Chuonnasuan (Meng Jin Fu) The Last Shaman of the Oroqen of Northeast China

Type Journal Article - Journal of Korean Religions
Title Chuonnasuan (Meng Jin Fu) The Last Shaman of the Oroqen of Northeast China
Volume 6
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2004
Page numbers 135-162
In the 17th Century a Dutch explorer in Siberia witnessed something terrifying that only a
handful of Europeans had ever seen before. During a visit to an encampment of nomadic tribal people
whom the Russians generally referred to as the Tungusy, Nicholas Witsen reported being horrified by
the satanic nocturnal dancing, drumming, leaping and screaming of a “Priest of the Devil” adorned in a
furry costume that made him seem half-human, half-animal. This devil-priest whom Witsen said the
Tungus people called a Schaman was performing a healing ritual for a sick member of the tribe.
Witsen is given credit today for introducing the word “shaman” into Western culture, though earlier
Russian explorers had already encountered and used the Russified version of the term (Znamenski
2003). In his 1692 book, Noord en Oost Tartaryen, Witsen also included an illustration of the Tungus
Priest of the Devil as a monstrous amalgam of man and beast in an image of evil familiar to 17thcentury
Europeans: the lycanthrope, or werewolf. 1
This famous image was the very first representation of a Siberian shaman to appear in any
European publication, and it has haunted the imagination of the world for three centuries. Indeed, the
word “shaman” is itself derived from the Tungus saman/xaman, though the origin of this word and its
indigenous meanings among the Tungus are still less than clear (Janhunen 1986). But after Witsen’s
book appeared, and especially after its second edition in 1785, the feared Siberian people known as the
Tungus and their lycanthropic devil-priests became a legend, a source of endless speculation by natural
philosophers, explorers, and much later, ethnologists (Hutton 2001). Siberian shamans and in particular
those of the Tungus peoples have had an almost magical reputation for being the most authentic and
most powerful of all shamans studied around the world.

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