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Dongba Artworks with Unique Features



Dongba artworks which refer to puppets, flour dolls, clay sculptures and articles made of bamboo produced and used in sacrificial ceremony, are with unique models and vivid images and of artistic appreciation with a higher value.
The statuary art of Dongba intensively reflects in manufacture of puppet, flour doll, clay doll and wood carving. The puppet made of wood is the reference model for manufacture of ghost and ghost flour dolls and clay dolls in religious rites, 30-plus pieces of which have been collected. Dongba people are good at making articles. Among the wooden God dolls of all kinds made by them, some were lost in thought, some were looking far into the distance, some were trying to speak out, all of which were of grotesque forms and appearances. Being of rough profile and vigorous lines, Dongba puppets were sitting smoothly, with fa-hat (a kind of hat only for flamen) on his head and a magic bead hanging before his chest.
During 30-plus kinds of rites in Dongba religion, flour dolls simulating the appearances of God, ghost and animals are to be used, with themselves being made of flour of highland barley or barley, which total more than two hundred. In general, flour dolls must be done in the eve of religious rites, and one member of Dongba can make dolls over one hundred for one night.
Every flour doll has its own fixed image, but with different manners. In rite activities, God flour dolls were placed on the altar above while the ghost flour dolls were placed in “ghost cave” below. Ghost flour dolls of the same kind also are different in shapes, such as dolls with snake head, chicken head, cow head, horse head, sheep head and etc. In addition, there are clay dolls made of clay, which were made by Dongba people without interruption; they were with aesthetic feature of pureness and lucidness. What the most thing among Dongba flour dolls, clay dolls and puppets is worth praising is that the maker uses abstract concept overall instead of focusing on the verisimilitude in form or appearance , eyes just like two random cupped holes and the outline of mouth like a slightly open seam, for example. Viewing locally, it seems that they are totally simple; however, the whole model presents people a lifelike expression and shows an internal spirit viewing from an integrated perspective.
These deities dolls are of nature and simple models as well as naive, childish, common and gentle demeanor, giving people a comfortable feeling instead of momentum shown by Gods that is sanctimonious, august, sacred and makes people feel frightened. Some of the dolls even present an implication of funny, which manifest strong kindness and smell of secular life, and the images of them are totally of same simple temperament as villagers.
In Donba’s art and literary circles, there are still wood-cut with Dongba symbols and images of deities and ghosts. The wood-cut made by Dongba people were used for rubbing, which created a favorable condition for wide spread of Dongba’s culture and art works.
The ancient Dongba paintings are the most typical art legacy of Naxi nationality. As holding rites, Naxi people would paint various images, like Buddhist Gods, human figures, animals, plants and monsters, and then worship and sacrifice them. Such paintings serving for religion activities, are called by a joint name— Dongba Paintings. The art of painting of Dongba possesses the five characteristics of arts possessed by pictograph classic, i.e. form of Palm-leaf Manuscript, graceful line, beautiful color, expression of dynamic and uptake of characteristics.
Dongba paintings, being one the most significant contents of Dongba culture, are divided into wood chip paintings, card paintings, scroll paintings and scripture paintings. The contents of Dongba paintings are mainly to describe deities and ghosts believed by ancient Naxi nationality and ideal world of various kinds, as well as mundane lives of ancient Naxi society.
Dongba paintings are well known for the scroll painting—Road Map of God.
Road Map of God is a painting with a length of 14-plus meters and a width of 26 centimeters around, divided into four parts, which respectively are hell, human world, nature paradise, and paradise. It is of vivid and bright color, and lively images and distinct character. The scroll is a treasure of Dongba paintings influenced by Tibetan paintings and with the traditional style and characteristics of Naxi nationality featured.
Road Map of God are mainly used in rite to release souls from purgatory for the dead persons, which has described the specific scenes (hell, man’s world, nature, and paradise) that the soul of dead persons should pass by, is highly of culture and artistic research value.
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