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Mo-So (Na-khi) Manuscripts

Date range: uncertain (?18th-19th centuries AD)

Medium: Manuscript

Number of items: 135 items

The collection of Mo-So manuscripts, constituting the second largest in Europe, was acquired between 1916 and 1932 from the botanist George Forrest, one of the few Europeans to have lived in the ancient Mo-So capital, LiKiang.

The Na-khi or Mo-So people lived in a remote area of South-West China, close to the Tibetan border. Both pictographic and syllabic texts occur in the collection, which largely consists of notebooks made by dto-mbas, or shamans, for the performance of secret ritual ceremonies.

Knowledge of the ceremonies was transmitted orally, with the books serving as aids to memory rather than literal texts. Some of the items are decorated, and a few contain Chinese and Tibetan translations.

Further information:

  • Unpublished typescript notes on some items available via Special Collections reading rooms.
  • Anthony Jackson, `Mo-So Magical Texts', Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, vol. 48 (1965-6), pp. 141-74.


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