Chinese Popular Culture


This course explores a variety of forms of traditional popular culture that continue to survive in China and abroad. Among the topics we will cover are: folktales (Mulan, The Butterfly Lovers), festivals (New Year, Dragon Boat, Herdboy, and Weaving Maid), popular deities (Mazu, Guanyin), and religious practices (All Souls, Hell, ancestor worship). Our focus will be on their historical origins and transformations through a variety of cultural forms. Particular attention will be paid to their entertainment, political, ideological, and sociological functions. This course aims to build different and sometimes competing conceptions of “tradition” and to understand their continuing relevance today. Since many of these practices and beliefs reside outside the lens of elite taste and political authority, our materials will include opera, drama, popular fiction, and visual arts.