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Teaching material innovation in folklore studies

Author  :  WAN JIANGZHONG     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2017-05-31

New Introduction to Folklore Studies

Author: Xing Li et al

Publisher: Beijing Normal University Press

After the reform and opening up, folklore studies gained significance in sociology and humanities studies. Since the 1980s, based on linguistic and literary disciplines, folklore study has established its master’s and doctoral programs, as well as institutions and research centers. In 1997, folklore studies became a secondary discipline under sociology. As part of the protection of intangible cultural heritage advocated by UNESCO, Chinese folklore practitioners promoted development of this area. The book New Introduction to Folklore Studies is an important achievement within the discussion of folklore theories and the reconstruction of the discourse system. It absorbed frontier ideas and elaboration of folklore studies into the teaching system and converted academic discourse into a text style.

The primary focus lies in the identification of folklore studies. The book defines folklore research as studies focused on the living world of the populace. Xing Li, the author, pointed out that folklore is not literature that lies within archives, rather, it is the popular practice, as well as the culture, experience and knowledge systems used in people’s lives. The core of the discipline lies in the research on people’s behavior and living habits. Based on this, Xing divided folklore into four aspects: material, social, artistic and devotional aspects of life. She believes that folklore is the cornerstone of the survival of the people, and the hub of the existence and operation of human society. Folk culture operates on the world of experience, and a world of psychology and its meanings. Therefore, apart from oral narration, folklore studies should also focus on new forms of narratives that have broadened research horizons, such as body and image narration. These new academic approaches appeared in textbooks for the first time, revealing the synchronization between textbook editing and the current state of folklore research in China.

On this basis, the book interpreted the idea of “folklore of a multiethnic nation.” Previous research on folklore lacked attention on the connection between the ethnic Han and other ethnic minorities. In the book, Xing attempted to demonstrate the holistic view of Chinese folklore studies. It first refers to the adherence to the “folklore of a multi-ethnic nation” concept, that the diverse composition of Chinese folklore is not only a historical fact, but also the cornerstone for the further development of the discipline. It then emphasizes the connectivity of folklore between different ethnic minorities. A crossethnic academic view is necessary to convert the ideology of “unity of diversity” into folklore fact, experience and academic interpretation.

In addition, Xing wrote two chapters on urban folklore and applied folklore. While advocating that folklore studies should focus on the present, the book elaborated on the relationship between the modern world and traditions. Folklore studies is about inheritance as well as innovation and development. Moreover, the book provided new insights into the concept, characteristics and methodology of fieldwork. Research on the present state of affairs requires fieldwork, without which the uniqueness and advantage of the discipline will not be presented.

Editor: Yu Hui

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