Nicholas Belfield Dennys as a pioneer in the comparative study of Chinese folklore
The scholarly study of Chinese folklore began in the middle of the 19th century. Pioneering research had been conducted by Europeans, who were familiar with current works in this area and gained access to the field, archival and book sources in different regions of China. Among the first people who embarked on the study of Chinese folklore was a British journalist and diplomat Nicholas Belfield Dennys. In 1876, he published the monography of Chinese folklore studies: "The folk-lore of China,
... k-lore of China, and its affinities with that of the Aryan and Semitic races". His goal was to view Chinese folklore in a global context; for its implementation, he compiled the first elementary index of plots and motifs of Chinese folklore. The Chinese themselves commenced the academic study of the folklore of China several decades later, relying largely on the developments of their European predecessors. In the 1920s, the book by Dennys became known in China, however, it had little impact on Chinese folklore studies for the reasons as follows. The data the book comprised was for the most part not new to researchers in China, the method used to compile the index was known to them earlier, and comparative studies in the region were in their cradle at this time. In the West, up to the middle of the 20th century, Dennys' book was often consulted in search of comparative Chinese material. Nevertheless, some of the author's finds have never received further developed. The place of this work in the history of the comparative study of Chinese folklore also remained rather uncertain. This article describes the context in which "The Folk-Lore of China" appeared, examines the author's methodological premises, as well as the role of his findings in the further development of folklore studies.