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Chinese Creation Myths: A Great Discovery

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Chapter Summary

There is a large variety of artistic genres in the oral traditions of China's minority cultures. Creation epics depict the origins of heaven and earth, nature, animals, humans, the beginnings of culture and society. This genre, also referred as "mythical epic" has mainly been found in southern China. The narrative structure of creation epics reflects the specific views of ancestors of the respective ethnic groups in a specific historical period. Their migration songs reflect the eventful social life and fate of migrating ethnic groups. Most of China's ethnic minority creation epics have not been discovered before 1950s, and only since the last three decades a spectacular academic movement has opened up the field of collecting, translating, sorting out, and printing oral traditions. Since the mid-1990s, researchers have introduced and applied the idea of "living tradition" to ethnic minority creation epics in song form as a special category of oral performance.

Keywords: Chinese; creation epics; ethnic groups; migration songs; minority cultures; mythical epic; oral traditions



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