Chinese Storytelling

  1. Literature in the oral and written media
  2. The variability and evanescence of oral literature
  3. Chinese written literature in literary and vernacular style
  4. The status of oral literature in traditional China
  5. Oral-related texts
  6. The question of ’true orality’ in orally performed arts

Oral and Written Literature (4)

The status of oral literature in traditional China

In traditional China, the status of oral literature was even lower than that of the genres written in the vernacular style. The narrated and chanted genres (shuochang) constituted the spiritual food of the majority of the population who were neither able to read nor write. They habitually participated in the activities of folk song, telling of folktales, legends and myths and enjoyed the oral performances of drama and storytelling by professional and semi-professional entertainers. Among the country’s leading people, the officials and literati, the literature in vernacular style and the popular oral culture were both considered trivial, low and folksy. In spite of the general opinion, both kinds of literature did, however, find supporters and aficionados even among the educated scholars. There was always some traffic between them and the oral and written vernacular genres through the centuries deeply influenced each other.

Next: Oral-related texts