Drum Ballads as Local Literature in Nineteenth-Century China


ACLS Fellowship Program


Languages and Literature


Drum ballad texts evoke one of the most popular performance genres, the drum ballad, in north China in the Qing dynasty, 1644-1911. Circulating in manuscript, woodblock print, and lithographic editions, these texts drew on oral literature and disseminated popular stories throughout north China. Their audiences ranged from the nobility to men and women of low social status. Study of this body of narratives opens up new perspectives on vital topics in Chinese literature and history: the creation of local cultural identites and their relation to a central “Chinese culture;” the relationship between oral and written cultures; and the impact of the changing technology of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century on the reproduction and dissemination of popular texts.