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CHIME Workshop:
Storysinging and storytelling in China



Thursday 16 to Sunday 19 October 2014

Fondazione Cini, Island of San Giorgio, Venice, Italy

Ever since antiquity, teahouses, traditional theatres, public markets, elegant gardens, and other indoor or outdoor spaces in China have set the stage for regional storytelling and storysinging (shuochang). The spectrum ranges from truly sophisticated art forms such as Suzhou storysinging (Suzhou tanci), Yangzhou storytelling (Yangzhou pinghua) and southern love balladry (Nanguan) to all kinds of lesser known forms: rural or urban, professional or amateur, with or without music, rough or refined. Some genres are sung throughout, some alternate between singing and speech, or rely on speech altogether. The most commonly used musical instruments are lutes, fiddles, drums, clappers, gongs and cymbals. The narrative content draws on everlasting historical, religious and spiritual themes, and ranges from classical tales about love, betrayal and heroism to ghost stories, gossip, local news, political commentary and commercial advertising.


What do we know about the performers, their oral repertoires, their art of improvisation, the many different traditions, their impact on society, and future prospects ? How many of the historical genres or repertoires which existed in China's past have been documented or, in some form or other, preserved ? When and how did they influence other Asian traditions or were influenced by them ? What cultural transformations are taking place in Chinese narrative performance today ? Can Chinese storysinging and storytelling still function today as the principal livelihood for professional performers ?


From 16 to 19 October 2014, the Cini Foundation in Venice, the Department of Asian and North African Studies of the Ca'Foscari University of Venice and CHIME (the European Foundation for Chinese Music Research) host an international workshop on storysinging and storytelling in China. We aim at bringing together some thirty scholars and performers for an informal meeting consisting of short lectures, presentations, round-tables, performances and discussions. Our goal is to create a lively exchange, to bridge the distance between scholars and practitioners, to assess the current state of knowledge in this realm, and (eventually) to publish the proceedings of the workshop in book or journal format.


The languages of the workshop are English for papers, Chinese for performances, and English and Chinese for discussions.


The meeting will honour the livelong achievements of one major scholar in this field, the pioneer sinologist in the study of Chinese storytelling, Dr Vena Hrdlicka, from the Czech Republic.


Scholars and performers will be asked to join this meeting by personal invitation. The programme committee for the workshop consists of Frank Kouwenhoven (CHIME Foundation), Senior Researcher Dr Vibeke Børdahl (Nordic Institute of Asian Studies), Professor Dr Giovanni Giuriati (Fondazioni Cini, Venice, and University of Rome La Sapienza, Music Department), and Professor Dr Nicoletta Pesaro (University of Venice). A full programme for the workshop will be announced by the end of March 2014.


For further information concerning the meeting, please feel free to contact Frank Kouwenhoven at or Vibeke Børdahl at


The program:

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