The Art of Chinese Storytelling


38 years of research and professorship.
6 genres of Chinese storytelling.
Hours of footage on her hard drive.

Emeritus Professor Susan Blader has retired from Dartmouth with a video collection of China’s most accomplished storytellers. At the DALI Lab, we created a website to honor this cultural art form.

Project Details

Time: Jan - Mar 2020
Tools: Figma, Procreate
Team: Worked closely with a product manager, 1 designer, and 1 developer.

My contributions

1. Research
2. Illustrations
3. Information Architecture

Team Vision

How the website works

Witness the legacy.

Dive into the world of Chinese storytelling and experience the rich history of Susan Blader’s research. Explore each genre as you wish.

Encounter the variety.

Storytellers across China have different dialects, instruments, props, and narrative style. Peruse the nuances of each genre and pick a video that interests you most.

Soak in the narrative.

Watch the storytellers perform. Pay attention to the tone and rhythm. Read the plot summary if you don’t understand the dialect, or enjoy the live translation of Susan Blader herself.

My contributions

Three things I focused on

1. Research

The primary challenge of this project was understanding the history of Susan Blader’s work. Over many weeks of conversation, Susan Blader stressed the nuances of the art form. I grew a strong desire to honor these storytellers, many of whom have already passed. The best way to do so was to ensure cultural accuracy.

Susan Blader having tea with storytellers, 1986.
Susan Blader and Cao Baolu in Beijing, 1982.
Susan Blader with the Jin's, Suzhou 1983.

2. Culturally Accurate Illustrations

Having grown up in Shanghai, my familiarity with the language and culture helped me effectively communicate with Professor Blader about the specific instruments that were used in each storytelling genre. Carefully referring to each instrument, I drew illustrations on Procreate for each of the six genres.

3. Information Architecture

Susan Blader’s collection included 22 videos from 13 storytellers, categorized into 6 genres. I organized the videos and created the structure for the website.

Wrapping up

Thank you Susan Blader and team!
From left to right: Amanda Bak, Barkin Cavdaroglu, Susan Blader, Urie Choi, Amber Cai

Next Steps

  • Video quality improvement: Sangwook “Sunny” Nam, grammy nominated mastering engineer, will be improving the sound quality of the videos. We should also trim the videos to digestable
  • Instead of discussing hypothetical ideas, bias toward action and make actual prototypes. It is surprising how many debates are settled once a concrete prototype is made.
  • Engineering work: the DALI Lab is continuing this project for future terms, when developers can build out a fully responsive website.

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