Storytelling in China: An introduction

Storytelling in China: An introduction

17.01.2018 16:00 – 18:00

Dans le cadre de son cycle de conférences annuel, le Master en Ethnomusicologie Genève/Neuchâtel invite Frank Kouwenhoven à présenter ses recherches sur les histoires contées et chantées en Chine.

China harbours more than six hundred living regional traditions of story-telling and -singing. There is an amazing variety of different expressive forms, ranging from street circus with animal shows to the so-called ‘national’ epics of various ethnic groups, such as those of the Kazak, Kirgiz and Tibetan peoples. Among the hundreds of local terms for genres found in China, intriguing names circulate, such as ‘Talking bamboo’, or ‘Clapper gossip’ and many more.

The context varies from rural to urban, from ritual to secular, and from professionally trained artists to lay priests and beggars. Some genres are sung throughout, some rely on speech altogether, or alternate between those two modes. Commonly used musical instruments include lutes, fiddles, drums, clappers, gongs and cymbals. The narrative content derives from a wide range of sources, from ‘classical’ novels to religious scriptures.

This presentation does not aim to provide a broad survey – which would not be possible within a short span of time – but it will juxtapose some well-known ‘high-brow’ forms, such as Nanyin (melancholy southern love ballads with semi-ritual connotations), Yangzhou pinghua (story-telling from Yangzhou) and Suzhou tanci (a refined type of narrative performance from Suzhou) with some of the more rudimentary types of storytelling, associated with rural society and low life, such as the songs of beggars and ritual specialists in rural Shaanxi in China’s north. The presentation will also briefly discuss the impact of Communist politics on Chinese storytelling in modern times.


Salle 20
Conservatoire de la Place Neuve
Boulevard du Théâtre 5, 1204 Genève

Organisé par

Département d'histoire de l'art et de musicologie
Musée d'ethnographie de Genève


Frank Kouwenhoven, CHIME Foundation (Leiden, Netherlands)

entrée libre


Catégorie: Conférence

Mots clés: Ethnomusicologie, Chine, Musique

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