This study deals with the little-known topic of books produced in the idiom of the Wu language area in China spoken in the region around Shanghai and its hinterland. Throughout the imperial era the reigning emperor controlled the use of Chinese writing and sought to ensure that a uniform script was used in the imperial bureaucracy and the education system. However, some Chinese ethnic groups developed strategies to encode the spoken idiom of their regions. One example is the phonetic Women’s Script of the women of rural Hunan. In the case of the lower Yangzi delta, Wu language characters were used to capture the idiom, kinship terms and nuances of the everyday language spoken in this region. This character script was used primarily to record the performance arts of the region, such as songs, jokes and stories. In the contemporary period, this script has emerged once more as a medium for the recording of modern renditions of traditional song narratives and stories and hence as a significant marker of regional identity.
|Keywords:||China, Dialect Texts, Ethnic Identity|
Associate Professor, Asia Institute, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia
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