*** Note also Shaanbei tag here!***

Even in English, we now have a considerable amount of material on changing traditional (ritual) culture in Shaanbei, otherwise known as the heartland of the revolution. The first notable achievement was

  • David Holm, Art and ideology in revolutionary China (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991).

While focusing on the CCP’s use of yangge in the base area before “Liberation”, it is based on fieldwork in the early 1980s, way before one might expect to delve into ritual culture.

  •  Adam Yuet Chau, Miraculous response: Doing popular religion in contemporary China (Stanford UP, 2006)

is an exemplary ethnography.

My own book

  • Ritual and music of north China, volume 2: Shaanbei (Ashgate, 2009, with DVD)

is a further contribution. Cf. my

  • In search of the folk Daoists of north China pp. 96–101.
    As I note there, Shaanbei seems to offer rather slim pickings for household Daoists; but even around Jiaxian county the Baiyunshan temple Daoists are only the tip of the iceberg.

Shaanbei folk culture is particularly well served in Chinese online video clips.

I was also inspired by the work of anthropologist Guo Yuhua 郭于华 on Shaanbei, notably an article in the important book that she edited,

  • Yishi yu shehui bianqian 仪式与社会变迁 [Ritual and social change] (Beijing: Shehui kexue wenxian cbs, 1999),

and more recently her outstanding brilliant book, the fruit of decades of oral history interviews:

  • Shoukurende jiangshu 受苦人的講述 [Narratives of the sufferer] (Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 2013).

The latter, perhaps hard to find in mainland China, should be essential reading for anyone seeking to understand modern Chinese history.

Note also

  • Zhang Zhentao 張振淘, Shengman shanmen: Shaanbei minzu yinyuezhi ‪声漫山门:陕北民族音乐志 (Beijing: Wenhua yishu cbs, 2014)

some of whose material overlaps to a degree with my own.


By the way, Zhang Zhentao keeps writing about how much I inspired him, but it was entirely mutual. Along with my other trusty fieldwork companion Xue Yibing, we forged our approaches in the 1990s on the anvil of the major project on Hebei ritual associations (qv). And both Zhang and I ended up writing three books on “northern” musical cultures: apart from his Shaanbei book above, the Hebei and Jinbei volumes are:

  • Yinyuehui: Jizhong xiangcun lisuzhongde guchuiyueshe 音乐会: 冀中乡村礼俗中的鼓吹乐社 (Ji’nan: Shandong wenyi chubanshe, 2002)


  • Chuipo pingjing: Jinbei guyuede chuantong yu bianqian 吹破平靜: 晋北鼓乐的传统与变迁 (Beijing: Wenhua yishu chubanshe, 2010).

He has also written a plethora of fine articles.