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Features 17 Vibeke Bordahl. The Oral Tradition ofYangzhou Storytelling. Nordic Institute ofAsian Studies, Monograph Series, No. 73. Richmond: Curzon Press, 1996. xxxii, 497 pp. Hardcover £60.00, isbn 0-7007-0436-1. Vibeke Bordahl is a researcher in Chinese dialectology and oral literature, teaching at Oslo University's Institute of East European and Oriental Studies. Her studies ofthe Yangzhou dialect, as well as of Yangzhou pinghua, the art ofstorytelling , have extended over twentyyears. In the West there are not many who study Chinese dialects, and even fewer who study the art ofstorytelling. Both in China and in the West it was only in the 1930s that a beginning was made in the study of Chinese storytelling (shuoshu): Chen Ruheng published his Shuoshu xiao shi (A short history of [Chinese] storytelling) in Shanghai in 1936—the first work in this field—and in the early 1930s Jaroslav PrûSek in Prague began to study the origins ofChinese storytelling. The early research in the field was mainly concerned with the storytellers of the Song dynasty (shuohuaren) and the relation between "storybook" fiction (huaben xiaoshuo) and early storytelling (shuohua). Not much attention was given to contemporary traditional storytelling. This situation changed during the period !957-1963, however, when the recording and publishing of contemporary storytellers ' texts were undertaken in mainland China—for example, there was Liaozhai zhiyi (Tales from the Liaozhai studio), as told by Chen Shihe from Tianjin; Shuo Tang (The Tang saga), as told by some old storytellers from Beijing; and Wu Song (Wu Song), a large-scale edition in two volumes, as told by Wang Shaotang from Yangzhou. Later, in the 1980s, Wang Shaotang's SongJiang (Song Jiang) was also published in three thick volumes. Starting in the 1950s, a variety ofperiodicals were also devoted to contemporary storytelling, and there were not a few anthologies of articles that also included the storytellers' descriptions oftheir own experience in the storytelling art—an important contribution. Since the 1980s the material published on Yangzhou storyteUing also occupies a major position—for example, Yangzhou quyi shi hua (A history ofYangzhou quyi) (Beijing, 1985), Yangzhou quyi zhi (Records ofYangzhou quyi) (Nanjing, 1993)—establishing a good foundation for the study of the traditional storyteller's art in Yangzhou. In her study of Yangzhou pinghua, not only has Bordahl used the materials published in China, but she has personaUyvisited Yangzhou several times and carried out fieldwork, interviewing the local storyteUers and recording their per-© 1998 by University formances, paying attention not only to the characteristics of the storytellers' perofHawai 'i Pressformance situation, but in particular to their specificlanguage usage. This major work is the fruit ofmany years ofresearch. The book is divided into two parts: part 1 (pp. 1-243) deals with research and analysis, and part 2 (pp. i8 China Review International: Vol. 5, No. i, Spring 1998 247-471) with source materials, including recorded texts from fhe Wang School of Shuihu (Wangpai Shuihu) (Wang Xiaotang [adopted son ofWang Shaotang], Li Xintang, Ren Jitang, Chen Yintang, Hui Zhaolong, Wang Litang [daughter of Wang Xiaotang] ); the Wu School of San guo ( Wu pai San guo) (Fei Zhengliang, Xu Youliang); and the Dai School oiXiyouji (Dai pai Xiyouji) (Dai Buzhang). Most of the tape and video recordings for the transcribed texts were made by fhe author in 1989. Each text is rendered in Chinese characters as well as English translation, accompanied by photographs in order to show the gestures and facial expressions of each storyteller, giving a visual impression of this special form of performance art. Part 2 contains a list of about two hundred storytellers' terms (hanghua shuyu), each term provided with an English translation and explanation . In my opinion, some of the vocabulary is also common Beijing usage, while some is unique to Yangzhou. The appended bibliography is also very rich, including a large number of Yangzhou pinghua editions and studies. The author emphasizes that a special characteristic of Chinese storytelling is fhe deep mutual influence between the oral arts and the written culture (p. xxiv). The present reviewer is very much in agreement with this statement, but would like to add that in a China where the distance between the culture ofthe gentry and that...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 17-21
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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