Dungan Folktales and Legends: The Folkloric Narrative Tradition of the Sino-Muslims in Central Asia
First migrating from northwest China to Russian Central Asia after the suppression of the Dungan Revolt (1862–1877) under the Manchu-led Qing dynasty, the Dungan people boast a rich oral tradition, which served as an important breeding ground for the development of Dungan written literature in the Soviet period. This presentation discusses the findings of an in-depth structural and comparative analysis of Dungan folk narratives conducted in the second half of the 20th century by a team of leading Soviet scholars comprising Russian Sinologist Boris Riftin, Dungan writer and literary scholar Makhmud Khasanov, and Dungan historian Il’ias Iusupov. Primarily based on Dungan oral narratives recorded between 1951 and 1974 in the Soviet Socialist Republics of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, this large study identifies general features regarding tale typology, origins, narrative time, physical landscape, common character types, individual motifs, plots, and color and number symbolism. The study indicates that Dungan folk narratives are deeply rooted in Chinese storytelling traditions but also exhibit substantial Middle Eastern, East Asian, and Central Asian influences. Detailed findings of this study and the full texts of 78 folk stories are available for the first time in an annotated English version by Kenneth J. Yin, under the title Dungan Folktales and Legends (Peter Lang, 2021), vol. 16 in the Peter Lang International Folkloristics Series.
Author: Kenneth J. Yin teaches modern languages, literatures, and linguistics at the City University of New York (CUNY). His research interests include Dungan literature and culture, as well as the literatures and cultures of the Tungus peoples of North Asia, primarily the Udege and Nanai of the Russian Far East. He is the author of Dungan Folktales and Legends (Peter Lang, 2021) and Mystical Forest: Collected Poems and Short Stories of Dungan Ethnographer Ali Dzhon (Peter Lang, forthcoming). He has received grants and awards from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the City University of New York, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University.
Discussant: Soledad Jiménez-Tovar is an anthropologist specializing in Central Asian Sinophone Muslims (Dungans). She has a BA in Latin American Studies (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México), an MA in Chinese Studies (Colegio de México), and a PhD in Social Anthropology (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Germany). Her approach to the study of China-related Islamic identities relies heavily on sociolinguistic and historical perspectives. Her publications include the edited books El pensamiento social ruso sobre América Latina (Buenos Aires: CLACSO, 2017) and Pertenencias múltiples, identidades cruzadas: Nuevos enfoques sobre el Asia Central (Mexico City: Colmex, 2017), as well as several articles in English, Russian, and Spanish on the Dungans in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Since 2017, she has been working in the History Division of the Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas (CIDE), a well-known research center in Mexico City.
Discussant: Rostislav Berezkin is an associate research fellow at the National Institute for Advanced Humanistic Studies at Fudan University. He received his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in 2010, and candidate of sciences degree from Saint Petersburg State University in 2009. His main fields of research are religious storytelling literature (precious scrolls in particular), popular religion in late imperial China, and Russo-Chinese cultural exchange in the 17th–18th centuries. His publications include two books in Russian. His English book, Many Faces of Mulian: The Precious Scrolls of Late Imperial China, was published by the University of Washington Press in 2017.
Moderator: Eric Schluessel is assistant professor of history and international affairs at the George Washington University and a social historian of China and Central Asia. His first monograph, Land of Strangers: The Civilizing Project in Qing Central Asia, won the John King Fairbank Prize for East Asian History in 2021. Prof. Schluessel is also the author of a textbook for the Chaghatay language, co-editor of a recent volume on Uyghur studies called Community Still Matters, and has produced a forthcoming translation of an essential Uyghur chronicle of Xinjiang’s history, the Tarikh-i Ḥamidi. His research has been funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, ACLS/Luce Program in Chinese Studies, and the Mellon Foundation, which supported a residential fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.