Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Devil dancers of Choni, 1926

Devil dancers of Choni, originally uploaded by mutikonka.

Joseph Rock saw these "devil dancers" at Hochiassu monastery near Choni [Jone] in Gansu province while he was on his way to Amnye Machen. They gave him a bit of a fright, because he found that despite his scholarly scepticism about this "sorcery" he was being affected by some strange force from these dancers:

"As I was looking around I saw the Choni prince come down as pale as death. He saw a lama bringing up a tray with tea when he was seized by that indescribable something and began to shake from head to foot and had to be taken charge of by the other lamas. The prince thought it was time to go, he felt terrible.

I began to feel uneasy, but as I was about to take a photo the skeleton dancers had disappeared. Mr McGilvery the missionary who was standing at the back felt terribly oppressed. One of my boys, Ho Chi, touched him on the shoulder and said "Please tell Mr Rock that I want to go back, I feel terribly bad and cold. This is a very queer place!"
At that moment I felt a most peculiar sensation as if I was giving way to some unknown force, and I felt myself become powerless. I managed to say "I must go, I cannot stand this.
The dancers whirled around furiously, the possessed squirming on the ground, crying, screaming, weeping and tearing their garments. The men holding them were almost powerless. All in all, twenty became possessed.
I walked into the reception room but I had hardly sat down when the powerless feeling came over me in a few minutes, and my sight was practically gone. I could ill distinguish things. I tried to repress this feeling and started deep breathing, but every second I felt myself going and I came to the conclusion that if i did not leave immediately I would be unconscious in the next minute.

As soon as i got out of the monastery compund I felt relieved at once. I confess that had I stayed I would have sucuumbed to this outside influence, whatever it was; of that I am certain.
I may say that never in all my life have I felt in such a sudden manner my will power and my control over my being leave me. It was like a filtering of something through one's body which took charge of one competely.

The lamas explained this was the god of the monastery taking possession of one's body."

[Excerpt from In China's Border Provinces by S.B. Sutton]

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