Lijiang Stories

Shamans, Taxi Drivers, and Runaway Brides in Reform-Era China

Emily Chao
Foreword by Stevan Harrell

  • Published: December 2012
  • Subject Listing: Anthropology, Asian Studies
  • Bibliographic information: 256 pp., 21 illus., notes, bibliog., index, 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World
  • Series: Studies on Ethnic Groups in China
    A China Program Book
  • Contents

Lijiang, a once-sleepy market town in southwest China, has become a magnet for tourism since the mid-1990s. Drawing on stories about taxi drivers, reluctant brides, dogmeat, and shamanism, Emily Chao illustrates how biopolitics and the essentialization of difference shape the ways in which Naxi residents represent and interpret their social world.

The vignettes presented here are lively examples of the cultural reverberations that have occurred throughout contemporary China in the wake of its emergence as a global giant. With particular attention to the politics of gender, ethnicity, and historical representation, Chao reveals how citizens strategically imagine, produce, and critique a new moral economy in which the market and neoliberal logic are preeminent.

Emily Chao is professor of anthropology at Pitzer College, Claremont, California.

"Chao explores several facets of modernization and ethnic revival, including changing gender roles and marriage practices, disputes about ethnic authenticity, and the rapid economic changes that have reshaped the region. She has a delightful authorial voice, deep experience in the region, and a good eye for the humorous incident or important minor detail." - Sara Davis, author of Song and Silence: Ethnic Revival on China's Southwest Borders

"These are good stories told to maximum theoretical effect. Chao writes clearly and fluently, with the result that her stories are page-turners and her sophisticated theoretical points are easily comprehensible." - Stevan Harrell, author of Ways of Being Ethnic in Southwest China.

"Lijiang Stories is much more than a set of stories. It is a careful exegesis of the many strands that, woven together, have become today’s Lijiang. The accessible prose and fascinating range of skillfully analyzed, ethnographically nuanced “stories” would make this an excellent text for courses on contemporary China." -Tami Blumenfield, China Quarterly, September 2013