In Oral Traditions in Contemporary China: Healing a Nation, Juwen Zhang provides a systematic survey of such oral traditions as folk and fairy tales, proverbs, ballads, and folksongs that are vibrantly practiced today. Zhang establishes a theoretical framework for understanding how Chinese culture has continued for thousands of years with vitality and validity, core and arbitrary identity markers, and folkloric identity. This framework, which describes a cultural self-healing mechanism, is equally applicable to the exploration of other traditions and cultures in the world. Through topics from Chinese Cinderella to the Grimms of China, from proverbs like “older ginger is spicier” to the life-views held by the Chinese, and from mountain songs and ballads to the musical instruments like the clay-vessel-flute, the author weaves these oral traditions across time and space into a mesmerizing intellectual journey. Focusing on contemporary practice, this book serves as a bridge between Chinese and international folklore scholarship and other related disciplines as well. Those interested in Chinese culture in general and Chinese folklore, literature, and oral tradition in particular will certainly delight in perusing this book.
Juwen Zhang is professor of Chinese and folklore at Willamette University, Salem, Oregon.
Part I: Introduction: An Interpretive Framework for the Continuity of Traditions
Chapter 1: Folklore and Folkloristics in China
Chapter 2: The Inherent Cultural Self-Healing Mechanism
Part II:Gushi: Tales of Chinese Characteristics
Chapter 3: Fairytale as Tonghua: Localizing Narrative Genre and National Spirit
Chapter 4: The Moon Man: A Tale in Telling for a Thousand Years
Part III: Yanyu: Proverbs of Stereotypes and Life-Views
Chapter 5: Proverbs with Chinese Characteristics: A History in and outside China
Chapter 6: Older Ginger Is Spicier: Chinese Life-views in Proverbs
Part IV: Geyao: Ballads and Stories without Words
Chapter 7: The Trilateral Trajectories: Oral, Literary and Musical Traditions of Ballads
Chapter 8: Stories without Words: The Traditionalization of a Musical Instrument
This meticulous monograph by Zhang surveys ancient, modern, and contemporary Chinese oral genres, including stories (especially “fairy tales”), proverbs, ballads, and musical forms…. His historical narrative, supplemented with a few case studies of tales and proverbs, provides a historically grounded sociology of knowledge for the fields of Chinese modern folklore collection, taxonomy, and translation into other languages…. Recommended. Faculty and professionals.
This book makes a very powerful statement about the engagement of Chinese scholars on the level of theory production in an arena where the assumption remains that the native participants were relegated to data gathering. The operative idea is that oral tradition plays an important role in ‘cultural self-healing’ in the Chinese context—an idea that will resonate globally and is especially relevant today.
Juwen Zhang combines elements of Western theory with perspectives emerging from Chinese folklore studies of the last 100 years, testing the disciplinary boundaries of oral tradition studies by examining the process of practice and transmission in the tradition. With well-documented and excellent use of sources, this book is accessible to students and scholars both familiar and unfamiliar with the Chinese tradition. Oral Traditions in Contemporary China: Healing a Nation will be a welcome addition to the growing body of scholarship that mixes Western and non-Western perspectives on Chinese/East Asian folklore and vernacular culture.
A unique synthesis of profound historical and cultural knowledge of Chinese folklore and its Chinese folkloristic studies with contemporary theories and methods of international folklore scholarship.