Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE ( © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 23 July 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Ever since the May Fourth Movement of the 1920s, scholars of Chinese literary history have deployed a distinction between elite literature and popular literature, claiming that the “dead” elite literature was only revitalized by its constant borrowings from the language, subjects, and forms of popular literature. This chapter questions this simplistic binary, which depends on the exclusive identification of “the popular” with the vernacular and oral transmission, problematic propositions in both cases. It argues that the oral literature of the first millennium bce and the first millennium is irretrievably lost. Before the emergence of a mature print culture, sharp distinctions between elite and popular culture are hard to draw, and in China, the vernacular was not a different language but at the most a different register within a shared literary culture.

Keywords: literary history, popular literature, yuefu, ci, oral-formulaic theory, mythology, epic, Hu Shi, Zheng Zhenduo

Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.