Folk art and literature have always been the most permanent and flexible method for recording and preserving the life and memory of the collective. Throughout the centuries, the tradition of the collective has been conveyed through oral myths, legends, stories and songs. It also helped inscribe in the collective narrative the traces of the history and life of the community up the time of the birth of the official history and literature. This is no doubt a universal fact, because if we look at the any nation or larger community in the world, we shall see that the foundations of their history and identity are built on their folk literature and legends. This very fact allows us to try and make a comparison between two distant cultures, both in a geographical sense and concerning the historical eras in which they had developed, such as Chinese and Macedonian folk literature. In order to be able to do that, we have decided to focus on one motif or theme which is universal in world literature and is common to both culture – i.e. nature.
Folk poetry originates from and is inspired by the life of the collective, incorporating and thematising all the important components and elements of that life. Having in mind that in most cases it concerns a rural way of life based on agriculture, it is not surprising that the relationship with and towards nature is a dominant theme in all national folklores. Nature is the determining factor for the survival, but also for the development of a community, because it provides protection and food, though it also includes forces that need to be tamed and contained so they won’t bring any danger, harm and destruction. Nature is the center of communal life and collective activities such as hunting, foresting, cultivation of the land, but it also represents the center of the rituals and magic which are ancient forms of communication with nature. Based on all of the above, we can conclude that themes, motifs, symbols and images of nature are present in the mythology, folklore and poetry of all nations, a fact which is verified by the huge number of anthologies and collections gathered and published during the past two centuries. In order to have greater focus in our analysis, we have decided to concentrate on the motif of the landscape in folk poetry, considering that it encompasses all the various functions and features of nature that we previously discussed.
Brief introduction to the The Collection of Folk Songs by the Miladinov Brothers and The Book of Songs
For the purpose of providing fact-based scientific analysis, we could not just pick any two cultures or works from any given period, because the relations that we would then establish would be merely tangential and superficial. In order for our comparative analysis of Macedonian and Chinese folk poetry to be relevant, we decided to search for examples in the works that have occurred at the moment of transition from oral to written and codified literature. Consequently, we have selected two anthologies which represent seminal works in both cultures, books in which for the first time folk songs and stories were collected and published, thus providing an impetus for the beginning of the development of written literature. In the case of Macedonian culture, this hounour undoubtedly belongs to the Collection of Folk Songs by the Miladinov Brothers published in 1861, while for Chinese culture that would be the Book of Songs, the definitive version of which was collected in one book in the 6th century BCE. Even though it would seem at first that the huge time gap between the two collections is insurmountable, it only serves on the other hand as a remarkable illustration about the universality of the processes of development and forming of national literatures, which we feel shall add an additional value to our analysis.