Performing Grief: Bridal Laments in Rural China, by Anne E. McLaren, is the first in-depth study of Chinese bridal laments, a ritual and performative art practiced by Chinese women in premodern times that gave them a rare opportunity to voice their grievances publicly. Drawing on methodologies from numerous disciplines, including performance arts and folk literatures, the author suggests that the ability to move an audience through her lament was one of the most important symbolic and ritual skills a Chinese woman could possess before the modern era.
July 2008 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3232-2 / $54.00 (CLOTH)
“Performing Grief introduces us to the fascinating culture of the bridal lament. Drawing upon the rich materials from the small village of Shuyuan in Nanhui near Shanghai for her primary materials, the author reconstructs a once vibrant culture in which young women on the eve of their wedding voiced their anxieties in ritual songs. The study is based on extensive local research, makes full use of the existing scholarship on female traditions of lament inside and outside China, and illustrates its argument with the almost complete translation of one of the most fully preserved cycle of laments. This study is an absolute must for anyone who is interested in the position of women in traditional society until quite recently. It also is essential reading for anyone working in the field of Chinese women’s literature as it highlights the rich oral traditions of poor rural women.” –Wilt Idema, Harvard University