VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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A Shaman’s Costume
U.65ts-5-58
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

This is an elaborate shaman’s costume. The Caftan is of cotton with a woven geometrical pattern. The gown hanging over the chest has a nickel-plated brass mirror to ward off evil spirits. On the left arm is a dagger with a wooden handle with copper fittings as well as an iron blade. At the top of the shoulder blades, two tufts of owl feathers which, together with triangles of material hanging down from the underside of the sleeves, symbolize its ability to fly. The feathers of an eagle are also found at the top of his crown which consists of a cap of black wool and a red band across the front upon which a winged lion is mounted. It is made of chased copper and has, in addition to the wings, the claws of a bird. Skins of small animals, eagle feathers, and even bird claws highlight the connection between the shaman and the natural world. Above are round brass bells. The entire face is concealed by a black silk fringe. At the sides and the back of the cap are numerous snakes of material with coral eyes, as well as funnel-shaped iron rattles. The shaman’s drum which matches this costume has a round frame of two layers of birch wood, a handle of leather, wound with silk and cloth, and above it a wire which is stretched across carrying seven coins of Chinese-Manchurian-origin rattles and bells. The outside of the drum-skin is painted with the flaming sor on a small altar, cloud-symbols, garuda, dragon, tiger and lion, all indications of how strongly the so-called “yellow shamanism” was overlaid with Buddhist elements. The wooden drumstick has a fur-covered head and a metal stick with eight rattle–rings.

History of the Object
Mongolians have practiced shamanism for thousands of years, believing that certain people (shamans) can communicate with the supernatural to cure disease, ease suffering, assure good luck, and increase wealth. In 1578 shamanism was forbidden in order to allow Buddhism to spread.

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Type
Costume and Jewelry 
Materials
Cloth, silk, metal, wood, eagle feather, skins, claws 
Measurements
Height 186 cm. Length 70 cm.  
Creator name
Unknown 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
Northern Mongolia 
Geography
Mongolia 
Time period
AD 19th century ~ AD 20th century 
Creation date
19th Century - 20th Century; late 19th, early 20th century 
Function
Costume of a Darhad head shaman, Zairan 
Acquisition
Gown collected by the museum in 1965 
Copyright
 
Acknowledgements
 
Owner
National Museum of Mongolia 
Museum
National Museum of Mongolia 
Credit line
 

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