Tale of the Nisan Shaman

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The Tale of the Nisan Shaman (also spelled "Nishan"; Manchu: ᠨᡳᡧᠠᠨ
ᠰᠠᠮᠠᠨ ᡳ
; Möllendorff: nišan saman-i bithe) is a Manchu folk tale about a female shaman who resurrects the son of a rich landowner.[1]


Variants of the tale are also found among the Evenk, Daur, and Nanai peoples.[2][3] The tale was transmitted orally, and manuscripts were rare; Soviet ethnographer A. V. Grebenshchikov managed to purchase two during his early research trips to Northeast China in 1908 and 1909, the first near Qiqihar, and the second at Aigun. He had a third manuscript given to him in Vladivostok in 1913 by a man named Dekdenge. The Qiqihar manuscript shows some unusual features in its orthography; in particular, the verbal tense markers therein are written separately from their base verbs, whereas the standard practise in written Manchu is to write them attached to the base verb.[4] A 1930s ethnographic survey by Johnson Ling of the Academia Sinica (Ling 1934) recorded 18 different versions of the tale among Nanai tribes on the Songhua River.[5] Volkova (1961), based on Grebenshchikov's manuscript, was the first Russian translation.[6] In 1969, an English translation was made by George Meszoly, a Harvard University undergraduate; however, it was never published. Seong Baek-in (then of Myongji University) made a Korean translation five years later (Seong 1974). The first published English translation, Nowak & Durrant 1977, relied on the annotations in Volkova's and Seong's works, but did not refer to Ling's study.[7] A Hungarian translation came out in 1987.[8]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Durrant 1979, p. 339
  2. ^ Richtsfeld 1989, p. 117
  3. ^ Heissig 1997, p. 200
  4. ^ Volkova 1961, p. 1
  5. ^ Yen 1980, p. 88
  6. ^ Pang 1995, p. 34
  7. ^ Yen 1980, p. 88
  8. ^ Melles 1987


  • Durrant, Stephen W. (Winter 1979), "The Nišan Shaman Caught in Cultural Contradiction", Signs, 5 (2): 338–347, doi:10.1086/493712, JSTOR 3173565
  • Yen, Alsace (1980), "Book Review: The Tale of the Nišan Shamaness", The Journal of American Folklore, 93 (1): 88–90, JSTOR 540231
  • Richtsfeld, Bruno (1989), "Die Mandschu-Erzählung "Nisan saman-i bithe" bei den Hezhe", Münchner Beiträge zur Völkerkunde, 2: 117–155
  • Pang, T. A. (1995), "Rare Manchu manuscripts from the collection of the St. Petersburg branch of the Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences" (PDF), Manuscripta Orientala, 1 (3): 33–46
  • Heissig, Walther (1997), "Zu zwei evenkisch-daghurischen Varianten des mandschu Erzählstoffes "Nisan saman-i bithe"", Central Asiatic Journal (41): 200–230, ISBN 978-3-447-09025-4


  • Ling, Johnson/凌純聲 (1934), 《松花江下游的赫哲族》 [The Goldi Tribe on the lower Sungari River], Nanjing: Academia Sinica/國立中央硏究院, OCLC 123364330
  • Volkova, Majya Petrovna (1961), Нишань самана битхэ (Предание о нишанской шаманке): Издание текста, перевод и предисловие, Институт народов азии, Академия наук СССР, OCLC 80663066
  • 成百仁 [Seong Baek-in] (1974), 《滿洲샤만神歌》 [Nisan Saman-i Bithe], Myongji University, OCLC 36538543
  • Nowak, Margaret C.; Durrant, Stephen W. (1977), The tale of the Nišan shamaness: a Manchu folk epic, Seattle: University of Washington Press, ISBN 978-0-295-95548-3, OCLC 3088755
  • Melles, Kornélia (1987), Nisan sámánnõ: mandzsu vajákos szövegek, Prométheusz könyvek, Budapest: Helikon, ISBN 978-963-207-631-7, OCLC 24413692

Further reading[edit]

  • Stary, Giovanni (1985), Three unedited manuscripts of the Manchu epic tale "Nišan saman-i bithe": facsimile edition with transcription and introduction, Wiesbaden: Kommissionsverlag O. Harrassowitz, ISBN 978-3-447-02537-9, OCLC 13358240
  • Song Heping/宋和平 (1998), 《《尼山萨滿》硏究》 [Research on the 'Nisan Shaman], Beijing: Social Sciences Academic Press/社会科学文献出版社, ISBN 978-7-80050-921-6, OCLC 44471326
  • Zhao Zhizhong/趙志忠 (2001), 《萨满的世界:尼山萨满论》 [The world of shamanism: A discussion of the Nisan Shaman], Shenyang: Liaoning Nationalities Publishing House/辽宁民族出版社, ISBN 978-7-80644-474-0, OCLC 50721606
  • Kóhalmi-Uray, Katalin (2004), "The Myth of Nishan Shaman", in Hoppal, Mihaly (ed.), Rediscovery of Shamanic Heritage, Bibliotheca shamanistica, Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, pp. 113–124, ISBN 978-963-05-8085-4, OCLC 55732602