There appear to be at least two different traditions concerning the homeland intertwined in the songs, each having its own set of names. but once the latter have been sorted out a surprisingly consistent picture emerges. The homeland was called Ndlo-hlang-dleu-di, which means "within the heart country", or "the heartland". It was regularly described as "drao dlao gu", "to four corners", a phrase which probably means, "four-square" or "rectangular". A great river, with seven sweeping bends, divided the land and flowed on down gorges and rapids cut through the Gi-njio (or Di-njio) ranges which bounded the plain on its eastern side. Beyond these mountains the river emptied into the Nine Lakes of Gi-nzyu.
Ndlo-hlang-dleu-di had been the home of the fabulous twins who had set in order sky and earth, and, in establishing the movements of sun and moon, had fixed the sequence of the seasons. They lived in a city called Hmao-shi, and the river was sometimes referred to as the Shi, or Hmao-shi river. Its regular name, however, was either Yi-bang (sometimes written Gi-bang) or Ndu-na-yi-mo. Some songs use one name, some the other. The latter form was from time to time abbreviated to Ndu-na-yi or Na-yi-mo. The fertile land along the river had been brought under cultivation by the folk-hero, Zie-gha-lao. In a number of songs this region is called "the Tracts of Mi-li and the Plains of Li-mo". Presumably these two names referred to the land to the north and the south of the river, and they are always used together. In other songs the whole area was called simply "the Plains of Yi-bang".
At the north western edge of the plain was a narrow gorge through which the river flowed on to the plain and at this point it was joined by a tributary. This place was known as "the pass of the gorge of the Tracts of Mi-li" and "the meeting of the waters of the Plains of Li-mo". It was also called more succinctly, "the pass of Ji-ya", or "the pass of Li-byu".
A morning's journey from the river, that is about ten miles, stood the Golden City. In Miao the name is Lao-gu. In some songs a city called "Lao-u" is mentioned. The context in most cases makes it plain that the two are one, although at least one song is at pains to differentiate them. The Golden City was described as circular in plan and containing rows of houses with timber frames and tiled roofs. It is also just possible that it should be identified with the legendary city of Hmao-shi.
To the south, beyond a gap in the hills named the Lion's Throat, was
another fertile plain called the Plain of Li-vu to which, when the north
had been over-run by the Chinese, the Miao fled. On this plain they established
a settlement called Rice City, which unlike the Golden City with its compact
plan, was spread out over a wide area. They were eventually driven from
this place also and had to flee to the mountainous country of the south.
Away to the north of Ndlo-hlang-dleu-di was Cai-sie-mi-fu-di, the native
land of the Chinese.
These songs by Yang Zhi, together with contributions from Tao Zi-Gai, Zhang Ming and others, all record the same story. The repetition results from the tradition having been preserved in different clans or family groups, in which their particular ancestor was named as the hero. The story, in its simplest form, is found in the latter half of the song of Zie-gha-lao, according to which no resistance was offered. As the Chinese approached, the Miao simply crossed the river and fled southward, leaving everything behind. However, according to the conflict songs, when the Chinese first attacked from Cai-sie-mi-fu-di, they were ambushed and soundly defeated in the narrow valley where the great river flowed on to the plain. In some of the songs a second, and even a third such attack was similarly repulsed, but finally, with their ability to use boats, and possibly due to their knowledge of gunpowder, the Chinese proved too strong for the Miao, many of whom fled southwards, first to Rice City and then on into the mountains. Some leaders were captured and executed, while the people who remained were subjugated and enslaved.
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