Search Results for: jangar

Jangar Culture & Arts Palace Opens in Xinjiang

With the recent opening of the “Jangar Culture & Arts Palace” (江格尔文化艺术宫), China’s campaign to project itself as a nation with a rich multi-ethnic past and present continues apace.  According to a report republished on the web site of the China Writers Association (建成投用), the building covers over 6,000 square meters and cost almost US$10 million to construct.

Xinjiang’s Hoboksar Mongol Autonomous County (和布克赛尔蒙古自治县) is reputed to be the birthplace of the JangarJangar Epic (江格尔史诗), a unique form of Mongolian storytelling and dance dating back to the 15th century. It recounts the battle between the forces of good — Jangar, elected Khan at just seven years of age — and evil, represented by the monster Mangus. Leading some 35 generals and 8,000 warriors, Jangar defeats the monster, keeps his homeland free from occupation, and eventually establishes a Mongolian-style utopia.

Along with the Tibetan King Gesar and Manas of the Kyrgyz, Life of Jangar is now officially considered by the authorities in Beijing as one of the three great epics of ancient Chinese literature. According to some in the field, however, recognition of this among the mainstream Chinese population has yet to occur. As cited elsewhere on my blog (Plight of Native Language Literature), one ethnic literature specialist in the PRC notes that these tales “have all become the object of global studies in the genre. But there is not even a basic introduction to these three epics in our histories of Chinese literature.”

But thanks to the fine publication Oral Tradition, a detailed overview of the birth and development of this Mongolian classic is available in English. The Oirat Epic Cycle of Jangar is written by Chao Gejin (朝戈金), a Mongolian with a Ph D in Folklore who serves as Deputy Director of the Institute of Ethnic Literature under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. It contains much interesting detail about Jangarichi (the bards who perform the story) the language of the cantos, and five different types of text: retold texts, dictated texts, manuscripts, transcriptions of audio recordings, and lithographed and modern printings.

It is refreshing to see that he notes that many Jangar manuscripts were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, and some Jangarichi even briefly imprisoned. Such admissions are rare in the Chinese-language reports that I read on the website of The Institute of Ethnic Literature. Chao Gejin also mentions that Jangar manuscripts have been discovered in Russia and Mongolia, but “we do not have further information about the discoveries.” It appears that such cross-border ethnic research projects are rather sensitive, politically speaking; that’s an impression I also got when researching the Evenki —  who straddle both sides of the Sino-Russian border — for my translation of Chi Zijian’s Last Quarter of the Moon.

April 2016: Altaic Storytelling Newsbriefs

As of May 1, 2016, the controversial, so-called Biànmín Liánxì Kǎ (便民联系卡) will cease to be in use in Xinjiang, according to the authorities (不再使用).  The card (pictured here), which lists contact info for the card-holder’s hometown authorities, was supposedly intended to facilitate a variety of services when the Xinjiang resident was away from his or her official domicile, e.g., as a reliable ID when checking into a hotel. In practice, it took on the functions of something closer to an internal passport; without it, non-Han citizens in particular found it increasingly difficult to travel between cities (there are now frequent checkpoints), and there is anecdotal evidence that businesspeople could not obtain small loans without it. The news item states that the card — issued only with the approval of local authorities, and mocked by some Uyghur as “Good Citizen ID” (良民证) — came into circulation in May 2014.

An Evenki love story that spans the 1900-1950 period will launch at the end of April, according to an item on the China Writers Association web site that I’ve summarized in Reclaiming Evenki Narrative. Entitled 驯鹿角上的色带 (lit., colored ribbon on the reindeer’s horns), the novel is written by a 74-year-old woman named Balajieyi (芭拉杰依) whose mother was the Aoluguya Evenki’s last practicing shaman. [Read more…]

Jusup Mamay, Manaschi: A Rehabilitated Rightist and his Turkic Epic

A while back I stumbled upon a short Chinese news item about a newly discovered handwritten manuscript of the Kyrgyz Epic of Manas (玛纳斯史诗). This centuries-old trilogy in verse recounts the exploits of the legendary hero Manas, and his son and grandson in their struggle to resist external enemies and unite the Kyrgyz people. Along with heroic tales such as Dede Korkut and the Epic of Köroğlu, Manas is considered one of the great Turkic epic poems. To get a feeling for how it sounds, listen here to a brief recitation by Manas scholar Elmira Köçümkulkızı.

Mural of Manas in OshAccording to the report (手抄本被发现), a retired cadre named 吾米尔·毛力多 in Xinjiang’s Wuqia County recently donated a 570,000-line, Kyrgyz-language Manas libretto to the local branch of the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles.

Based on the notes of a famous Manas storyteller or manaschi named 艾什玛特·玛木别朱素普, the text was painstakingly hand-copied by the cadre in the 1950s. At some point during the Cultural Revolution he learned the original had been seized and burnt, so he wrapped his own copy in several layers of cowhide and buried it in his courtyard for safekeeping.

“Now,” the news report quotes him, “I figure it is time to let this hand-copied manuscript see the light of day.”

Intrigued by the gap in time between the manuscript’s burial and its “re-discovery”— after all, the Cultural Revolution ended almost 40 years ago — I wondered why the text of an ancient Turkic epic like Manas is so politically sensitive. [Read more…]

Quick Guide to China’s Contemporary Ethnic-themed Literature in Translation

Updated: Sep 12, 2017

Quick Guide to China’s Contemporary 

Ethnic-themed Literature in Translation

I’m often too busy to immediately write a well-researched post about contemporary “ethnic-themed” fiction that has been translated and published in a foreign tongue. This is a loose category (民族题材文学) that includes stories — regardless of the author’s ethnicity — in which non-Han culture, motifs or characters play an important role.

In my brief list below, there are entries for fiction (and a bit of poetry) touching on peoples such as the Bai, Evenki, Hui, Kazakh, Korean, Kyrgyz, Manchu, Miao, Mongolian, Lahu, Lisu, Oirat, Seediq, Tibetan, Tujia, Uyghur, Xiongnu and Yi. Unless noted, the original is in Chinese and the translation is in English. But I’ve also included a handful of renditions into French, German, Spanish and Japanese.

I welcome your updates and corrections.

Here is a set of links I hope you’ll find useful:

General

Chinese Fiction in Translation: Novels/Novellas with “Ethnic” Theme 

  • Table with info on ten works translated into English or French during 2009-14, including writing by Alai, Chan Koonchung, Chi Zijian, Fan Wen, Gao Jianqun, Jiang Rong, Li Jinxiang, Pema Tseden, Shi Shuqing, Wang Gang and Wu He.

Chutzpah! Issue 14

  • Dedicated to non-Han authors including Alat Asem, Aydos Amantay, Baoerj Yuanye, Ju Kelzang, Kanglin Gioro, Lhajam Gyel, Muhammedemin Abliz, Na Zhangyuan, Pema Tseden and Ye Fu.

Columbia Anthology of Chinese Folk and  Popular Culture

  • This collection presents works drawn from the large body of oral literature of many of China’s recognized ethnic groups — including the Han, Yi, Miao, Tu, Daur, Tibetan, Uyghur, and Kazakh — and the selections include a variety of genres such as epics, folktales, folk songs and quyi. Edited by Victor Mair and Mark Bender.

Pathlight Issue Spring 2014

  • Dedicated to non-Han authors including Alat Asem,  Artai, Aydos Amantay, Ayonga, Dan Zeng, Guan Renshan, Jin Renshun, Memtimin Hoshur,  Jidi Majia, Luruodiji, Ma Huan, Nie Le, Patigul, Ye Fu, Ye Guangqin, Ye Mei and Yerkex Hurmanbek.

 

Evenki (鄂温克族)

Balajieyi (芭拉杰依)

  • 驯鹿角上的彩带 (lit., colored ribbon on the reindeer’s horns): To be translated into Swedish by Anna Gustafsson Chen and published within 2017. It features an Evenki narrator telling an Evenki love story that spans the 1900-1950 period. The author is a 74-year-old Evenki woman whose mother was Aoluguya’s last practicing shaman. She explains her motivation for writing the book:  “Since mother departed, no one has donned that Shaman Spirit Robe made of metal and leather, or struck the Spirit drum to pray for the Evenki . . . There are some things that, if I don’t record them, will truly be forgotten. I began collecting and collating our traditional handicrafts and legends. I want to use words to leave a record of everything about us Evenki. This is our people’s collective memory . . . I want to leave this for the children who love the forest.”

Chi Zijian (迟子建)

Gerelchimig Blackcrane (格日勒其木格・黒鶴)

Hui (回族)

Huo Da (霍达)

  • Funeral of a Muslim (穆斯林的葬礼): With sales of some 2.5 million copies, Huo Da’s tale about three generations of a Hui family in Beijing is quite possibly the most popular ethnic-themed novel ever published in China. It spans the turbulent years of the Japanese invasion, World War II and part of the Cultural Revolution.

Li Jinxiang and Shi Shuqing (李进祥、石舒清 )

La rivière des femmes: Nouvelles huiStories set among the Muslim Hui along the banks of Qingshui River in Ningxia.

Shi Shuqing (石舒清)

  • 西海固の人々  (西海固的事情): Collection of short stories set in Ningxia’s Xihaigu Prefecture.

[Read more…]

China’s New Intangible Cultural Heritage Encyclopedia: Celebration of Multi-ethnicity, or Aggressive Cultural Appropriation?

Encyclopedia of Intangible Cultural HeritageChina unveiled its premier Encyclopedia of Chinese Intangible Cultural Heritage (中国非物质文化遗产, 史诗卷) on June 12, reports China Daily (Released). This is the first of three volumes, and is dedicated to three great oral epics of the Tibetans, Mongols and Kyrgyz, respectively: King Gesar, Jangar and Manas.

The cover is in Chinese and English, but I do not know if the content itself is bilingual. For a fuller press release in Chinese, see 首发式.

Compiled by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) and the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles, the volumes will document China’s vast treasure house of ancient culture in the fields of folklore, traditional music, dance, opera and even herbal medicine. I have not seen the book, and it is not clear from the article whether the 1,219 items to be cited will be ones that have been registered with UNESCO, or simply ones that China has unilaterally categorized as its “intangible cultural heritage.”

China has been very pro-active in winning international recognition of its intangible cultural heritage, particularly traditions of its non-Han ethnic minorities, and some of its neighbors are less than pleased about it. For instance, China initially registered the Epic of Manas as an Intangible Cultural Heritage with UNESCO back in 2009. This has since been vigorously contested by Kyrgyzstan officials — who maintain they were not informed about China’s application for recognition — since they consider it “an artifact of Kyrgyz nationhood.” See UN Recognition. 

The larger issue here, of course, is whether this flurry of registrations and publications represents China’s desire to embrace and celebrate its multi-ethnic society, or whether it intends to possess and monopolize — “appropriate,” if you like — the outstanding cultural achievements of peoples such as the Mongols, Tibetans or Kyrgyz, some of whom do not perceive of themselves as “Chinese” no matter which side of the border they live on, and who fear, rightly or wrongly, colonization or a less obvious form of cultural genocide. [Read more…]

Definitions of “Chinese” Literary Works in Expansion Mode?

An intriguing picture of what constitutes Chinese literature (中国文学) emerges via an interview with Bai Gengsheng (访中国作协书记处书记白庚胜), a Naxi who has held several senior positions in the state-run ethnic minority literary research apparatus, including his current role as Secretary of the China Writers Association.

In the interview with Chinese Reading Weekly (中华读书报), Bai says:

In ancient times, the myths, epics and narrative poems of minority ethnicities blossomed with éclat in the garden of Chinese — even global — literature . . . Guan Hanqing (关汉卿), Pu Songling (蒲松龄), Nalan Xingde (纳兰性德), Cao Xueqin (曹雪芹), Abay (Ibrahim) Qunanbayuli (阿拜), Tsangyang Gyatso (仓央嘉措), Maḥmūd al-Kāšġarī (喀什噶理), Ali-Shir Nava’i (纳瓦依), Kutadgu Bilig (福乐智慧), The Gate of Wisdom (真理的入门), Compendium of the languages of the Turks (突厥语大辞典), Secret History of the Mongols (蒙古秘史), Dream of the Red Chamber (红楼梦), Storied Building with a Single Floor (一层楼), Weeping for the Red Pavilion (泣红亭), and The Story of Qing Dynasty History (青史演义) are all world-renowned authors and works.

It is interesting to note that Bai does not mention Life of Jangar (Mongol, 江格尔), King Gesar (Tibetan, 格萨尔王), and Manas (Kyrgyz, 玛纳斯), which are now officially recognized by Beijing as the three great non-Han epics of ancient Chinese literature. Over the last year or so, however, several experts in ethnic literature have pointed out that these works are still not widely introduced in standard textbooks on Chinese literature used in the PRC today.

I recently published a post about how writing in languages native to China — other than Mandarin — has long been relegated to the periphery by Han literary historians. Here’s a passage from that post (Mother-tongue Literature) (the words are mine, my summary of ideas presented in Chinese by Liu Daxian, who is a member of the editorial staff at the quarterly Studies of Ethnic Literature 民族文学研究):

Liu emphasizes that “mother-tongue literature” includes both written and oral forms. He points out that “literature” as defined and promoted via China’s modern education, media and scholarship, tends to focus on written forms such as the novel, poetry, essays and drama, and since much mother-tongue literature — by which he basically means “literature in indigenous languages except for Mandarin” throughout the essay — doesn’t easily fit in those categories, it is viewed as a non-mainstream, even subtly inferior class of literature (亚文学).

If anything, Bai’s list of Chinese literary classics by a range of multi-ethnic authors moves in the opposite direction. He concentrates on “written” (as opposed to “oral”) literature, and considers the texts he cites as mainstream. But does his list represent the result of a positive and inclusive view of Chinese literature, or an expansive, even imperialist one in which the Chinese literary establishment is attempting to appropriate classics that rightfully belong to other peoples of Northeast and Central Asia? [Read more…]

Unveiled: List of “2014 China Classics” to Benefit from Translation/Publication Subsidy

Tenzin's collection of autobiographical works

Tenzin’s collection of autobiographical works

In yet another move that emphasizes how much $$ China is spending to take its literature global, the 2014 list of finalists for the “China Classics International Publication Project”  (经典中国国际出版工程) has just been announced. It comprises 256 titles that will be translated into 27 languages, according to an article on China Book Int’l (入围). You can find the full (but unprintable!) list here in Chinese.

The translation and publication of these works will be subsidized, but the specific amounts are not detailed. Obviously, this represents an opportunity for enterprising foreign translators and publishers to follow up. [Note: I’ve just been asked how to apply for your share of the subsidy pie, and all I can suggest is: contact the publishers of these works direct.]

Works of fiction represent but a small number of the finalists. Authors whose fiction appear on the list include [Read more…]