Elisabetta Chiodo
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This book continues the research on ritual songs of Qorčin Mongol shamans, which I started in a previously published book.1 It also advances the research on the shamanic culture of the Mongols of eastern Inner Mongolia which the late Professor Walther Heissig, the distinguished Mongolist of Bonn University, initiated in pioneering studies.2 The book focuses on twenty-one songs which are associated with shamanic rituals performed for different purposes. The songs are supplied with an English translation accompanied by commentaries.

Translating shamanic songs with their own specific cultural terms and notions in a Western language is not easy, especially when a task like this is carried out within the limited time of a research project, as in the present case. My task, however, was facilitated by a large amount of valuable field materials which Mongol researchers in Inner Mongolia collected over the years among the shamans of Darqan Banner and Küriye Banner, in eastern Inner Mongolia, and published in numerous books. It also benefited from my frequent field work in Qorčin villages, where I had the opportunity to meet shamans and to attend their ritual performances. It should be stressed that, although this book hopes to contribute new knowledge of the Qorčin shamanic ritual practices, beliefs and customs, it can only be seen as one step forward in the exploration of the multifaceted and rich culture of the Qorčin Mongol shamans.

The twenty-one shamanic songs published in this book form a portion of a larger body of sixty songs, which, in 1982, Professor Mansang of the Inner Mongolia Normal University in Kökeqota recorded on cassette tapes during his field research in Qorčin East Wing Middle Banner, or Darqan Banner as the Mongols call it, and in Küriye Banner, which are both located in the eastern part of China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, under the jurisdiction of the city of Tongliao (通辽). Professor Mansang wrote down the songs with the help of his students in the Uygur-Mongolian script, which is still in use in Inner Mongolia.

In 1983 or 1984, Professor Mansang donated the texts of the sixty songs in transcription to Professor Walther Heissig. The songs, together with a large number of cassette tapes and transcriptions of oral tales of Mongol bards of eastern Inner Mongolia, which were in the possession of Professor Heissig, are currently preserved at the North-Rhine Westphalian Academy of Sciences and the Arts in Düsseldorf.3 Regrettably, the tapes of the songs were not found among Professor Walther Heissig’s materials. When I visited Professor Mansang in 2016 at his home in Kökeqota to find out about the tapes, he told me that he had given them to a student during the 1990s. Whatever happened to the tapes, the fact remains that without the tapes I was prevented from verifying the accuracy of the Mongolian transcription of the songs by consulting the tapes. Spelling errors were detected in the transcription of the songs, which was clearly executed in haste. While errors of this type do not pose a problem in the comprehension of the text and can be easily corrected, the same cannot be said for some few obscure words or expressions which might have been misheard by the transcribers. What is published in this book is the Mongolian texts of the twenty-one songs as they were written down by Professor Mansang and his students, including the melodies in numeric notation. The twenty-one songs were sung by eight shamans who were born in the first decades of the 20th century. They are Bekiǰayaγa, Buyankesig, γomboǰab, J̌alγanbayar, J̌anabaγatur, Möngkeǰayaγa and Serenčin of Darqan Banner, and Mendübayar of Küriye Banner. Consequently, both Darqan Banner and Küriye Banner are the places which interest us in this book. The Mongols of Darqan Banner and Küriye Banner have different histories and speak different dialects. On the whole, the shamans in these two places share common beliefs and cult practices, with certain distinctive local features in each case. In fact, differences can also be observed from one shaman to another.

The Qorčin Mongols have a history of migrations and cultural changes. The ruling élite of the Qorčin Mongols trace back their lineage to Qasar (1164-1227), the younger brother of Činggis Qaγan.4 During the 1430s, Adai Qaγan (1390-1438?)5 and his subjects migrated from Külün Büir to the area along the Nonni River, or Nen River (嫩江; is also read Nun), in north-east China.6 Therefore they are named Nun Qorčin. Part of the Dagur, the Solon and the Sibe people who inhabited the region became subjects of the Qorčin. In 1545, following Küi Möngke Tasqara, a group of Qorčin moved westwards to the upper reaches of the Liao River, which the Mongols call Yellow River (Sira Mören).7 Küi Mören Tasqara was a direct descendant of Qasar.8 Later on, they moved to the east of the Kingγan Range, where they live today.9

In 1624, Nurhaci (1559-1626), the founder of Manchu power, sent an envoy to Ooba Qong Tayiǰi of the Qorčin to swear an oath of alliance with him and to join in the fight against Ligdan Qaγan of the Čaqar (r. 1604-1634).10 The alliance was confirmed in 1626. On this occasion, a white horse was slaughtered and offered to the Sky, and a black cow was slaughtered and offered to the Earth. Ooba Qong Tayiǰi was married to a Manchu princess and received the title of Tüsiyetü Qan.11 The Qorčin came under Manchu authority, and in 1636 the ten Qorčin banners were formed.12

There was a flow of Chinese peasants and merchants into the pastoral areas of eastern Inner Mongolia from the beginning of the Qing dynasty, although the dynasty did not encourage agriculture in eastern Inner Mongolia and prohibited the Chinese from entering Mongol areas. Between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century the migration of Chinese peasants from Hebei and Shandong reached its peak; an event which altered the economy and the way of life of the Mongols. Exposed as they were to mass Chinese migration, the Mongols gradually gave up their pastoral economy, adopting sedentary agriculture, or a mixed economy, viz. pastoral and agrarian.

In Darqan Banner, or Qorčin East Wing Middle Banner, the Chinese became more numerous than in other Qorčin banners.13 During the 1930s, the American explorer and scholar Owen Lattimore observed that, although Mongol farming villages in Darqan Banner were surrounded by Chinese communities, the Mongols of this banner preserved their language.14 We can now observe that a large number of Chinese words entered the spoken language of the Qorčin Mongols,15 and that intensive farming, deforestation and mineral extraction have had an impact on the natural environment, resulting in land degradation.16

In 1629, the lama Neyiči toyin (1557-1653), a tantric master of the dGe-lugs-pa tradition, began to travel across the eastern regions of what is now Inner Mongolia with the aim of disseminating Buddhism among the Mongol laity. Neyiči toyin’s missionary activities among the eastern Mongols are recorded in a Mongolian xylograph known by the abbreviated title Čindamani erike17 “Rosary of Wish-Granting Jewels”. It was compiled by Prajñāsāgara (Mongolian Bilig-ün Dalai) on the basis of written notes and oral accounts, probably in 1739.18 Čindamani erike mentions real historical persons and events, but it basically shows themes of a conversion narrative. It contains a great deal of miracle stories and legends,19 describing the fantastic feats displayed by Neyiči toyin, which served the purpose of showing the miraculous powers of the Buddhist religion which Neyiči toyin set out to spread among the Mongol nobility and the common people alike. The Qorčin nobility must have had some knowledge of Buddhism, as Čindamani erike relates how the sons of Bingtü Qatun of the Qorčin had read Mila-yin namtar, the “Biography of Mila[repa]”20, and were moved to tears by listening to the life story of the famous Tibetan Buddhist poet and saint Milarepa (Mi-la ras-pa).21 Čindamani erike also recounts how Ooba Tüsiyetü Qan and his younger brother Butači showed devotion to Neyiči toyin, and how they became his followers. Neyiči toyin taught the poor people the spells of Yamāntaka, and to those who recited the spells by heart he gave gold, silver, silk, sable fur and other goods which had been donated to him by the high and minor nobles.22 Čindamani erike provides evidence that there were shamans in the ten Qorčin banners, who must have played an important role in society and must have been numerous too.

According to this source, there were “male and female shamans with false views, who worshipped wrongly” (endegüreǰü sitügsen buruγu üǰel-tü böge uduγan).23 It also informs us that the entire community of the Qorčin Mongols kept and worshipped in their homes the ongγod (ongod), viz. the images of the ancestors of the clan, which were probably made of felt or wood. The term ongγod designates both the image itself and the spirit it represents. I will return to the ongγod in the shamanic cult practices below.24 Čindamani erike goes on to narrate how Neyiči toyin preached that the worship of the ongγod was of no benefit to this life, and that to achieve eternal salvation it had to be rejected. As a result, the ongγod images were collected from the houses of both the dignitaries and the common people, and piled up and set on fire.25

Čindamani erike also contains an account which describes how the shaman Qoboγtu, a prince of the Ongniγud Mongols,26 became jealous of the healing abilities of Neyiči toyin, and how he challenged the monk to a contest over whose magic powers were greater. Qoboγtu was defeated by the monk, who persuaded him to embrace Buddhism.27 Buddhism spread widely across eastern Inner Mongolia and monasteries and temples began to dot the landscape. Four monasteries were constructed for Neyiči toyin during his lifetime. After Neyiči toyin died, his ashes were enshrined in Bayan qosiγun monastery28 in Qorčin West Wing Middle Banner, or Tüsiyetü Banner, as the Mongols call it. Fifty-seven monasteries are known to have existed in Darqan Banner.29

With regard to Küriye Banner, a place which is also of interests to us, it has its own distinctive history, which can be traced back to Asing lama, a religious figure from the Tibetan Amdo region. The religious activities of Asing lama at the court of Altan Qaγan of the Twelve Tümed are described in the chronicle Erdeni tunumal neretü sudur, “The Book Called Clear as a Jewel”30, dating back to 1607 or some years later. In 1620, Asing lama began to disseminate Buddhism among the Tümed Qaračin Mongols living along the Chinese border. In 1630 and 1634, Asing lama made visits to Mukden, which is now Shenyang 沈阳 in Liaoning province, where he was received with special honour by the Manchu Hung Taiji, or Abahai, or Sečen Qaγan (1626-1643). In 1634, Asing lama came to what is now Küriye Banner and settled there. He was soon surrounded by disciples, who moved there from different regions of present-day Inner Mongolia. Hung Taiji granted Asing Lama one thousand ounces of silver and all the necessary objects for performing religious service. Siregetü Küriye Banner was officially founded in 1646 and became the only banner of Inner Mongolia ruled by a Lama.31 Twenty-six monasteries are known to have been built in Siregetü Küriye Banner,32 the first one began to be built in 1649. It was Eki-yügen Badaraγuluγči süme, the “Monastery which Causes the Origin to Flourish” (Chinese: Xingyuan si 兴源寺).33 In 1649, Chinese craftsmen came to Siregetü Küriye Banner to help to construct the monastery, and this was the first influx of Chinese into this place.34 Monasteries became centres of learning, and of the spiritual and economic life of the people. They owned land which was rented out to Chinese peasants under its jurisdiction. Monasteries became centres of trade; shops were set up around them, giving rise to trading centres.

The acceptance of Buddhism by the Mongols did not result in the demise of their traditional beliefs such as the cult of their ancestors, who were worshipped in the monasteries side by side with Buddhist deities. Mongol traditional beliefs came into Buddhism and influenced Buddhist prayers. During important religious festivals, famous bards (quγurči) were invited to perform in monasteries, and among the lamas there were bards too.35

A distinctive aspect of Siregetü Küriye Banner is its heterogeneous population. From 1636 onwards, Mongolian ethnic groups from different areas of Inner Mongolia migrated into Siregetü Küriye Banner, also from places as distant as West Tümen, in the western part of Inner Mongolia. Mongols such as the Čaqar, Qaračin, Qorčin, and the Tangγud Qalqa came to comprise the population of Siregetü Küriye Banner. A mass migration of Chinese peasants into Siregetü Küriye Banner occurred in 1896.36

Among the Mongols who migrated into Siregetü Küriye Banner there were also shamans who continued their activities there.37 The Manchu Qing emperors were patrons of Tibetan Buddhism and supported the construction of monasteries, but they did not outlaw the shamans in eastern Inner Mongolia as had happened at the end of the 16th century in western Inner Mongolia, and this is one of the reasons for the shamans’ survival. We should remember that shamanic rituals were conducted at Qing court,38 and that shamanic traditions are still alive in some places of north-east China.39

The dissemination of Buddhism in eastern Inner Mongolia did not occur without conflict and rivalry between the Buddhists and the shamans. This fact is reflected in oral tradition. The story of the shaman Qoboγtu competing with Neyiči toyin continued to develop among the Qorčin shamans. Oral legends recount how the shaman Qoboγtu fought with Neyiči toyin for seven years, how he displayed his magic powers over the weather by causing violent storms or lightning and rain, and how Neyiči toyin showed the superiority of his magic powers and emerged victorious in the contest. With his vajra (thunderbolt) Neyiči toyin hit the drum that the shaman Qoboγtu used to fly across the sky with, and he fell onto a sandal tree standing on a snowy white mountain. Of his eighteen bronze mirrors only nine remained, and his two-sided drum became a one-sided drum.40

The Qorčin shamans have a profound reverence for Qoboγtu. Just as all Mongols regard Činggis Qaγan as the son of Heaven (Tngri), as their ancestor and cultural hero who inaugurated the customs and ritual practices of the Mongols, in the same way the Qorčin shamans consider Qoboγtu to be “the son of Heaven” (tngri-yin küü),41 “the ancestor of the shamans” (böge-yin degedü),42 and the cultural hero who initiated the cult practices of the shamans. Crucial events in the history of the Qorčin shamans are linked with the figure of Qoboγtu. His image is carved on the crown of the traditional headdress worn by the shamans.43

Oral tales circulating among the Qorčin shamans also tell of shamans being burned after the dissemination of Buddhism in their homeland. The story goes, that, since the shamans became too numerous, a Buddhist monk suggested to the Prince of Darqan Banner that he should have the shamans burned. The shamans, however, proved resistant to fire. There is also evidence of shamans opposing the Buddhists. The shaman J̌angča (1892-1964) of Küriye Banner, for example, on the one hand praises Buddhist monasteries and deities in song, while on the other hand he is said to have sent his helping spirit (ongγod) against a Buddhist monk to inflict harm on him.44 There were shamans who harboured intense hatred for the Buddhists and their religious teachings, as the following verses taken from a song of an unnamed Qorčin “black shaman” (qara böge) illustrate:

“After dividing [the shamans into] black and white / Monks, you became a hindrance / Monks, you deceive all / With your false doctrine / Monks, you came from afar / Sounding your bell and tambourine / Monks, you do evil / With your untrue religion” (Qara čaγan qubiyaγad geǰü je höi ya / Qarsil boluγsan lama-nar a je höi ya / Qalγu buruγu nom-iyar-iyan / Qamuγ-i mekeledeg lama-nar a je höi ya … Qongqu damaru-ban duuγarγaǰu je höi ya / Qola-ača iregsen lama-nar a je höi ya / Qudal qaγurmaγ nom-iyar-iyan je höi ya / Qoor kideg lama-nar a je höi ya).45

This song blames the lamas for the division of the shamans into black and white and the resultant hostility.46

Opposition to Buddhism, we may assume, did not cease completely among the shamans, but in the course of time both the shamans and the Buddhists adapted to the local circumstances and came to terms with each other. Buddhist monks were said to heal the sick with the power of their books, and the shamans with their magic powers. There were situations where a shaman was invited to cure a person who had fallen ill in the home of a Buddhist monk. Should a Buddhist monk be unable to cure a sick person, he would suggest calling a shaman to perform the task in his stead. As the shamans and the Buddhists came to terms with each other, figures like the “lama-shaman” (lama böge)47 and the Layičing48, who combine cult practices of the shamans and the Buddhists, emerged from the ranks of the shamans.49 There are many examples of Qorčin shamanic songs appealing to Buddhist deities and extolling Buddhist monasteries and the holy books of the Buddhists.50 In some rare cases, the mantra om ma qong (Tib. oṃ āḥ hūṃ) is used as a refrain in songs.51 Shamans also keep the images of Buddhist deities on their family altar.52 At the same time, there are also shamanic songs without any allusions to Buddhist notions or deities, as in the case of most of the songs published in this book.

The Buddhists did not completely oust the beliefs and customs of the Qorčin shamans. The belief that the spirits of their shaman ancestors inhabit places in the landscape like trees, cliffs, mountains and caves remains at the centre of cult practices of the Qorčin shamans. The custom of burying the dead shamans in the branches of a tree continued to be observed until recently. There is evidence of a dead shaman being buried in a tree in 1953,53 and shamans refer to this custom in ritual performances. According to the words of the qondan Rasipungsuγ, the last shaman who was buried in a tree was Bolčilaγu of Küriye Banner, who died in 1978.54 We should also notice that the village Sörtü Modo in Küriye Banner bears witness to the custom of burying the corpses of the shamans in trees.55 Reminiscent of the same burial custom is Sörlen Modo Village in Darqan Banner.56 The terms sör, sörtü, or sörlen refer to the tree in which the dead shamans were buried.57

When the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949, there were sixty shamans in fifty villages of Küriye Banner.58 Today, seventeen shamans are known to be active in Küriye Banner.59 People in this place used to say: “If there is a shaman in a village, there will be no fear of the voice of Tngri, i.e. the thunder” (Ayil-daγan böge-tei bol tngri-yin daγu-ača ayuqu ügei).60 This saying demonstrates that the shamans played an important role in society and were believed to have the capacity to protect the community from danger.61

With the advent of communism after the foundation of the People’s Republic of China, the shamans in all the places of eastern Inner Mongolia stopped performing their rituals among the people, or they continued to do so in secret.62 During the disastrous years of the Cultural Revolution in China (1966-1976), all religions were banned. Buddhist monasteries were destroyed or remained in use, but for non-religious purposes. The shamans were branded as “demons” (čidkür) and paraded through villages, and their beliefs and practices were dismissed as a “superstition” (muqur süsüg) by the dominant communist ideology. The years that followed the end of the Cultural Revolution allowed the Qorčin shamans a certain degree of freedom to resume their activities and to train disciples.63 The resurgence of the shamanic ritual practices did not receive the immediate support of the people in the Qorčin community, who had experienced the traumas of the Cultural Revolution. Years of anti-religious campaigns continued to exert an influence on their minds, making people suspicious of the shamans.64 We cannot say that today shamanic practices are illegal in Inner Mongolia. As a matter of fact, the Qorčin shamans perform their rituals every night. However, the government in China sees the shamanic ritual performance as being devoid of spiritual meaning, relegating it to the sphere of such folk arts of the Mongols as dancing, playing the drum and singing.

Shamanic traditions are deep-rooted in Darqan Banner, and today this place is the centre of shamanic activities. The majority of shamans live in villages around small towns like Baolong shan Balγasun, Yolonmodo Balγasun and Dalǰi Balγasun. Today, the community of shamans also offers a haven for people afflicted with illness and for vulnerable people who find it difficult to fit into a rapidly changing society, feeling that they are being left behind.65 In Darqan Banner, shamans and other Mongol people alike assert that shamanic beliefs and practices are closely associated with their Mongolian identity and consequently are suitable for them. They also point out that the shamans already existed during the time of Činggis Qaγan, while Buddhism came from a foreign country at a later period in their history.66

Looking at the available biographies of 82 shamans who are active in Darqan Banner, we find that the oldest was born in 1936 and the youngest in 1992, and that there are numerous women among them. Many are shamans whose members of the family have been, or still are, shamans. All of them became shamans to cure the so-called “shamanic illness” (böge-yin ebedčin).67 In Darqan Banner, middle-aged shamans are handing down shamanic knowledge to a younger generation of disciples. The shaman Tegsi, born in 1965, a nine-generation shaman, claims to have 360 disciples68, while the female shaman Erdeniküü, born in 1958, says that she has more than 100 disciples69. We should, however, distinguish between the “shaman disciples” (šabi böge) and those who came to be counted as disciples after offering a “ceremonial silk scarf” (qadaγ) to a shaman as a sign of their respect.


Chiodo, Songs of Khorchin Shamans to Jayagachi, the Protector of Livestock and Property.


Heissig’s eight articles on the subject are collected in the book Schamanen und Geisterbeschwörer in der östlichen Mongolei.


For the description of the entire collection see Chiodo, The Walther Heissig Collection of Mongolian Oral Literature.


Γangγa-yin urusqal by γomboǰab, p. 145. On Qasar and his descendants, see especially Altan tobči by Lobsangdambiǰalsan (Mergen Gegen), pp. 49-69. On the cult of Qasar in Darqan Muumingγan Bannner in Inner Mongolia and the legends about him, see Sayinǰiraqu, Qasar-un čadiγ, pp. 145-170, and Qasar-un sudulul, pp. 202-267, 480-527 by the same author.


On Adai Qaγan, see Qurča, “Qorčin-u Adai Qaγan”, pp. 63-69, and especially Mongγol-un borǰigid oboγ-un teüke by Lomi, pp. 244-253.


More precisely, the river flows through the northern part of Heilongjiang province and the north eastern part of Inner Mongolia.


Altan kürdün mingγan kegesütü by Dharma, pp. 316, 319.


Qurča and Chang Ming, Qorčin tobčiyan, p. 189.


Erdemtü, “Qorčin-u iǰaγur egüsül”, pp. 298-298. See also Namǰu, Qorčin-u quriyangγui teüke, p. 127.


On the reign of Ligdan Qaγan, see Heissig, Die Zeit des letzten mongolischen Großkhans Ligdan, pp. 7-40. See also Qurča and Chang Ming, Qorčin tobčiyan, p. 232.


Weiers, “Der Mandschu-Khortsin-Bund von 1626”, pp. 414-442. Interestingly, the Qorčin ordinary people strongly disapproved of the alliance between the Qorčin aristocrats and the Manchu, which resulted in the Qorčin Mongols submitting to the Manchu power. Evidence of this can be found in a Qorčin folk song stating that the alliance with the Manchu was a huge mistake. See Kürelša and Sergüleng, Qorčin arad-un daγuu-yin baγatur-un domoγ namtar, p. 68. See also Kürelša, “Qorčin ǰang üile-yin soyol-un ončaliγ”, p. 93.


Altan tobči by Lobsangdanǰin, folio 173b; Namǰu, Qorčin-u quriyangγui teüke, pp. 133-187; Qurča and Chang Ming, Qorčin tobčiyan, p. 283. In his Bolor toli, J̌imbadorǰi recounts that after the death of Ligdan Qaγan, the Manchu Sečen Qaγan took possession of the seal of Činggis Qaγan, and because of this he became the ruler of the Mongols (p. 486).


Qurča and Chang Ming, Qorčin tobčiyan, p. 333. The history of Chinese colonisation in eastern Inner Mongolia is a complex subject, and this is not the place in which to elaborate on it.


See Lattimore, The Mongols of Manchuria, p. 86. See also Lattimore’s description of Darqan Banner on pp. 206-210.


A long list of these words is provided by the linguist Bayančoγtu in his book Qorčin aman ayalγun-u sudulul, pp. 506-551. Scholars have also noticed ancient words which are still preserved in the Qorčin dialect. See some examples in Chang Shan, “Qorčin aman ayalγun-daki ǰarim erten-ü üges-ün tuqai”, pp. 10-13. It should also be added that nowadays new job opportunities in big cities created by China’s economic growth have also led to a number of Qorčin Mongols giving up the study of their native language, finding it more useful to study Chinese for admission to universities and their professional careers. For a discussion of this subject, see Duran, “Qorčin aman ayalγun-u kitad kelen-dü nölögelegdegsen siltaγan”, pp. 54-55.


Qurča and Chang Ming, Qorčin tobčiyan, p. 429.


The full title of the edition I used is Boγda neyiči toyin dalai mañzusrii (!)-yin domoγ-i todorqay-a geyigülügči čindamani erike kemegdekü orosiba. This source was analysed in detail by Heissig in his pioneering article “A Mongolian Source to the Lamaist Suppression of Shamanism in the 17th Century”, pp. 61-135.


On this date, see Heissig, ibid., p. 72. In Kesigtoγtaqu’s view, this work was written in 1679. See his article “Praǰina saγara-yin ǰokiyaγsan < Čindamani erike>-yin sudulul”, p. 96. On the question of the date of Čindamani erike, see also Möngke, <Čindamani erike>-yin sudulul, pp. 24-64.


On the analysis of the legends included in Čindamani erike, see Kesigtoγtaqu, ibid., pp. 104-114. See also Kürelša, “<Neyiči toyin-u namtar> dotoraki domoγ-un učir”, pp. 215-217, and Möngke, “< Čindamani erike>-yin ǰokiyaγdaγsan on ǰil bolun ǰokiyaγči-yin tuqai”, pp. 147-148.


This must have been a manuscript of the “Biography of Mila” (Mila-yin namtar), which was not printed in a xylograph until 1756. On this fact, see Chiodo, The Mongolian Manuscripts on Birch Bark from Xarbuxyn Balgas, part 2, p. 47.


Folios 54v-55r.


Folios 46r-46v; 74r-74v.


Čindamani erike, 46v. The shamans are likewise described as those with “false views” (buruγu üǰel-tü) in a fragmentary manuscript from Xarbuxyn Balgas dating back to the first part of the 17th century. For this, see Chiodo, The Mongolian Manuscripts on Birch Bark, part 2, XBM 105, p. 182.


The shamans call their spirits ongγod, the plural form of ongγon. The word ongγo means “hole, opening”, ongγorqai means “opening, hole, gap, etc.”, and ongγuu / ongγoo means “small hole, opening”. See Norǰin, Mongγol kelen-ü toli, p. 386. See also onggi “hole” in Qorin nigetü tayilburi toli, p. 102. On ongγo, onggi “hole”, see Sayinčoγtu, Ami-yin sitülge, vol. 2, p. 605. According to Sečenčoγtu, ongγoyi- “to became wide open, open up”, is a denominal verb derived from ongγo. See Sečenčoγtu, Mongγol üges-ün iǰaγur-un toli, p. 327. Images of spirits with a hole or a cavity in them were observed among the Siberian people. Siikala, quoting Anisimov, mentions an image of a spirit with a hole (cavity) in it, which Anisimov saw among the Evenk shamans. See Siikala, The Rite Technique of the Siberian Shaman, p. 235. The hole or cavity is designed for putting fat in to feed the spirits through its image, or material support for the spirits. On this, see also the remarks by Even, Chants de chamanes mongols, in which the author associated ongγo with ongγoča “vessel, container, receptacle”, p. 387. On the suffix -ča / -če joined to nouns and adjectives, see Sečenčoγtu, ibid., p. 2810. On ongγoča meaning “coffin”, see Mostaert, Dictionnaire ordos, p. 515a.


Folios 53v-54r.


The Ongniγud Mongols are currently living in the Ongniγud Banner of J̌uu Uda. Boroqota, is the centre of the Banner, under the jurisdiction of the city of Chifeng 赤峰 in eastern Inner Mongolia. On the Ongniγud Mongols, see Heissig, Die Familien- und Kirchengeschichtsschreibung der Mongolen, p. 188.


Folios 37r-40r.


Folio 87v. The monastery still exists in Bayan banner town, although today it is much smaller than it used to be. When I visited the monastery in 2009, I found that it was in a poor state of preservation. I was told by the head lama that the monastery did not possess any books. During my visit in 2014, I noticed that the statue of Neyiči toyin had been erected in front of the central temple, and some restoration work had been carried out in the meantime.


See Kürelša, J̌irim-ün süme keyid, pp. 369-419.


This source narrates how Asing lama taught Altan Qaγan the mantra of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara (folios 17a-19a).


See Kürelša, Küriye burqan šasin-u tobčiya, pp. 18-20. On the history of Siregetü Küriye Banner, see also the early contribution by Čigči, “Asing lama-yin udum üile-yin tobči tanilčaγulqu ni”, pp. 177-180. See also Lattimore, The Mongols of Manchuria, pp. 253-259, and Miller, Monasteries and Culture Change in Inner Mongolia, pp. 95-100, and note 8 on p. 95.


Kürelša, J̌irim-ün süme keyid, pp. 109-186.


On this monastery, see Kürelša, Küriye burqan šasin-u tobčiya, pp. 79-89.


Sodo, Küriye mongγol kele aman yariya sudulul, p. 96.


Kürelša, J̌irim-ün süme keyid, pp. 5-6. In his book Monasteries and Culture Change in Inner Mongolia, Miller observes that “[b]y introducing an institution that placed a value upon learning, the monastic system enabled the Mongols to absorb slowly the impact of the powerful sedentary Chinese” (p. 143).


Kürelša, Küriye burqan šasin-u tobčiya, pp. 49-55. As for the Tangγud Qalqa, they fled northern Mongolia in 1662 and were previously attached to the Mongγolǰin Tümed Banner. On the Tangγud Qalqa, see Lattimore, The Mongols of Manchuria, pp. 250-260. Ligeti recorded this group of Mongols simply as Xalxa in his Rapport préliminaire d’un voyage d’exploration fait en Mongolie Chinoise 1928-1931, p. 16. The influx of Han Chinese into Siregetü Küriye Banner had an impact on the spoken language of the Mongols living there. Chinese words used today by the Mongols of Küriye Banner are listed by the linguist Sodo in his book Küriye mongγol kele aman yariya sudulul, pp. 103-113.


Kürelša, Küriye böge mörgöl-ün tobčiya, p. 77. The shaman Mendübayar (1910-1989) of Küriye Banner recounts in song how his ancestors migrated into Küriye Banner from what is now Kökeqota. See Song 21 below in this book.


See Stary, “Mandschurische Schamanengebete”, pp. 7-28, and the literature on the subject quoted there.


For this, see Song Heping, “A Preliminary Analysis of the Oral Shamanistic Songs of the Manchus”, pp. 207-221.


For the numerous legends about the shaman Qoboγtu circulating among the Qorčin, see Kürelša et al., Qorčin böge mörgöl-ün sudulul, pp. 99-104, 180-187. See also Chiodo, Songs of Khorchin Shamans to Jayagachi, pp. 89-90, and the literature cited there.


Kürelša et al., Qorčin böge mörgöl-ün sudulul, p. 182.


Kürelša et al., ibid., p. 300.


Chiodo, Songs of Khorchin Shamans to Jayagachi, p. 129.


Kürelša et al., Qorčin böge mörgöl-ün sudulul, p. 46.


Süke et al., Qorčin uran ǰokiyal-un tobčiya, pp. 183-184. See also how a shaman uttered curses against a Buddhist monk in Kürelša et al., Qorčin böge mörgöl-ün sudulul, pp. 501-504. For a Mongol “black shaman” of the Gobi region expressing his hatred for the Buddhists in a song, see Even, Chants de chamanes mongols, pp. 275-276. In his paper “Problems of Mongolian Shamanism”, Diószegi tells us how the female shaman Sunčig’s son entered a lamasery, how she cursed her son, and how in her grief she hanged herself (p. 202).


I have dealt with the division of the Qorčin shamans into black and white in my book Songs of Khorchin Shamans to Jayagachi, note 98, pp. 38-40, to which the reader is referred.


Little is known about the activities of the lama-shaman. It is interesting to note that the “godly shaman” (burkhan-böö) came into being in Tuva. For this, see Basilov, “Chosen by the Spirits”, p. 41.


The Layičing is a ritual specialist, whose major task is to heal the sick. He performs rituals using sacred objects of the Buddhist cult such as the cymbals and the pürbü (Tib. phur-bu) (dagger). He chants hymns in praise of Buddhist gods imitating the chant of the Buddhist monks. He also worships the gods of the Mongolian popular religion. On the Layičing, see Nima, Sünesü-ongγod-sitülge, pp. 220-232, and “Kurze Darstellung über Layičing”, pp. 221-243 by the same author. The Layičing can also be females. A short biography of Širü, a renowned female Layičing born in 1930 in Küriye Banner, is provided by Kürelša in Küriye böge mörgöl-ün tobčiy-a, pp.183-184.


See Kürelša et al., Qorčin böge mörgöl-ün sudulul, p. 48, and Kürelša, Küriye böge mörgöl-ün tobčiya, p. 76.


Kürelša et al., Qorčin böge mörgöl-ün sudulul, pp. 257-260. See also Heissig, “Schamanen und Geisterbeschwörer im Küriye-Banner”, p. 17-20, and “Invocation of a Female Shaman”, p. 53, by the same author.


γarudi and Čoγǰu, Qorčin böge mörgöl-ün aya ayalγu kiged iraγu nayiraγ, p. 95.


Qan Duγu, Qorčin böge-yin soyol-un degeǰi, p. 96. See also Chen Yongchun, Ke’erqin saman shenge shenmei yanjiu, p. 282.


The grandson of the shaman Burǰa of Darqan Banner told the researcher Qan Duγu how his grandfather was buried in a tree in 1953. See Qan Duγu, Qorčin böge-yin soyol-un degeǰi, p. 77. According to the Mongol scholar Sedenǰab, the custom was still being observed in the early years of the foundation of the People’s Republic of China. He also states that shamans were buried in an old tree in a place far from the village. See his “Mongγolčud-un degedüs-ün sitülge ba sünesün-ü sitülge-yin tuqai ügülekü ni”, p. 73.


I had the opportunity to meet the qondan Rasipungsuγ in December 2007. I mentioned this in my book Songs of Khorchin Shamans to Jayagachi, p. 94. In Küriye Banner, the qondan is believed to be a grandson of Tngri. He performs sacrifices to Tngri, and when lightning strikes people and animals the qondan shouts curses at Tngri until lightning stops. See Kürelša et al., Qorčin böge mörgöl-ün sudulul, p. 234. The sacrificial rites to Tngri which the qondan Rasipungsuγ performed in 2004 are described by Bao Long in his book Mongγol samanism-un önggeregsen ba odo, pp. 8-16.


Kürelša et al., Qorčin böge mörgöl-ün sudulul, p. 47.


Mansang, Mongγol böge mörgöl, p. 185.


I have discussed the burial customs of the Qorčin shamans in my book Songs of Khorchin Shamans to Jayagachi, pp. 93-97. New information about the subject is provided in Song 10 below.


Kürelša et al., Qorčin böge mörgöl-ün sudulul, p. 218. According to Heissig, in 1942-43 there were thirty shamans in Küriye Banner. See “Schamanen und Geisterbeschwörer im Küriye-Banner”, p. 4.


Kürelša, Küriye böge mörgöl-ün tobčiya, pp. 223-240.


Kürelša et al., Qorčin böge mörgöl-ün sudulul, p. 391.


In her article “A Method that Helps Living Beings: How the Mongols Created ‘Shamanism’”, Kollmar-Paulenz writes that “[T]he code of law of the Qianglong era no longer includes the shamans. Apparently, the shamans had effectively lost their social status and power and thus the need to domesticate this group was no longer felt by the Qing administration” (p. 13). This may be true in general. If we fail to pay attention to regional circumstances, we miss the opportunity of observing that Mongol shamans did play an important role in the society in which they operated, as the case of the shamans of Küriye mentioned above demonstrates.


γarudi and Čoγǰu, Qorčin böge mörgöl-ün soyol uraliγ-un mördelte, p. 440.


Kürelša et al., Qorčin böge mörgöl-ün sudulul, pp. 219-220. As Heissig remarks, in eastern Mongolia shamanism was not outlawed, although in the early 1940s the shamans were attacked and ridiculed, and newspapers showed comic strips mocking shamans for their useless healing practices. See Heissig, “Persecution and Continuation”, p. 199, and note 7.


See Bao Long, Mongγol samanism-un önggeregsen ba odo, p. 166.


This aspect of the shamans’ community was observed by the researcher Bao Long. See ibid., pp. 167-168. During my field research in Yolonmodo Balγasun, I also noticed how the shamans’ community express their human sympathy for people’s suffering.


Many times I heard shamans and other people repeating this point during my stays in Darqan Banner. It is worth mentioning that the question of identity is a subject of debate among the Mongols in Inner Mongolia. The Mongols are rethinking their own identity, which they have associated with Buddhism for centuries. There are Mongols who continue to see Buddhism as an intrinsic aspect of their traditional culture. In the opinion of other Mongols, their common ancestor, language and native spiritual culture are the most important elements of their identity. They also question the issue of the origins of Činggis Qaγan, who Mongolian historical chronicles from the 17th century onwards link with ancient Indian and Tibetan royal dynasties. Mongol scholars have discussed the subject in several articles. The article by Mei Quwa is worth quoting: “Mongγolčud-un ündüsüten-ü adalisil-du-ki burqan-u šasin-u teüketü qubiral-i ügülekü ni”, pp. 23-29. Mongolian chronicles from the 19th century onwards began to describe Činggis Qaγan as an incarnation of the Bodhisattva Vajrapāṇi, the protector deity of the Mongols. On this, on the “Blue Mongols”, and on Činggis Qaγan as a Buddhist ruler in the Mongolian chronicles, see Sagaster, who was the first to make a detailed analysis of the subject in his Weiße Geschichte, pp. 184, 204, 248, 256-262, etc. It should be stressed that both the lay Mongols and the lamas regard Činggis Qaγan as their protective ancestor-spirit. For this, see Chiodo, “The Black Standard (qara sülde) of Činggis Qaγan in Baruun Xüree”, p. 252. Prayers addressed to Činggis Qaγan during the ceremonies in his honour, in Ordos and elsewhere, describe and praise Činggis Qaγan’s victorious campaigns against his enemies, revering him as the founder of the Mongol empire and the ancestor of all Mongols. On prayers to Činggis Qaγan and their significance for the Mongols who worship him, see Chiodo, “History and Legends”, pp. 175-225, and Chiodo, “Praising Činggis Qaγan and His Campaigns”, pp. 189-233. Činggis Qaγan is rarely associated with the Bodhisattva Vajrapāṇi in prayers recited during the ceremonies in his honour. In her article “Envisioning a Mongolian Buddhist Identity through Chinggis Khan”, Wallace quotes lines from a prayer to Činggis Qaγan, in which the description of Činggis Qaγan as an emanation of Vajrapāṇi occurs. Leaving aside the author’s translation of these lines, which is not entirely satisfactory, the author states that the lines she translated are taken from “A Great Supplication for the Lineage of the Golden Horde” (Altan Ordny Golomtny Ikh Öchig), p. 80. The text in question is Altan ordon-u γolomta-yin yeke öčig, the “Great Prayer of the Hearth of the Golden Palace”. The “Golden Palace” refers to the palace of Činggis Qaγan, and not to the Golden Horde. See Sayinǰirγal and Šaraldai, Altan ordon-u tayilγa, pp. 160-164. For the Mongols “golden” is everything connected with the emperor, especially with Činggis Qaγan. On this, see Serruys, “Mongol Altan Gold = Imperial”, p. 357. The hearth of Činggis Qaγan is prayed to so as to ensure the continuity of the descendants of Činggis Qaγan, the Borǰigid, and, by extension, of all Mongol people.


See γarudi and Čoγǰu, Qorčin böge mörgöl-ün soyol uraliγ-un mördelte, pp. 400-510. For the “shamanic illness” see Song 1 below.


Chen Yongchun, Ke’erqin saman shenge shenmei yanjiu, p. 239.


Γarudi and Čoγǰu, Qorčin böge mörgöl-ün soyol uraliγ-un mördelte, p. 477.

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