Drum Ballads and Northern “Vernacular” in the Qing and Early Republic
- CHINOPERL: Journal of Chinese Oral and Performing Literature
- University of Hawai'i Press
- Volume 39, Number 1, July 2020
- pp. 59-89
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Writing in general has largely been viewed as a force for cultural or social integration in China. How might writing in the Qing period reinforce regional identities? This article explores the use of regional vernacular in drum ballads (guci 鼓词) from North China: how ballads can or do use regional language, and how the use of regional language in the ballads ties to identity. It briefly considers how the use of nonstandard orthography in the ballads relates to specific book cultures (in manuscripts, woodblocks, or lithographs) by following the stories of Judge Liu and Judge Shi across drum ballads produced in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Overall, genre plays a key role in the language choices in the ballads.