Barcelona Cultura
  • The Naxi and the Dongba script

    17 November 2015
    17 Nov 2015

Naxi manuscripts. Dongba script in the Museum of World Cultures

Free small-format exhibition in the museum hall

The Naxi people, who are probably descendants of nomadic tribes from the north-western part of the Tibetan plateau, live in the mountains of south-western China’s Yunnan province. They form one of the country’s 56 official ethnic groups and their animistic religion takes its name from the religious specialists called dongba.

Aside from the standard script with Chinese characters, the Naxi have two systems for recording their language: one phonetic and the other logographic. The latter system, known as the Dongba script, is on record since the 18th century. Although its origins are obscure, it is based on pictographic symbols which are actually graphic representations of Naxi morphemes. The Dongba script shows the influence of the Tibetan and Chinese scripts but it is only understood by people who have an extensive knowledge of the rituals of the Naxi’s Dongba religion.

Manuscript Greater Sacrifice to the Wind (Propitiating the Zei Ghosts)
MEB 481-4. The manuscript (19th century) has been hand-copied by a Dongba, probably from the Lijiang basin, the cultural centre of the Naxi region

Shu ggu chu ba gv ddee (“Offerings to the Shu gods, burning the heavenly incense”). Lijiang, Yunnan (China). Early 19th century. MEB 510-1

Practical information

Free exhibition

Museum of World Cultures
Montcada, 12
08003 Barcelona
T. 932 562 300

Tuesday to Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Sundays and bank holidays, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Monday non-bank holidays, closed
Days closed annually: 1 January, 1 May, 24 June and 25 December


In the museum's library

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