Helen Rees; Ritual and Music in Southwest China

Professor Helen Rees, UCLA 

Ritual and Music in Southwest China: Five Hundred Years of the Dongjing Associations

The early twentieth century was a period of particular vigor for the Dongjing associations, élite lay ritual music societies from Yunnan province on China’s multi-ethnic southwestern frontier. Widespread among the Han Chinese ethnic majority, originators of their music and their Taoist, Buddhist and moralizing scriptures, the associations also spread to several minorities. We look at their 500-year history; the reasons they flourished at this period; their suppression between 1949 and the late 1970s; and the resurgence of the last thirty-five years, which has seen the impact of new social trends such as unprecedented migration, tourism, and the intangible cultural heritage movement.

Helen Rees is a professor of ethnomusicology at the University of California, Los Angeles. Most of her fieldwork has been on ritual and other traditional musics of the Han Chinese and Naxi ethnic groups of southwest China, and on instrumental music in Shanghai. She is the author of Echoes of History: Naxi Music in Modern China (2000) and editor of Lives in Chinese Music (2009), and is also very active interpreting and presenting for Chinese musicians at events such as the Amsterdam China Festival and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

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