The Living Epic Manas and Its Performers: An Analytical View on Contemporary Manaschis in China
Affiliation: Institute of Ethnic Literature, CASS

 In China, with the thorough fieldwork carried out since late 1950s, scholars found tens of epic singers (manaschï ) in parts of Kirghiz region in Xinjiang and recorded their variants of epic Manas. As a matter of fact, their artistic oral creative talent and epic performing level are different. 95 years old Jüsüp Mamay, undoubtedly, is the greatest and world famous manaschï, nowadays. The Manas version written down from him is as long as 232,600 poetic lines and include the story of eight generations of hero Manas’s family. Beside Jusup Mamay, there are about 80 records of variants archives preserved in the Institute of ethnic Literature of CASS and in Xinjiang Folklorist Society.

    During the various stages of becoming masters of the epic, manaschïs were divided according to their poetic and improvisational skills into four categories: üyrönchük manashcï (new learner manaschï), chala manshï (not a qualified manaschï), chïnïgï manaschï ("true manaschï), and finally chong manaschï (great manaschï).

For the manaschis in Xinjiang China, I will do some statistical analyses by dividing them into groups. My analyses are depend on some points, such as the ages, the living area, the performance of the “branches” or parts of the epic Manas-cycle, the performance of traditional plots, the way learning the epic, the sex, the nationality,the way they performing the epic (with or without accompany by musical instrument)etc.