Nzyu-fao-lao, outwitting the Kha-woman.

Sung by Yang Zhi.


This song is a story which explains the origin of the many forms of disease suffered by mankind. Nzyu-fao-lao had successfully confined the family of Khas, supernatural creatures, human in form, but which preyed upon the human race for food, in a gourd, and all would have been well had not "the man" removed the stopper and released them. This individual is called, "bib lwb laos ghat shat" which means simply "the old person". This is not a personal name, but signifies a representative member of the human race. The pig, the horse and the cow are also regarded in the story as representatives of all their kind.

Nzyu-fao-lao managed to get the Kha family back into their gourd, but his attempt to destroy it in the fire resulted in an explosion which showered mankind with all manner of diseases. The connection between the exploding gourd and human sickness is assumed, but not stated, in this version of the story, but is quite explicit in the second version (M 154), where the great shaman-healer is credited with providing many kinds of remedy to deal with the disaster. In this song, however, Nzyu-fao-lao seems to have been chiefly interested in measles and smallpox, and arranged that these diseases should leave the patient's body by emerging through the skin in the form of a rash which would slowly disappear, leaving the sufferer immune to further infection. On the other hand, for typhoid, no such provision was made. Since it did not come out as a rash, but remained within the body, it was much more lethal.

This song actually finishes at line 137 together with the concluding line 141. The three lines, 138 to 140, though doubtless contributed by Yang Zhi himself, do not really belong to the song. The couplet, lines 139 and 140 is, in fact, a separate Miao proverb which, because it mentions a shaman-healer and typhoid fever, has been connected with this song where these also figure. The proverb,

"If the shaman-healer can die of typhoid,

A girl may die naked",

is asking, if a shaman-healer, with all his concoctions and incantations cannot ward off the typhoid, what chance is there for ordinary people? They are vulnerable as a young girl stripped naked.

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

Return to Index of Songs
Return to First Page of the Archive