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Aniota-Kifwebe. Les Masques des Populations du Congo Belge, et le Matérial des Rites de Circoncision. Par le Dr. J. Maes, Conservateur de la Section Ethnographiques du Museé du Congo Belge à Tervueren.
The Curator of the Ethnographic Section in the Tervueren Museum (Brussels) has drawn up a very comprehensive catalogue raisonné of the ceremonial masks contained in that collection. These masks are used in the initiation ceremonies of the Congo peoples, and have never been so fully studied before, as Professor Frobenius, in his Masken und Geheimbunde Afrikas (1898) had a much more limited amount of material to work on. Out of the 131 specimens discussed by him, only seventeen were derived from the Belgian Congo, while the Tervueren Museum possesses 178, all drawn from that region. They differ greatly in character and in workmanship, and Dr. Maes has classified them under 11 main types. The book is illustrated with some excellent photographs, showing not only the various masks but, in some cases, the costumes worn along with them, and some of the carved wooden figures usually called fetishes. Of these, Fig. 58 is remarkable, as coming from the remote inland tribe of the Bayaka, being evidently of recent origin and intended to represent a European in uniform. A special, if rather gruesome interest attaches to the Aniota masks of the Mobali (a tribe occupying the central part of the Lindi Valley.) They are the insignia of a secret society probably resembling the "Human Leopards" recently suppressed in Sierra Leone. Fig. 56 shows a member of this society about to attack his victim.-The specimens have been collected over an extensive area, some being obtained from the Ababua and Azande tribes in the north-eastern part of the Belgian territory, and it is probable that such masks exist in many places where they have not yet been recorded. The rites with which they are connected are very general among the Bantu tribes, and, as is only to be expected, would be, as far as possible, kept secret from Europeans.-The little book, like other valuable publications from the same source, is well worth the attention of anthropologists.
The Isvara-gîtâ, of which an English translation by Lâlâ Kannoo Mai of Dholpur has lately been published, is a Sanskrit work of some interest. Incorporated in the Uttara-khanda of the Kûrma-purâna, it is, so to speak, a Saiva replica of the famous Bhagavad-gìtâ. Some nameless Saiva author, struck by the merits of the latter scripture, conceived the ingenious idea of writing a work of similar character, which should place Siva on the pedestal of divine preeminence which the Bhagavad-gîtâ assigns to Krishna, while at the same time conciliating worshippers of Vishnu by making concessions to their doctrines, and generally preaching a Broad Church policy. The result of this effort is the Isvara-gîtâ. Essentially its doctrine is very similar to that of the Bhagavad-gîtâ, substituting Siva for Krishna: there is the same ancient theism, with its roots in the Upanishads, and similar views of Sânkhya (theistic, of course) and Yoga. There are however, some important differences: the Gîtâ' peculiar doctrine of Karma-yoga is in the background; the Yoga here advocated is of a more elaborate kind; and certain metaphysical concepts of Saiva origin are introduced. Thus the little work is of some importance as a document of a by no means negligible phase of religious thought, and the present translation will be useful.
A singular tragic and romantic interest attaches to the Manichaean religion. From its earliest days the fiercest storms of persecution beat upon it: Mazdayasnians, Moslems, and Christians vied with one another in their efforts to suppress it by fair means and foul, and at length it perished when its last strongholds were ravaged by the Tartar hordes of Chingiz Khan and Timur. Yet in the centuries between the first preaching of Mani at Ctesiphon in 242 and the date of its final extinction it had won some notable victories both in the East and in the West, and for a time seemed likely to threaten the supremacy of the Christian Church. Its importance therefore fully warrants the attention that has been given to it by scholars, especially since the publication of the recently discovered Manichaean manuscript fragments, chiefly from Chinese Turkestan, and the frescoes from the latter region, which are the only first-hand records of this dead and gone Church. The latest contribution to this study is The Religion of the Manichees, being the Donnellan Lectures for 1924 delivered by Proffessor F. C. Burkitt. With his usual learning and brilliance the author discusses the history, doctrines, and sources of this singular system of dualism, adding notes and appendices, with reproductions of the remarkable fresco from Khotscho depicting Mani himself with his attendant Elect and the picture from a Manichaean manuscript apparently representing the Eucharist of his Church. Unquestionably this is the most illuminative account of Manichaeism that has appeared, and it completely realises the author's design "to bring the wonderful discoveries of original Manichee Literature from Central Asia before a wider public than at present seems to know of them, and . . . to suggest that the Christian element in the religion of the Manichees is larger and more fundamental than the scholars of the last generation were inclined to allow." Both these objects Professor Burkitt has fully attained. He has handled the new materials with great skill and insight, clearly shewing how they conform to previously known data, and where they supplement or correct them. His plea for the importance of the Christian element in Manichaeism is exceedingly plausible; to us he seems to be right in his contention that Mani derived his physical theories from Bardaisan and his moral doctrine from Marcion. As regards other sources he is more cautious and reserved, and perhaps therefore a little less satisfactory. He says that he sees in Manichaeism "no sure trace of Buddhism as a formative element” (p. 98); and here we believe he is right. But there are other elements in it which, taken in the bulk, seem to us to point to Indian influences which are not Buddhist, but earlier than Buddhism: such are for instance the war of the powers of Light and Darkness, the defeat of the former and of the Primal Man, the appearance of the Messenger to the Archons as a female of bewildering beauty (this last a trait known also to the Gnostics), and the falling of sin upon the earth, which have parallels in Vedic and Puranic myth, and, most characteristic of all, the intense horror of injuring animal life even in its lowest forms, which is most strongly marked among the Jains, and was derived by them from still more ancient ascetic schools. Taken singly, such parallels would prove nothing; but collectively they mean much, especially as we see that Mani knew something of Buddha,and therefore may have well known some Indian ideas other than those of Buddhism. How he obtained them, whether they reached him through books or by word of mouth, whether they came to him from contemporary India or were drawn from a stock of ideas implanted before his age in regions nearer to Iraq-these are problems for further speculation.
The Making of Modern India. By Nicol Macnicol. The aim of this little book is, as the author tells us, to provide some materials by which to estimate the character of the forces that are making the New In 'ia, and the direction in
which these forces are carrying her. The material is arranged in the form of seventeen essays on the political, social, and religious influences which are at work in modern India.
It is perhaps not altogether an advantage, in view of the rapidity with which affairs in India have been recently moving, that some of the essays were written several years ago. There is some loss of unity as a result, as well as a certain amount of repetition. Mr. Macnicol has lived in close touch with the Hindus of Western India, and he is an earnest student of the philosophy, religion, and literature of Hinduism. He has sympathy and style.
At times, it is true, his sympathy carries him too far-e.g., in his palpable exaggeration of the hauteur of the unfortunate British "bureaucrats" in his opening essay but his treatment of the social and religious life of the people is open to no such criticism, and this part of the book is as illuminating as it is thoughtful.
Though writing, as the dedication shows, avowedly from the Christian point of view, the author is singularly free from prejudice, and shows an obvious, though not uncritical, enthusiasm in describing the personalities and work of such leaders of Indian thought as Raja Ram Mohun Roy, Devendranath Tagore, and Gandhi.
Not all readers will agree with Mr. Macnicol's estimate of the past, present, and future influence of Christianity on Hinduism. It is however, indisputable that many of the prominent innovators in India religious thought in the last 100 years have been profoundly influenced by Christian, or Western, ethics. And, though it is obviously impossible to forecast future developments in the peculiar complexities of India, the views here presented no less than the method of their presentation, merit all respect. One of the most attractive features of the book is the wealth of quotations, many of them in translations of great beauty, from Hindu poets, notably Tukaram.
Catalogue of the Indian Collections. Part IV: Jaina Paintings and Manuscripts. By Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, Keeper of Indian and Muhammadan Art, 4to., pages 74, with 39 plates reproducing 186 subjects.
The illustrated manuscripts catalogued in the present volume are sacred texts of Jainism, and the small paintings also listed represent various subjects of Jain theology and ritual. Internal evidence indicates that all may be dated from the early fifteenth to the early seventeenth century, and several bears date within that period. The descriptive list of the paintings and manuscripts is prefaced by chapters on Jainism: its legends, cosmology, literature and paintings, with a bibliography. The plates reproduce the greater part of the miniatures and paintings listed.
The faith called Jainism appears to have arisen in India simultaneously with Buddhism in the sixth century B.C. Both religions aim to point the individual toward the perfect spiritual life; and each builds its own way of salvation upen the foundations of the ancient Hindu ideas of transmigration (Samsara) and inexorable causation (Karma). Buddhism emphasizes ethics; Jainism metaphy ics. While to Buddhism the soul does not exist as a separate entity, to Jainism it is immortal and may attain divinity. Mahavira, the founder of Jainism, called the Jina, is also named the "Finder of the Ford" across the ocean of universal death and rebirth.
The two religions have had an opposite history.
Buddhism is nearly extinct
in India, while counting its hundreds of millions of adherents elsewhere in eastern
Asia. Jainism has survived in India alone. It was once important politically, and still is influential through the character and wealth of its adherents. The percentage of crime is asserted to be lower among the Jains than among the Hindus, Muhammadans or Christians in India; and it has been estimated that half the mercantile wealth of India passes through the hands of the Jain laity. Jainism has left its impress upon Indian art in architecture, sculpture and painting. The Jain shrine at Mt. Abu, built of marble with elaborate sculptured ornament, has been ccalled the most superb temple in India and comparable only with the Taj Mahal.
Illustrated manuscripts like those of the Museum collection are very rare in even Jain libraries. The pages retain the form of the strips of palm leaf or birch bark used before the introduction of paper. The illustrations are coloured drawings about three and one-half inches high and two and one-half to three and one-half wide, placed as if pasted on the page. The faces and figures depicted are most remarkable in character, and, like the composition of the different scenes represented, adhere strictly to canonical forms. The illustration reproduced above is the first page of a manuscript of the Kalpa Sutra, a sacred book held in high esteem by the Jains for a thousand years. The book relates the life of Mahavira. This manuscript is dated 1497, and, with the possible exception of a similar manuscript in the British Museum, is the oldest known. An inscription states that it was prepared on behalf of a certain merchant, his family and colleagues. The small drawing is a fragment of painting of the early seventeenth century, showing a devotee in the act of applying sectarian symbols to his forehead. The ornament reproduced below is from the cover of a leaflet containing an edifying poem. An inscription states that it was written in 1616 in a monastery at the town now called Anand, in the Bombay Presidency. Several leaves from the manuscripts are at present shown in the Indian Corridor.
Udayana, King of the Vatsas, is one of the most popular heroes of Indian story. In reality he was a contemporary of the Buddha: legend however, soon carried him away from historical realityand transported him to a world of fiction. A cycle of folk-saga, containing diverse materials, some of them much more ancient than the real Udayana, was woven around this attractive figure; already in the days of Kâlidâsa it delighted village audiences, and it found its way into classical Sanskrit literature. The lost drama of Bhâsa (of which possibly an excerpt in an adapted form is preserved in the Svapna-vâsavadatta published in the Trivandrum Sanskrit Series), Subandhu's romance, and the full narrative incorporated in Somadeva's Kathâ-sarit-sâgara testify to its influence on literature in the classical age. As the version of the legend-cycle given by Somadeva in his Kathâ-saritsagâra is the fullest surviving, and is narrated by him with his usual grace and liveliness, it was a happy thought of M. Félix Lacôte to publish a translation of it, under the title of L'Histoire Romanesque d'Udayana Roi de Vatsa, as vol. X of "Les Classiques de l'Orient." M. Lacôte has made his mark as a scholar by his studies of the Kathâ-sarit-sâgara and its sources; here he appears mainly in the character of a man of letters, writing for readers with little or no knowledge of things Indian. Naturally the little book is an excellent one. The French translation is clear and elegant, the explanatory notes commendably brief and pithy, and there is a good and illuminative introduction. We must however confess to an imperfect appreciation of the woodcuts of M, Buhot, which are in the style generally adopted in this series of books.