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Umesiben Mama -- A Study of the Shamanic Epic of Northern China

Author: Guo Shuyun

Translated by Liang Yanjun, Liu Ying

Edited by Daniel Kister

ISBN: 978-1-84464-488-9

Ebook ISBN: 978-1-84464-489-6

Hardback-340 Pages

April 2019


£85 €105 $135



Umesiben Mama is an ancient heroic epic of the East Sea Jurchen ancestors of the Manchu, an ethnic minority in Northern China. It was originally written in verse in the Manchu language, and it was popular around the basin of the Ussuri River. It describes the merits and great undertakings of a heroine named Umesiben, a female Jurchen shaman. It depicts war scenes in chant verse of over 6,000 lines and 63,500 words. The author has systematically investigated and analyzed its epic features, artistic characteristics, and literary value for the first time from the perspectives of tribal community, shamanistic culture, and the fishing and hunting culture of the East Sea Jurchen. Until now Umesiben Mama is the first and only epic of the Manchu and this book is the English version of the only Chinese work currently focused on research of this epic. In previous studies of Chinese epics scholars focused on Gesar, Jangar, Manas, and epics of ethnic minorities in Southern China. Compared with those studies, the present book has two features: On the one hand, it interprets Umesiben Mama in the context of the specific history and culture of the Manchu and their Jurchen ancestors to bring to light the natural environment, customs and practices of the East Sea Jurchen as depicted in the epic. On the other hand, the book attaches great importance to interdisciplinary perspectives and methodology, including poetry, history, linguistics, literature, and religion. Moreover, the book will be an important addition to scholarly studies of Chinese literature, history, and culture in English.



Chapter 1: The Genre and Traits of Umesiben Mama Chapter 2: The Inheritance of Umesiben Mama Chapter 3: Historical-Cultural Origins of Umesiben Mama and Donghai Jurchen People Chapter 4: Umesiben Mama and Tribal Society Chapter 5: Umesiben Mama and the Shaman Chapter 6: Umesiben Mama and Shamanic Culture Chapter 7: Umesiben Mama and Fishing and Hunting Culture Chapter 8: Umesiben Mama and Sea Navigation?? Chapter 9: Literary Interpretation of Umesiben Mama


About Author:

Guo Shuyun, Ph.D., is professor and director of the Shamanistic Culture Research Institute of Dalian Nationalities University. She was founder of the Institute of Shamanistic Culture of Changchun Normal University and the Journal for the Study of Shamanistic Culture. Her studies have been concerned shamanistic practices of the ethnic groups in northeastern China and oral narratives of the indigenous cultures there. She has conducted field work among the Manchu, Daur, Ewenki, Oroqen, Mongol and Han Army peoples. She has produced a series of documentary films on living shamans. Her major research achievements include works in Chinese: Archaic Living Culture: Examining Shamanism (2001); Study on Shamanic Ecstasy of the Ethic Groups in Northern China (2007); Tracing Shaman Footsteps – Notes on Fieldwork among Manchu Shamans of the Upper and Middle Reaches of the Sungari River (2009); Study on Umesiben Mama (2013); as well as in Chinese and English, Living Shamans: Shamanism in China (with Wang Honggang, 2001); and Studies on Shamanism in Ethnic Groups of Northeast China (2015) in English. In addition, she has published more than 80 articles, including a collection of her articles in Shamanic Culture in the Multidimensional Academic Field Vision (2005). She is also the chief editor of several translation collections, such as Collection of Overseas Shamanism Studies (with Shen Zhanchun, 2010),.

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