A Pictographic Naxi Origin Myth from Southwest China

An Annotated Translation

Author: Duncan Poupard

About this book

This is the most comprehensive translation of a Naxi text in English to appear for over half a century. By presenting a historically important translation manuscript for both the history of missionary translation in China and for Dutch sinology, this book allows modern audiences to access the unique, semi-oral ritual tradition of the Naxi via detailed annotations. The Naxi source manuscript, presented in high-quality images, will be complemented by digital reconstructions of each section of the text, with each graph numbered to allow readers a fuller understanding of how such semi-oral texts are read, making it the first reader of the Naxi script to be produced in English. Back-translation and comparative research have allowed for the recreation of an approximation of the original early twentieth-century reading given to the original translator Elise Scharten by a Naxi ritual specialist.


Duncan Poupard is Associate Professor in Translation at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Pages: 416

ISBN Print: 9789087284275

ISBN ePDF: 9789400604698

Published: 29 September 2023

Language: English

  • —Mark Bender, Professor of Chinese Literature and Folklore, Chair, Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures, The Ohio State University.

    'This manuscript offers some very innovative and exciting ways of appreciating the Naxi ritual texts for what they are – a sort of writing that is intimately connected to oral tradition. This is actually factor of a good deal of “local” or ethnic writing in diverse ethnic minority communities in China, and aspect of this study will inform the study of not only the Naxi tradition of writing, ritual, and performance but that of other regional traditions as well (including Yi, She, etc.) and may even have global ramifications with other writing traditions with strong ritual/oral connections such as Mayan and various epic traditions India, the Middle East, etc. Overall, the language of the manuscript is easy to follow and flows well, despite the introduction of certain specialist terminology (essential to conveying to author's points.) This work is an important landmark in the study of traditional Naxi literature from Southwest China. The author offers a masterfully rendered version of a key origin narrative of the Naxi people of Lijiang, Yunnan. The text, which narrates the origins and early migrations of humankind, was translated by a Dutch missionary named Elise Scharten in the early 20th century. Over 100 years later, the author, working with Naxi dongba ritualists, has created a modern annotated translation that will be welcomed by students of Chinese ethnic minority literature, Indigenous studies, and orality and writing studies worldwide.'

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