/ Elements of Saman Culture in Manchu Words

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This article examines elements of Manchu culture and belief as they are revealed by a set of words in the Manchu language.

Manchus believe in the Saman (萨满) religion, which has a long history and a profound effect on the development of Manchu society. The reputed ancestors of the Manchu: the yilou (挹娄), wuji (勿吉), mehe (靺鞨), nüzhen (女真) on down to the Manchus themselves, all believed in Samanism. The Nüzhen History states: "Nüzhen believe in Saman, which is a primitive religion without a systematic canon or tenets, based on the theory that all living things have spirits. It is also a polytheistic religion that worships nature, totems and ancestors." Samans recognize three levels of existence: heaven, human beings and earth. The Saman is the agent between man and the spirits or goblins. They employ unusual ceremonial clothing, religious instruments and their special status to obtain the ability to conquer spirits. "Samanism is a common primitive religion in the northern ethnic groups in China. The Manchu Saman religion in particular is the most important religion of the northern ethnic groups that still remains as a full religious form." (cf. Saman Religion and North-eastern Nations. by Liu Xiao Meng, Ding Yizhuang. Jilin Province, no. 84). Since Manchu society is a prime example of a culture influenced by a belief in Samanism, one can find in various Manchu words a reflection of this Samanistic culture and its development through time. This article employs material from relevant books, documents, and the explanatory comments of experts to illustrate this claim. We will look at a few Manchu words involving spirit worship and Saman sacrifice to reveal the inherent relationship between the Manchu words and Saman culture.

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