Producing Texts in Chinese Dialects: A Study of the Lower Yangzi Delta Region

By Anne E. McLaren.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This study deals with the little-known topic of books produced in the idiom of the Wu language area in China spoken in the region around Shanghai and its hinterland. Throughout the imperial era the reigning emperor controlled the use of Chinese writing and sought to ensure that a uniform script was used in the imperial bureaucracy and the education system. However, some Chinese ethnic groups developed strategies to encode the spoken idiom of their regions. One example is the phonetic Women’s Script of the women of rural Hunan. In the case of the lower Yangzi delta, Wu language characters were used to capture the idiom, kinship terms and nuances of the everyday language spoken in this region. This character script was used primarily to record the performance arts of the region, such as songs, jokes and stories. In the contemporary period, this script has emerged once more as a medium for the recording of modern renditions of traditional song narratives and stories and hence as a significant marker of regional identity.

Keywords: China, Dialect Texts, Ethnic Identity

International Journal of the Book, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp.49-64. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.270MB).

Anne E. McLaren

Associate Professor, Asia Institute, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia

Anne E. McLaren is associate professor in Chinese language and literature at the University of Melbourne. Her latest book is Performing Grief: Bridal Laments in Rural China (University of Hawai’i Press, 2008).

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