The Song of the Flood.

Sung by Yang Zhi.


In his book of Miao songs issued in 1952 (Document K), Yang Yong-xin included three versions of the Flood story, by Yang Zhi, Zhang Ming and the Grandmother from Hmao-zu-mu. Conscious of the differences in the stories he added a note in Miao, which was also reproduced in Document L, the Weining collection of 1981, and reads:

"Regarding the foregoing songs that concern the Creation and the Flood, because we Miao had no means of writing, memories did not always correspond. They simply made songs to sing about our forefathers, the ones who were wise and the ones who were clever, so that we, their descendants after them, may have a way of recounting, remembering and recalling their story. Internal details may not correspond, but each version has its own value. We trust that those who read these songs will make everything clear. This is the hope of all us Miao people."

The final sentence is not reproduced in Document L. In transmitting the songs exactly as they found them, Yang Yong-xin and his successors in Weining were very wise, but the volume of songs printed in Miao and in Chinese in 1988 (Document N), takes another line. There, under the title of "The Flood, Section one", Yang Zhi's version was chosen as a basis, but some sections were deleted and the order was rearranged. Then, the obvious differences in style notwithstanding, passages from Zhang Ming and the Grandmother from Hmao-zu-mu were inserted together with a little redaction, to create a single, continuous narrative. Finally the stanzas about the sequence of the seasons and the activity of Thunder were discarded, and the story simply stopped short at the point where Ndrao-ya struck the rock and made fire. Perhaps the editor of Document N believed that, in conflating the different versions in this way, he was in fact fulfilling Yang Yong-xinís hope that those who read these songs would make everything clear.

Inconsistencies between different versions of a song were rightly attributed by Yang Yong-xin to the oral tradition which lies behind them. That tradition also accounts for inconsistencies within the songs themselves. Thus, in the present song, after the Flood, Ndrao-ya stepped out of his boat to see the wild creatures pursuing their normal activities, still quite well and all very much alive, though the human race had been wiped out, but there is no explanation as to how the animals survived. Then again, though the Flood had destroyed all the people except Ndrao-ya, toward the end of the song he is told not to allow the children to go out during a thunder storm. What children were these? Where did they come from? There is no attempt in this song to explain the continuation of the human race. Attempts to resolve such inconsistencies are usually misguided. They are as much a part of the oral tradition as the stylized vocabulary itself.

According to Yang Zhi's Song of the Creation, it was Lie-ndlao-shi-tru gi-myu Yeu-jio-dlang-hnu who made earth and sky, and in the introduction to that song reasons were given for rendering this lengthy appellation, "The Glorious King Shi-tru, the Man Dlang-hnu" in the English translation. This personage appears again with his full title in this version of the Flood story. Concerning him, Wang Ming-ji wrote in his account of Miao spirit worship,

"This one is very kind hearted. He will not cause people to become sick, and wants nothing what ever from people. If people have any catastrophe coming, he will reveal it to them. He is a spirit who does good to people, .... but there is nobody who regards him or worships him."

The Glorious King Shi-tru, the Man Dlang-hnu appears to have been a mythical person who figures in these cosmological songs, but who played no part at all in Miao religion or worship.

Many of the Miao songs contain sections which are more or less complete in themselves, and only very loosely linked to that which comes before or that which follows. Associated with the Flood stories is a cycle which concerns the activities of Thunder, thought of as a large living creature. The Song of Ndu-nzha-byu, sung by Tao Zi-gai, says that "Ndu-nzha-byu arranged for Thunder to rule the great waters and the pouring out of the rain". The cycle at the end of the Flood songs describes how Thunder fulfilled this role, beginning with the spectacular storms which mark the onset of the summer rains.

  1. During Dog-month or Pig-month, months 6 or 7 in the lunar calendar, Thunder roars from south to north. Then, beware of Thunder's flashing sword.
  2. During Rat-month or Ox-month, months 8 or 9, water from Thunder's mouth and nose, the great summer rain, abates, so that the crops ripen to yellow and the leaves on the trees grow old and fall.
  3. During Rabbit-month or Dragon-month, months 11 or 12, Thunder folds his arms and legs and goes to sleep, and water from his nose and mouth fall as snow or glistening ice.
  4. During Snake-month or Horse-month, months 1 or 2, Thunder awakes and stretches his arms and legs. Water from his mouth and nose fall as mist and spring rain, causing the leaves to burst on the trees, bringing fresh green growth to the pines, and bidding the people press ahead with their tilling and planting.

Translation in verse
Literal Transcription

You can see the original documents for this song.

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Word97 Introduction
Word97 Translation
Word97 Transcription
Word97 Notes

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