Ancestral Realms of the Naxi: Quentin Roosevelt’s China
edited by Christine Mathieu and Cindy Ho
The Naxi people are an ethnic minority of Yunnan Province, in southwestern China. Their culture has developed at a crossroad of the civilizations of China, Tibet, and South and Central Asia to produce a rich mythology and religious culture called Dongba. A folk religion with ancient roots in animism and shamanism, Dongba is a syncretic practice with elements of Chinese and Tibetan traditions and especially the Bon religion. Its corpus comprises about one thousand ceremonies and subceremonies, contained in extraordinary manuscripts written in the world’s only pictographic script. The Donga priests are also artisans, and artists. While their art and artifacts show a connection to Tibet, China, and India, the Dongba religion is endowed with a unique aesthetic freedom and a vigorous and distinctive art and iconography.
This book offers a comprehensive introduction to Naxi art and culture through rare artifacts, many collected from Quentin Roosevelt (the grandson of U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt) on his travels to China in 1939 at the age of nineteen, and Joseph Rock, who lived among the Naxi from 1922 to 1949. The objects include funeral scrolls, ceremonial banners, paintings, and crowns and ritual implements such as trumpets, bells, and swords, as well as pictographic manuscripts. The book provides essays on Dongba art, religion, ritual language and scripts, Naxi history and society, and biographical pieces on Quentin Roosevelt and Joseph Rock.
Ancestral Realms of the Naxi is included on our New Books List for October 17, 2011.