A song of choosing a bride.

Singer not recorded.


This short song is full of obscurities. It may be that a middle section has been lost which would explain the relationship between the first and last sections, but even so difficulties remain.

The woman in the song is called "bo mang", which, in spoken Miao would simply mean "an Yi woman", but this can scarcely be the meaning here. The word "mang" has a basic meaning of "people". In the present song "bo mang" seems to have a very general meaning, "a female person", and has therefore been translated, "the woman".

It says that the woman decided to "sai chao", that is, "choose marriage". This means, quite specifically, that she was going in search of a suitable bride for a son of the family. Who he may have been we are not told. The expression "sai chao" cannot mean that she was seeking a partner for herself. Of the possible candidates she considered, Sun, Cloud and Wind, the sun is always considered to be female in the songs and regularly called "Sun-maid". Presumably Cloud and Wind were also female, though this is not obvious from the names used. In her search, having rejected Sun, Cloud and Wind, the woman reached Gha-nzhi-fa-na, and we hear no more of her search or of its outcome.

The second half of the song introduces a pair of "wild animals" which had an offspring who could talk. This creature is called "Dli-zeu-bi-gyu". "Dli" normally means "dog", but here, as occasionally in other songs, it signifies "a living creature". "Zeu" means "able", and "bi gyu" means "craftsman". Hence the translation, "craftsman-creature". Whatever his parentage, he was obviously human, and built a fine city just as the Miao patriarchs were said to have done.

For nearly sixteen years the woman went and "lived with" the craftsman-creature. What exactly their relationship was we are not told, and a question arises whether "nearly sixteen years" is to be taken literally. In the incantations used during spirit worship a very similar expression, "a full thirteen years", is a "code" meaning "within one year". This might be a similar coded phrase, but if so, there is no clue as to its meaning.

The actual meaning of the song is a matter for conjecture. It is just possible that it is about the origin of the human race. The woman concerned may have been one of the "sky-people". Her search for a daughter-in-law brought her down to the earth where she encountered the craftsman creature, with mankind the result of the union. References to "the people's" sun, cloud or wind, do not necessarily preclude this interpretation by implying that people already existed. "The people's" sun, land, forest, etc. are conventional expressions widely used in the songs, and mean no more than the sun, land, or forest. If, however, the song is about human origins, it is surprising that there is no mention of any offspring of the woman and the craftsman-creature.

Literal Transcription

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Word97 Introduction
Word97 Translation
Word97 Transcription
Word97 Notes

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