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British Forum for Ethnomusicology
Mystical Numbers and Manchu Traditional Music: A Consideration of the Relationshipbetween Shamanic Thought and Musical IdeasAuthor(s): Lisha LiSource: British Journal of Ethnomusicology, Vol. 2 (1993), pp. 99-115Published by: British Forum for EthnomusicologyStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3060752 .Accessed: 15/05/2011 22:31
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VOL. 2 BRITISH JOURNAL OF ETHNOMUSICOLOGY 1993
Mystical numbers and Manchu traditional music:
A consideration of the relationship between shamanic thought and musical ideas
This paper examines the significance of certain mystical numbers which are frequently used in Manchu music and musical performances. It suggests that these numbers, which relate to shamanism, play an important role in structuring musical patterns and musical performances in correspondence with cultural patterns and behaviour. It also argues that shamanic thought permeates Manchu musical ideas concerning creating and performing music, but that these ideas are also related to the individual's personal and social background. This paper considers only those musical ideas that are particularly associated with shamanic mystical odd numbers.
The Manchu form one of the largest minority groups in China. They were the ruling people during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the last dynasty in China. The Manchu originated in Manchuria and now live in many areas of China, particularly in the north. The Chinese language began to be widely used by Manchu people only from the beginning of this century. Manchu folk songs collected so far can be classified linguistically into three categories: 1. Manchu; 2. Chinese; 3. a mixture of Manchu and Chinese. The musical difference between the first and second categories is quite large. Some of the songs with Chinese lyrics are very similar to Chinese folk songs. Generally speaking, however, the first category of Manchu folk songs have retained more of their own musical characteristics. Of those Manchu songs known to me, 75% belong to the first category. Therefore the analysis in this paper is based on the first category of folk
100 British Journal ofEthnomusicology, vol. 2 (1993)
songs,1 as these are assumed to be more distinctively Manchu, and on types of instrumental music which are also generally considered more traditional. The paper deals first with the question of the significance of certain mystical numbers in shamanism and Manchu shamanistic rituals. It then points to a relationship between shamanistic and musical thought through a detailed examination of how the mystical odd numbers relate to the music and its performance.
2 Mystical numbers and shamanism
Odd numbers are very important in many aspects of the indigenous cultures of North Asia (Li 1992). The cosmological levels and the gods often appear in odd numbers. Odd numbers are also used in many other contexts. Most importantly for this paper, certain odd numbers play a very important role in Manchu shamanic rituals.
According to Manchu shamanism, there are three regions of the cosmos with three levels in each. The upper region is called the "light region", inhabited by Abuka anduli2 (the God of the Sky), the gods of the stars, the sun and thunder, the God of Fire, ancestor gods and other nature gods, including animal and plant gods. The middle region is the human world, inhabited by man, animals and other beings. The lower region, the "dark region", is inhabited by Banaji (the God of the Ground), other gods such as the gods of night, Omosi mama (the God for Descendants, and various evil spirits and demons.
This cosmological conception is reflected in many Manchu myths and in ritual texts of various clans. In some clans the upper region, the sky, is further divided into five, seven, or nine levels. The cosmology of most other indigenous peoples in North Asia also divides the universe into three cosmic regions (Eliade 1964:259-79), although the details may be slightly different. The levels of the sky are always odd-numbered, although the division may vary from one ethnic group to another (for examples see Li 1992).
In many Manchu clans, from the earliest times three Cosmic Goddesses have been worshipped. An image of the three earliest Cosmic Goddesses, their linked bodies standing inside a case representing the cosmos, was found by the Chinese anthropologist Fu Yuguang in the 1960s being worshipped amongst the Manchu Namudulu clan in the Hunchun area of central Manchuria. The Goddesses were made of wood, while the cosmos was made of a piece of birch skin with a pattern representing the cosmic tree (illustrated in Li 1992:fig. 7). This reflects not only the Manchu and their ancestors' early polytheistic non-hierarchical conception
1The sources of the folk songs which I analysed for writing this paper are: the original materials of my field work carried out during 1980-86, 1990 and 1991; all songs with Manchu texts in The Collection of Chinese Folk Music, Vol.2 of the Jilin Province volumes (Li et al. 1987); and some other songs from unpublished volumes of Liaoning and Heilongjiang provinces. 2 Throughout this paper I use the Chinese pinyin romanization system for both Chinese and Manchu. Both Manchu and Chinese languages are used by the Manchu people. Most people can only speak Chinese. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish whether originally a word belonged to Manchu or Chinese.
Li: Mystical numbers and Manchu traditional music 101
concerning gods but also their conception of odd numbers in relationship to the gods.
During my fieldwork in the Ning'an area of Heilongjiang province in 1990, I discovered several illustrations of the three Goddesses drawn by different generations of the Zang clan in different periods. Successive generations built on the work of those preceding them, copying the basic three figures of the central theme while adding details of dress and other decoration in contemporary fashion. On the later copies the figures are sitting inside a house and one of the figures has become a man. There are also other idols and symbols, created in increasing numbers by different generations of the clan. However, it is interesting to note that the total number of figures worshipped in different periods is always odd. This characteristic feature demonstrates that although Manchu concepts con- cerning gods has changed with the change from a hunting, nomadic way of life to a more settled existence based on arable farming and from a female-dominant to a male-dominant social life, the significance of mystic odd numbers remains the same from generation to generation.
In contemporary shamanic rituals, representations of gods in most clans are made of pieces of cloth which are placed on the altar. According to the time at which the rituals are held for different gods, Manchu classify their home gods3 into three types: morning gods, afternoon gods and night gods. The total number of gods invoked by the same ritual is often odd. Figure 14 is a view of a home ceremony held by the Yiergenjueluo clan in Ning'an in 1990. Seven represen- tations of afternoon gods are placed on the altar. Two shamans in front of the altar are singing ritual songs for the gods.
Just as there are odd numbers of gods, the sacrificial food is also prepared according to a system of odd numbers. Each pig sacrificed in the ceremony is cut into several parts in an odd number; after cooking, the parts are re-assembled in the original shape.
As for souls, the Manchu conceive of the soul as being composed of three elements that are given to children by Omosi mama: the "true soul", which may be compared with "consciousness" and which cannot leave the body without causing death; the "soul that precedes", which may temporarily leave the body during dreams and soul loss, and which returns to Omosi mama after death so that she may give it to another child; and the "external soul", which returns to Ilmun Han in the underworld after death, after which it may be reincarnated into another person or animal (Shirokogoroff 1935:207-26). The Hezhen also believe that man
3 There are two major kinds of Manchu shamanic ceremony. One is the jiaji (home ceremony or tamed ceremony) which is held mainly indoors for the home gods (mainly ancestor gods), for which the home shamans perform. The other kind is the yeji (wild ceremony or untamed ceremony) which is held mainly outdoors for the wild gods (mainly animal gods) and hero gods; in this the main shaman (who can be possessed by gods while he or she is in a trance) and the assistant shaman (who deals with the possessed main shaman) play the most important role Each ceremony consists of several rituals which are held for different kinds of gods. 4 The photograph was taken by the author.
102 British Journal of Ethnomusicology, vol. 2 (1993)
has three souls: the or~n (the soul of life), given by the God of Life, which will leave the body after death; the hani (the soul of thinking), which can leave the body temporarily during sleep and communicate with spirits or souls of others; and the fajaku (the soul of rebirth), given by the God of Rebirth, which will leave the body after death and enter another new-born body (Ling 1934:102-3).
During the process of training a new shaman, the learner should project her or his soul, in trance, at least three times into the different regions of the cosmos. Only when the learner is able to do this can she or he become a shaman. An experienced shaman can project her or his soul more often and into more levels of the cosmos: five, seven or nine times and five, seven or nine levels, depending on technique.
Odd numbers also appear in many other cases among different groups, for example in the design of shamanic costumes and drums (see Dolgikh 1978 for the Nganasan shamanic drums and costumes, Czaplicka 1914 for some other tribes in Siberia and Li 1992 for the Manchu drums). It is not difficult to see the significance of certain numbers such as 3, 5, 7 and 9 which are related to the cosmos levels. Many shamans whom I met in Manchuria stated that these numbers are cosmic numbers. The explanation reflects the strong influence of shamanic cosmology on people.
Fig. 1 A Manchu ritual of "sacrifice to the Afternoon Gods", held by the Yiergenjuelo clan in Ning'an, Manchuria, 1990
's`? ?1 i~
"il .,.. .u
" ' n I-?R~,?''
f. i~ 'lie~P~~?L?i*~S~~ ?r
i \ ,u
r Pt~ ?.*?C! Iltx?S~E~r?. . ? Is '"'?Y;r 'i
? ~t~ lu .` i
Li: Mystical numbers and Manchu traditional music 103
Even numbers are not used very often, but they have meanings as well. They are usually linked with the middle and lower regions of the cosmos but not the upper region. In particular, in some cases they are related to evil spirits. For example (Eliade 1964: 277):
Among the Buryat the number of gods is three times as great: ninety-nine good gods in the southwest regions and forty-four evil ones in the northeastern.
Since odd numbers are used more frequently than even ones and have more significance in Manchu music, discussion in this paper concerns odd numbers only. The aim here is to demonstrate how these mystic numbers embody religious thought and play an active role in structuring musical patterns and musical performances in correspondence with cultural patterns and behaviour.
3 Rhythmic patterns with odd numbers of accents Certain rhythmic patterns with odd numbers of accents are used very frequently in Manchu shamanic drumming (Li 1992). These patterns are called by the people themselves "One-accented Patterns", "Old Three-accented Patterns", "Five- accented Patterns", "Seven-accented Patterns" and "Nine-accented Patterns". Examples of these patterns are shown in figure 2. The two important characteristics of these patterns are that the total number of accents in each is always an odd number, and that all other patterns shown in figure 5 are the combinations of the "Old Three-accented Patterns" plus the "One-accented Patterns". These particular rhythm patterns are used in many clans which I have visited. Many shamans and people can clearly distinguish them. The "Old Three- accented Patterns", in particular, are used in every ceremony of different clans.
Obviously, these patterns are carefully designed based on certain odd numbers even for each minimal unit. The purpose of the formation can be seen clearly if we examine their particular meanings and functions in rituals. According to the explanation of some old shamans whom I met during fieldwork,5 the "Old Three- accented Patterns" are used to worship the gods, the "Five-accented Patterns" are used to communicate the intention of the gods to the people, the "Seven-accented Patterns" are used to drive away demons and the "Nine-accented Patterns" are for dealing with all living beings in different regions of the cosmos, i.e. humans, gods, demons etc. On the other hand, the "One-accented Patterns" are usually used between other drumming patterns to represent a transition between different regions of the cosmos or different spirits.
5 Explanations are especially from Fu Yingren, a home shaman of Fucha clan in Ning'an, Heilongjiang province; and from Yang Shicang, a main shaman of Nimacha clan, and Guang Yungang, a home shaman of Guaerjia clan, both in Jiutai, Jilin province. (The latter two shamans died a few years ago.) They also explained the meanings of the three positions of drumming (section 5).
Fig. 2 Typical rhythmic patterns of drumming in Manchu rituals. (Collected by the author, 1982-92; after Li 1992.) The notation
,. indicates forms of the Old Three-accented
Patterns appearing in other patterns.
The Old Three-accented Patterns
2 3 1 2 3
I 2 3
n~ n inn n
The Five-accented Patterns 2 3 4 5
J" 5 ."•.• •(1+1+3) 2 3 4 ? " ~'• " "•
i " C (3+1+1)
The Seven-accented Patterns 2 3 4 5 6 7
? , xI i xI
,• J] i(1+1+1+1+3)
1 3 4 5 6 7
•x .- i x K
The Nine-accented Patterns 2 3 4 5 7 9
. _ ._ . . ._ __ _ J . 2 (3+1+1+1+1+1+1)
S3 4 5 6 7 8
Li: Mystical numbers and Manchu traditional music 105
All these drumming patterns are related to the cosmology of Manchu shamanism, in which the cosmos has nine levels divided into three regions. Gods, humans and demons are thought to live in different levels (see section 2). Just as the drum is the symbol of a vehicle used for the shamanic journey, so its rhythms, in association with other elements of the drum such as its appearance and the methods of drumming (see section 5), can enable the shaman to contact different beings in different levels of the cosmos.
It is clear that the idea of creation behind these rhythmic patterns is limited and supported by the shamanic cosmological thought behind the mystic numbers. It also shows the conceptions of Manchu people concerning the capacity of their music to influence other beings in the cosmos. They believe that different rhythms using the mystical numbers can transmit different meanings to different listeners in different regions of the cosmos.6
These particular rhythmic patterns, related to shamanic cosmology, are not only the foundation of the drum rhythms themselves, but also among the most important rhythmic components of Manchu shamanic songs, and even of all Manchu traditional music. According to my analysis, in about 80% of the first category of Manchu folk songs (including shamanic songs)7 the rhythmic patterns are related to the patterns shown in figure 2, especially to the "Old Three- accented Patterns". The rhythms of certain songs, especially in the pieces for which the drum is also played, are similar to the drum rhythm (fig. 3), sometimes being the same as the rhythm of the drumbeats (fig. 4), and this suggests that the mystical numbers have a significance in forming the rhythms not only of the drum but also of the songs. This enables the songs and the drum, working together in rituals, to transmit meanings between the different worlds.
Figure 5 is another example of Manchu shamanic song. The song begins with a repeated "Old Three-accented Pattern"; this is similar to the rhythmic patterns of the drum shown in figure 2, in which every pattern starts or finishes with an "Old Three-accented Pattern". This may show the influence of the drum patterns on the rhythms of songs. This phenomenon also appears in the music of some other peoples, for example, in a song of the Lamut, Maritime Tungus (see Li 1992, ex. 8). The explanation is that the drum and its rhythms used in shamanic rituals play a role more important than mere accompaniment because they are associated with mystical odd numbers and shamanic journeys.
6Some of the rhythmic patterns used in the rituals of other peoples in North Asia have similarities to those of the Manchu. This may support the hypothesis that religious mystical numbers play an important role in forming rhythmic patterns in Manchu practice. For examples see Li 1992.
7 See Section 1 and footnote 1 for the sources of the folk songs that I analysed. The same sources were used for figures 8, 9 and 10.
106 British Journal of Ethnomusicology, vol. 2 (1993)
Fig. 3 Extract from Manchu shamanic song of Fucha clan in Ning'an, Manchuria (recorded by the author in 1990; after Li 1992)
Song I _:i - ...
--? Tj- - I - ____
." Drum - - - _
Figures 6 and 7 provide some evidence that the odd-numbered rhythms also appear in non-religious music. This may show that even for creating secular music, mystical numbers may have potential influence on people's musical ideas although the religious meanings and functions may be lost or changed. We shall not discuss whether religious music influences secular music or the other way round. Even if these particular rhythmic patterns originate from secular music (though this is not likely, since their meanings and functions seem to show that they were created for their particular religious purposes), it still can be said that the mystical numbers have a strong influence on people's chosen musical patterns and ideas of forming religious music for religious purposes.
Li: Mystical numbers and Manchu traditional music 107
Fig. 6 Manchufolksong, "The song from the descendants" (Shi and Li 1990) 1 2 3
-.% - ~??
Fig. 7 Qing Dynasty court music: "Qinglong dance music" (Shi and Li 1990)
1 2 3 4 5
?I ~ r I ~?
I r I rl I I ~?
In contrast to the preference for odd numbers in Manchu, some even numbers play a very important role in traditional Chinese culture, in which two, eight, ten etc. are the most preferred auspicious numbers. This contrast may result from the different practices of ancient Taoist philosophical thought-yin and yang, the bagua (Eight Trigrams) etc. which form the basis of the divination recorded in the Chinese classic Yjing (Book of Changes). Although in both Manchu shamanistic thought and Chinese ancient philosophical thought certain even and odd numbers both have significance, the preferred numbers in practice are different. For example, Yin is related to the odd numbers which are very important in theory, but the even numbers which are related to Yang are actually emphasised in the practice of society in later periods. This may be because of the preference for the Yang principle (related to males) which began at an early period in the male- dominated Chinese society.
In contrast to Manchu rituals in which particular odd-number-accented patterns are used, particular even-number-accented patterns are used in those Chinese folk rituals in Manchuria whose forms are similar to those of the Manchu folk rituals. These patterns also have their own names-"Four-accented Patterns", "Six- accented Patterns", "Eight-accented Patterns" etc.-and play an important role in rituals. The contrasts between rhythmic patterns based on odd and on even numbers may reflect ethnic contrasts, namely the desire to be deliberately different from one's neighbours. They also support the suggestion that particular symbolic numbers associated with religious thought can affect people's chosen musical patterns and musical ideas.
108 British Journal of Ethnomusicology, vol. 2 (1993)
4 Melodies with three dominant notess No Manchu notation has been found. Nowadays the Chinese number notation system is used. Manchu music is based on the pentatonic system. There are five modes in music, Kung, Shang, Chiao, Chih, and Yu (these are the equivalent of do re mi sol la), and seven notes in each mode, kung, shang, chiao, pien-chih, yu and pien-kung (these are the equivalent of do re mi fa sol la ti). The fa and ti appear rarely in music. The kung note plays the most important role in the Kung mode, the shang note plays the most important role in the Shang mode and so on. The modes most frequently used are the Kung and the Shang modes. The Yu mode and the Chiao mode are also used, while the Chih mode is rarely used.
An important characteristic of the melodies of Manchu traditional music is that each piece of music usually consists of three dominant notes plus a few subsidiary notes. Some pieces consist of three notes only. For example, figure 4 is formed by only three notes, whereas figure 3 is constituted of do re mi plus sol. There are interesting characteristics in both figures 3 and 4: first, the rhythmic patterns of the two songs are almost the same as those of the drum, and the positions of accents of the melody are the same as those of the Old Three-accented Pattern used in each song (three accents within each bar); second, the melodies employ basically only three different notes. This may demonstrate that the odd number three plays an important role in melodies of the songs (pitches and rhythm) as it does in the rhythms of drumming.
The melodies have also meanings associated with the mystical number three in Manchu shamanic rituals. For example, the songs sung in rituals are normally used to contact gods and spirits and do not have much to do with driving away the demons. With regard to the meaning of drumming, under which the "Old Three- accented Patterns" have more to do with respecting the gods, this may explain why only the number three is emphasized in songs. Many chanting songs are related to the names of different gods and spirits. The shaman invites gods and sings their names. Songs of this kind normally consist of a melody with only three notes and a repeated Old Three-accented Pattern. Thus the mystical number three has significance in both the melody and the rhythm.
Figure 8 shows the typical scales or note sequences distributed in each mode as used in Manchu traditional music. This is summarised from most songs of the first category of Manchu folk songs.9 It also indicates the positions of the three dominant notes in each note sequence to show how the number three appears in the note and scale system of Manchu folk music. For example, figure 3 belongs to the Kung mode because the kung (do) note plays the most important role in the song. The note sequence is 1, 2, 3, 5 (do re mi sol), but the dominant notes are 1, 2, 3 (do re mi).
8 "Dominant notes" refers to the notes which are used most frequently and are normally stressed. 9 No musical instruments are used in shamanic ceremonies except percussion. The characteristics of other types of music including instrumental music (for an example see fig. 7) are very similar to those of the first category of folk songs.
Li: Mystical numbers and Manchu traditional music 109
Figure 9 summarises the percentages of different songs with three different dominant notes in the first category of folk songs. If we make a sequence of these three-note groups by the natural order in pitch, the order in frequency of these groups used in the songs is as in figure 10. There seems to be an extension from inside to outside. This may show the importance of the three notes do re mi. In addition, 80% of the songs which only use three notes consist of do re mi. Shaman Yang Shicang explained that the chanting songs with do re mi are the basic kind of shamanic song. Just as the "Old Three-accented Patterns" play a more important role in the rhythmic system (even its name is different from other patterns), so the three notes do re mi may play a more important role in the melodic system than other dominant notes.
This phenomenon also appears in the use of pitch in figure 8. Most of the sequences in figure 8 seem to be enlarged from the dominant notes by one or two notes either lower or higher. This makes the melodic range of these songs very narrow. In other words, the narrow melodic range of these songs is caused by he emphasising the dominant notes which relate to the mystical number three. It suggests that the limitation in the use of notes and the melodic style indicates a relationship between the melodic creation of Manchu traditional music and the indigenous Manchu religion, shamanism.
Moreover in consideration of the meanings of the rhythmic patterns which are related to the Manchu shamanic cosmology, the situation shown in figure 10 reminds one of the Manchu cosmology in which there are three regions of the cosmos with three levels in each (see section 2). If the do re mi three-note group symbolises the three regions of the cosmos, in each of the regions there are three levels which may be symbolised by one other three-note group. However, I cannot make a definitive statement: further research and fieldwork are needed, especially concerning indigenous explanations.
My analysis is an attempt to point out that the forms of melodies and scales which emphasise different groups of three dominant notes (especially do re mi) have a melodic basis limited by the mystical number three. Mystical numbersplay an important role in forming not only the rhythmic patterns of Manchu traditional music but also its melodic patterns.
Figure 11 is one of a few more complex pieces which I did not include in the numerical analysis for Figs. 8 and 9 because it has three types of key and mode change (summarised in figure 12). The emphasis is placed on three dominant notes in different keys and modes with a gradual melodic progression to a higher range. This shows the Manchu conceptions concerning complicated notes, modes and key system, but the arrangement of the song purposefully emphasises the groups of three dominant notes. It also supports the point that the idea of creation is limited and supported by the mystic number three.
110 British Journal of Ethnomusicology, vol. 2 (1993)
Fig. 8 Pitch material used in modes ofManchufolksongs (see note on following page)
notes 3 notes 4 notes 5 notes 6 notes
modes in song
kung 123 6123 6111231 6123t45
1235 6123t4 712345
1...2.35 L?12 ?4
17 1235 123t45 12356
shang 123 6123 56123 6123t45 6?123 6t1235 1235 1?1235
chiao 235 1235 1235t?5 1112356 356 123t5 3t4567
chih 561 3561. 35612 5__1_2
5.123 yu 561 5612 35612 5671t12
612 6123 56112
Fig. 9 Frequency of occurrence of songs with three dominant notes (see note on following page)
Dominant notes 1 2 3 4 5 others sum
do,re,miI re,mi,sol la,do,re sol,la,do mi,sol,la Sum of the songs 97 46 42 29 19 15 248
Percentages 39.1 18.5 16.9 11.7 7.7 6.1 100
Li: Mystical numbers and Manchu traditional music 111
Note to Figs. 8 and 9: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 = do re mi fa sol la si = kung, shang, chiao, pien-chih, chih, yu, pien-kung. The notes with direction signs mean they are slightly higher in pitch.
Notes with dots are an octave lower. The underlined notes are the dominant notes of the songs. In all cases the dominant notes of a
song comprise a three-note group (do re mi, re mi sol, mi sol la, sol la do, la do re). The problem is that a minor third plus a major second can be written as either mi sol la or la
do re in a different key and mode. For example, a song constituted by the three notes E, G and A, where the E plays the most important role, can belong to the Chiao mode as mi sol la in C major, and can also belong to the Yu mode as la do re in G major. The notes re mi sol (la) on the Shang mode, C major key amre also sol la do (re) on the Chih mode, G major key. I have put each song consisting of this type of note group into two different modes respectively in figure 8 and I treat them in the same way for the statistics of the frequency of songs with different dominant note groups in figure 9. Because of this kind of song, the total number of songs in the next diagram is 12 pieces more than the actual number of songs. These 12 pieces increase the number of the songs with re mi sol, sol la do and la do re, mi sol la as dominant notes. But the frequency of use of do re mi dominant notes in songs is still in the first position.
w w I I I o lI
chih yu kung shang chiao chih yu
5 6 1 2 3 5 6
(sol) (la) (do) (re) (mi) (sol) (la)
I I I I I I N N~
112 British Journal of Ethnomusicology, vol. 2 (1993)
Fig. II Shamanic ritual song of Shiteli clan: a song for Anba Manni (hero god of the Shiteli clan)
The sequence of notes used in the song. The position of three dominant notes
(solo) (chorus) a (solo) (chorus)
(solo) (chorus) CKun chiao mode (mi)
(solo) (chorus) IFKung shang mode (re)
I FKung chiaomode(mi) (solo) (chorus)
(solo) (chorGKune shang mode (re)
Li: Mystical numbers and Manchu traditional music 113
Fig. 12 the same kung system different tonics different modes
different kung systems different kung systems different tonics different kung systems the same tonic different modes different tonics different modes
a b c d
ICKung I e chiao mode FKung g shang
mode a chiao mode ashangmode ,IFun Ig san mde (mi) G7 ung a shang mode (mi) (re) (re)
(K a Yu mode (la)
5 Musical performances related to the odd numbers Mystical odd numbers not only play a dynamic role in Manchu music but also have a great significance in performances in which the music is presented. For example, the special ways of drumming and singing in shamanic rituals are related to the mystical number three.
According to the Manchu shamans (see footnote 5 for names), there are three important kinds of drumming with particular names used in Manchu shamanic ceremonies (Li 1992). Each of them has a particular meaning:
1. "Drumming on the higher road". The drum is beaten towards the sky and held higher than the player's head to contact the gods who live in the sky, using only the "Old Three-accented Patterns".
2. "Drumming on the middle road". The drum is held in front of the player's chest to contact the gods who have come to the ritual place or to pass the gods' intention to people. To contact the gods who have come to the ritual, the "Old Three-accented Patterns" are also used and the player should respect the altar. To pass the gods' intention to the people, the "Five-accented Patterns" should be used.
3. "Drumming on the lower road". The drum is held in a lower position and is beaten towards the ground to drive away demons, using the "Seven-accented Patterns". "Drumming on the middle road", however, is the most common style in ceremonies (fig. 1).
It is obvious that "drumming on the three roads" is based on shamanic ideas: different types of beings live in the three regions of the cosmos; the three regions are connected with one another; the shaman is a medium between people and the other world, who can pass the gods' messages to people and can also travel to different regions of the cosmos. The term "road" used by the shamans also embodies the Manchu conception concerning the ways in which shamans contact the other world. There are different roads for the shaman to travel to different
114 British Journal of Ethnomusicology, vol. 2 (1993)
regions of the cosmos through the shamanic journey with the shaman's vehicle, the drum. The shaman assumes different expressional modes of performance and moves the drum into different positions for dealing with gods, people and demons from different regions of the cosmos (Li 1992). This shows the shamanic attitude towards different beings of the cosmos and the conceptions of the Manchu people concerning other beings in the cosmos. The Manchu believe that gods and demons also have senses and can give and receive information during the shaman's performance. These conceptions are all related to the shamanistic idea that everything in the cosmos has a soul or spirit.
Associated with the three ways of drumming, there are also three ways of singing:
1. In singing the special kind of chanting songs involving the names of the gods, the shaman adopts a kneeling position in a secretive manner and sings very weakly to avoid the song being heard by others. As explained by Fu Yongji, a home shaman of Fucha clan in Ning'an, "It is disrespectful to read the sacred names of gods loudly. We should read them inside the heart."
2. In singing the songs which are especially for the gods living far away, such as the God of the Sky who lives in the sky and Goddess of the earth who lives under the earth, the shaman adopts a very solemn manner (in a sitting position inside the room for the Earth God and a standing position outside the room for the Sky God) and sings very loudly to make sure that the gods can hear.
3. In singing the songs for the gods who have come to the altar, the shaman stands in front of the altar and sings with normal volume in a relaxed manner.
Both the ways of drumming and the ways of singing demonstrate the importance of the musical performance. The meaning and the function of music which is related to the mystical numbers can only be presented and fulfilled through a significant musical performance which is also related to the mystic number.
Some other examples demonstrate that musical performance is also related to certain other mystical numbers. For example, some short pieces of shamanic songs used in ritual are repeated an odd number of times-three, five, seven, nine or more. Before singing songs to different gods, shamans must make a "drum- salute" to the particular gods to whom they will sing: several shamans beat drums simultaneously an odd number of times towards the altar).
All examples analysed in this section can support the point that shamanic thought lives behind the relationship between shamanic odd numbers and the musical performance.
The shamanic mystical odd numbers are embodied in different aspects of Manchu traditional music, especially in the shamanic music and musical performances analysed in the paper. For example, the odd-numbered rhythmic patterns which are the foundation of the Manchu rhythmic system; the odd-numbered dominant notes which are the basis of the Manchu melodic system; the odd-numbered
Li: Mystical numbers and Manchu traditional music 115
drumming positions, odd-numbered ways of singing, odd number of times which the songs are sung and so on are the fundamental forms of Manchu musical performance.
According to the result of detailed analysis of Manchu music and musical performances, especially of those in shamanic rituals, and in consideration of the explanations of the people themselves, this paper suggests that certain mystical odd numbers play an essential role in Manchu traditional musical patterns and in the creating and performing of music, in accordance with Manchu cultural patterns and behaviour. Mystical odd numbers also have great significance in creating and transmitting meanings between different worlds. The paper also argues that behind the relationship between the mystical odd numbers and the forms of music and musical performance, shamanic thought permeates people's musical ideas.
I am grateful to my supervisors Dr. H. LaRue, Dr. H. Morphy and Dr. C. Humphrey for their academic help on my DPhil study which is related to this paper; to Oxford University, St. Hugh's College and all other trusts for their scholarships which enabled me to do my research and fieldwork; to all the shamans and other informants whom I met, for their great help in providing valuable evidence for this study; and to Dr. C. Pegg and Professor G. Stary for their useful suggestions.
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Issue Table of ContentsBritish Journal of Ethnomusicology, Vol. 2 (1993), pp. i-vi+1-170Front Matter [pp. i-vi]Editorial Preface [p. v]Blanks on the Cognitive Map: Unpredictable Aspects of Musical Performance [pp. 1-30]The Early Days of the Gramophone Industry in India: Historical, Social and Musical Perspectives [pp. 31-53]Auspicious Women, Auspicious Songs: maṅgalinī and their Music at the Court of Kathmandu [pp. 55-74]Two gat Forms for the sitār: A Case Study in the Rhythmic Analysis of North Indian Music [pp. 75-98]Mystical Numbers and Manchu Traditional Music: A Consideration of the Relationship between Shamanic Thought and Musical Ideas [pp. 99-115]The Ugandan Lyre endongo and Its Music [pp. 117-142]Reviews of BooksReview: untitled [pp. 143-144]Review: untitled [pp. 144-146]Review: untitled [pp. 146-147]Review: untitled [pp. 147-148]Review: untitled [pp. 148-150]Review: untitled [pp. 151-152]Review: untitled [pp. 152-153]Review: untitled [pp. 153-156]
Reviews of RecordingsReview: untitled [pp. 156-157]Review: untitled [pp. 157-165]Review: untitled [p. 165]
Reviews of Television SeriesReview: untitled [pp. 166-169]
Short Notices [p. 169]Back Matter