Memories from Meige, the Epic Poem of Creation: Traditional Songs of Chuxiong Yi and Their Re-presentations

Huang Chi-ping
September 2014
Min-su ch'ü-i Journal of Chinese Ritual, Theatre & Folklore;Sep2014, Issue 185, p115
Academic Journal
Cultural memory is accumulated from experience. Experience is closely intertwined with living environments. However, when environmental changes caused experiences to alter accordingly, the cultural memory had to be held up with represented interpretation. The case studied in this article is the "Meige Revival" of Chuxiong Yi people in southwest China. The "Meige" are ballads of Lipo and Lolopo, two branches of Yi. Their epic poem of Creation has won much attention. During the Cultural Revolution, Meige had been banned and nearly died out. After the Cultural Revolution, Meige had again regained significant status. To save and preserve Meige, the State Council of China listed Meige in its second batch of intangible cultural heritage in 2008. Meige, before and after the revival, carries two different kinds of memories. Traditionally, Meige was a type of melody that accompanies the customs of Lipo and Lolopo. On the occasions of life rituals, Meige was recited during the rituals, or sung as a duet in everyday life. There were also Meige gathering, where people sang in celebration joyously. This is the traditional memory of Meige. With the passing of time, the native language and traditional society of Lipo and Lolopo gradually disappeared. Currently, the only thing that can summon Lipo's and Lolopo's memory is a Meige compilation published in mandarin in 1959. Although a significant publication in Yi folk literature, this reconstructed version is not a rigorous verbatim documentation. On the contrary, it was a new creation, published in mandarin. Meige, reconstructed this way, can neither be recited nor sung in duets. However, the reconstructed Meige has become a performance act on stage. To promote tourism, the public sector recreates a Meige culture atmosphere. This is the new memory of reconstructed Meige. For Lipo and Lolopo, whose native language environments had changed, the re-presented and re-constructed Meige culture serves the public sector's purpose to control their memory. Meige plays an important role in building a collective identity. In this article, I study the process of Meige revival in Chuxiong Yi to explore the different aspects of memory construction in different time and cultural backgrounds.


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