Stories concerning the great shaman-healer Nzyu-fa-lao abound, and it is likely that this group of eight songs, represents only part of the tradition. There are minor inconsistencies, but in general, Nzyu-fa-lao is portrayed as a philanthropic magician who always travelled on a horse of clouds, and who, after a series of spectacular exploits undertaken for the benefit of mankind, rode away up into the sky. As his cloud-horse took off on this final journey, it left a hoof-print embedded in the rock, which still remains, a perpetual reminder of the great shaman-healer and his wonderful steed. The round hoof-print was, presumably, some natural phenomenon, possibly an ammonite.
In the earlier documents, which are all written in the Miao script, the name is, without exception, Nzyu-fa-lao, but, for some unexplained reason, Document N has changed it to Nzyu-fao-lao, and consistently writes it in this form. In the present texts, translations and notes, where the song is recorded only in Document N, the form Nzyu-fao-lao has been retained, but where it has been recorded in an earlier document, Nzyu-fa-lao has been preferred.
Nzyu-fao-lao, his birth on earth.
Sung by Yang Xiu.
The mother of Nzyu-fao-lao in this song is called, "bangx ngaox shat". The first word, which was often used in girls' names, means "blossom" or "flower". Here it occurs only once, and is probably intended as a personal name. It has accordingly been written with a capital initial, "Flower", in the translation. The second word simply means "girl", in the sense of a young woman, not a child. The third word is "people". It is sometimes used in the compound "hmao shat", "the people", in a general sense, or "yeuf shat", "the man", meaning any male individual of the human race. In this song "ngaox shat" similarly means just "a girl", no one in particular. The Chinese paraphrase says specifically that she was not married. The Miao text implies this, but does not state it.
The final section from line 58, describes Nzyu-fao-lao leading a military expedition to Hmao-a-dlang. It does not explain why this was done, or anything about the place, beyond the fact that there were pine forests there as dense as hemp that is always planted in tight clumps. The place name means "the village make spirit", and this may have some significance, since "to make spirit" means "to practise the art of a shaman-healer". After a successful battle, Nzyu-fao-lao led his troops to Hmao-dlang-hnw, "village spirit crossbow", where they rested in a narrow pass overnight. The two lines 60 and 61 about the cockerel appear to be an elaborate way of saying "at dawn", and this was probably the moment of Nzyu-fao-lao's departure into the sky, leaving a hoof-print in the rock as his memorial.
Translation in verse
You can see the original documents for this song.
You can also see these pages as Word97 documents
Return to Index of Songs
Return to First Page of the Archive