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The Manchu ethnic minority (3)

(People's Daily)

09:57, August 11, 2011

The Manchus used to believe in Shamanism, which in the early days was divided into the court branch and the common folk branch. The former was generally practiced by priestsorcerers in the palace. During the early Qing period, those eligible for the office of "shaman" were mostly clever and smart people with a good command of the dialect of the royal Aisin-Gioro clan. Shamans were employed to chant scriptures and perform religious dances when imperial services were held. Shamanism remained popular among the Manchus in the area of Ningguta and Aihui County in northeast China until the nation-wide liberation.

Shamans of the common Manchus generally fell into two categories: village shamans, who performed religious dances to exorcise evil spirits through the power of the gods, and clan shamans who presided only over sacrificial ceremonies. Every village had its own shaman, whose sole job was to perform the spirit dance. Only seriously ill patients saw a real doctor. Religious rite was generally performed by a shaman attired in a smock and a pointed cap festooned with long colored paper strips half-concealing his face. Dangling a small mirror in front and bronze bells at the waist, he would intone prayers and dance at a trot to the accompaniment of drumbeats.

Military successes and triumphal marches or returns were inevitably celebrated with sacrificial ceremonies presided over by shamans. Up to the eve of the country's liberation, making animal sacrificial offerings to the gods and ancestors was still a big event among the Manchus in Aihui County.

The Manchu funeral arrangement was unique. No one was allowed to die on a west or north "kang". Believing that doors were made for living souls, the Manchus allowed dead bodies to be taken out only through windows. Ground burial was the general practice.

Jumping onto galloping horses from one side or onto camels from the rear was the most popular recreational activity among the Manchus. Another favorite sport was horse jumping in celebration of bumper harvests in the autumn and on New Year holidays at the Spring Festival.

Skating is also a long established sport enjoyed by the Manchus, as it is by the whole Chinese people. In the Qing Dynasty before the mid-19th century, skating was even undertaken by Manchu soldiers as a required course of their military training. Pole climbing, swordplay, juggling a flagpole, and archery on ice are the more interesting sports of the Manchu people.

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