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Identity or Diversity?
A Study of Folklore Studies
[email protected]
[email protected]
Chiahui Lu
University of Pennsylvania
 Traditionally, folktale research, from its inception, has had
a two-pronged aim:
 (1) It has been interested in the nature and origins of oral
narration not fixed in writing;
 Comparative literature and has been established as a
new branch of that discipline;
 (2) it has been interested in folk culture as expressed in the
content and form of the folktale.
 The French sociological and the British
anthropological schools, which consider folk tradition--to which the folktale belongs--- as a means, a point of
departure, for researching the folk communi
 Scholars from comparative literature schools generally
inquired whether or not the tale-type has spread from
one center in an original form, or does it originate
independently in different places?
Usually leads to an abstract interpretation of the
The content of the tale
The other schools interested to ask what the tale is
symbolized? And what is hidden behind the tale of
religious thoughts, of psychology, of rites and social
A concrete analysis and penetration of the material
The form or structure of the tale just as any other
element of culture
 The theory that tales can be interpreted as regards
their hidden meaning has its root in the neoromanticism. The rise of romanticism in the 19th
century revived interest in tradition folk stories, and
represented a pure form of national literature and
culture to the Brother Grimms.
 The first serious consideration of the questions
concerning in tales was the second edition of the
Grimms’ Kinder-und Hausmarchen in 1819.
 William Grimm (1786-1859) in 1856 put forward two
ideas as the final statement of the theories of the
Grimms: (1) the circle of those tales which show close
resemblances is conterminous with the Indo-European
language family and these tales are doubtless
inheritances from a common Indo-European antiquity;
(2) the tales are broken-down myths and are to be
understood only by a proper interpretation of the
myths from which they came. These statements give
expression to what is generally known as “the IndoEuropean theory” or “the broken-down myth
 The Brothers Grimm were inspired to study the tale and
myth in order to give a picture of the mythology and
religion of the Indo-European ancestors in analogy with
what was at that time expected: the possibility of the
reconstruction of the Indo-European language.
 This was the natural result of the great interest in
comparative philology in the early part of the nineteenth
 This interpretation was embraced with keen interest at the
importance of Sanskrit, which came about toward the
close of the eighteen century that many European scholars
interested themselves in the problem of reconstructing the
parent speech from which descended most of the
languages from India to Ireland.
 Later on, the newly discovered relationship of words was
the key to unlock the mysteries of the past. Such was the
study of “comparative mythology.” Scholars took into
consideration that in the Rig-Veda they could go back
thirty-five hundred years, and that was far enough to give
real indication as to the life of the Indo-Europeans
 From this extraordinary work of the ancient priests of India,
they proceeded to the theory that the original IndoEuropeans in their daily life used just such expression with
hidden meanings. This had arisen the Indo-European
myths and tales. Their real original meanings had become
obscured if not lost, and it was the business of the scholar,
through use of the Rig-Veda and his own philological skill,
to restore these meanings.
 Stith Thompson
 Max Muller (1823-1900),
 Angelo de Gubernatis (1840-1913),
 John Fiske (1842-1901),
 Sir George Cox (1827-1902)
 Theodor Benfey (1809-1881), entirely rejected both the
general Indo-European and the mythological theories.
 In the “Introduction” to his edition of the Panchatantra in
1859, Benfey sees the origin of folktales in India, and thinks
the spread westward had taken place through three
channels: (1) before the tenth century by a certain number
by oral tradition; (2) after the tenth century by literary
tradition along the lines of Islamic influence, particularly
through Byzantium, Italy, and Spain; (3) Buddhist material
through China and Tibet to the Mongols and from them to
Europe. Important as literary vehicles were the Persian Tuti
Nameh, Arabic, and probably Jewish writings. Oral
tradition also assisted in spreading the tales, especially in
Slavic countries.
 In April 1869, when the young scholar proposed in Vienna
that the etiology of hysteria could be traced to early sexual
traumas caused by the sexual aggressions of adults towards
children, the chair of the meeting commented that it
sounded “like a scientific fairy tale.”
 This incident is significant because Freud was soon to
transform his “fairy tale” into the building block of
psychoanalysis in accordance with the folkloric theme.
 Freud’s thinking that later involved a return to alleged acts,
such as the bold transition from describing “the wish to kill
one’s father” in The Interpretation of Dreams. to
“describing the actual killing” in Totem and Taboo.
 used tales and myths in order to interpret them as symbols
of psychological phenomena.
 Jung regards the tale as an individual creation--- based on
collective experience--- comparable with an individual
dream, disregarding the basic traits of a chimera or a
folktale, i.e. the chimera is a long narrative construction
with a “logical” plot, always following its special traditional
type, and its subtypes are consistent with different
geographical tradition-areas.
 Further, it fulfills a certain function in cultural and social
life and is dependent upon an interaction between the
teller and the listeners: the taletelling also has its fitting
times according to culture and social group.
 Andrew Lang (1844-1912)
 against the theory of a common origin and the
interpretation of myths and customs.
 He emphasized the similarity among tales in different
places; he denied that tales were lent and borrowed, from
people to people.
 He compared a Greek heroic myth and popular tales
current in Finland, Samoa, Zululand, and reached the
conclusion that, the similar incidents and plot occurred
among them are not the “detritus” of the heroic myth, but
the epic legends, as of Jason or Odysseus, is an artistic and
literary modification of the more ancient tale.
 the study of primitive peoples had come to occupy the
attention of a very able group of scholars who began to
investigate special aspects of human behavior in the
light of the accumulating mass of data being reported
from all over the world. In his famous work Primitive
Culture, Tylor asserts that the human mind and its
capabilities are the same globally, despite a particular
society’s stage in social evolution
 James George Frazer’s (1854-1941)
 twelve-volume Golden Bough
Julius Krohn (1835-1888) and his son Kaarle Krohn
Stith Thompson (1885-1976)
Not about Taiwan’s identity or
what kind of identity is in Taiwan.
What is “folklore”? How people
perceive “folklore” in Taiwan?
What is the definition of folklore
appropriate for Taiwan?
to 1624
The unearthed agrarian culture (1979 c.)
around 3000 BC is believed to reflect the
arrival of the ancestors of
today’s Taiwanese aborigines (Tainan, 左鎮
Dutch Formosa
The island was colonized by
the Dutch in the 17th century,
followed by an influx of Han
Chinese including Hakka
immigrants from areas
of Fujian and Guangdong
of mainland China, across
the Taiwan Strait.
1640 A.D. Map of Formosa-Taiwan by Dutch
to 1624
to 1624
Dutch Formosa
Spanish Formosa
Kingdom of Tungning
(Zheng Cheng-gong鄭成功)
a loyalist of the Ming Dynasty, which had lost
control of mainland China in 1644, defeated the
Dutch and established a base of operations on
the island. Zheng’s forces were later defeated by
the Qing Dynasty in 1683.
to 1624
Dutch Formosa
Spanish Formosa
Kingdom of Tungning
(Zheng Cheng-gong鄭成功)
Qing Dynasty rule
From then, parts of Taiwan became increasingly
integrated into the Qing Dynasty before it ceded
the island, along with Penghu, to the Empire of
Japan in 1895, following the First Sino-Japanese
Japanese rule
Taiwan produced rice and sugar to be
exported to the Empire of Japan, and also
served as a base for the Japanese colonial
expansion into Southeast Asia and the Pacific
during World War II. Japanese imperial
education was implemented in Taiwan and
many Taiwanese also fought for Japan during
the war.
Republic of China
In 1945, following the end of World War II, the Republic of China (ROC), led
by the Kuomintang (KMT, Chinese Nationalist Party), became the governing
polity on Taiwan. In 1949, after losing control of mainland China following
the Chinese civil war, the ROC government under the KMT withdrew to
Taiwan and Chiang Kai-shek declared martial law. Japan formally
renounced all territorial rights to Taiwan in 1952 in the San Francisco
Peace Treaty.
The KMT ruled Taiwan (along with Kinmen and the Matsu Islands on the
opposite side of the Taiwan Strait) as a single-party state for forty years,
until democratic reforms were promulgated by Chiang Ching-kuo in the
1980s. The reforms were continued by Chiang's successor, Lee Teng-hui,
which culminated in the first-ever direct presidential election in 1996. In
2000,Chen Shui-bian was elected president, becoming the first non-KMT
president on Taiwan. He was re-elected in 2004.Ma Ying-jeou of the KMT
was elected president in 2008, and subsequently re-elected in 2012.
The Opium War (1839-1842)
Qing Dynasty ended (1911)
New Cultural Movement (1915-1925)
 “go to the folk”
 Folksong Collecting Bureau, Beijing
University (1918)
 Literary Revolution (1917-1918)
May Fourth Movement (1918-1919)
Japanese rule
Caused by the “Shantung Decision” (or
“Versaille Treaty” 1919) in which the
Allied Powers signed a treaty transferred
the colonial holdings of Germany in
Shantung to Japan, May Fourth became a
national protests against the Chinese
government’s weak response, as an antiimperialist, cultural and political movement
growing out of students and intellectuals
Japanese rule
“to create the plain, simple,
and expressive literature of
the people;… to create the
fresh and sincere literature
of realism;… and to create
the plain speaking and
popular literature of society”
University Daily , 1918
Japanese rule
Since then, the goals of the New Culture
Movement and May Fourth Movement
involving not literary
matters but the social
reform aspects.
Japanese rule
After May Fourth, pai hua 白話 or the “vernacular”
became the medium for mass communication; old
tradition, the tao 道 (“code of ethics”) and its
imitations were defied.
Folk-song Research Society
Zhou Zuo-ren 周作人
Folk-song Weekly 歌謠週刊
Japanese rule
In 1926 Tsai Yuan-pei蔡元培 (18671940), director of the Academia Sinica at
Nanjing, made the remarks:
“Min-zu-xue (Folklore, or, strictly speaking,
ethnology 民族學) is a branch of learning which
examines the cultures of peoples so as to further
the descriptive or comparative studies… but in
German the singular form for Völkerkunde is
Volkskunde which comes from the English word
Folklore. This English term was created by W. J.
Thomas in 1846 to replace the term Popular
This the first time Min-zu-xue in the
sense of “Volkerkunde” was seriously
understood in China as a disciplined
Japanese rule
Min-zu-xue showed the influence
of European scholars.
particularly F. Ratzel, E. B. Tylor, F.
Graebner, W. Schmidt, and G. E.
but no less unmistakable in that,
even at this early stage,
nationalism played a predominant
role in the study of folklore in
Japanese rule
Japanese invasion, 1931
National Revolution
Communist- KMT Split
(Civil War) 1927-1937
Long March
1934-35, Mao Ze-dong
The first stronghold of Western interest
Politically the seat of the Kuomintang
(Chinese National Party國民黨; KMT
The National Sun Yat-sen University
Japanese rule
The KMT-Communist split of 1927
created great tension in south China,
especially in the Sun Yet-sen
New ideas were being shaped.
Guo Mo-ruo郭沫若 (1892-1978), Lu
Xun魯迅 (1892-1978), Fu Si-nian傅斯
年 (1896-1950), Zhong Jing-wen鍾敬
文 (1903-2002), Gu Xie-gang顧頡剛
(1893-1980), Lou Zi-kuang婁子匡
Japanese rule
Folklroe, must be “expressive of
sympathy with the proletariat,
socialistic, and realistic
The research was no longer
limited to folksongs; instead,
riddles, legends, folktales, gods
and deities became the focus of
A desire for depth and breadth
rather than mere collection for
collection’s sake now manifested
Japanese rule
The “Long March”
Covered eleven provinces, crossing the aboriginal
zones of the Qiang’s羌族, the land of the Lolo’s彝族,
and the Gansu甘肅 of the Hui’s回族.
By October 1935, they reached their destination, the
Shanxi陝西base in the Northwest.
Memories of the “Long March” are attached by the
Communists to these aborigines, who “swore blood
brotherhood” with the Reds,” and whose folklore is now
under extensive investigation and constitutes the main
subject of folklore research in contemporary China.
 The “popularization” of art and literature is governed by a
single dogma: the majority of the masses are illiterate, and
need “culture, knowledge, art and literature… which are
readily acceptable to them…”
 unique mission: to educate the masses, technically utilizing
story-telling, ballad-singing, plantation songs (yang ge秧歌)
and other suitable forms. However, as it was also Mao’s
contention that “art and literature are subordinate to
 political errand: to arouse class consciousness, a
preparation necessary for the “people’s liberation
The Sino-Japanese war
Civil War II
Japanese rule
KMT’s withdrawal to Taiwan
rule 1894-1945
Kōminka: "Subjects of the Emperor"
A map of the Japanese Empire, 1939-09-01. Dates
shown indicate the approximate year that the Japan
gained control of the highlighted territories.
A 1911 map of Japan, including Taiwan.
Taiwan Aborigines
Indigenous peoples of Taiwan
estimated to constitute 2% of the
population of the island, about
510,000 people.
Although Taiwanese indigenous
groups hold a variety of creation
myths, recent research suggests
their ancestors may have been
living on the islands for
approximately 8,000 years before
major Han
Chinese immigration began in the
17th century
Taiwanese aborigine woman and infant,
by John Thomson, 1871
Taiwanese aborigines
areAustronesian peoples, with
linguistic and genetic ties to other
Austronesian ethnic groups, such
as peoples of the Phillippines,
Malaysia, Indonesia, Madagascar,
Polynesia, and Oceania. The issue
of an ethnic identity unconnected
to the Asian mainland has become
one thread in the discourse
regarding the political status of
Taiwan’s heavy influence by fifty years of
Japanese colonialism (1895-1945), the KMT
(Chinese Nationalist Party) retreat in 1949
after defeat by the Communist Party of China,
and the ideology of nativism (or nativistic
movement) after the lifting of Martial Law in
1987, make assumptions about the nature of
contemporary Taiwan societies relevant to the
practice and legitimation of folklore studies.
 Taiwanese folklore studies have been largely
restricted due to the problem of cultural
essentialism, of taking the concept of “Taiwan”
as axiomatic, lacking synthesis or theorization.
 Folklore is the traditional art, literature, knowledge, and
practice that is disseminated largely through oral
communication and behavioral example. Every group with a
sense of its own identity shares, as a central part of that
identity, folk traditions–the things that people
traditionally believe (planting practices, family traditions, and
other elements of worldview), do (dance, make music, sew
clothing), know (how to build an irrigation dam, how to nurse
an ailment, how to prepare barbecue), make (architecture,
art, craft), and say (personal experience stories, riddles,
song lyrics). As these examples indicate, in most instances
there is no hard-and-fast separation of these categories,
whether in everyday life or in folklorists’ work.
 ----AFS website
 Dell Hymes
 Folklore study is the study of communicative behavior with
an esthetic, expressive, or stylistic dimension.
Dan Ben-Amos
folklore is artistic communication in small groups
Jan Brunvand
Folklore comprises the unrecorded traditions of a people
Henry Glassie
Folklore is traditional. Its center holds. Changes are slow
and steady. Folklore is variable..
Mary Hufford
Folklife is reflected in the names we bear from birth,
invoking affinities with saints, ancestors, or cultural heroes
 Tradition [means] not some static, immutable force from the
past, but those pre-existing culture-specific materials and
options that bear upon the performer more heavily than do his
or her own personal tastes and talents. We recognize in the use
of tradition that such matters as content and style have been for
the most part passed on but not invented by the performer.
 Dynamic recognizes, on the other hand, that in the processing of
these contents and styles in performance, the artist’s own unique
talents of inventiveness within the tradition are highly valued
and are expected to operate strongly. Time and space dimensions
remind us that the resulting variations may spread
geographically with great rapidity (as jokes do) as well as down
through time (good luck beliefs). Folklore is made up of
informal expressions passed around long enough to have become
recurrent in form and context, but changeable in performance.
 The word "folklore” names an enormous and deeply
significant dimension of culture. Considering how
large and complex this subject is, it is no wonder
that folklorists define and describe folklore in so
many different ways. Try asking dance historians for
a definition of "dance,” for instance, or
anthropologists for a definition of "culture.” No one
definition will suffice–nor should it.
 Taiwanese Literature
Taiwan History, Culture, and Language 1
Taiwan Culture, Language and Literature 2
Hakka Studies 2
Department of History 28
Chinese History (26) & Taiwan History (2)
Anthropology 2
Ethnology 2
Ethnomusicology 3
Taiwanese Folk Art 3
Ethnic Relations and Culture
 None of these definitions answers every question by
itself, and certainly none of them is the Taiwan’s
official definition (we don’t have one), but each
offers a good place to start.

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