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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 covers Chinese folklore-related documents that flowed out of China to foreign countries.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Meynard points to the historical research on trade and folklore contained in the book, including information about the relationship between folk customs and complex, nuanced human connections.

"While going through the book, I was able to read about interactions and exchanges among Chinese, Japanese and Westerners during that era. So this is very valuable information."

Zhang Juwen, a professor of Chinese studies at Willamette University, believes the series has at least two significant meanings.

"On one hand, it provides us with historical materials from different perspectives to reflect on the evolution of modern Chinese cultural traditions," Zhang says.

"On the other hand, it establishes and promotes a model of learning from the strengths of others and then refining what has been learned, because this series not only translates texts but, more importantly, provides positive and critical commentary from a historical perspective."

Zhang has read two books in the series — Proverbs and Common Sayings From the Chinese and Chinese Fairy Tales — and says that he notices that the team not only chose to translate words to align with changes in Chinese culture and the contemporary context but also provided critical commentary on the original author and historical background of the text.

"This is a commendable model. I believe the significance of this series transcends the boundaries of nations, cultures and eras."

At the book launch, a copy of the series was donated to the National Library of China.

It will enrich the existing folk culture collection in the National Library of China, says Shen Xiaojuan, head of the library's research institute, adding that the books' addition to the national library will enable scholars and the general public to make use of these rare documents.

According to Wang, the study of folklore is a discipline steeped in both historical materials and field research.

"We hope that through a thorough examination of these materials, we will not only strengthen the foundations of the discipline but also contribute to the development of other disciplines, such as literature, history, museology, religious studies, art and anthropology," she says.

"However, the conclusion of the project does not mean the end of research. There are still many materials overseas for us to explore, as well as organize and interpret, and many new questions are worth further exploration."



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