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July 17, 2018 2 min read

When things vanish it feels bad.

When cultures vanish it feels worse.

Here is a Yao Shaman’s manuscript that came to me about 2 years ago. About 4 months ago,  I took it out to look at it and then study it. It is through reading about such manuscripts that I realised that this culture no longer exists.

Are there anyone who practices it? Probably not.

Many other outsiders know of it as students of that culture but are there enough living people who know it as a part of their own heritage?

The script is beautiful – the paper is gorgeous and the drawing are superbly rendered so why did I have this sinking feeling as I carefully thumbed through the pages?

1295 Yao Shaman's Handwritten Ritual Book Manuscript with Diagrams 05-s.jpg

1295 Antique Yao Shaman's Ritual Book Manuscript

1295 Antique Yao Shaman's Ritual Book Manuscript

Surely someone might be able to read the script, understand the meanings and be able to see it within the paradigm that it was meant to be read in?

Somebody? Anybody?


And then I tried to call up the senior American dealer – a retiree – who lived in the Philippines and who spent many years in Vietnam and was my source of many things from the region including this one. Having had 1 or 2 long conversations on the phone with him previously I felt like he’d grandfathered me in this category and he was the right person to reach out to for more information.

But the phone didn’t connect.

Since that day, I have tried calling all his 3 numbers at least a dozen times on different days – including his wife’s and daughter’s.  I have tried emailing him several times over the past 3 months.

No response. At all.

Yes – when cultures vanish – it is sad. But when people vanish it is the worst feeling ever!

But at least they’ve left behind memories of super conversations even if there is no face or real person attached to that memory!


See more photos of this manuscript here.




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