The resilience of tradition

Yongfu

If you want to study Chinese culture, China’s a good place to do it

Heritage” pundit Tian Qing has a good story for every occasion (such as this, and this). On the resilience of traditional culture under all kinds of assaults (notably in the hands of “obstinatezhizhuo 执着 peasants, as they’re often described) , he likes to cite Granny Liu’s epithet in chapter 6 of Cao Xueqin’s epic 18th-century novel The story of the stone (The dream of the red chamber):

瘦死的駱駝比馬大

—in Hawkes’s translation,

a starved camel is bigger than a fat horse.

It’s commonly used to show that families fallen on hard times will still manage better than the chronic poor. But in the wake of all the assaults from Maoism in the PRC—when “authentic” Chinese culture on the mainland was apparently a poor relative to the overseas communities where transmission was supposed to have been maintained untainted—it made an apt metaphor as field reports since the 1980s on local ritual began to reveal the sheer enormity of tradition. Of course, as with research on southeastern Daoist ritual on both sides of the strait, we should learn by collating all such material.

Among many further instances are the rich material on baojuan “precious scrolls”, and the ongoing projects of Hannibal Taubes and UCL on Shanxi temple murals.

5 thoughts on “The resilience of tradition

  1. Pingback: Ritual in The dream of the red chamber | Stephen Jones: a blog

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  3. Pingback: Notes from Beijing, 2 | Stephen Jones: a blog

  4. Pingback: Calligraphy of a Manchu imperial scion | Stephen Jones: a blog

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