On Chinese ritual and rural life, in stark contrast to the substantial body of silent written work published, few films are available.
Still for Yanggao county, the DVD Doing things with my 2007 book Ritual and music of north China: shawm bands in Shanxi (Aldershot: Ashgate) provides general background; in two sections, funerals and temple fairs, it shows the diverse performance activities at these events, with the Li family making cameo appearances.
Two excellent films on Daoist ritual in south China are
- the videos of Michael Saso (his website seems to be unavailable, but his YouTube channel is here), and
- a comprehensive new series on Shanghai Daoist ritual, including fine videos.
- Ian Johnson has some clips, including further footage of the Li family Daoists and Sidney Gamble’s precious 1927 film on Miaofengshan, on his youtube channel for his book The souls of China
- My 2009 book Ritual and music of north China, volume 2: Shaanbei (Ashgate) also contains a DVD. For a fine film on shadow puppetry in Gansu, see
- Chinese Shadows by Frank Kouwenhoven and Antoinet Schimmelpenninck (Pan Records 9607)
- Also filmed in Gansu is Fly with the crane 告诉他们，我乘白鹤去了(Li Ruijun 李睿珺, 2012), about a coffin decorator
- Under goddesses’ shelter (姑婆, Yang Yufei, 2016) describes the daily observances of an elderly Hakka nun
- Film footage of religious life in 1930s’ Fujian
- Adeline Herrou, Maître Feng (CNRS, 2017), a film on a Quanzhen Daoist priest in south Shaanxi that makes an intriguing contrast with my portrait of Li Manshan
- DVDs with diverse footage are included in the book series Cao Benye 曹本冶 (ed.), Zhongguo chuantong minjian yishi yinyue yanjiu 中国传统民间仪式音乐研究 (2003–2007) (see e.g. Rain rituals in north China).
Ethnographic films on the Chinese ethnic minorities are more common, including
- the films of Liu Xiangchen 刘湘晨 (see also here), and
- Ito Satoru, Sensing the journey of the dead (2014)
- see here for a 2019 festival of ethnographic film in Shanghai.
Casting our net wider, see
- Carma Hinton’s films about rural life elsewhere in Shanxi.
- For memories of rural tribulations under Maoism, note Wu Wenguang’s Memory Project.
- For the harrowing documentaries of Wang Bing and Ai Xiaoming, see here.
- Among fictional treatments, the films of Jia Zhangke 贾樟柯, based on his hometown of Fenyang in Shanxi, stand out for their realism. Not to mention Zhang Yimou’s The Story of Qiuju…
A wealth of unedited, undocumented, video clips appear on various Chinese sites—more on that story later…
Beyond China, while you’re watching my film on vimeo, do check out Michele Banal’s other films on that site, and the brilliant series Growing into Music. One of the most impressive documentary series was Rito y geografia del cante, which I’ve used extensively in my series on flamenco.
More suggestions welcome!