Manchu - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Traditionally, shamanism was a key practice, both among the common people and at the imperial court. In the early Qing dynasty, only the most intelligent people who had a good command of the dialect of the royal Aisengoro clan could be candidates for the office of court shamans. They chanted scriptures and performed religious dances when imperial services were held. The common shamans were of two kinds: full-time specialists who dealt with illness and ceremonial leaders for their kin group, who presided over sacrificial rites for the ancestors and heavenly spirits. The shaman's costume during performances consisted of a smock, a pointed cap festooned with long colored paper strips half-concealing the face, a small mirror dangling over the chest, and bronze bells at the waist.

Ceremonies. Sacrifices to the heavenly spirits were offered to mark the occasion of military undertakings, successes, and returns. Offerings and rites to the ancestors of the household were made in front of a small shrine kept at the west side of the sleeping room. Over the centuries, some Manchu adopted Han religious practices and beliefs associated with folk Buddhism and Daoism.

Death and Afterlife. The dead were believed to travel to another world that coexists with this world. No one was allowed to die on the west or north kang, and the corpse had to be removed from the house through the windows since the doorway was meant only for the living. Ground burial was the common practice.

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