A Reassessment of the Place of Shamanism in the Origins of Chinese Theater

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Regina Llamas



This paper examines the scholarship, evidence, and assumptions that place the origins of Chinese drama in shamanic ritual. The paper is roughly divided in two parts: the first contextualizes the use of shamanism within the theories of art and literature of one of the first scholars to link the origins of Chinese theatre to shamanism, Wang Guowei, to show that Wang’s view of the relationship between shamanism and drama differs from mainstream interpretations. The second part assesses the views of modern ethnographers and historians of China on the role of shamanism in theater, with a focus on the work of the scholar Piet van der Loon.

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