Yao Manuscript #41
Stunning old Yao tribal shaman calligraphy book.
Diego M. Santos, “The date of the manuscript is ‘the 22th day of the 5th month of the 丙辰 (1856-1857, 1916-1917 or 1976-1977)’.”
These Yao books are written in Han Chinese/Vietnamese nôm chữ characters. Until the beginning of the 20th century, government and scholarly documents in Vietnam were written in this classical Chinese. Unlike some ethnic minorities in Vietnam, the Yao have no written word of their own, poetry is spoken, so the Yao borrow these Han characters to transcribe and preserve their culture.
The pages in these books tell of the arduous migration of the Yao people into Vietnam, as well as their struggle in conquering the harsh nature of the mountainous hill tribe regions. They also reflect the history of Yao development, or genealogy records of specific clans.
Since ancient times, according to Yao beliefs, all things have souls. The Yao believe there is a wind god, rain god, god of rice, vegetables and livestock. For each of them a specific worship ritual is performed. These rituals are also kept in the ancient books. Along with fortune telling, palm reading and calendars. All books of the Yao were written on handmade paper made of straw, beautifully hand written and bound together with cord.