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Volume 55 Issue 1
May 2023
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Citation: Yu WANG. Ethnographic Narration and Female Experience[J]. Academic Monthly, 2023, 55(1): 154-163. shu

Ethnographic Narration and Female Experience

  • From the perspective of recording the history of national life and experience, ethnographic narration is one of the most important characters of literature. Wang Anyi’s novel Tianxiang (《天香》) is exactly a female text of ethnographic narration, taking the “Tianxiang Garden Embroidery” (Shanghai Gu embroidery of the Ming Dynasty) as its starting point. The novel Tianxiang is not an exhibition of all kinds of materials about women’s life history, but a history of women’s experience centered on “women’s weaving” (embroidery), which is used as a framework to reunderstand the local social tradition in Jiangnan, and even the Chinese farming and weaving cultural tradition. Any tradition is invented and constructed, not formed naturally. In this process, some experiences are emphasized and exaggerated, while others are obscured, omitted and modified. Therefore, bringing female experience into local tradition and even the whole Chinese native tradition is of great significance. Moreover, the ethnographic narrative strategy of Tianxiang, which takes women as the experience subject and culture subject, not only goes beyond the tradition of ethnographic narration of contemporary Chinese literature since Root-seeking Literature, but also may indicate the maturity of contemporary Chinese feminist literary writing in its native form. These are the inspirations that Tianxiang brings to us in both culture and literature.
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        Ethnographic Narration and Female Experience

        Abstract: From the perspective of recording the history of national life and experience, ethnographic narration is one of the most important characters of literature. Wang Anyi’s novel Tianxiang (《天香》) is exactly a female text of ethnographic narration, taking the “Tianxiang Garden Embroidery” (Shanghai Gu embroidery of the Ming Dynasty) as its starting point. The novel Tianxiang is not an exhibition of all kinds of materials about women’s life history, but a history of women’s experience centered on “women’s weaving” (embroidery), which is used as a framework to reunderstand the local social tradition in Jiangnan, and even the Chinese farming and weaving cultural tradition. Any tradition is invented and constructed, not formed naturally. In this process, some experiences are emphasized and exaggerated, while others are obscured, omitted and modified. Therefore, bringing female experience into local tradition and even the whole Chinese native tradition is of great significance. Moreover, the ethnographic narrative strategy of Tianxiang, which takes women as the experience subject and culture subject, not only goes beyond the tradition of ethnographic narration of contemporary Chinese literature since Root-seeking Literature, but also may indicate the maturity of contemporary Chinese feminist literary writing in its native form. These are the inspirations that Tianxiang brings to us in both culture and literature.

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