What ever happened to Yan'an? Ka-ming Wu's thought-provoking Reinventing Chinese Tradition brings us up to date, based in fieldwork on the revitalization of “folk culture” in the Yan'an region in the 2000s. Wu's analysis remains firmly anchored in the history of the Yan'an period from 1935 to 1947, while at the same time bringing the study of this largely forgotten region into the present.

Wu's ethnography innovatively pushes forward the “invention of tradition” thesis by analyzing precisely how tradition is invented. Coining the term “hyper-folk” to highlight tradition's fundamental detachment from any type of stabilizing authentic origin, Wu poignantly traces how the production-cum-invention of “Chinese tradition” is always a site of struggles between multiple highly contentious narratives: traditional visions, Party-state interventions, market forces, and contemporary communal anxieties all come together to form today's “folk culture.” Wu develops this insight through a series of case studies of modes of folk culture...

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