Sokendai Review of Cultural and Social Studies


Shamanism in Dehong Tai Society:
The comparative cases between Meung Khoan and Meung Yaang

ITO, Satoru

(The Graduate University for Advanced Studies,
Doctoral Program in the School of Cultural and Social Studies
JSPS Research Fellowships for Young Scientists)

Key words:

Dehong Tai, Tai Lue(Nue), Shaman, Animism, Theravada Buddhism, performance

This paper attempts to characterize the regional features of the religious practitioners who are called Yaa Moo and Yaa Mot in the Tai Lue(Nue) society, in Dehong Prefecture, Yunnan Province, China. Those regional features are made clear by comparing two areas in Mueng Khoan and in Mueng Yaang, and by considering the social relationship between the religious practitioners and village society. This study will also present a new aspect of diversity and a complete image of the Shaman activities of the Tai Lue(Nue) society in Dehong.

Most Yaa Mo and Yaa Mot, who are considered Shamans according to the traditional anthropological sense, are women. Their social position is low relative to men, who can be priests or astrologers with Buddhist knowledge and literacy. But, as viewed from the perspective of Yaa Mo and Yaa Mot, they also reproduce and support the practice of the earning of Buddhist merit, not for an afterlife, but for spiritual and material benefits gained in this world.

Shamans in the two areas have in common an emphasis on existence for eliminating attachment in the actual world. But they also have different social roles because of their relationships with Theravada Buddhism. The guardian spirit of a shaman in Mueng Khoan cannot hold the ceremony to send off spirits of the dead to the spiritual world because it is stipulated that every supernatural being is subjugated by Buddhism. In contrast, the relationship between the guardian spirit of a shaman in Meung Yaang and Buddhism is blurry. Hence, they can hold rituals surrounding death, ancestor-worshipping, and praying for prosperity in the entire Mueng Yaang area or across some other areas, other Meung.