Tujia - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Tujia religious beliefs and practices incorporate borrowings from the Han (Daoism, ancestral worship) with earlier beliefs involving ghosts and evil spirits and various gods. There are Daoist temples in the Tujia areas, with Daoist priests and nuns attached to them, and also part-time shamans (the term used translates as "native teacher") who can chant the mythic history of the people. A small number of families became Catholic in the years before Liberation.

Arts. Besides embroidery and brocades, handicrafts include elaborate jewelry worn by women. There is a rich repertoire of dance, songs, and longer song-cycles and stories, all of which are passed on orally. The "Hand Dance," with its seventy ritual gestures to indicate war, hunting, farming, and other aspects of life, is popular at the New Year's Festival.

Medicine. Herbal medicine and exorcisms are both used to deal with disease, but Tujia also turn now to modern medicine as it becomes more available in their areas. In the Xiangxi Autonomous Prefecture, the number of medical workers in Chinese and Western medicine rose from some 500 in 1949 to close to 6,000 in 1982.

Death and Afterlife. In the past, cremation was a common practice, but it was replaced by burials during the Qing period. Daoist priests were invited to perform the rituals leading the soul of the dead to the other world, and the shaman performed the Tujia chants and rituals to pacify the dead and protect the living from ghosts and evil spirits.

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