Miller, Lucien, Kun Xu, and Xu Guo (editors)South of the Clouds: Tales from Yunnan1994Seattle: University of Washington Press

South of the Clouds is the result of a fruitful collaboration between two Chinese and one Western scholar. Xu Kun is a professional folklorist and Guo Xu is Professor of English; both teach at Yunnan National University in Kunming, China. Lucien Miller is in the Comparative Literature Department at the University of Massachusetts. The collaboration that resulted in this book began during the visit of a senior administrator from the University of Massachusetts to Yunnan Normal University in 1984 and the interest she showed in a translated folktale. Academic exchanges and translation work began in 1985.|||The contents are introduced in two independent essays. One is a lengthy essay written by Dr. Miller and the second, which is on folk literature and folklore research in China, is by Xu Kun. The next seven chapters showcase 56 myths, stories and tales organized by theme. An ethnographic appendix on Yunnan’s national minorities and a complete Chinese character list follow. A bibliography and an index supply research and reference aids.|||A. General introduction.|||The General Introduction is a useful essay that provides the sociological and literary context for the stories. Major topics include a brief survey of Yunnan Province, the idea of national minorities in China, the place of modern folk literature studies in China’s intellectual life, a discussion of technical issues in translation and the function and value of oral literature in society. Miller approaches these complex subjects with a steady gaze; thoughtful readers will learn much from it.|||An especially valuable section introduces technical issues of textual analysis. Miller thinks of the stories in South of the Clouds as “literary works” that are “…redacted narratives that reveal fascinating aspects of both oral and written art.” (p. 15). The author also considers issues of textual authenticity and reliability, the propaganda value of myth and tales in the Chinese context and how folklore studies developed in China. This section provides a useful perspective on how a scholarly tradition of long standing in China assimilated research methods and analytical ideas from its Western counterpart.|||The team that produced this volume adopted a collaborative translation strategy that moved from Chinese text to English narrative in three stages. This strategy resulted in remarkably poised translations that are at once lively, readable and true-to-life. The team worked to produce a text that renders “…in the target language the dynamic reading or listening experience that is shared by the audience of the original language…” and the result is a translation that is in “dynamic equivalence” with the original (p. 24). Miller describes the process in detail (pp. 23 – 26). His example, using a snippet from “The Magic Shoulder Pole” (A Yi tale), is an instructive look at how the members of this team worked together to create vivid and subtle translations.|||B. Folklore and minority nationalities in China.|||Xu Kun’s essay on folk literature among Yunnan’s national minorities follows Miller’s introduction. The first section of Xu’s essay is about folk literature in general, distinctions between types of literature (myths, legends and folktales), and a characterization of each type in the Yunnan context. The second section describes how folklore research in the People’s Republic is performed. Xu writes that the Chinese method, established in a 1958 policy promulgated by the Chinese Writers Association, resulted in cultural (folkloric) research that was carried out nationwide. Mobilizing large numbers of scholars and students, “…each province organized literary workers and university students, and sent them to minority localities where they collected, recorded, translated, and redacted a vast quantity of folk literature. The success of these groups was phenomenal. In the course of their work, they developed a methodology that was particular to China.” (p. 52).|||Xu discusses minority literature from the perspective of a socialist scholar. He distinguishes three categories of tale: myth, legend and folktale. These categories are all forms of oral art and this art “…goes back to the beginning of human society and has continuously developed since earliest times.” (p. 41). Myth was developed in Yunnan by the “…primitive ancestors of each of the minority peoples…” to explain creation, and to construct the “divine world” from the social and natural worlds. In contrast, legends are based on natural facts or people or on places or events. Legends “…reflect a people’s hopes, as well as its needs, and they tell us about a minority nationality”s attitude and viewpoint toward historical situations.” (p. 46). Oral legends are the collective memory and history of a non-literate people and “…enable us to understand their historical struggles and aspirations.” (ibid.) Last, minority folktales include fairy stories and stories about animals, plants and life. The purpose of these stories is often didactic. They are “…woven for generation after generation of children…” and “…their main importance is that they reveal the singular, educational value of the imagination.” (p. 48). Stories about life reveal the political consciousness of the culture as social relations are characterized in them. Love stories, Dr. Xu writes, are very popular and widely distributed; they often take as a theme “…a conflict with the feudal, or Confucian, ethical code.” (pp. 50 – 51).|||C. The stories.|||The stories that form the core of this book can best be introduced by offering a snippet cut from one:|||”Then the golden birds spoke again: ‘Whenever something works three times when divining, you have to accept it, whether calamity or happiness. Now sister, hold up this needle as a target. Brother, take your crossbow and shoot your arrows through the needle hole. If the three arrows pass through the needle hole one after another, three times in succession, then it shows heaven approves, and earth assents. You’ll have to get married quickly and raise a family.'” (from: “Brother and Sister Become a Couple”, Lisu myth, p. 83).|||This snippet provides an example the kind of material encountered throughout this book; natural and supernatural relationships, images and symbols rise from the page to tantalize with possibilities for analysis and further reading. These stories have great intrinsic interest.|||The provenance of the stories is clearly documented in endnotes. The stories do not come directly from fieldwork performed for this project but are translated from Chinese publications. Professional folklorists may find this to be inadequately rigorous as a research method, but it was probably a good choice in view of the timing and logistics of producing a volume in a reasonable period of time (see reviews by Lindell, 1996 and Karlins, 1995). The notes that document the stories include a bibliographic reference and the name and ethnic affiliation of the storyteller, the recorder, the translator (into Chinese) and the redactor. No information about the frequency of each tale is given but the geographic distribution is noted. Analysts who hope to use the stories collected here to extend their understanding of national minority culture and psychology must be aware of the potential distortions that translation introduces.|||The stories are grouped into seven chapters; the selections all contribute a view of the organizing theme. There are chapters that convey creation myths, explanations of practices and customs, mythical hero stories, animals tales, and stories about magic, people and lovers. The editors wisely chose not to artificially or strictly balance the stories by geographic or ethnic origin. Instead, they selected for content and present vivid offerings from different groups. The editorial judgment did not waver, for each story is uniquely interesting. The name of the minority contributing each story is printed below the title. I adopted the tactic of reading the ethnographic depiction in the appendix before reading the story. This tactic helped put the action and ideas into a social context, albeit a sketchy one.|||D. Yunnan ethnography.|||One to two page depictions of Yunnan’s national minorities are collected in the appendix. The depictions are culled from ethnographic, linguistic and historical sources and provide population numbers, geographic distribution, linguistic affiliation and some details about dress, religion and, in most instances, social organization. Maps in this appendix provide useful information about the distribution of the minorities and county (_xian_) names. These bareboned ethnographic outlines make it clear that Yunnan Province is a marvelously complex ethnographic region. Clearly, opportunities for significant ethnographic, linguistic and historical research on non-Han societies are to be had in this province. At the very least, the material convincingly shows that China’s southwest is a remarkably rich environment of contrasting cultures. Students should take note.|||E. Comments.|||South of the Clouds will find a natural place in undergraduate folklore, oral literature and Southeast Asian and Chinese ethnography classes. It will also interest sophisticated general readers. The material is rich, combining as it does oral literature, translation theory and ethnography. The volume contrasts with most academic monographs because the stories (the objects of analysis) are not described through the use of formal theory; although analysis of oral literature can be fruitfully subjected to rigorous and sophisticated explanations, this book does not offer such explanations. I think that this was a good choice, given the collaborative nature of the project and the limitations inherent in analyzing translations of the original languages. |||Whether this book can find a place in graduate classes is a different matter. The contents are not focused enough to be a primary source in, for example, seminars on Chinese national minorities. In other words, the book’s strengths argue for its use in survey classes but work against it at more advanced levels. But this is not to say that it cannot fill a useful role as a supplement in advanced classes and also as a source of comparative material for analytical purposes. I think that it can fill a supplemental role because Lucien Miller and Xu Kun devoted the time to orient readers to the comparative ethnographic context of the stories.|||I end with a comment on collaborative research projects. South of the Clouds is the result of a team effort. It is a success, I think, and should be used as an example to encourage others to do collaborative research. All parties in such a project can benefit from shared work. First, the scope of a project can be much greater than one that an individual scholar would contemplate or be able to complete in a reasonable length of time. Second, both Chinese and Western scholars benefit from continuous and intimate exposure to each other’s ideas and analyses. Projects of this kind offer to the reading public examples of “…more Asian subjects of knowledge, Asian production of knowledge, and Asia[ns] as producers of knowledge.” (Winichakul, 1997:12). Specialists interested in joint projects may like to know that the Henry Luce Foundation sponsors a United States – China Cooperative Research Program that specifically calls for collaborative research (see notice in Asian Studies Newsletter 42(3):47).|||The book is handsomely produced; a pleasing landscape adorns the cover. The page layout is simple and the care taken to edit and produce an attractive volume is apparent. The character list is complete; it is romanized in pinyin. Although my preference is for traditional characters, the editorial decision to use simplified characters is understandable. Very few footnotes are employed; the minimal annotations used explain peculiar terms, places, and people. Given the pleasing production standards and obvious application of craft in attention to scholarly detail, I am at a loss to explain why over one hundred items in the bibliography are not cited in the text. These items are relevant entries and thus are welcome additions. But, I think that some explanation for their presence should have been made; careful readers will ask questions.|||F. Recent work on national minorities.|||A growing number of Chinese and Western scholars have done research in Yunnan and elsewhere in China on non-Han peoples. Most of the items listed in the reference section below are recent dissertations and books that do not appear in the bibliography of South of the Clouds. The range of subjects is broad and the theoretical orientations taken by the various authors is even broader. Cheung (1996), for example, analyzes the politics of non-Han identity among multiple minorities classed categorically as Miao. Rudelson’s (1992) dissertation is a depiction of Uighur nationalism and its contested content in oasis communities in Xinjiang Province. Michael Stainton (1995) analyzes how the native Presbyterian Church in Taiwan and the non-Han aborigine ethnic movement became intertwined in attempts to repatriate land on the island. Weng’s (1993) subject is an interpretation of the Naze (Naxi) creation story and its relation to the cultural construction of gender. I thank Steven Harrell for leads to many of the titles included (personal communication, July 10, 1997). The list is not exhaustive, certainly, and is included as a starting place for others who may be interested in recent work on China’s national minorities.|||G. Sources.|||Bao, Wurlig 1994 When is a Mongol? The Process of Learning in Inner Mongolia. Dissertation in anthropology, University of Washington.|||Barnes, R. H., Andrew Gray and Benedict Kinsbury 1995 Indigenous Peoples of Asia. Ann Arbor: Association for Asian Studies.|||Birrell, Anne M. 1993 Chinese Mythology: An Introduction. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. (May be used to glean instructive contrasts).|||Brown, Melissa J. 1995 We Savages Didn’t Bind Feet; The Implication of Cultural Contact and Change in Southwestern Taiwan for an Evolutionary Anthropology. Dissertation in anthropology, University of Washington.|||Chao, Emily Kay 1995 Depictions of Difference: History, Gender, Ritual a nd State Discourse Among the Naxi of Southwest China. Dissertation in anthropology, University of Michigan.|||Cheung, Siu-Woo 1996 Subject and Representation: Identity Politics in Southeast Guizhou. Dissertation in anthropology, University of Washington.|||Constable, Nicole 1996 Guest People: The Hakka in China and Abroad. Seattle: University of Washington Press.|||Dwyer, Arienne M. 1996 Salar Phonology. Dissertation in linguistics, University of Washington.|||Guan Jian, ed. 1992 Tai Minorities in China. Vol. 1: Bibliography. Vol. 2: The Indigenous Religion and Theravada Buddhism in Ban Da Tin – A Dai Lue Village in Yunnan (China). Gaya: Centre for South East Asian Studies.|||Han, Carolyn; Jay Han and Ji Li 1993 Why Snails Have Shells: Minority and Han Folktales from China. A Kolowalu Book. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.|||Han, Carolyn; Jay Han and Ji Li 1995 The Demon King and other Festival Folktales of China. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.|||Han, Carolyn and Ji Li 1997 Tales from Within the Clouds: Nakhi Stories of China. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.|||Harrell, Stevan, ed. 1995 Cultural Encounters on China’s Ethnic Frontiers. Seattle: University of Washington Press.|||Hsieh, Shih-Chung 1989 Ethnic-Political Adaptation and Ethnic Change of the Sipsong Panna Dai: An Ethnohistorical Analysis. Dissertation in anthropology, University of Washington.|||Karlins, Mark 1996 Review of: South of the Clouds: Tales from Yunnan. Parabola 20(4):104.|||Li, Shujiang and Karl W. Luckert 1994 Mythology and Folklore of the Hui, A Muslim Chinese People. Albany: State University of New York Press.|||Lindell, Kristina 1996 Review of: South of the Clouds: Tales from Yunnan. Asian Folklore Studies 55(2):363.|||Lipman, Jonathan In press [1997] Familiar Strangers: A Muslim History in China. Seattle: University of Washington Press.|||Litzinger, Ralph 1994 Crafting the Modern Ethnic: Yao Representation and Identity in Post-Mao China. Dissertation in anthropology, University of Washington.|||Mackerras, Colin (Ed.) 1995 China’s Minority Cultures: Identities and Integration Since 1912. New South Wales: Addison Wesley Longman.|||McKhann, Charles Fremont 1992 Fleshing Out the Bones: Kinship and Cosmology in Naqxi Religion. Dissertation in anthropology, The University of Chicago.|||Mueggler, Erik A. 1997 Specters of Power: Ritual and Politics in an Yi Community. Dissertation in anthropology, The Johns Hopkins University.|||Oakes, Timothy Steven 1995 Tourism in Guizhou: Place and the Paradox of Modernity. Dissertation in geography, University of Washington.|||Roberts, Sean Raymond 1996 Waiting For Uighurstan: Negotiating Peoplehood and Place in the Borderlands of the Former Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China (A Study Guide for the Companion Video). Thesis in anthropology, University of Southern California.|||Rudelson, Justin Jon 1992 Bones in the Sand: The Struggle to Create Uighur Nationalist Ideologies in Xinjiang, China. Dissertation in anthropology, Harvard University.|||Schein, Louisa 1993 Popular Culture and the Production of Difference: The Miao and China. Dissertation in anthropology, University of California, Berkeley.|||Shih, Chuan-Kang 1993 The Yongning Moso: Sexual Union, Household Organization, Gender and Ethnicity in a Matrilineal Duolocal Society in Southwest China. Dissertation in anthropology, Stanford University.|||Stainton, Michael Stuart 1995 Return Our Land: Counterhegemonic Presbyterian Aboriginality in Taiwan. Thesis in anthropology, York University.|||Tan Leshan. 1991 Economic Change in Tai Lue Villages in Sipsong Panna, 1950s-1980s. Thesis in anthropology, Cornell University.|||Tan Leshan. 1995 Theravada Buddhism and Village Economy : A Comparative Study in Sipsong Panna of Southwest China. Dissertation in anthropology, Cornell University.|||Teng Ch’i-yao 1991 The Festivals in the Mysterious Land of Yunnan: The Festivals and Traditional Ceremonies of the Minority Nationalities in Yunnan. Kunming: Yunnan People’s Publishing House.|||Thrasher, Alan R. 1990 La-Li-Luo Dance-Songs of the Chuxiong Yi, Yunnan Province, China. Danbury, CT: World Music Press.|||T’ien Ju-k’ang 1986 Religious Cults of the Pai-I Along the Burma-Yunnan Border. (Southeast Asia Program Series No. 1). Ithica: Cornell University Southeast Asia. (ISBN 0877271178).|||Weng, Naiqun 1993 The Mother House: The Symbolism and Practice of Gender Among the Naze in Southwest China. Dissertation in anthropology, The University of Rochester.|||White, Sydney Davant 1993 Medical Discourses, Naxi Identities, and the State: Transformations in Socialist China. Dissertation in anthropology, University of California, Berkeley with the University of California, San Francisco.|||Williams, Dee Mack 1996 Subjective Landscapes and Resource Management on the Grasslands of Inner Mongolia. Dissertation in anthropology, Columbia University.|||Winichakul, Thongchai 1997 Letter in Viewpoints: Futures of Asian Studies. Asian Studies Newsletter, 42(3):11-12.|||Yang Fu-chuan (ND) Stories in Modern Naxi. No Place: VGH Wissenschaftsverlag. (ISBN 38882800313).

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