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Sunflowers and Stars

The Ideological Role of Chinese Children’s Rhymes and Poems in the Twentieth Century

Valerie Pellatt

This book traces a hundred years of the development of Chinese nursery rhymes, children’s rhymes and children’s poems from the early twentieth century to the early twenty-first century. It draws on anthologies of traditional and modern rhymes and poems published in The People’s Republic of China and Taiwan, exploring the form, function and content of these texts in the light of rapid political change in China.
The role of traditional rhymes is examined within the context of a male-dominated family hierarchy of Confucian thinking that profoundly shaped children’s development. The language and literature reforms of the 1920s brought a poetry revolution in China, as authors began to write for children in the vernacular language and offer a purposeful argument against Confucianism, in favour of science and democracy. Literary approaches evolved, first into the socialist-realist approach of the 1940s and 1950s, then into the «three prominences» of the Cultural Revolution. Meanwhile, in Taiwan, children’s rhymes promoted the messages of modern science, but maintained a traditional Confucian outlook. In the 1980s, children’s poetry in the People’s Republic of China began to follow a new direction, in keeping with the new era of cultural and economic liberalization.
This book uses the evolution of the children’s poetry genre to provide a fascinating insight into Chinese political, moral and social life in the twentieth century.
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Chapter Seven: The paratext of Chinese children’s rhymes and poetry

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CHAPTER SEVEN

The paratext of Chinese children’s rhymes and poetry

In any discussion of literature it is impossible to ignore paratext: we depend on paratext to guide us in what to read and how to read it. Parents and educators rely on paratext to help them responsibly select and recommend literature for children. The text which surrounds, supports and evaluates a core text, paratext has been shown to be of crucial importance in the presentation, marketing and reception of a text. For children, the visual, non-verbal paratexts such as graphic design of book jackets or covers and internal illustrations, may be the main attraction of a written text. For the child who is old enough to read, and for teachers and parents who mediate reading, the verbal paratexts such as prefaces, forewords and introductions serve to guide and shape the ideological thrust of the text.

The way in which a publisher presents an anthology is never innocent: the visual and verbal presentation of a text, including an electronic text, is dependent upon and influenced by the motivations and aims of the text producers. Anthologies of children’s rhymes and poems are no exception. Every volume of children’s rhymes, songs or poems is designed in such a way as to attract readers, and to manipulate them to read text in certain ways. Even when economic circumstances limit the scope of design, efforts are made to create attractive publications of which the design will be meaningful to...

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