More films

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 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

  • Note also 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, on his youtube channel for his new 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.

 A recent film on a Quanzhen Daoist priest in south Shaanxi makes an intriguing contrast with mine:
• Adeline Herrou, Maître Feng (CNRS, 2017).

  • DVDs with diverse footage from the articles in the book series are included in
    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).

  • 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).

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 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.

And for a thorough list on visual anthropology, see this site from Barley Norton, including the films of John Baily.

More suggestions welcome!