Manchu shamanism

Manchu folk religion is the ethnic religion practiced by most of the Manchu people, the major-Tungusic group, in China. It can also be called Manchu shamanism by virtue of the word "shaman" being originally from Tungusic šamán ("man of knowledge"),[1] later applied by Western scholars to similar religious practices in other cultures.

It is a animistic and polytheistic religion, believing in several gods and spirits, but have similarly like Tengrism a universal sky-God called Apka Enduri ("God of Heaven") which is the all life and creation.[2] Deities (enduri) enliven every aspect of nature, and the worship of these gods is believed to bring favour, health and prosperity.[3] Many of the deities are original Manchu kins' ancestors, and people with the same surname are generated by the same god.[4]

Shamans are persons of unusual ability, strength and sensitivity, capable of perception and prediction of the ways of the gods. They are endowed with the social function to conduct the sacrificial ceremonies and approach the deities asking them intervention or protection. Because of their abilities the shamans are people of great authority and prestige. Usually, every Manchu kin has its own shaman.[3]

Manchu folk religious rites were standardised by the Qianlong Emperor (1736-96) in the "Manchu Sacrificial Ritual to the Gods and Heaven" (Manjusai wecere metere kooli bithe), a manual published in Manchu in 1747 and in Chinese (Manzhou jishen jitian dianli) in 1780.[4][5] With the conquest of imperial power in China (Qing dynasty) the Manchu people gradually adopted Chinese language and assimilated into the Chinese religion, although Manchu folk religion persists with a distinct character within broader Chinese religion.

A symbol of Manchu
Manchu ethnoreligious symbol.


Study of Manchu religion usually distinguishes two types of ritual, "domestic" and "primitive", which can be performed in two cultic settings, "imperial" and "common". The domestic ritual primarily involves the sacrifices for the progenitors of lineages and is the most important, while the primitive ritual involves the sacrifices for zoomorphic gods.[6] The ritual manual of Qianlong was an attempt to adapt all kins' ritual traditions to the style of the imperial kin's ritual tradition. This was only partially effective as common cults were preserved and revitalised over time.[7]

The ancestral ritual is the same in the common and imperial cults.[8] It is composed of three main moments: the dawn sacrifice (Chinese: chaoji), the sunset sacrifice (xiji) and the "light-extinguishing" sacrifice (beidingji) held at midnight. Both common and imperial rituals make use of the gods' pole (Chinese: 神杆 shéngān or 神柱 shénzhù, Manchu: šomo) as a means of establishing connection with Heaven.[8]

While the domestic ritual is bright and harmonious, the primitive or "wild" ritual is associated with darkness and mystery.[9] Deities involved are not those of the sky, the earth or the ancestors, but are zoomorphic chthonic deities. With its reliance on techniques of ecstasy, the primitive ritual had long been discouraged by the court (Hong Taiji proscribed it as early as 1636).[9]

Temples and gods

Manchu religious cults originally took place in shrines called tangse (Chinese: 堂子 tángzi, "hall"; or 谒庙 yèmiào, "visitation temple")[10]) but at least by 1673 all communal tangse were prohibited with the exception of the imperial cult building. Households continued their rituals at private altars called weceku.[8]

Common cults gradually adopted deities from Chinese religion in addition to Tungusic gods. Guwan mafa (关帝 Guāndì, Divus Guan), whose martial character appealed to the Manchus, became one of the most beloved deities. Another popular cult was that of the Goddess (娘娘 Niángniáng).[8]

See also



  1. ^ Elliott (2001), p. 235.
  2. ^ Shirokogorov (1929), p. 204.
  3. ^ a b Elliott (2001), p. 236.
  4. ^ a b Ma & Meng (2011), p. 381.
  5. ^ Elliott (2001), p. 238.
  6. ^ Elliott (2001), pp. 236-237.
  7. ^ Elliott (2001), pp. 238-239.
  8. ^ a b c d Elliott (2001), p. 239.
  9. ^ a b Elliott (2001), p. 240.
  10. ^ Elliott (2001), pp. 465–66, note 13.


  • Elliott, Mark C. (2001). The Manchu Way: The Eight Banners and Ethnic Identity in Late Imperial China. Religious Studies in Contemporary China Collection. 1. Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0804746847.
  • Pang, Tatiana A. (1993). ""Praying in the Darkness": New Texts for a Little-Known Manchu Shamanic Rite". SHAMAN: An International Journal for Shamanistic Research. Budapest: Molnar & Kelemen Oriental Publishers. 1 (1–2). ISSN 1216-7827.
  • Ma, Xisha; Meng, Huiying (2011). Popular Religion and Shamanism. Religious Studies in Contemporary China Collection. 1. Brill. ISBN 978-9004174559.
  • Shirokogorov, Sergeĭ Mikhaĭlovich (1929). Social organization of the Northern Tungus. Garland. ISBN 978-0824096205.
Black shamanism

Black shamanism is a kind of shamanism practiced in Mongolia, Siberia and Romania. It is specifically opposed to yellow shamanism, which incorporates rituals and traditions from Buddhism. Black Shamans are usually perceived as working with evil spirits, while white Shamans with spirits of the upper world.Buddhism entered Mongolia in the sixteenth century after the conversion of Altan Khan. In 1691, after Outer Mongolia had been annexed by the Qing Dynasty, Buddhism became the dominant religion of the entire area and shamanism began incorporating Buddhist elements. Violent resistance in the eighteenth century by the hunting tribes of Northern Mongolia against the (Buddhist) ruling group, the Khalka Mongols, led to the foundation of black shamanism.

Dayan Deerh

Dayan Deerh or Dayan Degereki is one of the most important divinities in the folk practices and shamanic invocations in Khövsgöl Province, Mongolia. His cult is linked to fertility rites which are practiced in yellow shamanism (which incorporates Buddhist ritual and belief) as well as in black shamanism (a less Buddhist-influenced type of shamanism). He is still venerated, especially on the eastern side of Lake Khövsgöl.

Gasin faith

In Korean shamanism, Gasin (Hangul: 가신; Hanja: 家神, literally House's God) are a branch of deities believed to protect the various objects and rooms of the house, such as jangdok or the kitchen. The Gasin faith is the faith based on worshipping these deities. The worshipping of the Gasin form a central and integral part of Korean shamanism.

List of religions and spiritual traditions

While religion is hard to define, one standard model of religion, used in religious studies courses, was proposed by Clifford Geertz, who defined it as a

[…] system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic." A critique of Geertz's model by Talal Asad categorized religion as "an anthropological category." Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to explain the origin of life or the universe. They tend to derive morality, ethics, religious laws, or a preferred lifestyle from their ideas about the cosmos and human nature. According to some estimates, there are roughly 4,200 religions in the world.The word religion is sometimes used interchangeably with "faith" or "belief system", but religion differs from private belief in that it has a public aspect. Most religions have organized behaviours, including clerical hierarchies, a definition of what constitutes adherence or membership, congregations of laity, regular meetings or services for the purposes of veneration of a deity or for prayer, holy places (either natural or architectural) or religious texts. Certain religions also have a sacred language often used in liturgical services. The practice of a religion may also include sermons, commemoration of the activities of a god or gods, sacrifices, festivals, feasts, trance, rituals, rites, ceremonies, worship, initiations, funerals, marriages, meditation, invocation, mediumship, music, art, dance, public service or other aspects of human culture. Religious beliefs have also been used to explain parapsychological phenomena such as out-of-body experiences, near-death experiences and reincarnation, along with many other paranormal and supernatural experiences.Some academics studying the subject have divided religions into three broad categories: world religions, a term which refers to transcultural, international faiths; indigenous religions, which refers to smaller, culture-specific or nation-specific religious groups; and new religious movements, which refers to recently developed faiths. One modern academic theory of religion, social constructionism, says that religion is a modern concept that suggests all spiritual practice and worship follows a model similar to the Abrahamic religions as an orientation system that helps to interpret reality and define human beings, and thus religion, as a concept, has been applied inappropriately to non-Western cultures that are not based upon such systems, or in which these systems are a substantially simpler construct.

Manchu people

The Manchu (Manchu: ᠮᠠᠨᠵᡠ; Möllendorff: manju; Abkai: manju; simplified Chinese: 满族; traditional Chinese: 滿族; pinyin: Mǎnzú; Wade–Giles: Man3-tsu2) are an ethnic minority in China and the people from whom Manchuria derives its name. They are sometimes called "red-tasseled Manchus", a reference to the ornamentation on traditional Manchu hats. The Later Jin (1616–1636), and Qing dynasty (1636–1912) were established and ruled by Manchus, who are descended from the Jurchen people who earlier established the Jin dynasty (1115–1234) in China.

Manchus form the largest branch of the Tungusic peoples and are distributed throughout China, forming the fourth largest ethnic group in the country. They can be found in 31 Chinese provincial regions. They also form the largest minority group in China without an autonomous region. Among them, Liaoning has the largest population and Hebei, Heilongjiang, Jilin, Inner Mongolia and Beijing have over 100,000 Manchu residents. About half of the population live in Liaoning and one-fifth in Hebei. There are a number of Manchu autonomous counties in China, such as Xinbin, Xiuyan, Qinglong, Fengning, Yitong, Qingyuan, Weichang, Kuancheng, Benxi, Kuandian, Huanren, Fengcheng, Beizhen and over 300 Manchu towns and townships.

Mongolian shamanism

Mongolian shamanism, more broadly called the Mongolian folk religion, or occasionally Tengerism, refers to the animistic and shamanic ethnic religion that has been practiced in Mongolia and its surrounding areas (including Buryatia and Inner Mongolia) at least since the age of recorded history. The Mongolian endonym is Böö mörgöl (In Mongolian cyrillic: Бөө мөргөл). In the earliest known stages it was intricately tied to all other aspects of social life and to the tribal organization of Mongolian society. Along the way, it has become influenced by and mingled with Buddhism. During the socialist years of the twentieth century it was heavily repressed and has since made a comeback.

Yellow shamanism is the term used to designate the particular version of Mongolian shamanism which adopts the expressive style of Buddhism. "Yellow" indicates Buddhism in Mongolia, since most Buddhists there belong to what is called the Gelug or "Yellow sect" of Tibetan Buddhism, whose members wear yellow hats during services. The term also serves to distinguish it from a form of shamanism not influenced by Buddhism (according to its adherents), called black shamanism.Mongolian shamanism is centered on the worship of the tngri (gods) and the highest Tenger (Heaven, God of Heaven, God) or Qormusta Tengri. In the Mongolian folk religion, Genghis Khan is considered one of the embodiments, if not the main embodiment, of the Tenger. The Mausoleum of Genghis Khan in Ordos City, in Inner Mongolia, is an important center of this worship tradition.

Northeast China folk religion

Northeast China folk religion is the variety of Chinese folk religion of northeast China, characterised by distinctive cults original to Hebei and Shandong, transplanted and adapted by the Han Chinese settlers of Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang (the three provinces comprising Manchuria) since the Qing dynasty. It is characterised by terminology, deities and practices that are different from those of central and southern Chinese folk religion. Many of these patterns derive from the interaction of Han religion with Manchu shamanism.Prominence is given to the worship of zoomorphic deities, of a "totemic" significance. In the region the terms shen 神 ("god") and xian 仙 ("immortal being") are synonymous. Figures of ritual specialists or shamans perform various ritual functions for groups of believers and local communities, including chūmǎxiān (出馬仙 "riding for the immortals"), dances, healing, exorcism, divination, and communication with ancestors.


Ongon (Mongolian; plural ongod, Turkish: Ongun, Azerbaijanese: Onqon) is a type of spirit in the shamanistic belief system of Mongolia. It is a common term in Turkish and Mongol mythologies. After death, all shamans become shamanic souls, ongod. Idols can be consecrated to them within three years of the shaman's death and can be placed in the home ("home ongon") or in another locale, such as a shelter out in the open ("field ongon"). The ongon is also the physical representation of that spirit, made by a shaman, which plays a central part in the ritual that invokes the protection of the spirit. One well-known such spirit is Dayan Deerh.The ongon is particularly important in black shamanism: the main function of the khar talynkh or black shaman is to bring people into contact with the ongon, whose spirit they call up "while drumming in a trance". In late-nineteenth century Mongolia, according to Otgony Purev, yellow shamanism revered ongon as well, and every three years yellow shamans gathered in Dayan Deerh monastery in Khövsgöl Province to "renew" these ancestral spirits.

Religion in Northeast China

The predominant religions in Northeast China (including the provinces of Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang, historically also known as Manchuria) are Chinese folk religions led by local shamans. Taoism and Chinese Buddhism were never well established in this region of recent Han Chinese settlement (Han people began to be a large part of the population only by the Qing dynasty). For this reason the region has been a hotbed for folk religious and Confucian churches, which provide a structure, clergy, scriptures and ritual to the local communities. The Way of the Return to the One, the Universal Church of the Way and its Virtue (Shanrendao), and more recently the Falun Gong, have been the most successful sects in Manchuria, claiming millions of followers. Schools of Tibetan Buddhism, traditionally transmitted by the region's Mongol minorities, have made inroads also among Han Chinese.

The period of the Japanese occupation (1931) and the establishment of an independent Manchukuo (1932–1945), saw the development of Japanese scholarship on the local religion, and later the establishment of Shinto shrines and sects.

The native Manchu population, today mostly assimilated to the Han Chinese, practices Han religions but has also maintained pure Manchu shamanism. The local Chinese folk religion has developed many patterns inherited from Manchu and Tungus shamanism, making it different from central and southern folk religion.

According to surveys conducted in 2007 and 2009, 7.73% of the population believes and is involved in cults of ancestors, while 2.15% of the population identifies as Christian. The reports didn't give figures for other types of religion; 90.12% of the population may be either irreligious or involved in worship of nature deities, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, folk religious sects, and small minorities of Muslims. The Mongol minority mostly practices Mongolian folk religion and Tibetan-originated schools of Buddhism, while the Korean minority is mostly affiliated to Korean shamanism and Christianity.

Samsin Halmoni

Samsin Halmoni (Korean: 三神 할머니 rr: samsin halmeoni) or Samshin Halmoni, the Grandmother Samsin, is the triple goddess of childbirth and fate in Korean mythology.

Shamanism in China

Shamanism in China (中国萨满教 Zhōngguó sàmǎnjiào) may refer to all the forms of shamanism practiced in China:

Chinese shamanism or "Wuism", the term referring specifically to the indigenous shamanic tradition of the Han Chinese, practiced by wu;

Tongji, southern Chinese mediumship;

Chuma xian and other forms of shamanism within Northeast China folk religion;

Manchu shamanism, practiced in northeast China;

Mongolian shamanism, practiced in Inner Mongolia;

Imperial shamanism in the Qing dynasty

Shamans in Ming China

Shamanism in the Qing dynasty

Shamanism was the dominant religion of the Jurchen people of northeast Asia and of their descendants, the Manchu people. As early as the Jin dynasty (1111–1234), the Jurchens conducted shamanic ceremonies at shrines called tangse. There were two kinds of shamans: those who entered in a trance and let themselves be possessed by the spirits, and those who conducted regular sacrifices to heaven, to a clan's ancestors, or to the clan's protective spirits.

When Nurhaci (1559–1626), the chieftain of the Jianzhou Jurchens, unified the other Jurchen tribes under his own rule in the early seventeenth century, he imposed the protective spirits of his clan, the Aisin Gioro, upon other clans, and often destroyed their shrines. As early as the 1590s, he placed shamanism at the center of his state's ritual, sacrificing to heaven before engaging in military campaigns. His son and successor Hong Taiji (1592–1643), who renamed the Jurchens "Manchu" and officially founded the Qing dynasty (1636–1912), further put shamanistic practices in the service of the state, notably by forbidding others to erect new tangse for ritual purposes. In the 1620s and 1630s, the Qing ruler conducted shamanic sacrifices at the tangse of Mukden, the Qing capital. In 1644, as soon as the Qing seized Beijing to begin their conquest of China, they named it their new capital and erected an official shamanic shrine there. In the Beijing tangse and in the women's quarters of the Forbidden City, Qing emperors and professional shamans (usually women) conducted shamanic ceremonies until the abdication of the dynasty in 1912.

Until at least the eighteenth century, shamanism was at the core of Manchu spiritual life and differentiated Manchus from Han Chinese even as Manchu Bannermen garrisoned in various Chinese cities were adopting many aspects of the Chinese lifestyle. In 1747 the Qianlong Emperor (r. 1735–1796) commissioned the publication of a "Shamanic Code" to revive and regulate shamanic practices, which he feared were becoming lost. He had it distributed to Bannermen to guide their practice, but we know very little about the effect of this policy. Mongols and Han Chinese were forbidden to attend shamanic ceremonies. Partly because of their secret aspect, these rituals attracted the curiosity of Beijing dwellers and visitors to the Qing capital. Even after the "Shamanic Code" was translated into Chinese and published in the 1780s, outsiders had little understanding of these practices.

During his fieldwork among the Tungusic populations of "Manchuria" in the 1910s, Russian anthropologist S. M. Shirokogoroff found enough surviving practices to build a theory of shamanism that shaped later theoretical debates about shamanism. Since the late 1980s, however, these theories have been criticized for neglecting the relation between shamanism and the state. Historians are now arguing that shamanistic practices in northeast Asia were intimately tied to the establishment of states, an analysis that fits the Qing case very well.

Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen

Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen (Tibetan: ཤར་རྫ་བཀྲ་ཤིས་རྒྱལ་མཚན, Wylie: shar rdza bkra shis rgyal mtshan) (1859 - 1933 or 1935) was a great Dzogchen master of the Bon tradition of Tibet who took not only Bon disciples, but gathered students from all traditions of Tibetan Buddhism.According to tradition, Shardza Tashi Gyeltsen famously realized the rainbow body.

Chaoul (2006) opened the discourse of Bon traditions of Trul khor into Western scholarship in English with his thesis from Rice University, which makes reference to writings of Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen, particularly the Most Profound Heavenly Storehouse None Other than the Oral Transmission of Trul Khor Energy Control Practices (Wylie: yang zab nam mkha' mdzod chen las snyan rgyud rtsa rlung 'phrul 'khor).


Sinbyeong or shinbyong, also called "self-loss", is the possession from a god that a chosen mu (shaman) goes through in the Korean shamanic tradition. It is said to be accompanied by physical pain and psychosis. Believers would assert that the physical and mental symptoms are not subject to medical treatment, but may only be cured through acceptance of and full communion with the spirit.The illness is characterized by a loss of appetite, insomnia, visual and auditory hallucinations. A ritual called a naerim-gut cures this illness, which also serves to induct the new shaman-priest.


Sungmo (崇母, "Holy Mother"), also called Daemo ("Great Mother"), Jamo ("Benevolent Mother"), Sinmo ("Divine Mother"), Nogo ("Ancient Lady"), Chungkyun Moju ("Empress Mother of the Rightful View") and by other names, is a mother goddess in Korean shamanism. She is regarded as the mother or daughter of the Heavenly King and, in some myths, as the mother of all shamans. In other myths, the shamans are rather explained as descendants of Dangun.

Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche

Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche (Tib. o thog bstan 'dzin dbang rgyal) is a teacher (lama) of the Bon Tibetan religious tradition. He is founder and director of the Ligmincha Institute and several centers named Chamma Ling, organizations dedicated to the study and practice of the teachings of the Bon tradition.


In the pantheon of Mongolian shamanism, tngri (also tengri, tegri) constitute the highest class of divinities and are attested in sources going back to the 13th century. They are led by different chief deities in different documents and are divided into a number of different groups—including black (terrifying) and white (benevolent), and eastern and western. While there generally seem to be 99 tngri, some documents propose three others (from the north), and while they are generally the highest divinities, some liturgical texts propose an additional group of 33 chief gods alongside the tngri. They were invoked only by the highest shamans and leaders for special occasions; they continue to be venerated especially in black shamanism. Chief among the tngri are Qormusata Tngri and (Khan) Möngke Tngri.

The term tngri is cognate with the Turkic theonym tengri "sky", Mongolian taŋɣaraɣ "oath".

Yellow shamanism

Yellow shamanism is the term used to designate a particular version of shamanism practiced in Mongolia and Siberia which incorporates rituals and traditions from Buddhism. "Yellow" indicates Buddhism in Mongolia, since most Buddhists there belong to what is called the "Yellow sect" of Tibetan Buddhism, whose members wear yellow hats during services. The term also serves to distinguish it from a form of shamanism not influenced by Buddhism (according to its adherents), called "black shamanism".

Yeshe Walmo

Yeshe Walmo is a deity of the Bon religion.

Yeshe Walmo is considered the wisdom aspect of Sipe Gyalmo. Throughout the ages, whenever the Bon religion suffered persecution, lamas would hide Bon texts and sacred ritual objects in mountains. Yeshe Walmo is the deity in charge of keeping Bon texts and sacred items safe. She is the preserver and protector of all Bon wisdom and allows these objects to be found when times are ripen. These hidden objects are known as "terma" and the finder, usually a dakini, is known as a "terton". Dakinis, feminine spirit beings, often manifest in human form. There are many stories of termas being discovered by tertöns in Tibet even in this modern day.

Yeshe Walmo is in the same color as Sipe Gyalmo, but has only one face and two arms. She stands on one foot dressed in peacock feathers, which symbolize the transmutation of poison (ignorance). In her right hand, she holds a flaming thunderbolt sword, which cuts away ignorance. Her left hand holds a vase filled with the waters of long life. She wears a tiger skin, which displays her prowess over the most ferocious energies of nature. She stands upon a lotus flower representing the purity of her wisdom and is surrounded by flames burning all ignorance.

Yeshe Walmo works swiftly when called upon for any assistance (health problems, business problems, life problems, etc.) and is an especially good aide to students and scholars.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.