Asian Ethnology 80-2 Jiangyong “Women’s Script” in the Era of ICH Channels of Development and Transmission

He Yan

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Jiangyong ICH Women’s Script Chinese folklore cultural transmission

The Chinese ICH (intangible cultural heritage) program has created the conditions for the invention of a new phase within the well-known “Women’s Script” tradition in Jiangyong County, Hunan. Driven by ICH recognition and promotion, Jiangyong locals have formed twin channels of inheritance practice: official inheritors and natural transmitters. With the popularization of the official inheritance practice among the local communities, the concept of “Women’s Script cultural identity” has formed. However, there is a paradox between the emerging invented tradition via ICH and the traditional, natural Women’s Script tradition (yuanshengtai), “discovered” by academics in the 1980s, which is based on a gendered form of script used in writing diaries, letters, and a few examples of folk literature, and which is also a basis for chanting in small groups of women. To a great extent the new form has transformed the performance mode and the core elements, while the cultural “inheritors,” comprised of new “faces of tradition,” are increasingly concerned with how Women’s Script culture can bring them more benefits than the earlier forms of the tradition. In the future, it appears that local governments and entrepreneurs will continue to utilize ICH as a means to garner attention and influence in the ICH cultural marketplace in China, as well as to generate revenue from tourism, museum shops, and so on that will in turn support the coalescence of a new, full-bodied tradition.