Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Beyond Stick Men

Naxi pictograph on a wall in Shuhe
The figures on this wall in Shuhe may be overlooked by passers-by as decorative stick-figures. My guide, a proud member of the Naxi ethnic clan, told me that these are actually pictographs from Shuhe. When asked to read a bit, he haltingly shared a few parts he discerned. (Over 1,000 known pictographs are present in a language built around 1,000 years ago). Priests of the Naxi, known as Dongba, devised this visual language to write their scriptures. These Dongba still use this script, making it one of the only living pictograph languages still in use. 

Pictograph above a door on building ourtside of Lijiang
When I asked my guide how many people can read or use this script, he lamented that very few young people could make sense of it, and it is declining even amongst older people.

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