The Manchu Story-telling 满族说部

Date: 2006
Category: Folklore Literature
Region: Jilin Province
Project No. I-12
Name of Applicant (region or institution): Jilin Province
The Changbai Mountains in the southeast of Jilin Province are the birthplace of Manchu Ethnicity and their ancestors have multiplied in the vast, beautiful and magic land. The Manchu Story-telling is an old form of long-text chanting and telling folk art circulating among the Manchu Ethnicity and their ancestors, meaning ulabun in the Manchu dialect or biography in Chinese. Its form and content are both different from the telling of common folktales; it is mainly told by the chief of the tribe, narrating and chanting alternately, after rinsing mouth and burning incense and often accompanied by bells, drum and wood clappers. The purpose is to relate the ancestry, pay respect to the forefathers and eulogize the martyrs, with the audience listening in a humble, orderly and pious manner. The Manchu Story-telling was rooted in the practice of remembering the past of the ethnicity and ancestors in such a manner. To ascertain the reason, it may be roughly traced back to the worship of ancestral heroes by the Manchu tribe.
The Manchu narration-chant story-telling has been basically handed down generation after generation by mouth and ear. In the early stages, it was mainly performed in the Manchu dialect and later presented in Chinese with occasionally-dotted Manchu dialect after the Manchu dialect had began to be abandoned in the mid-Qing Dynasty. The Manchu Story-telling is usually performed in a measured tone and in a grand style, ranging from the rise of the tribe, the primordial days and ancient sacrifice, exploration and enterprise, biography of heroes, custom and lifestyle, knowledge of production and living; it was actually regarded as an encyclopedia of the north ethnic groups. The Manchu Story-telling is a recalling of the history of Manchu Ethnicity and their ancestors and some of the content mentioned in it are hardly known by people. Some even serve to make up for the inadequacy of historical documents of the north area of China and constitute the invaluable assets for studies of ethnic history, boundary history, history of ethnic relations, anthropology, sociology and custom and social practice. And part of it has been translated into a couple of languages including Russian, Japanese, English, Italian, German and Korean, adding to the splendor of world culture.
The Manchu Story-telling has a rich reserve but those capable of performance and heritance are a privileged group of people, who are now in a small number. Hence the urgent need of preservation and salvation. In recent years, it has been listed under the program of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and the national pilot project of China Folk Culture Preservation Program. The stories collected and recorded are up to more than 10 volumes and have passed the assessment of stage-by-stage results by experts. However, there are still many that have not been recorded yet. The task of salvation still remains urgent and heavy.

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