Singing on the River

Sichuan Boatmen and Their Work Songs, 1880s - 1930s


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.
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EUR €151.00USD $179.00

Biographical Note

Igor Iwo Chabrowski, Ph. D. (2013), European University Institute is a post-doctoral fellow on the Historical Anthropology of Chinese Society in the 20th Century at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He taught at the University of Oxford and the University of Warsaw.

Table of contents

Acknowledgements … VII
List of Figures … VIII
Introduction … 1
Part One: The Background
Chapter One: The Social Origins of the Songs: The Eastern Sichuan Working Class, 1880s–1930s … 53
Chapter Two: The Sounds of the River … 106
Part Two: Social Spaces, Work, Gender, and Self-Perception
Chapter Three: Mapping the River World … 135
Chapter Four: Where Do We Belong? Selfhood and Menial Work in Sichuan Society … 174
Chapter Five: On Women and Love … 218
Conclusion … 263
Bibliography … 269
Index … 296


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

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