The Leader Zhyu-zi-lao, a farming song.

Sung by Pan Xie.


In this version of the story of Zhyu-shi-lao, the clearer of the forests, we have a further variant of his name. Pan Xie calls him "Zhyu-zi-lao", and confers the title "yeu si", which implies a person of some standing in the local community, and has been translated "Leader" in English. At the beginning of the song in Documents K and L there is a note in Miao which reads, "Zhyu-shi-lao, Zhyu-zi-lao and Zhyu-shi-lang, these three are one person only, it is just that in the singing the names are not the same".

Associated with this Zhyu-zi-lao narrative is a tiger story, but the only connection between them is a common name. Pan Xie has reduced the forest-clearing episode to a mere ten lines, which now stand as an introduction to the story that follows.

There is a somewhat different version of the tiger story sung by Zhang Ming, (M145), but in both versions Zhyu-zi-lao's or Zhi-shi-lang's youngest daughter was taken by a tiger while she was filching cucumbers. Pan Xie says that the tiger "waited for" her at the edge of the crops, Zhang Ming says that the tiger "took her right away". This, at first sight, might be taken to mean that the girl was simply killed and devoured by the tiger, but that is not quite what it says. "Waited for" and "took away" could mean "abducted". There is a group of songs and stories about young women being lured away by tigers to become their wives, and it is just possible that that is the meaning here.

According to Pan Xie's version, at the loss of his daughter, Zhyu-zi-lao decided to carry out a ritual of imitative magic designed to destroy the tiger. In line 31 it says that "he made the striped tiger's shi-njiao". The significance of "shi-njiao" is not entirely clear, but possibly its meaning is "arrival", that is, something that represented the presence of the tiger. Whatever their exact connotation, the words are a name given to the carcass of a domestic animal which had been ritually killed with a sword. It then had to be dressed up to represent the tiger, before being finally cut up and the meat distributed among the leading households. An invitation to the neighbours to share in the dressing up ceremonies having been treated with ridicule, Zhyu-zi-lao summoned an individual called Lyu-jio. The song does not explain who he was, but his main contribution to the proceedings appears to have been the donation of his long plait of white hair suitably daubed with brown and black dye to represent the tiger's tail.

Between lines 19 and 20 in this version of the song in all three Documents, there are inserted 24 lines which clearly belong to some other song. In them the Leader Zhyu-zi-lao does not figure, and there is no reference to any previous, or to any subsequent events in the story. The lines disrupt the continuity of the song, for line 20 cannot be separated from line 19. Moreover, they contribute nothing to the narrative, in fact they distract from it. A youth, the son of the Hmao-dlu family, together with a village called Hmao-gi-zhi are mentioned here, but nowhere else in the rest of the song. For these reasons, and also because there is no sign of them in Zhang Ming’s version, these lines have been removed and placed at the end of the song. They comprise two equal sections, each of which divides into three four-line stanzas. The two sections are identical except for one single word in lines 6 and 18, and a further single word in lines 12 and 24.
Translation in verse
Literal Transcription

You can see the original documents for this song.

You can also see these pages as Word97 documents

Word97 Introduction
Word97 Translation
Word97 Transcription
Word97 Notes

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