Regional Literature and the Transmission of Culture: Chinese Drum Ballads, 1800-1937

Regional Literature and the Transmission of Culture: Chinese Drum Ballads, 1800-1937

by Margaret B. Wan




Regional Literature and the Transmission of Culture provides a richly textured picture of cultural transmission in the Qing and early Republican eras. Drum ballad texts (guci) evoke one of the most popular performance traditions of their day, a practice that flourished in North China. Study of these narratives opens up surprising new perspectives on vital topics in Chinese literature and history: the creation of regional cultural identities and their relation to a central “Chinese culture”; the relationship between oral and written cultures; the transmission of legal knowledge and popular ideals of justice; and the impact of the changing technology of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries on the reproduction and dissemination of popular texts.

Margaret B. Wan maps the dissemination over time and space of two legends of wise judges; their journey through oral, written, and visual media reveals a fascinating but overlooked world of “popular” literature. While drum ballads form a distinctively regional literature, lithography in early twentieth-century Shanghai drew them into national markets. The new paradigm this book offers will interest scholars of cultural history, literature, book culture, legal history, and popular culture.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674241183
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 02/04/2020
Series: Harvard East Asian Monographs , #426
Pages: 458
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Margaret B. Wan is Associate Professor in the Department of World Languages and Cultures at the University of Utah.

Table of Contents

List of Figures, Maps, and Tables xi

Acknowledgments xvii

List of Abbreviations xix

Note to the Reader xxi

Introduction 1

1 Drum Ballads as Regional Literature 17

Texts and Producers 21

Circulation and Transmission 26

Manuscript Drum Ballads 34

Narrator Appeals and Geographic Detail 38

Woodblock Drum Ballads 45

Changing Local Appeals 46

Conclusion: Drum Ballads and Regional Popular Culture 49

2 Audiences and Reading Practices: The Eye and the Ear 54

Reading in Parts 56

Ballad Prices 65

Evoking Performance 68

Drum Ballads and Performance Conventions 70

Foregrounding the Storehouse of Convention 76

Mixed Signals in Woodblock Ballads 83

The Eye and the Ear 91

Non-Standard Orthography in the Ballads 102

Conclusion 105

3 Imagining Region: Space in the Ballads 109

The Chewangfu Manuscript Ballads 110

Settings: North and South 110

Center versus Local 122

Woodblock Ballads on Judge Liu 125

Increasing Regionalization 127

Woodblock Ballads on Judge Shi 132

Ties to Empire versus Region 134

Conclusion 142

4 Court-Case Ballads: Popular Ideals of Justice 146

The Terminology of Justice 148

Reason, Truth, and Evidence 149

Law and Social Justice 150

The Problem of Renqing 157

The Judge: Heaven, Man, and Evidence 167

Heaven, Principle, and Common Sense 167

Judge Liu, Confucian insight, and Evidence 173

Framing and Multiple Perspectives 185

Dialogization 191

Conclusion 193

5 Legends, Media, and the Transmission of ideas 199

The Chewangfu Manuscript Ballads 205

Woodblock-Printed Ballads: Framing as Fiction 210

The Wise Judge and the Martial Hero 211

Media and Legend 213

Peking Opera 216

Popular Prints 230

Conclusion 237

6 Drum Ballads in Shanghai: The Shift to National Culture 242

Reprints of Old Drum Ballads in Shanghai 245

Publishers and Prices of Drum Ballads 248

The Eye and the Ear in Shanghai Drum Ballads 254

The Impact of Lithographic Drum Ballads 262

Judge Liu Ballads in the Republican Era 263

Drum Ballads as "Popular" Literature 266

Conclusion 276

Conclusion 279


A Extant Editions of Drum Ballads on Judge Liu and Judge Shi and Related Texts 289

B Other Known Lithograph Editions of Drum Ballads on Judge Liu, Judge Shi, and Green Peony 305

C Judge Shi and Judge Liu in Written Sources and Oral Performance 311

D Judge Shi and Judge Liu in Popular Prints 325

Notes 331

Bibliography 387

Index 415

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