Western Folklore

Vol. 81 No. 2/3 – Spring/Summer, 2022

Special Issue: New Directions in Chinese Folkloristics


Editorial Preface by Anthony Buccitelli


Introduction: Glimpses of New Directions in Chinese folkloristics

Juwen Zhang

Developing Chinese Folkloristics: Experience and Reflection

Fang Xiao and Chen Jia

ABSTRACT: For a century, Chinese folkloristics has continued its unique traditions while integrating both domestic and international theories. It identifies applications in the lives of common people and transmits China’s national and cultural heritage while pursuing social reform and community reconstruction. This article summarizes contemporary theories in folkloristics in China, discusses the discipline’s development, and shares lessons from four dynamic areas: autonomy and independence; practicality and historicity; localization and internationalization; and syncretism and openness. KEYWORDS: Chinese folkloristics, disciplinarity, folklore theory and method, practice, historiography.

A Centennial Overview of Folklore Studies at Sun Yat-sen University

Xiaochun Liu

ABSTRACT: The Folklore Society at Sun Yat-sen University was the first folklore research institute in China in the early twentieth century, and the current Folklore Program/Intangible Cultural Heritage Institute there is representative of the graduate programs across the country. A glimpse of the developmental history of this program describes the contour of Chinese folkloristics: the composition of faculty and students, research areas and projects, and affiliations with other departments/disciplines, publications, and folklore journals. KEYWORDS: Sun Yat-sen University, Folklore Society, regional folklore, ethnic folklore, folkloricity

The Integration of Scholarly and Local Perspectives in Writing Village Minsuzhi in Contemporary China

Shishan Zhang

ABSTRACT: In recent years, there has been an upsurge in the writing of village minsuzhi, reflecting a growing awareness of the importance of traditional culture in the development of Chinese rural society. Contemporary scholars should carry on the traditions represented by the ancient intellectual elite, such as “fighting for the people” and “transforming customs with rituals.” They should also promote writing minsuzhi based on an accurate knowledge and expression of tradition by combining scholars’ perspectives and the local villagers’ perspectives. Doing so will help promote contemporary village revitalization strategies and contribute to the development of local societies. Practical village minsuzhi writing should also be part of a theoretical discourse about the folk expressions and inheritance mechanisms of Chinese culture. KEYWORDS: village minsuzhi, ethnography, emic, etic

A Turn Toward Practice in Chinese Folkloristics: A Reflection on the Concept Through Fieldwork

Xi Ju

ABSTRACT: In recent years, debates have arisen about the goals and methods of folklore studies in China. Complicating these efforts at reconstructing Chinese folkloristics, however, is the administrative positioning of some folklore programs in schools of literature and others in schools of sociology. This essay reflects on the experience of this ongoing administrative shift, and how this shift has provided Chinese folklorists with an opportunity to explore the new possibilities for applying folkloristics to social practice. KEYWORDS: practice, social governance, village, China

Safeguarding Festivals: Reflections on the Training Workshop for Young ICH Bearers

Shaoya He and Xia Zhu

ABSTRACT: The Folklore Program at Beijing Normal University is participating in the new central government initiative “Workshop for Training Inheritance of Intangible Cultural Heritage Bearers,” a platform for ICH bearers to transmit traditional knowledge and skill to younger generations. This essay reflects on the experience of holding this workshop on the theme of “festival-ritual,” which involved working with parties in the local village and government and promoting new models of transmitting traditions by training young bearers. KEYWORDS: Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH), tradition-bearers, festivals, rituals

The Mechanism of Maintaining Identity Applying the Rites de Passage in the “Replacing Village Heart” of a Dai Village in China

Wenzaixiang Yan

ABSTRACT: Through fieldwork on the ritual of “Replacing Village Heart” in Dai village, Xishuangbanna, Yunnan, this essay applies the rites de passage model and argues that the symbolic “Village Heart” plays the same role as a human initiate. This analysis contributes to the understanding of multicultural integration and explores the social function of the ritual and the role of folk belief in the construction and maintenance of group identity. KEYWORDS: rites of passage, symbolism, identity, Dai people, China

From “Recognizing the Temple but not the Grave” to Recognizing Both: A Study of the Change of Funeral Culture of the Deang People

Wei Xiong

ABSTRACT: In their funeral traditions, the Deang people, influenced by Southern (Theravada) Buddhism, recognize the zang (temple) but not the grave. In recent years, however, they have begun to recognize both the temple and the grave. Based on fieldwork, this study explores the process, practice, and logic of cultural reproduction behind this change, and looks at how the Deang people have engaged in the political discourse of national unity while rationalizing their changing funerary traditions. KEYWORDS: Zang, temple, graves, Deang, funeral culture

The Contemporary Practice of the Double Seventh Festival in Northwest China

Huijie Zh

ABSTRACT: The Double Seventh Festival, which has a long history, is now seen as a national intangible cultural heritage in China. Drawing on fieldwork, this essay discusses the continuity of this tradition and its adaption to cultural elements of Valentine’s Day. It shows the essence of this festival as a ritual for girls to learn to become women and for married women to learn to maintain harmony in family life. KEYWORDS: Double Seventh Festival, Chinese Valentine’s Day, Xihe Qiqiao, intangible cultural heritage (ICH)

Mythologism in the Context of Heritage Tourism: An Ethnographic Study of Tour Guides’ Myth-tellng in Northern China

Lihui Yang

ABSTRACT: “Mythologism” is the reconstruction of myths due to the influence of modern cultural industry and media. Focusing on the retelling of Nüwa myths by tour guides in northern China, this paper explores mythologism in heritage tourism by analyzing their scripts and oral performances. After summarizing some features, this study argues that mythologism belongs to the “second life” of myth, and that researchers should study the whole integrated life process of myth. KEYWORDS: mythologism, heritage tourism, tour guide, myth-telling performance, life process

On the Subjects of Intangible Cultural Heritage Practice and Protection

Chengyan Han

ABSTRACT: Safeguarding intangible cultural heritage (ICH) is a worldwide public culture enterprise practiced by multiple human-agencies across many societies, each of which claims different roles and responsibilities. One way to actively empower all agencies is to treat all agencies involved as “subjects”—human actors. This paper defines the subject of ICH as well as the subject of the safeguarding practice in order to understand their roles. KEYWORDS: safeguarding ICH, ICH theory, subject, agency, public culture

Review Essay

Li yu su: zai tianye zhong lijie Zhongguo 礼与俗:在田野中理解中国 [Ritual and Custom: Understanding China in Fieldwork]. Shishan Zhang张士闪 (Shandong: Qilu shushe, 2019. Pp. 286, two prefaces, epilogue, notes. ¥ 72 paper.)

[Ed. Note: This review essay discusses a recent book by Shishan Zhang, whose essay, “The Integration of Scholarly and Local Perspectives in Writing Village Minsuzhi in Contemporary China,” appears in this issue.]