For the rich local traditions of Chinese ritual—as I never tire of observing—we have ample silent, immobile textual documentation, but much less material in the public domain on film (see this list).
Ritual drama has been a substantial component of this field ever since the projects initiated by C.K. Wang soon after the 1980s’ revival of tradition. But again we rarely have access to the drama itself, with all its actions and soundscape, all the “red and fiery” sensuous pleasures that are an indispensable part of the experience.
The distinguished sinologist Jacques Pimpaneau (1934–2021), along with his numerous publications, founded the Musée Kwok On in Paris in 1972, the collection more recently housed in Lisbon (see also here).
And besides documenting textual and material aspects, he avidly recorded local Chinese ritual drama on film—mainly in the early 1990s, before migration, pop music, the lures of material enrichment, and heritagification were too rampant.
The playlist of films (mostly around half an hour, with French voiceovers) on his YouTube channel includes exorcistic drama from south China, such as the nuoxi masked dramas of Jiangxi, Hunan (including Mulian drama; see also here), and Anhui; as well as Nantong near Shanghai; and, again in Hunan, New Year rituals of Hengshan and among the Miao. For a full list, with wide-ranging tribute, see here.
Here’s the English version of L’expulsion du petit demon, filmed in Pingxiang on the Jiangxi–Hunan border:
Of two excerpts from shadow-puppetry in Shaanxi (cf. Chinese shadows), the second also including marionettes from Chaozhou and again Shaanxi:
The playlist also ventures to Tibet—a grand monastic festival near Lhasa, and lhamo opera—as well as south and southeast Asia: Kerala, Java and Bali—as well as itinerant story-tellers of Bengal illustrating their religious paintings, part of a rich Asian tradition documented by Victor Mair in Painting and performance: Chinese picture recitation and its Indian genesis (1989) (cf. Tibetan lama mani).
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