Cultural Heritage at Hand---Legend of Jiulong Yi People’s Bimo Bells

Culturefrom:Garze news network

The Yi Peoples Wrought-Copper Bells are called Biju in the Yi language, and are bells used to contact god...

The Yi People’s Wrought-Copper Bells are called “Biju” in the Yi language, and are bells used to contact gods and weed off the evil when they are shaken and give off the tingling sounds in the special rite of Bimo (Bi means murmuring sutras, and mo means a respected knowledgeable senior). About the origin of the bells, the Bimo living in Jiulong and Luding Counties have an interesting story: in the time of Weileqiongbu before the very ancient times of China, since the ancestor Weileqiongbu of the Yi People “doesn’t attack black horses’ corpses, doesn’t kill black cows and oxen, doesn’t sit on a black horse’s fur, doesn’t eat the meat of black cows and oxen, doesn’t drink black horse soup, and doesn’t drink the blood of black cows and oxen”. In addition, he also “brings white roosters, catches white wild geese, stands in the Tanglang Mountain, worships the sun in daytime (and so the sun shines brilliantly in daytime), and worships the moon as night falls (and so the moon shines brilliantly at night).” Therefore, in heaven three huge cypress trees appeared. Three red bell ears (blossoms) appeared on the three trees, and horseshoe bells then come out of three ears. When the time came to Qiongbualu, he brought white roosters to worship heaven, asking for sacred bells. Next, the gray red ear bell fell, dropping into the source of sunshine and then through the Layer of Moonlight, Layer of Blue Sky, Layer of Yellow Clouds, Layer of Dark Clouds, Layer of White Clouds, Layer of Fog, Layer of Dense Clouds, and Layer of Strong Wind. Among the four sacred bells, only one fell into Biernini (a place) and turned into Suniyuanliu Bell, and the other three fell into the Tanglang Mountain.

Qiongbualu offered sacrifices of all kinds for three days and three nights, and three kinds of colors of fog raised, surrounding the Tanglang Mountain as the sacred bells began falling with the clouds and fog. First, they fell on the mountainside, then to the foot of the mountain, then to an area named Enerdizhi and Zhiqian of Enerdizhi, then to Jingcong Mountain and Zhongqian of it, then to Bailin Ridge and Shangqian of Bailin Ridge, then to Azidier, and finally to the hands of Ewualu, who granted them to Qiongbualu, who gave them to Sewualu. This person “offers a white rooster as sacrifice in the morning, a snow white castrated goat in the afternoon, and a white castrated ox in twilight.” After the series of sacrifices, he handed the bells back to Qiongbualu, who “holds the gray bell in his left hand, the red bell in his right hand. When they bells see each other, they tingle, tingle and tingle.” He also “hangs the bells on his shoulders, and goes to Dabohuohuoshidi (a place). In the early morning he takes a snow white rooster to sacrifice, placing mansur shrubs on the gods’ thrones in the deep valley and doing other things. In the morning, he slaughters a yellow boar to sacrifice, entertaining the gods. At noon, he uses a white goat to sacrifice for the gods. In the afternoon, he uses a white sheep to sacrifice. In the twilight, he uses a white castrated ox to sacrifice, and so on.” He made the gray red ear bell become the sacred Bimo Bell. These bells were passed to Aduerpu, Wuaalu, and later to Abisulaze. When the Lazeshise father and daughter traveled through Siyiluom, they were stopped by the loom post of the Azienmo family, so that they had to throw the five sacred instruments (a fan, bell, bamboo rain hat, holy tube, and sutra) over the loom to the other side.

When the five sacred instruments were found in Muziqiantuo, the sacred bells had already disappeared. Since then, the powerful bells have been lost. The only way is to re-forge them. The Bimo Bell we see today is usually a copper item shaped like a trumpet, with a hole on top through which a rope can go. A Bimo sutra records, “When a drum is beaten on Earth, the sound will turn into a thunder in Hell.” This proves that the bell is a magical and powerful instrument that is used to pass information to gods, ghosts and humans in the exorcism ceremony. These bells are usually cast by artisans. The bells we usually see are items made of copper and tin, including red bells and yellow bells.

In addition, the Yi People’s Bimo culture is an oral intangible culture of the ethnic minority, which can be used as an important advantage to apply for the World Heritage. It is also an important example for the nation (China) to fully conduct the traditional folk culture protection in the whole country. This is quite meaningful in reality, and also very important in theory.

Bimo culture is based on the sutras and ceremonies which were created and inherited by both the Bimo and the Yi People and centered on a belief of ghosts and gods and rituals of witchcraft and wizardry, uses sutra murmuring or sutra reciting as the method, and takes slaughtered sacrifice as the media. In addition, it also involves and contains the social history, philosophy, moral standards, literature and arts, astronomy and geography, and medical science. It is indeed a special religious culture. As the cornerstone of the Yi People’s culture of Garze with the Bimo culture as its essential part, what it contains is great, includes many different fields of the world, and covers nearly every aspect of the Yi People’s culture, and at the same time it also deeply influences the productivity and living of the Yi People in Garze. It regulates the psychological tendency and view of value of the Yi People in Garze. Bimo, a professional religious master of ceremonies, takes the series of things: “making sacrifice prosperous, creating written characters, creating decrees and regulations, designing laws, creating culture, and preparing rituals” as their responsibility. In the long history, they need to continuously inherit the language and written characters of the Yi People, normalize the moral standards of the Yi society, and spread the Yi culture. As a kind of culture masters, Bimo play an irreplaceable role in the productivity and living of the Yi People in Garze.

(Contributor: Shamalushi; edited by Xiaoyang of Garze News Network)

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