Spirit Pictures

If a ruler knows a thousand things, and a minister a hundred, the things a bimo knows are innumerable.     - Nuosu proverb 
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Painting - Zhyge Alu: by Qubi Shuomo

In the Yi creation epic Hnewo Teyy, the hero who shoots the suns, Zhyge Alu was born at the dragon hour on the dragon day of the dragon month in the dragon year, the son of a dragon and an eagle, and has supernatural strength and special abilities to bring down magic and suppress ghosts, and is particularly fond of working for others' sake to root out harm and persevere on the rightful road.  Every Nuosu household has stories and myths of him; women and children know them too.  And in the spirit pictures drawn by bimo, his form dominates the structure of the picture; they use strong, simple lines to capture his magical powers and his strange and divine efforts in the suppression of ghosts.  This is his picture as frequently seen in bimo ritual texts and in the spirit tablets used in their ceremonies.  It was drawn by the eminent bimo Qubi Shomo.

Zhyge Alu is often accompanied by his two primary supernatural helpers, the magic peacock Shuotnievoplie and the python Bbahxa.

A diagrammatical Illustration:

1) In the middle  is Zhyge Alu, with a copper helm on his head, copper spear, arrow, and net in his hand, with his head touching the sun and moon and his feet astride the great earth.  He cuts a majestic and imposing spirit figure; in myth he is a great god who governs all extraordinary events in the human world.  He is also the spiritual aid of bimo in their rituals to cure leprosy and to cast spells on ghosts and enemies alike. 

At the bottom is Zhyge Alu's nine-winged flying horse Symu Ddurndi, whose name means "long heavenly wings"; it is said that he spends three days in heaven, three days on earth, and three days in the air, that he can transform himself into clouds, thunder, rain or snow.  Zhyge Alu rides this horse to subdue ghosts and demons in heaven and earth.

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Painting - Shuonyie Volie: by Qubi Shuomo

Drinking the blood of the serpent ghosts

This painting depicts the Nuosu magic peacock (Shuotnyie Voplie), the supernatural helper of the culture hero Zhyge Alu. It is painted  on  paper with a handmade bamboo brush dipped with rosin ink and then mounted into a scroll.

In a Nuosu scripture, it is said that the peacock lives in a place called Ziziezha. It often stands by the Yimo Lake, flies in the Mt. Hemudiche, and passes upon the Heshy. It eats the stems of the poisonous yellow cogongrass and drinks the water of Amohenuo River.

People who hear the sound of the peacock would be deaf. Those who eat its gall and meat would die in a sudden moment. However, if the peacock were invited to one's house, the peacock could expel leprosy and swallow the evil. This painting is usually used with the paintings of Zhyge Alu and Bbahxa Arrysse in the associated rituals.

Translation of the inscription on the painting:
Shuonyie Volie Sse
Where is it that he is?
Where he dwells is Zzyzzy Ngenra
Where he stands is in the Yamen at Chengdu.
The water he drinks is poisoned water
The food he eats is poison grass from Shuono
The meat he eats is the meat of the serpent ghost
The blood he drinks is the blood of the serpent ghost.
Three days without this blood
His lips will dry out
And he will have uncontrollable thirst.

[ to the ghosts]

If you see him, you will be blind
If you hear him, you will be deaf
Those who drink his gall will die
Those who eat his flesh will be barren.

[ to the hosts]

Those who take him in will prosper
Those who take him in will thrive
The bimo calls you to the host's house
To eat and drink the cur ghosts,
To eat the ghostly serpents
To catch frogs and snakes
To chase leprosy away.

"Mountain Patterns" By Stevan Harrell, Bamo Qubumo and Ma Erzi. 2000. Fig 8.7 pg 63.

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Painting - Bbahxa Ayuosse by Qubi Shuomo

A subdued enemy becomes a helper
The Nuosu ritual painting of the magical python Bbahxa Ayuosse or Bbahxa Arrysse, one of the supernatural helpers of the Nuosu hero Zhyge Alu.

In the Nuosu epic "Hnewo Teyy", it is stated that Zhyge Alu transformed into a dragon, dove into the ocean and fought with the ferocious python Bbahxa Ayuosse. At last, Zhyge subdued the python and the python became his helper.

According to scholars' research, the python is probably a crocodile-like animal that used to live in the water. Later on, the image of the python gradually changes into a dragon.

One of the Nuosu scriptures describes that "the magical python Ayuosse lives at the bottom of the Henuo Sea, stands at the top of a high mountain, and drinks the water of Amoheni. It appears in one's house only in response to the priest's call. It detects leprosy and swallows the leper ghost; it searches tuberculosis and swallows the tuberculosis ghost; it searches frogs and swallows snakes. The magical python Ayuosse breaks off every stubborn disease with a sword, eradicating all kinds of epidemics!"

This painting is usually used with the painting of Zhyge Alu in associated rituals.
Translation of the inscription on the painting:

Bbahxa Arry Sse

Where he dwells is Ddiepo Shuono
Where he stands is the slope of Tulybbuvu
What he drinks is deepest water.

I see my body; it is beautiful;
I see my tail; it is long
My tail undulates sinuously.

The Bimo calls you to the host's house
To eat the cur ghosts
To eat the ghosts of leprosy
To eat the frogs and snakes
To devour the snakes
To consume the cur ghosts.

Bbahxa Arry Sse

In the household of the host here
When you appear
The livestock will increase
The grains will be abundant
The people will increase
The people will prosper
The children and grandchildren will flourish.

How constructed:

This ritual painting is hand painted with a bamboo brush. A handmade bamboo pen dipped with the rosin ink and mounted into a scroll. The bamboo pen is made from a thin bamboo stick attached with a small bundle of goat wool at one end. Sometimes a sharpened bamboo stick was used directly.

The paper, purchased from the Han Chinese, is made of a kind of green bamboo and is quite durable for folding. The paper is usually cut into a rectangular shape and folded into a book. A bamboo stick was cut into halves and sewn to one side of the book. The first and last few pages of the book are left blank for the front and back cover.

After the priest finished writing, the paper is rolled up from the bamboo rollers and wrapped with a handwoven cloth of hemp or cotton. The scroll is tied up with a linen string attached at the end of the cloth. At last, the name of the scripture is written on the wrapping.

"Mountain Patterns" By Stevan Harrell, Bamo Qubumo and Ma Erzi. 2000. Fig 8.8 pg 64.

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Painting - Jienuosha by Qubi Shuomo

How to arrange a ritual
This  bimo painting illustrates the overall layout and rules of the ritual of Jienuosha, a counter-spell ceremony.

In Nuosu folk belief, Jiegujienuo is a kind of ghost that causes dizziness, slowness in action, dementia and anxiety. If one is injured, bleeding, in a coma, feeling dizzy, or  has blurred vision from  an accident, it is considered that he is under the evil influence of a ghost. Therefore, it is necessary to exorcize the ghosts and prevent the harms in the future by hiring a priest to conduct the Jiegujienuosha ritual.

The sacred sticks, referred to as kiemobbur in the Nuosu language, are small sticks erected by a bimo at the ritual site, representing  the configurations, directions, routes and locations of spirits or ghosts. Each ritual has its corresponding layout of  sacred sticks.

The ancient ceremonial copper bell recently excavated in Meigu County,  believed by some to be a ritual implement used by the great Nuosu priest Ashy Lazhe, is also carved with the illustration of the sacred sticks in relief.

For a larger ceremony, thousands of sacred sticks are erected on the sacrificial site in a specific order. The paintings that record the layout of the ritual are called kiemo.

The bimo's written commentary can be seen in the lower-left portion of the painting. 

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