these homely shrines: the Gods of the Domestic animals, of Richness and Fortune, the God of the Barns, Gods of the Gates..., and the gremial gods that correspond with the activities of the family.

Below this sacred shrine, usually there is a fire, with a tripod over it. One of the feet of the tripod has a small circle that represents the God of Fire.

To know more: Qiang xiang qing. Geng Jing. Chengdu, 2006

Back to Qiang main page

© Copyright 2007


Buy books related to China Ethnic Groups and help to develop this web