Place of discovery
I found this object exhibited at the Grassi Museum für Völkerkunde located in Leipzig.



Tschunriniai is a shamans figure of the ethnic group of Nanaier located in North China and North-Eest-Rus­sia. In the middle age the shamans used Tschunriniai as a tool for healing people with chest pain. The figure was well placed at the chest of the suffering person in assuming to take the afflictions off.


Tschunriniai has small round eyes and a little mouth is placed in the head. A positve and negativ triangle are giving the head a shape of a square. The eyes are in the lower triangle, the upper body has a rectangu­lar form with round shaped edges. There is a hole in the chest in shape of a square. Two legs with edges in position where normally are knees. All the basic forms are rectangles or squares. There are three parts, the head, the upper body and the legs. Every section has components of the other section. The head is a mul­tiple of the whole in the upper thirds an the legs have approximately the same length like the upper body. The figure has no arms and in the face you can´t find a nose. The whole object is carved from one piece of wood. The colour is brown and the surface is smooth and plain.


In the background of the middle age and that the peo­ple in this time didn‘t have the possibilities of manu­facturing of today, the shamans figure Tschunriniai brings the impression that it is like a cuddly toy. All these simple forms and edges, the size itself and the field of application of that object giving the feeling for that assumption.

The usergroup for the shamans of Nanaier were peop­le with chest pain. What means chest pain? When you have chest pain then you have usualy problems with your lungs or the heart. In the middle age you could not heal theses diseases in reason of less medical knowledge. Mostly the people died shortly afterwards of the outbreak of a disease like cancer or a heart attack. There is a chest pain that is not initiated by a disease. When you are in love or a person broke up with you, you feel lonely or someone died then you have collo­quial a kind of heartache. When you are a child you use a cuddly toy like a gu­ardian when you stay in bed alone in a dark room at night. Or you have a cold and you feel bad so that you need something to hug. Another case for a cuddly toy is you get a present from your girl/boy friend so you have something that reminds on her/him when she/ he is not there. The effect is, that what we miss is a bit closer for example the hug of our partner, mother or the best friend. A cuddly toy is something in that we project persons or memories, it is a compensator for something that we need or what we miss. Shamanism is a kind of spiritualism and very con-nected to superstition. In my opinion the Tschunriniai figure is an object with the same application like a cuddly toy. The Shaman put the figure on the chest of the person which had a suffer and gave that person the imagination to be a bit closer to that what they missed. You can compare to haitian voodoo doll, too. The difference is that the voodoo doll brings pain to a person that it stands for and the Tschunriniai stands for a person which takes the pain off a person which is suffering. The Doll simply replaces a person. The christians wearing a neckless with a jesus crucifix pendant in front of their breast, some people writing the name of a lovely person in tattoo on their breast. Faith healer believe in laying on of their hands to take off the problems. It seems like that we humans are searching since eternities for something like a libera­tor of our mental suffer, something that we can put on our breast like a redeeming hug.

I like to leave open the question: [if we have the need for little helpers, assistants and supporters in the human nature?].

to proceed
It could be interesting to make a collection of infor­mations about figures, dolls, mascots, toys and little beings form the past to the present to adapt more about. Another possiblity is to build a bridge from the old wish to have a gadget to change things to the mo­dern smart phone applications. In consideration of that there is the possibility of user interviews and self reflection of the daily use with little helpers and gadgets. Also self experiments with gadgets can be helpful and of course specialist books about social reference to objects will be a good source to to extrapolate the topic.

sources of information
GRASSI Museum für Völkerkunde zu Leipzig, http://www.mvl-grassimuseum.de, Staatliche Ethnogra­phische Sammlungen Sachsen, Johannisplatz 5-11, 04103 Leipzig, http://www.mvl-grassimuseum.de/ index.php?id=207