Accepted Paper:

Women, folklore, and literature as weapons in China's revolutions: feminist folklore in novels by Lu Hsun, Hsiao Hung and Dai Sijie  


Xuan Wang (Memorial University of Newfoundland)

Paper short abstract:

Using three female protagonists in Chinese fiction, I analyze how writers use folklore to reveal the miserable lives of women. While folklore was deemed as dynamic (negative/opponent or positive/allied) during two of China’s revolutions, these novelists turn it into a source of power for liberty.

Paper long abstract:

Folklore is often used in literature as a tool to express nostalgia and to depict the everyday lives of a nation's people. There are few studies, however, on the role of folklore within communist revolutions. Through interpreting Chinese women's fates, as depicted in fictional characters, I will expose the function that exists beneath the literal words. Using three writers and their works, I will ask: How do authors use folklore as weapons? How are women portrayed in relation to China's revolutions? How might women be reimagined as protagonists in the struggle for freedom? I will analyze female characters in three stories: Sister Xianglin in Lu Hsun's The New Year's Sacrifice (1924), the Little Child-bride in Hsiao Hung's Tales of Hulan River (1941), and the Little Seamstress in Dai Sijie's Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (2000). The three stories took place in two crucial revolutions in contemporary China, the Revolution of 1911 and The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution held between 1968 to 1978. Folklore, in the context of these novels, is manifest primarily through references to folk sorcery cures, shamanic beliefs, and folk songs. During wartime in China, intellectuals fiercely criticized all the elements of folklore which they deemed as negative, including superstitions, conservative natures and fraudulences, striving to construct a new China without old-fashioned ethic codes and Chinese negative characteristics. On the contrast, during cultural oppression, they respect, praise and guard folklore, and they ally themselves with folklore to fight against despotism in communist China.

Panel Gend005
Gender and power in communist and post-communist places