Epic Studies in China: Perspectives in Oral Tradition
Author: Yin, Hubin
Affiliation: Institute of Ethnic Literature CASS

Most of China ethnic minority epics have not been identified until the 1950s. It was only in the recent three decades that we have experienced the collection, sorting out and publication of epics. Epic studies in China started even later, a systematic study has initiated in mid-1980s, which was strongly influenced by the anthropological school, the social and cultural significance of the epic poetry has been strongly emphasized by these studies. Since the mid-1990s, researchers have established the idea of “living oral traditional epic”, and they identified the ethnic minority epics as category of oral traditions. In the past three decades, the China central government has devoted a considerable amount of human and material resources to the rescue of the epic tradition. The epic study has always been up there among the state’s key projects of philosophical and social scientific research since the 1980s in the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth Five-Year Plans, and was chosen in 1996 by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences as one of its key projects. From the mid to late 1990s, the epic study has been put into the perspective of oral tradition, the field study of a particular epic tradition emerged from the academic reflection, textual analysis of epic has been developed from epic form to its deep structure and traditional meaning. The study of epic singers and their performances have made it possible for the understanding of a particular epic tradition. The epics of China’s ethnic groups have been still in condition of living oral tradition. This is also the growing point of the epic study in the twenty first century.

     Keywords:Epic Studies; Oral Tradition