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Singing on the River. Sichuan Boatmen and Their Work Songs,1880s – 1930s


Igor Iwo Chabrowski

Singing on the River by Igor Chabrowski, based on Sichuan boatmen’s work songs ( haozi), explores the little known world of mentality and self-representation of Chinese workers from the late 19th century until the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937). Chabrowski demonstrates how river workers constructed and interpreted their world, work, and gender in context of the dissolving social, cultural, and political orders. Boatmen asserted their own values, bemoaned exploitation, and imagined their sexuality largely in order to cope with their low social status. Through studying the Sichuan boatmen we gain an insight into the ways in which twentieth-century nonindustrial Chinese workers imagined their place in the society and appropriated, without challenging them, the traditional values.


All interested in history of China, Chinese society and culture, labour, popular culture, and folk songs.
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