Bibliography for the study of Yao religion

Yao religious culture: bibliography by Barend ter Haar

 The following bibliography is a personal tool and comments are my own, based on cursory survey or reading. I have attempted to be complete with respect to Yao religion, but not with respect to the Yao in general.
(revised 11-5-2018)

Scholars at München University (Germany) have catalogued a large collection of Yao manuscripts (religious and otherwise), which has resulted in one substantial article and a catalogue, as well as an exhibition . The exhibition catalogue entitled "Botschaften an die Götter. Religiöse Handschriften der Yao. Südchina, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar" (Th. O. Höllmann, M. Friedrich, eds.) was published by Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden (1999), in the series "Asiatische Studien". Review by Jonsson. Sadly, the overall project itself has been discontinued.

Some remarks

General comments.
a. Many Chinese language articles do not indicate which languages/dialects are used during a given ritual, nor do they indicate when they have translated from a Yao language and when original Chinese material is used.
b. Another problem is that studies either discuss rituals entirely from the Chinese scriptures used (as in Jiang Yingliang) or only from the actual events (most anthropological literature). At best, both methods are combined, but without integration of these two types of information, as in the Zhongguo yaozu fengtu zhi. Chinese articles are often hampered by restrictions of size on the depth of analysis. Much work remains introductory and superficial.
c. Few people have a good mastery of the secondary literature in Chinese and other languages. Especially pre-war research has often been ignored, leading to the supposed discovery of the Daoist nature of Yao religion in the early 1970s, which had already been demonstrated many decades ago by several authors (such as Jiang Yingliang and W.C. Wang in Fortune [1939]) before 1940.
d. The study of Yao religion is extremely limited in size. Furthermore, most studies on minorities tend to be restricted to one minority at the time, usually either in China or outside. As a result, scholars show little awareness of general trends among minorities (such as will be pointed out below).

Analytical problems.

a. It is by no means clear if all groups classified as Yao should actually be seen as part of one minority and whether or not some non-Yao groups should not be re-classified as Yao (and possibly vice versa). Also see the interesting article by Lemoine (1991).
b. As far as can be ascertained at present, the Yao are the principal non-Han minority using Daoist written texts. However, other minorities may also have undergone Daoist influence. Furthermore, shared religion need not necessarily come from Chinese influence, it might have gone the other way round and/or it might be the result of common cultural origins. N.B. She in Northern Fujian/Guangdong and Miao in Hunan have same ritual paintings as the Yao. Other minorities have similar deities.
c. The examples of Meishan and Yangzhou show that we are talking about Chinese (not: Han-Chinese) culture and religion, shared by Non-Han and Han groups alike. They are certainly not restricted to the Yao and therefore the Yao need to be studied in combination with other ethnic groups, including the Han Chinese.
d. If the Strickmann hypothesis on the Song origins of Yao Daoism  is correct, then the  Song-Yuan Tianxin ritual tradition which supposedly formed it source should be also characterized by the presence of the mythico-ritual centers of Yangzhou and Meishan (which it is not).
e. The religious ms. are written in a simple Classical Chinese, but full of transcription errors which can either be explained as mixed up characters (based on similar form, no or wrong radicals) or very often on homophony. This shows the oral dimension of this tradition.

 Source publications

A basic problem with all of these source publications is the complete lack of religious and social context. Furthermore, we are never given a complete survey of the overall written and oral texts that one given community has/had. Only Chinese is used, and indications of the original language(s) involved are absent or sketchy. Every researcher should take the extremely useful dissertation by Cushman as his point of departure.

Collections of Yao manuscripts outside mainland China that I know of are a single collection of manuscripts, charters, two sets of ritual paintings and masks all acquired from the same salesperson (but apparently not the same ritual specialists) from Laos in the vernacular tradition preserved at  Heidelberg University (Sinologisches Seminar) and the Volkenkundig Museum (Leiden), a small collection of manuals from a specialist in the classical tradition from Yunnan at Leiden University, a huge collection of materials from different specialists at München (Bayern State Library), as well as collections at Oxford and Copenhagen  (probably in part related to the material in München). These collections are all be publicly accessible. One suspects that Jacques Lemoine (Paris) also has a collection, and Shiratori Yoshirô has collected much more than he has included in the published book which is all preserved at Sophia University (Tôkyô). Whether this last collection is publicly accessible I do not know. What is important to realize is that the material published by Shiratori is only a fraction of the written materials that a specialist might have.


Vocabularies and dictionaries

Note that all Chinese vocabulary lists are organized according to the Han Chinese words, which seems rather cumbersome to me.

Linguistic work

History and society

 Bibliographical surveys

 General works

a. Please note that there are two works with the same title, Hu Qiwang and Hua Zugen eds., Yaozu yanjiu lunwen ji* (1985) and Qiao Jian, Xie Jian, Hu Qiwang eds., Yaozu yanjiu lunwen ji** (1988). The latter is the Chinese version (with  less papers) of Qiao Jian (Ch'iao Chien) and Jacques Lemoine (1991).
b. There is a huge ethnographic literature by the Chinese, but usually each article is very short and as a result also repetitive. In depth religious studies are scarce. I have not attempted to include any article with some minor comments on religion. Furthermore, they are published in hard to get journals.



She versus Yao

Women's script/Nüshu