Western Folklore

Vol. 76 No. 2 – Spring, 2017


Introduction: The Essentials of Intangible Cultural Heritage Practices in China: The Inherent Logic and Transmission Mechanism of Chinese Tradition
Juwen Zhang and Xing Zhou

This special issue of Western Folklore was designed to address two concerns: 1) Ever since the term Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) was defined and used by the UNESCO in 2003, it has had a substantial impact upon folklore studies all over the world; 2) The English language publications on ICH and Chinese folklore are either infrequent or do not address the roots of the problems discussed here. Consequently there are few deep analyses of perspectives pertinent to the cultural logic and mechanisms of transmission and transformation of Chinese traditions. This special issue is thus intended to examine the essentials and potentials of ICH in China; to explore the cultural connotations of the flourishing ICH movement; to discover the logic and mechanism inherent in the continuity of Chinese culture; and, to catch the pulse of current social changes, not only within Chinese culture itself, but also in the global context. The focus here is not on current problems in China, nor on using any particular theory or model to interpret Chinese phenomena; its purpose, rather, is to identify the concepts and terms used by everyday practitioners so as to establish a discourse that scrutinizes changes in Chinese culture, based on its mechanisms and in accordance with its fundamental beliefs and values.

Folk Belief and Its Legitimization in China
Xing Zhou

ABSTRACT: In China, “world religions” (or institutionalized religions)—Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism—as well as the Chinese indigenous Daoism are recognized by the government as “religions.” As long as these religions are practiced within the acceptable range of rules set by the government, the government will view them as legitimate religions and will protect them. However, there are many folk beliefs in a great variety of locales in China that are not officially recognized or treated as religions. The question of their legitimacy has been a long-standing problem that has perplexed Chinese society. This paper focuses on the issue of the legitimacy of folk beliefs and argues that three paths have been followed to legitimize folk beliefs in contemporary China: folklorization, religionization, and cultural heritage. It then examines the ways that the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) movement has transformed folk beliefs into “cultural heritage.” KEYWORDS: ICH, folk belief, legitimacy, folklorization, religionization, heritagization

The Social Movement of Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage and the End of Cultural Revolutions in China
Bingzhong Gao

ABSTRACT: Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH), an international collaboration among governments through UNESCO, was rapidly transformed into a widespread social movement in China. As a result of both the introduction and adoption of ICH practices and principles within China, new cultural concepts, new laws, and new public cultural policies were promulgated. For the first time in the recent history, many aspects of folk cultures that were suppressed are now gaining legitimate status in public domains. This social movement has changed, ended, and even subverted the concepts and logic of cultural revolutions in China since the 19th century. KEYWORDS: ICH, social movement, Cultural Revolution, new culture; everyday life

The Predicament, Revitalization, and Future of Traditional Chinese Festivals
Fang Xiao

ABSTRACT: Chinese culture originated primarily in the context of an agrarian society and agricultural modes of production. Thus agrarian cycles and systems of time, expressed through festivals, is essential to an understanding of Chinese culture. Traditional festivals, based on this temporal system and agrarian calendar, have been practiced for many centuries. But the adoption of the Western calendar in 1912 by the Republic of China changed the scenario, replaced the traditional calendar, and denounced and eliminated traditional festivals. This situation was not essentially changed even after the establishment of People’s Republic of China in 1949, and traditional festivals were still not included in the state’s system of national holidays. With the ICH movement that began at the turn of the 21st century, traditional festivals began to be treated differently. Eventually, with major contributions from folklorists, traditional festivals are now included in the official time/holiday system. This article examines the processes of this change and discusses current problems and future challenges regarding traditional festivals. KEYWORDS: ICH, revitalization, traditional festival, public holiday, foreign holiday

Intangible Cultural Heritage and Self-Healing Mechanism in Chinese Culture
Juwen Zhang

ABSTRACT: As the Chinese have steadily improved their material lives over the past half century, they have also experienced a transition of cultural life from confusion to self-awareness and self-confidence. The current Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) movement has doubtlessly provided an important opportunity for such a transformation. What emerged from this process is an example of a cultural self-healing mechanism in Chinese culture: during cultural conflicts and interactions, fundamental Chinese beliefs and values arose as the basis for tolerance, co-existence, integration, and the creation of new cultures. The vitality of Chinese culture lies in this mechanism, which is based on a polytheist cosmology and inclusive ethical values. This article examines this mechanism in the current context of historical and global changes. If viewed from the perspective of its dynamic self-healing mechanism, Chinese culture is full of promises. Conversely, if viewed solely from the modernist monotheist belief and values, it could be facing imminent crises. Using examples from history and everyday practice, this article argues that the concept of a cultural self-healing mechanism is essential to understand not only the continuity of Chinese culture, but also the production and development of human cultures more broadly. KEYWORDS: ICH, self-healing mechanism; self-awareness; self-confidence; localization


Jeannie Banks Thomas, Putting the Supernatural in its Place: Folklore, the Hypermodern, and the Ethereal
Reviewed by Jeffrey A. Tolbert

James P. Leary, Folksongs of Another America: Field Recordings from the Upper Midwest, 1937-1946
Reviewed by Gregory Hansen

Lisa Gilman, My Music, My War: The Listening Habits of U.S. Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan
Reviewed by Mark Allan Jackson

Gretchen Martin, Dancing on the Color Line : African American Tricksters in Nineteenth-Century American Literature
Reviewed by Todd Richardson

Renée Alexander Craft, When the Devil Knocks: The Congo Tradition and the Politics of Blackness in Twentieth-Century Panama
Reviewed by Carla Guerrón Montero

Paule Fahmé-Thiéry, Bernard Heyberger, and Jérôme Lentin, Hanna Dyâb. D’Alep à Paris: Les Pérégrinations d’un jeune Syrien au temps de Louis XIV
Reviewed by Ruth B. Bottigheimer

Stacy Schaefer, Huichol Women, Weavers, and Shamans
Reviewed by Cyndy Garcia-Weyandt

Jennifer Eastman Attebery, Pole Raising and Speech Making: Modalities of Swedish American Summer Celebration
Reviewed by Anna Blomster

Gregory Schrempp, Science, Bread, and Circuses: Folkloristic Essays on Science for the Masses
Reviewed by Paul Jordan-Smith

Natalia Khanenko-Friesen, Ukrainian Otherlands: Diaspora, Homeland, and Folk Imagination in the Twentieth Century
Reviewed by Anastasiya Astapova

Elliott Oring, Joking Asides: The Theory, Analysis, and Aesthetics of Humor
Reviewed by Paul Jordan-Smith