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Firming up folklore's foundations

Multivolume series introduces materials not seen in the country before, opening up new avenues of academic study, Yang Feiyue reports.

By Yang Feiyue | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-01-30 11:00
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The book series Chinese Folklore Documents Overseas is donated to the National Library of China in Beijing on Jan 20.[Photo provided to China Daily]

A book series containing rare documents related to Chinese folklore held in collections outside the country was finally introduced to the public after seven years of work by experts.

Chinese Folklore Documents Overseas was launched at the National Library of China in Beijing on Jan 20.

The series was compiled by the Institute of Chinese Intangible Cultural Heritage at Sun Yat-sen University and published by Shaanxi Normal University General Publishing House.

The first 18 books primarily focus on presenting original material, explains Wang Xiaobing, chief editor of the series.

"The processing of the materials can be divided into three main categories: the first involved the direct reprinting of folk artifacts and documents found outside China," Wang says.

Examples include images of tilling and weaving, paintings, contractual documents and shadow-puppet play scripts.

Researchers have added introductions, explanations and annotations to these documents, Wang says.

The second category consists of translations of records and studies of daily life in China made by Western visitors to the country between the 17th and 20th centuries.

This includes Western visitors' abstracts and summaries of the content of Chinese literary documents, ranging from travel accounts, fairy tales and folk songs, to information about ethics and folk customs.

The third category consists of specialized studies of overseas collections of folk materials. They include many precious images, documents and texts that demonstrate the deep cultural heritage and appeal of Chinese folklore.

"These documents reflect the daily lives of people during specific historical periods and in specific regions of China, as well as the interests and academic ideas of Western collectors," Wang says, adding that this category serves as a vivid testimony to the cross-border dissemination of modern Chinese culture, and the collision and exchange of Chinese and Western cultures.

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