The 52th Tobunken-ASNET Seminar

"The sociological context at the origins of the Guan Suo Opera in nineteenth century Yunnan (China)"

The 52th seminar will be held as follows. This seminar is open to the public without registration.

Date & Time:   7 June(Thu) 2012, 17:00-18:00

Venue:   Lobby, 1st Floor, Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia, University of Tokyo Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia, the University of Tokyo

Title:   "The sociological context at the origins of the Guan Suo Opera in nineteenth century Yunnan (China)"

Presenter:   BEAUD Sylvie
Doctorante en ethnologie
Université Paris Ouest Nanterre–La Défense
Laboratoire d’ethnologie et de sociologie comparative (UMR 7186, CNRS)
Research fellow, Institut de recherche de la Maison franco-japonaise (Tokyo)
Email: sylviebeaud[at]gmail[dot]com

Abstract:   Yunnan is one of the regions where Han Chinese, minority peoples and residents from the neighbouring countries have been in constant interaction for centuries. In this perspective, the history of the Guan Suo Opera, a masked ritual performed by the Han population of the Yangzong township, is emblematic of such encounters in the late imperial era, and can help to understand the ethnic and sociopolitical configuration of this Chinese south-western frontier region at that time. The main scope of this paper is to examine how this ritual practice introduced from the North by Qing soldiers in the nineteenth century took shape in Yangzong. Nowadays Chinese scholars usually refer to the Guan Suo Opera as a junnuo(military exorcism) and date its origin to the Daoguang reign (1820-1850). However, relying on ethnographical material collected during two years of fieldwork in Yangzong, I shall argue that it rather appeared later, as a result of the social tensions during the Panthay Rebellion (1856-1873) while conflict, famine and epidemic devastated the province. Along with the Qing soldiers sent to pacify the region, the Guan Suo Opera came as a response to the disintegration of the social life. It provided a ritual to exorcize epidemic demons and wandering ghosts through which the different populations of the region could unite. Taking the shape of a military parade, the masked ritual, initially meant to impose imperial grandeur onto local peoples, turned out to be the link between garrison camps, Han and indigenous hamlets, and provided the people with the legendary figure of Guan Suo to frame a common identity. Eventually, the imperial military culture of the region has been reinterpreted through this masked ritual and has been transmitted through generations.

Contact to:   Network for Research and Studies on Asia (ASNET)
e-mail: asnet[at]