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Dungan Folktales and Legends


Kenneth J. Yin

Dungan Folktales and Legends is a unique anthology that acquaints English-speaking readers with the rich and captivating folk stories of the Dungans, Chinese-speaking Muslims who fled Northwest China for Russian Central Asia after failure of the Dungan Revolt (1862–1877) against the Qing dynasty. The most comprehensive collection of Dungan folk narratives, available now in English for the first time, this volume features translations of oral narratives collected in the former Soviet Central Asian republics of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan in the twentieth century, and first published in Dunganskie narodnye skazki i predaniia (1977), which was edited by the internationally renowned Russian sinologist Boris L. Riftin and compiled by his prominent Dungan colleagues Makhmud A. Khasanov and Ilʹias I. Iusupov. The Dungan folk narrative tradition is a vibrant and fascinating tapestry of Chinese, Islamic, and various Central Asian cultural elements.

The present volume is comprised of a chapter introducing the Dungan tale and three chapters containing 78 folk stories organized in the following categories: wonder tales and animal tales; novelistic tales, folk anecdotes, and adventure stories; and legends, historical tales, and narratives. Also included are appendixes, a glossary, an index, the original notes to the texts, and translator’s notes aimed at an English-reading audience. This volume will be of interest to general readers, as well as students and scholars of folklore, ethnography, anthropology, comparative literature, Chinese studies, and Central Asian studies.

“With his Dungan Folktales and Legends, Kenneth J. Yin contributes a valuable chapter to Dungan Studies by making available in English translation a substantial body of interesting folk tales of a people who, though small in number, offer important material for the study of Central Asian culture and literature. Expertly translated, the stories in this collection open our eyes to a broad and unexpected vista of human experience. Highly recommended for anyone who is engaged in the study of Sinitic language and literature.”—Victor H. Mair, Professor of Chinese Language and Literature, University of Pennsylvania

Dungan Folktales and Legends opens a new page in the English-language scholarship on the folklore and popular literature of the Chinese and their neighbors. Being a reader of these tales in Russian translation since the age of ten (they made a part of my collection of favorite Asian tales), I am delighted to learn that they are now available in a superb English translation, with the necessary introduction and comments, by Kenneth J. Yin. This collection also reflects the personal experience of Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences Boris L. Riftin (1932–2012), who started to collect and study Dungan folklore in situ during his student years and continued to analyze it later from the perspective of an expert in Chinese folk literature. Many figures of Chinese traditional literature, some of them perhaps already known to English-speaking readers as Yu Boya, Han Xin, Su Qin, Xue Rengui, and the like, appear here in a new and often unusual guise.”—Rostislav Berezkin, Research Fellow, National Institute for Advanced Humanistic Studies, Fudan University

“The Russian-language edition of Dungan Folktales and Legends was a substantial contribution to comparative folklore studies when it first appeared in 1977. The book, based on several decades of field research, provided readers a glimpse into the complex tapestry of Dungan storytelling. Built upon several traditions, the tales of the Dungans merge multiple motifs and plots from the wide Eurasian folklore space. This most welcome translation will benefit not only folklorists and sinologists but also anyone with a liking for a good story.”—Aglaia Starostina, Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences

“Kenneth J. Yin’s Dungan Folktales and Legends makes a very substantial contribution to the study of the culture and folklore of the Dungan people, whose unique position in the history of East Asian cultures and East Asian linguistics is increasingly recognized inside and outside of China. For a very long time, Dunganology has been a field dominated by outstanding Russian scholarship. More recently, immense progress has been made by students from the People’s Republic of China. Kenneth J. Yin shows an admirable ability to use all the most important available sources in the present volume, which makes Dungan literary sensibilities available to a broader international public.”—Christoph Harbsmeier, Professor Emeritus of Chinese, University of Oslo

Dungan Folktales and Legends is a very refined work that represents the research carried out by Soviet sinologists. This is undoubtedly a must-read for those interested in Sinophone literature in general, as well as the folklore preserved among Sinophone Muslims. Additionally, this piece illustrates the complexity of interconnected and interrelated traditions found in Central Asia. The translation by Kenneth J. Yin is polished and careful: he truly manages to build a bridge between the English readership and the Central Asian Sinophone Muslims.”—Soledad Jiménez-Tovar, Professor of History, Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas

“Kenneth J. Yin’s Dungan Folktales and Legends is a most welcome and impressive anthology of oral narrative literature translations. With an elegant introduction chapter and erudite translator’s notes, this rich and well-chosen collection will make a much needed wealth of sources available for the study of Dungan culture and history in Central Asia.”—Talant Mawkanuli, Associate Teaching Professor and Director of Turkic and Central Eurasian Studies, University of Washington–Seattle