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The White Old Man: Géluk-Mongolian Canopus Allegory and the Existence of God

Brian Baumann

Pages 35 - 68


This article has the legendary Mongolian Gelug White Old Man at its centre, a
phenomenon which also existed in all Asian regions which Tibetan Buddhism had
penetrated, including Amdo and Kham in Tibet and the Ölöt, Buryat and Khalkha of
Inner Mongolia, where the tradition of the White Old Man had become very common.
Having been branded a vestige of the feudal past in the twentieth century, the
tradition could only be taken up again in public from the late 1980s. Its dance
routines were derived from Gelugpa ritual, combining solemn rite with joyful
entertainment. Donning large masks and brilliant costumes, the White Old Man
holds guard over the retribution being meted out over a sinful world, chasing
all wrong and evil out of the minds of the common people. This article
stipulates that the White Old Man represents an allegory of Canopus, the
Antarctic star (known as Shouxing 夀星 – Star of Longevity – in Chinese). Fables
related to Canopus can be encountered in divergent civilisations across Eurasia.
The various roles played by the White Old Man in the premodern period were
characterised by their abstraction. Following the era of socialist reformation
and scientific mass education, however, the White Old Man has become a
personalised as a "shaman", differing starkly from all ancient perceptions.


本文探討的主體為蒙古格魯派傳說中的【白老爺】–一個出現於亞洲藏傳佛教 所有地區的現象。【白老爺】這個傳統原本在現今的西藏安多、康區以及內蒙
古瓦剌(厄魯特)、布里亞特及喀爾喀區都甚為普遍。由於從二十世紀起長期 被視為一種封建的歷史痕跡,【白老爺】在一九八十年代末開始才再能公開地
進行。此種藏傳佛教中的舞蹈動作把莊嚴的禮儀和充滿喜悅的娛樂互相結合。 配戴著大型面具和輝煌的服裝,白老爺在罪惡滿盈的世界裡執行相關的懲罰,
掃除老百姓的過犯。本篇文章認為【白老爺】實際上是南極老人星,即所謂的 【壽星】。與壽星有關的寓言在歐亞大陸不同的文明中經常被提及。【白老爺
】自古以來的角色是比較抽象。經過社會主義和科學教育思潮的洗禮後,【白 老爺】古代的形象被重新塑造,演變成個人化的“薩滿”。

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