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Chinese Shamanism

Chinese Shamanismhas the longest recorded history in the world. The use of the phrase "recorded history," of course, acknowledges that the prehistoric shamanism existing prior to written language, upwards from the dawn of humanity, is the longest running spirituality in human evolutionary history. The word wu "shaman; spirit medium; healer" first appeared on oracle bones from the late Shang Dynasty (ca. 1600-1046 BCE). Chinese classics from the Zhou Dynasty (1045-256 BCE) provide details about male and female shamans serving as exorcists, healers, rainmakers, oneiromancers, soothsayers, and officials. Emperor Wu of Han (r. 141-87 BCE) established Confucianism as the "state religion", and the male-dominated Confucian ruling class hence marginalized shamanism, especially female shamans. In spite of this, shamanic practices continue in present day Chinese culture.

This is a photo of Chuonnasuan, the last shaman of the Oroqen, taken by Richard Noll in July 1994 in Manchuria near the Amur River border between the People's Republic of China and Russia (Siberia).  Chuonnasuan, Meng Jin Fu, died at the age of 73.  The Oroqen make sacrifices to ancestral spirits, and adhere to the folk psychological belief in animism.  Traditionally the Oroqen have a special veneration for animals, especially the bear and the tiger, which they consider their blood brothers.  The Oroqens are mainly hunters and it is customary to use animal fur and skins for clothing. Many of them have given up hunting and adhered to laws that aimed to protect wildlife in the PRC.


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