Shamanism as an Archetype of East Asian Culture

Yang Hoe Seok ● Professor of Chonnam National University/ Dean of Humanities College

1. Introduction

When discussing the traditional culture of a country or people, we usually first pay attention to the religions or ideologies. We do so because they are the essence of traditional culture as well as influential factors in a culture's development. In this context, it seems natural that Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism are treated as frequent topics in the occasion where the traditional culture of the three East-Asian countries (Korea, China, and Japan) is discussed. Few people would contest the view that the ideological ground for the culture of the three countries consists of Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism, though I think otherwise. It is not easy for me to agree with the idea that Chinese ideologies have exerted a one-way influence on Asian traditional culture.
From the perspective of China, Confucianism and Daoism are their own ideologies, but from the perspective of Korea and Japan, they are as foreign as Buddhism. Does this mean that Korean and Japan did not have their own religions? They certainly did: a more original than these aforementioned religions, there was a "primitive religion" or "primitive ideology", representative example of which is shamanism.
Up until the Chosun Dinasty pronounced neo-confucianism as its political ideology, shamanism had been the central religion and ideology. However, even during the Chosun Dinasty, though they officially denied shamanism, appointed national shamans and worshiped this traditional religion. On the other hand, Choi Chi Won(崔致遠: 857 - ?) considered that “poong-ryu(風流)”, a unique korean occultic ideology, embraces the three religions and that "poong-ryu" is the very fruits of Shamanism.
In Japan, primitive shamanism, on the one hand, developed into Japanese Shinto and, in one respect, diverged into public faith - along with taboo, fortune-telling, predication, magic, animism - satisfying the public's religious and spiritual desire. This means that Shinto (a unique religion of Japan) is also shamanism in essence. Both in Korea and Japan, shamanism preceded the three religions, becoming the very agent that accepted them.
In the today's academic world of China, the theory that the origin of shamanism in China goes all the way back to the Neolithic era and that the executor of shamanism, the shaman, was the archetypal intellectual in various fields afterward is generally accepted. Then, the emergence of Confucianism and Daoism cannot be irrelevant to Shamanism. From the perspective of graphonomy, 儒(ru: Confucian) was originally inscribed as “需(xu)” on bones and tortoise carapaces, and it mimicked 'a person pouring water on herself' to represent the shaman performing ablution before executing rites in primitive religions, and the character “人” added afterward. It strongly suggests that 儒 emerged from primitive religion (shamanism). On the other hand, according to "Treaties on Literature" of the Book of Han(漢書․藝文志), "Daoism emerged from the historiographer(史官)", but even the historiographer, parallel to the shaman historian(巫史), is among the shaman(巫) circles, allowing one to conclude that shamanism is the root of Daoism. From these, we may assume that shamanism played a role when Buddhism, a foreign religion, was settling, further fusing and harmonizing the co-existence of the three religions were.
We often categorize the three East-Asian countries into a cultural band of chinese characters(hanzi) or Confucianism, but to do so is too superficial and naive. Even if we were to further expand the culture into three religions, it still does not fully explicate the traditional cultures of three countries. Starting from this recognition, this article attempts to find an answer in Shamanism. Such a viewpoint may be questionable to some: first, provided that the universal primitive religion, which all human race share in its youth, is shamanism, and that it is obvious that it is the origin of traditional cultures, is it necessary to argue this again? Secondly, considering that shamanism collapsed into folk religion and did not have much influence on high culture, is it possible to argue for homogeneity in traditonal cultures in the three countries?
However, I don't think of shamanism as a relic of ancient times or a folk culture. That is, I think that shamanism took a pivotal role in the entire process, from formation to development, of the traditional culture in the three countries. As a part of the argument, I will first pay attention to the sage(聖人 sheng ren) and shamans, for the sage was the common ideal of the traditional society in the three countries. In addition, I will explain the theory of literature concerned with the sage as an example revealing the in-depth influence of shamanism.

2. Shaman and Wu(巫)

According to Feng Yu-lan(馮友蘭), all philosophy in China pursues the ideal, "sageliness within kingliness without(內聖外王)". Only differing in their actual methods of responding to reality, Confucius in Confucianism and Lao Tzu in Daoism commonly suggested the sage as the ultimate ideal, as if they had agreed to do so. The situation is similar in Korea and Japan; what is surprising is the fact that the description of the sage is too similar. Shaman itself is wu(巫).
Shamanism is the universal religion or religious phenomenon on which human race have relied since its youth. Nevertheless, the number its definition is as many as the number of related scholars. It means that although shamanism (a form of magical religion) and the shaman (a pivotal figure in shamanism) are fundamentally identical anywhere, they also have many differences depending on the region or people. It is not the purpose of this article to examine the differences and varying definitions. A Japanese scholar provides an inclusive definition on shamanism as follows.
Shamanism is a form of magic-religion in which the shaman, who directly contacts and communicates with supernatural beings (God, spirits, ghost) in an abnormal psychological state, or in a trance, takes a pivotal role in prediction, oracle, fortune-telling, cure etc.
Here, trance (a passage of soul) indicates "a declined state of usual consciousness", a concept including ecstasy and possession. That is, when the usual consciousness of the shaman becomes dull and weakened (trance), her soul leaves where it used to be (ecstasy) or lets the god or spirits control her body (possession). The ultimate purpose of this act, of course, is to mediate between supernatural beings and human beings.
I mentioned that shamanism is a universal phenomenon, but the current academic society of China shows a strong tendency to confine it to the minorities in northern China. That is, they see it as an independent religious phenomenon confined to the outskirts that do not belong to the Zhongyuan (central plain of China) culture. However, ancient Chinese literature shows that the shaman is basically identical with the wu(巫) of China and that shamanism overlaps with a series of phenomena centered around wu(巫).
巫 is 祝(zhu) (annotation of Duan Yucai(段玉裁): 祝 is a erratum of 覡(xi)). It means a woman who worships the immaterial (無形(wu xing)) and lets the god descend while dancing. This character mimicked the appearance of a dancing woman who flaps her sleeves... 覡 is a person who is of integrity and solemnity and can worship deity(神明(shen ming)). When it is a male, we call him 覡, and when a female, we call her 巫. (Shuowen Jiezizhu)
It is a person who has an inseparable soul and spirit as well as integrity, solemnity and sincerity; his/her wisdom can discern the justice of the higher and the lower, his/her virtue enlighten people far and wide, he/she can see and hear everything. If these conditions are satisfied, then a deity(神明) descends on him/her. In case of a man, we call him male shaman (覡), a woman, female shaman (巫). (Guoyu․Discourse of Chu)
Here, the immaterial (無形), god (神), and deity (神明) are all supernatural beings. The preconditions that enable the shaman to contact and communicate with the supernatural are integrity and solemnity, which are not unlike the state separated from secularity, or declined state of usual consciousness.
That she has abilities to hear and see everything means that her soul freely travels to the supernatural world, transcending the constraints of reality (ecstasy); that god descending means that the supernatural being governs her(possession). In a nutshell, she is a medium between the supernatural being and humans. On the other hand, a scholar interprets the character “巫” as imitating the scene in which two persons are dancing on both sides of a pillar, connecting sky and earth; this is also interpreted as sacred tree (神木) or Cosmic tree (宇宙木), once mentioned by Eliade. In any case, 巫 as explained in Chinese literature is basically consistent with the general definition of the shaman, that it is a person who directly contacts and communicates with supernatural beings (god, spirit, ghost) in an abnormal psychological state, or trance.
These data show us that wu(巫) of ancient China is a kind of shaman. By this we can conclude that a series of phenomenon centered around 巫 is of shamanism. However, some leading experts on shamanism, including Qiu Pu(秋浦), argue that shamanism as a primitive religion has existed from the early history of the Han race (漢族): it gripped political and religious power in the Shang Dynasty(商代), but its power began to decrease in the Zhou Dynasty(周代), and finally, after the Han Dynasty(漢代), it was expelled from the power structures, being replaced by Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism. And from then on, he argues, shamanism maintained its slender existence as a folk religion.
One questions whether the argument is convincing. It is necessary to discuss this issue in-depth, but first, even with a simple fact, the argument is substantially undermined: coming after the Period of North and South Dynasties, the five dynasties - Northern Wei(北魏), Liao(遼), Jin(金), Yuan(元), Qing(淸) - which governed the central plain of China, were founded by the people of the northern area where they worshiped shamanism. In any case, it is certain that shamanism did not disappear from the history of China at all. Even if the argument were partially accepted, I think that, at least, the principle of shamanism has persistently and strongly influenced the way of thinking of the Chinese, as well as that of East-Asians. One of its prime examples is the Sage(聖人).

3. Confucius's concept of the Sage

Confucius, the founder of Confucianism, categorized human into five levels according to their deportment. They were the common man (庸人(yong ren)), the scholar-knight (士人(shi ren)), the gentleman (君子(jun zi)), the worthy (賢人(xian ren)), and the Sage (聖人(sheng ren)), ranked as top. He defines the sage as follows.
Confucius said that in general, the Sage is the most virtuous, extremely flexible, knows everything in the world from beginning to end, follows the natural way of everything, distributes great morality and achieves humanity and character. He is as bright as the sun and the moon, as virtuous as god, thus the lower-class don't understand his virtue, and even the people who can see it, cannot see the boundary of it. We call these people the Sage. ≪Kongzi jiayu(Family Talks of Master Kong)․Wu yi(Five Deportment)≫
The Sage have limitless abilities which the lower-class cannot even sense. But where does this ability come from? Confucius explicitly mentions it in Liji (禮記).
“The Sage participate in the harmony of universe, and govern the country together with ghosts.” <Liji․Li-yun>
The phrase means that the Sage gets limitless power by associating with the universe and ghosts. It naturally reminds us of the image of the shaman, and the following document gives a clearer image.
According to Confucianists, the Sage knows what will happen for thousand years in the future, and what happened in the past ten thousand generations, have abilities to see and hear what nobody but he can and know the name of a thing as soon as it appears, knows everything without learning, and understands without asking. Therefore the Sage is considered as wondrous. It is like regarding milfoil and tortoise as wondrous and magical because the stick of milfoil and burning tortoise shells lets us divine the future. ≪Lun-heng․Shi zhi≫
Even though this passage is followed by Wang Ch'ung(王充: 27 - ca. 97)'s poignant criticism on the attitude of Confucianism in which the Sage is considered a deity, we can confirm in this passage, which reveals the general understanding in those days, that the idolized Sage is quite similar to shamans. The Sage, like the divining stick of milfoil and divination by burning tortoise shells, see through fortune with his special abilities, but this is not the result of secular learning. People at that time thought that "The sages came down from Heaven; that they are divine creatures who know everything and can do anything,(bao pu zi․bian wen)" just as the shaman did in ancient times.

4. Lao Tzu's concept of the Sages

In all eighty-one chapters of the Lao Tzu, the word "the sages" appears as many as thirty three times. Like Confucius, Lao Tzu regards the sage as the ultimate ideal, and his concept of the sage is also strongly tinted with the image of the shaman.
Without going out the door, you can know the world.
Without looking out the window, you can see heaven.
The farther you travel, the less you know.
Thus the wise person knows without traveling, understands without seeing, accomplishes without acting. ≪Lao Tzu, ch. 47≫
The Sage is a person who knows the world and the heavens, without going out and searching. He simply follows the principles of the heavens, and makes endless contributions without deliberately trying to do so. The fact that all of these things are achieved by spiritual communication - like the shamans - is proved by the following record in the Daoist book, Huai Nan Zi(淮南子).
The sage lets the god stay in the house of the soul and thereby goes back to the beginning of everything. He can see in the dark and hear in the silence. Thus, in the dark, he alone can see brightness and in silence, he alone can shine. ≪Huai Nan Zi․ Chu zhen xun≫
The house of the soul is a supernatural place where spirits and ghosts in the universe gather. Because the sage is able to travel to this place, he can meet with the supernatural beings in the dark and silence, where ordinary people cannot perceive anything.
Let us go back to analyzing characters. The character 聖(sheng) is closely related to the shaman. In Shuowen Jiezi(說文解字), 聖 is analyzed as a phono-semantic compound (形聲 xingsheng) character, which takes its meaning from 耳(er: its meaning is ear) and its sound from 呈(cheng), but such analysis is criticized for the reason that Xu shen (許愼: 30 - 124) made a mistake, for at that time he did not catch the inscriptions on bones and tortoise carapaces. In the inscription on bones and tortoise carapaces, 聖 is a ideogrammic compound(會意 huiyi) character, which joins the meaning, "a person or a head with big ears" and "mouth", combinedly meaning a person who has excellent abilities not only to hear but also to convey. Or it refers to people who can hear what ordinary people cannot perceive and can convey it to them; what further supports this interpretation is a finding in a version of Lao Tzu, excavated from ancient tomb Mawangdui(馬王堆) in Western Han(西漢), where this concept is expressed only with 耳 and 口(kou: its meaning is mouth). It is the world of the gods that ordinary people cannot perceive, so the Sage consulted an oracle and conveyed it to the people - a role much in common with the shaman's. The sage, whether that in Confucianism or in Daoism, is fundamentally connected to the shaman.

5. The Sage and the Shaman

Then, how is that the Sage is similar to the shaman? It is not possible to identify the Sage with the shaman or to insist that the shaman is the direct model for the Sage; Confucius himself said, “When you are not even able to serve man, how can you serve the spirits?" (Analects, Xian Jin) and Lao Tzu is known as a person who transcended the world of ghosts with the philosophical concept of 道(dao: its meaning is method). Therefore it is not plausible to argue that they regarded the shaman as an idol. Their idols, or the model of the sage, are the 'ancient people' in history or mythology. They are generally the Three Sovereigns(三皇), Five Emperors(五帝), Three Kings(三王) and famous wise subjects(賢臣), and it is interesting to note that they were governors and concurrently holding roles as shamans or governors who at least had strong hues of a shaman. It is also important to notice that the tendency to make "ancient people" or "ancient tradition" as an exemplar has connections to the strong conservatism of shamanism.

The Yellow Emperor...At birth, he was perspicacious, as an infant, he was able to speak, ... as an adult, he was intelligent. ≪Shih chi․Wuti Benji (the basic annals of the five emperors)≫
The Emperor Chuan-hsu(顓頊), Kao-yang(高陽)...By acting in accord with the times he modeled himself on Heaven. By complying with ghosts and spirits, he prescribed right conduct. By working on the energies [of the five energies], he taught and transformed people. With purity and sincerity, he offered sacrifices. ≪Shih chi․Wuti Benji (the basic annals of the five emperors)≫
The Emperor K'u(嚳), Kao-hsin(高辛)....When he was born he was perspicacious. He spoke his own name....He was intelligent and thereby able to see things far ahead; he was bright and able to observe details. He complied with Heaven's intent, and he knew what the people urgently needed....He glorified the spirits and reverently served them. ≪Shih chi․Wuti Benji (the basic annals of the five emperors)≫
Shun(舜) was sent to a forest in the mountains. Through squalls and thunderstorms, he did not lose his way. Yao(堯) then knew that Shun was worthy enough to be given the world....Yao put him in charge of administration. ≪Shih chi․Wuti Benji (the basic annals of the five emperors)≫
The emperor said, "Yu, the officer of divination, when the mind has been made up on a subject, then refers it to the great tortoise. Now, in this matter, my mind was determined in the first place. I consulted and deliberated with all my ministers and people, and they were of one accord with me. The spirits signified their assent, the tortoise and grass having both concurred. Divination, when fortunate, may not be repeated." Yu did obeisance, with his head to the ground, and firmly declined the throne. ≪Shan-shu․the Councels of Great Yu≫
In the past, when Tang(湯) conquered the Xia(夏) and put the world aright, there had been a great drought with no harvest for five years. Tang thereupon offered a prayer at Sanglin(桑林) in which he offered his own body as the pledge, beseeching: "If I, the One Man am guilty, let the punishment not reach the myriad peoples. If the myriad peoples are guilty, let it rest on me, the One Man. Do not let the One man's lack of diligence cause the Supreme Sovereigh and the ghosts and spirits to harm the lives of the people." Thereupon, he cut his hair, put his hands in manacles, and had himself prepared in lieu of the usual animals as the offering in a sacrifice to beseech the blessings of the Supreme Sovereign. The people were overjoyed, and the rains came as in a deluge. ≪Lushi Chunqiu (Master Lu's Spring and Autumn)․Jiqiu (The third month of autumn))
From the documents, chronologically cited (mainly from Shih chi, the basic annals of the five emperors) above, the inseparable relation between "ancient people" and the shaman is easily confirmed. Above all, phrases like "perspicacious," "able to speak," "intelligent(聰明),“ "complying with ghosts and spirits" and so on describes the conditions of a shaman rather than the virtues of an emperor. When the emperor Yao turned the throne over to Shun and the emperor Shun to Yu, what they wanted to confirm was the successor's ability as a shaman rather than as a governor. That is, the reasons of turning the throne over to the person are described as, "Through squalls and thunderstorms, he did not lose his way. Yao(堯) then knew that Shun was worthy enough to be given the world," and also as, "The spirits signified their assent, the tortoise and grass both concurred." This shows that divine power was deemed more important than sovereign power. From this perspective, the anecdotes of Shun, according to which he jumped off a roof on fire and escaped from a collapsed well, might also be passage rites to prove his ability to go between Heaven and Earth. And the description of Tang(湯), in which he prays for rain by sacrificing himself, though symbolic, is the very image of the shaman. So, a famous scholar Li Zehou (李澤厚) defines them as the Great Shaman(大巫)s, those who are emperors and shamans concurrently.
In summary, the Sage of Confucianism and Daoism makes the so-called ancient people their model, and because they were Great Shamans according to Li Zehou, it is inevitable that the Sage would resemble the shaman. However, the Sage of Confucianism and that of Daoism have different aims, clearly described by Ge Hong(葛洪: 283 - 343) as follows.
Further, those popularly known as sages were all sages in the art of government, not sages in the art of obtaining the divine process. Those of the latter sort were Yellow Emperor and Lao Tzu; those of the former, the Duke of Chou(周公) and Confucius. ≪Baopuzi․Bianwen≫
That is, in summary, the Sage of Confucianism aims at the art of government, whereas that of Daoism intends to obtain the divine process. From the perspective in which we understand 聖 as composite of the mouth and the ear, Confucianism puts the emphasis on governing the world with the "mouth" and Daoism considers important the wandering around in the supernatural world with the "ear." It may not be coincidental that Mencius, the successor of Confucius, is interested in the mouth as he emphasizes the understanding of words(知言), whereas Chuang tzu, the successor of Lao tzu, compares the status of obtaining the divine process with hearing the piping of Heaven.
Either way, the images of the Sage overlaps with those of the shaman, and the principle of shamanism works as a basis. In short, neither Confucius nor Lao tzu mentioned the shaman as the Sages' model, but shamanism is alive within their subconscious. As a simple example, the Sage in Lao tzu is described as a person who "No weapon can pierce (兵無所容其刃. <Lao tzu, ch. 50>)”; it is not unlike Korean shamans dancing on the blade to prove that they are possessed by spirits.

6. Shamanism and the Study of Literature

Ancient Chinese literature frequently refers to the Sage(聖人) as the originator of literature.
When the ancient sage created music, he wanted to comply with the nature of the world by music, and to make the nature of everything its body. ... When music is played on the round hill(altar), the god of Heaven descended, and when music is played on the square hill(altar), the spirits of Earth responded. (Ruan ji, ≪Yuelun≫)
Contemplating the ancient time, the ultimate sage's mind comprehends harmony, and his virtue makes the gods and humans go well with each other. He made a lute with six strings to govern one body's nature and further, everybody's nature. (Xu Shang ying, ≪Qinpu≫)
Considering the maxim, “The creator is called the sage(聖). ≪Li ji․Yue ji≫”, it is natural to refer to the sage as an originator of various literature. One finds interesting that this image of the sage is so similar to the shaman. As mentioned earlier, the model of the sage was the ancient people, the preceding King or Sage King, and that they are shamans. The maxim, "the sage participates in the world and corrects politics collaborating with spirits. ≪Li ji․Liyun≫” once again confirms the close relation of the sage and the shaman.
The idea that the sage is the originator of literature extends to the utility of literature. Most scholars concordantly suggest the virtue of 'governing the world and saving people(經世濟民)' as the ultimate aim of literature. Resounding almost like a declaration Cao Pi(曹丕: 187 - 226)'s statement - "Literature is the great work that governs a country.≪Dianlun․Lunwen≫)” - is a prime example. The question and concern of this article has to do with what the mechanism that enables the aim to be achieved is. Here we shall look at some representative examples.

A) Therefore, correctly to set forth the successes and failures, to move Heaven and Earth, and to excite spiritual Beings to action, there is no readier instrument than poetry. The former kings by this regulated the duties of husband and wife, effectually inculcated filial obedience and reverence, secure attention to all the relations of society, adorned the transforming influence of instruction, and transformed manners and customs. <Preface of Mao shi>
B) Liu zi asked, "Confucius said, 'There is nothing better than the courtesy to comfort superiors and to govern people. There is nothing better than music to transform manners and to change customs.' … Are there any advantages and disadvantages of music to politics? If not, is it reasonable to say that there is nothing better than music to transform manners and to change customs.'? Ruan answered, “ … Music is the body of the world and the nature of everything. It becomes harmony when it accords with the body and acquires nature, but it becomes discordant when it leaves the body and loses nature. When the ancient sage created music, he wanted to comply with the nature of the world by music, and to make the nature of everything its body. ... When music is played on the round hill(altar), the god of Heaven descended, and when music is played on the square hill(altar), spirits of Earth responded. When the world gathers the virtues, everything comes in compliance with nature, and people come to be at peace with themselves without the aid of awards and punishments.” Ruan ji, <Yuelun>
C) A picture accomplishes education and helps humanity. It thoroughly examines the changes of the gods and comprehends depth and detail. It is as skillful as the Six Books and accords with the four seasons. - Chang Yen yuan, <Record of Famous Painters Through the Ages>
The three examples each describes the effects of poetry, music and painting. Though there are some discrepancies in their specific content, their ultimate aims are summarized as education, or governing the world and saving people. Then, where is the mechanism that enables these aims to be achieved? We find the answer in each example: in example A, "to move Heaven and Earth, and to excite spiritual Beings to action"; in B, "When music is played on the round hill(altar), god of Heaven descended, and when music is played on the square hill(altar), spirits of Earth responded. When the world gathers the virtue, everything comes to comply with the nature"; and in C, "thoroughly examines changes of god and estimates the depth and details." One should notice that 'the world(天地)' in A is not just sky and earth but also the god of Heaven(天神) and the spirits of Earth(地祇), and that the ghost(鬼神) refers to the ancestral god, which are the main objects of faith in shamanism. Poetry, music and painting achieve the aims by contacting or communicating with these supernatural beings. The next example further supports this argument.
Energy moves things, and then things move people. It shakes human nature, expresses this with songs and dances. Three bases, Sky, Earth, and Man, are brightly illuminated, and everything is shining splendidly. Spirits wait for this and enjoy it thoroughly. Ghosts reveals things to us clearly with its help. There is nothing better than poetry to move the world and to excite the ghosts. (Zhong Rong, <Preface of Shi-pin>)
Here, poetry is the means to worship the gods and spirits, an instrument with which ghosts help people. Thus, the assertion that poetry is the most effective with regard to impressing the world and ghosts, is validated. It is the logic of the phrase cited earlier, that if force operated in the order of “Energy(spirits and ghosts) → Things(everything) → People → Poetry”, it might also work in reverse order. That is, it presupposes the belief that energy can be moved by poetry. Here, energy, as the Ching dynasty painter Shen Zong Qian(沈宗騫) said, is the basis of the existence of god(神). In fact, according to the concept of shamanism of the minorities in Northern China, Energy(氣), God(神), Soul(魂) are as closely connected as to be of one. This recognition of poetry goes back to the ancient times.
Turning to Kui, the emperor said: "Kui, I appoint you the head court musician....Make the young people aware that poetry expresses sentiments, and songs employ words for the communication of the sentiments. To convey the sentiments, songs must be both expressive and rhythmical. Coordinate and harmonize the sounds of the eight musical instruments for the delight and response of both human and celestial beings." Kui replied: "Good. Let me strike the chime stone and have the numerous animals dance to music." ≪Shang Shu․Yu shu․Cannon of Shun≫
In the document above, “志” in "詩言志” is commonly interpreted as "sentiments or intention of the poet" and "百獸率舞” as "have the numerous animals dance to music." According to a researcher, however, “志(sound: zhi)” in this context means “識( meaning: document; sound: zhi)”, a ritual of the shaman remaining in the "memory" of the elder(長者), and "百獸" refers to the people who wear masks of various animals. In other words, the quoted phrase is to be understood as a shamanism which expresses hunting. One must be reminded here that the shaman was the main practitioner of various literature in ancient times.
The role of literature, like that of the shaman, is "神人以和” - the delight and response of both humans and celestial beings - through which the aim of governing the world and saving people is achieved. In sum, the effect of literature - to move the world and to excite ghosts - overlaps in its very idea with the principles of shamanism. The above is but only one example of shamanism that appears in the study of Chinese literature. It is sufficient, however, to confirm that shamanism is working even in the area of the theory of traditional culture.

7. Conclusion

Up to now, I investigated the cultural role of shamanism in the case of China. However, shamanism in China is not just a relic of the past, neither is the case in Korea and Japan. As we know from the fact that the Nuo li(儺禮) and Nuo xi(儺戱) - each corresponding to exorcism and masque in Korea - is still performed in some countrysides of China, shamanism has overcome the severe oppression of Marxism-Maoism and widely persists in the popular culture of the people. It is also not true that shamanism is barely maintaining its slender existence as a folk religion. For example, as the Manchurians(滿洲族) who governed during the Ching Dynasty developed Tiao Shen (跳神), their unique ceremony of shamanism, shamanism prevailed from the lower class to the upper class in almost every dynasty. There are still more examples. Gao Xingjian(高行建), China's first Nobel prize laureate for literature, investigates shamanism as an alternative to the destruction of Nature and human isolation resulting from modernization, economic development and political oppression, especially in his representative works, Soul Mountain (Ling Shan 靈山) and Wild man(Ye ren 野人). According to Shan Hai Jing(山海經), 'Soul Mountain' is a place where ten shamans travel between Heaven and Earth, where all kinds of medicine exists. In short, shamanism in China is neither a primitive religion, which temporarily existed in the past, nor a folk religion in slender existence. It is a substance that has exerted, from prehistoric times to the present, a strong influence not only on the public but also on the elite.
The situation is not different in Korea and Japan. It is thus required to search for the origin and homogeneity of traditional culture among the three countries with respect to shamanism. The final point I want to make is that the current form of shamanism as folk religion, now degraded and shrunk, is significantly distant from primitive shamanism discussed here. Like the recollection of an Eskimo shaman told to a Danish anthropologist.
The shamans in the times of our ancestors were lonely people. Now they have become priests, doctors, weather casters, magicians who provide game, or cunning merchants working for payment. Ancient people sacrificed themselves for the harmony of the world and all things in it, for the greater, limitless, unfathomable things.
It is not in the interest of this paper to elucidate whether ancient people (shamans) were really able to accomplish "harmony of the world and all things." However, if we count 'harmony with all things' or 'unity of god and man(天人合一)' as the essence of East-Asian traditional culture, it is surely in line with the world of shamanism. In this respect, shamanism is the key code one must utilize in order to understand the traditional culture not only of China but of the three countries.

- Exhibition Catalogue published by Daegu Art Museum, Korea, 2011