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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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Weeping and Wailing in Chinese History

Weeping and Wailing in Chinese History

The Lament Cycle of Pan Cailian

(p.83) Chapter 5 Weeping and Wailing in Chinese History
Performing Grief

Anne E. McLaren

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter argues that the lament form known today in south and coastal China originated from the conflation of two ancient traditions: on the one hand, performances of weeping and wailing known as ku prevalent in the Yellow River region in antiquity; and, on the other hand, a tradition of dialogic and choral singing known south of the Yangzi. Ancient performances of weeping and wailing had gendered attributes and were understood to reflect female virtue and talent. In cases of injustice or extreme filiality, weeping and wailing could so move the heavens that a miracle would be performed. Over time, this performance tradition blended with popular beliefs in the dangers of female pollution and the need to exorcise these at the point of marriage. In this way the belief arose that exemplary lamenting could mitigate the disasters attendant on the bride's departure.

Keywords:   Chinese bridal laments, ku, weeping, wailing, Yellow River, choral singing

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