Special Issue on Regional Language and Performance Texts in the Qing
- CHINOPERL: Journal of Chinese Oral and Performing Literature
- University of Hawai'i Press
- Volume 39, Number 1, July 2020
- pp. 1-6
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INTRODUCTION: SPECIAL ISSUE ON REGIONAL LANGUAGE AND PERFORMANCE TEXTS IN THE QING CATHERINE SWATEK AND MARGARET WAN University of British Columbia and University of Utah This special issue grew out of the panel “Exploring the Linguistic Landscape in Early Modern Chinese Literature,” sponsored by CHINOPERL and presented at the annual meeting of the Association of Asian Studies in . The panel, organized by Han Zhang of the University of Chicago, responded to Shang Wei’s examination of the relationship between “vernacular Chinese” (baihua 白話) and written as well as spoken forms of Chinese in his seminal article “Writing and Speech: Rethinking the Issue of Vernaculars in Early Modern China.” The panel consisted of papers by Han Zhang, Patricia Sieber, Margaret Wan, and Bingyu Zheng. Intrigued by this important and understudied topic, the editors began planning this special issue in March . We quickly secured relevant articles-in-progress from Wu Cuncun and Catherine Swatek. Shang Wei’s discussion of the written representation of Chinese regional dialects touches on many of the landmark works for these issues: Yuan drama, Ming collections of popular songs like Mountain Songs (Shan’ge 山歌) edited by Feng Menglong 馮夢龍 (–), and the late nineteenth-century novel The Flowers of Shanghai (Haishang hua liezhuan 海上花列傳). The earliest clear examples are the sixteenth-century publications in Minnanese, the language of southern Fujian. By the turn of the nineteenth century, many genres of regional performancerelated literature were produced in quantity, including drum ballads (guci 鼓詞) in the North, lute ballads (tanci 彈詞) from the area around Suzhou, and in the far South, Minnanese ballads (gezaice 歌仔冊) in Fujian as well as Chaozhou ballads (Chaozhou gece 潮州歌冊) and wooden-fish books (muyushu 木魚書) in Guangdong. One reason that early dialect literature remains understudied may be that it tends to be strongly connected with performance genres, and with particular local performance genres not seen as central to our understanding of Chinese “literature.” Shang Wei, “Writing and Speech: Rethinking the Issue of Vernaculars in Early Modern China,” in Benjamin Elman, ed. Rethinking East Asian Languages, Vernaculars, and Literacies, – (Leiden: Brill, ), pp. –. For a translation and study of Feng Menglong’s collection of shan’ge, though not of their use in drama, see Ôki Yasushi and Paolo Santangelo, Shan’ge, the ‘Mountain Songs’: Love Songs in Ming China (Leiden: Brill, ). For a convenient survey of Minnanese literature, see Piet van der Loon, The Classical Theatre and Art Song of South Fukien (Taipei: SMC Publications, ). Wilt Idema notes that most histories of Chinese literature in China and the West omit prosimetric and ballad literature or only mention it in passing. See Yi Weide 伊维德 (Wilt L. Idema), CHINOPERL: Journal of Chinese Oral and Performing Literature . (July ): –© The Permanent Conference on Chinese Oral and Performing Literature, Inc. The same processes that Shang Wei discusses in regard to defining “vernacular” as a standardized, national language in early twentieth-century China also worked to marginalize regional and dialect literature in that period and thereafter. This also created difficulties of access for later scholars. Performance-related texts were often treated as ephemera and were rarely collected by libraries in China (with some important exceptions); several important examples survive only in Japan (Yuan printings of zaju) or Europe (Fukienese art songs). Often these texts also have been the last to be cataloged or reprinted. Despite this, the sheer number of texts in any particular tradition can be daunting. For example, one catalog lists over , known titles of drum ballads. Study of southern dialects—Cantonese, Taiwanese, Minnanese, Hakka, and Wu dialects—has been largely the preserve of linguists and ethnomusicologists, though mention has already been made of Piet van der Loon’s study of Minnan dramas of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and of Ōki Yasushi and Paolo Santangelo’s translation and study of shan’ge. A few recent studies, many by linguists, have focused on the textualization of these dialects, noting their close link to performance “Yingyu xueshuquan Zhongguo chuantong xushishi yu shuochang wenxue de yanjiu yu fanyi shulüe” 英語學術圈中國傳統敘事詩與說唱文學的研究與翻譯述略 (A brief survey of the study of China’s traditional narrative ballads and prosimetric literature in English scholarship), trans. Zhang Yu 張煜, Jinan xuebao 暨南學報 , no. (): –. Notable exceptions include several essays in The Columbia History of Chinese Literature, ed. Victor Mair (New York...