Friday, February 27, 2009

Khorchin Shamans 2

Later browsing my notes I discovered that our firend had also given us the name of a folk artist, so we started looking for him hoping that he might know how to find the shaman. We found the home of the folk artist easyly, but only his wife -a kind old lady was- at home. She told us that the shaman lived in the outskirts of Baolongshan and helped us to find a ride. It took more than an hour to find the shaman's house though the adress the lady had given prooved to be correct. In this part of the township people lived in chinese-style adobe houses with 2-4 rooms and with a big garden. Where the build-up area ended we could see nothing but cornfields and a few poplars in the distance. As we got off the three-wheeled vehicle that had taken us there, we bumped into a small group of Mongol girls. The oldest one - she was in her mid-twenties- told us that the shaman was not at home but he would probably come back in an our or two and inveted us to her home that was just 50 m away. She spoke with a very thick and -to us- very funny Khorchin accent but it wasn't difficult to understand her. She had a chinese husband who could speak a little Mongolian too, and they had a small kid. In their living room we discovered a poster on the wall with Christian symbols. They told us that they followed the Christian faith and that they have a recognizable Christian community in Tongliao. The girl said she didn't like the shaman for in her opinion she was an unprincipled person and she didn't believe in shamanism what she regarded as sheer superstition. Nevertheless she didn't want to dissuade us from meeting him.
Hours passed and the shaman still hadn't come, so we decided to go back to our hotel and come back tomorrow.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Khorchin Shamans 1

The Khorchin-Mongols live in south east Inner-Mongolia (Xing'an and Tongliao prefectures) and sporadically in the adjacent Provinces (Heilongjiang, Jilin, and Liaoning). Shamanism is mostly practiced in two banners -Khuree and Darkhan- in Tongliao prefecture. Some say that there are Khorchin shamans in Jilin province in the Gorlos-Mongol Autonomous County near Songyuan.
In 2008 my wife and I visited these places in an effort to meet Khorchin shamans and make interviews with them. We set out from Qinghai for Huhhot the capital of Inner-Mongolia where we met our Mongolian firends and blissfuly got acquainted with a scholar who had conducted some fieldwork research on shamanism among the Khorchins. He told us that most scholarly activities on Khorchin shamanism had been carried out in Khuree banner, though shamanism he thought was more popular in Darkhan banner. In 2006 in Darkhan, he made a video footage one of the last rituals of an old and famous shaman Seerenchen who died soon after. He told us that Seerenchen had lived in a village called Yaolinmaodu (the vulture's tree in Mongolian) where we can probably find his desciples. He also gave the name of a township (Baolongshan) and the name of a relatively young shaman he had never met, but he knew that he lived there. In Khuree there was only one old shaman he knew of.
First we travelled to Tongliao (The capital of Tongliao prefecture) and than to Baolongshan. The township was two small for a town but it was two big for a village where people would know each other and it'd be easy to find a shaman. It took us two or three days to find the guy. Our new friend in Huhhot warned us that it wouldn't be wise to inquire about shamans from people we don't know because if the aouthorities get wind of strangers on a hunt for shamans they wouldn'd appreciate our efforts on investigating China's minority cultures. After two days of futile quest we gave up to abide by this rule and accosted everyone who looked Mongol, but nobody seemed to know anything of our guy. A girl said that there weren't any shamans in Baolongshan and suggested that we went to the remote steppe where Mongols were still leading a traditional way of nomadic life. There she said we could find shamans. (to be continued)

The god of wealth
(Chinese: caishen)
in our hotel in Baolongshan