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Performing GriefBridal Laments in Rural China$
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Anne E. McLaren

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780824832322

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824832322.001.0001

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Seizing a Slice of Heaven

Seizing a Slice of Heaven

The Lament Cycle of Pan Cailian

(p.65) Chapter 4 Seizing a Slice of Heaven
Performing Grief

Anne E. McLaren

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter examines the stages and verbal artistry of the lament cycle in order to appreciate the rhetorical strategies deployed by the bride and her mother, and the reasons why laments moved and “entertained” their audiences. It first discusses the poetics of Nanhui laments, particularly the way in which they reflect the poetic and linguistic attributes of folk songs of the Wu area. Next it looks at the various stages of the lament cycle within the marriage ceremony, beginning with the verbal duel between the mother and daughter, proceeding to the daughter's “thanks” to family members, and then to laments sung at specific moments in the bridal departure. It also discusses how the lament reflected—or in some cases, failed to reflect—common Nanhui marriage practices, and how the participants in this lament cycle constructed a notion of marriage somewhat at odds with the canonical Confucian idea of wifely submission. The chapter concludes with a discussion of how the bride rhetorically “negotiated” her value in terms of the bride-price and dowry and sought to build up strong natal ties that could continue to offer her protection and status in her new home.

Keywords:   Chinese bridal laments, lament cycle, Chinese brides, mothers, daughters, poetics, folk songs, dowry, verbal duel

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