Nzyu-fao-lao draining the lake for farming.

Sung by Yang Zhi.


The plain on which the city of Zhaotong stands was, at some time, covered by a lake. This song asserts that a stroke from the mighty sword of Nzyu-fao-lao opened a channel for the water to run away, and that the original Yi landlords took possession at his invitation, while, under his direction, the Miao were employed in levelling the fields and digging dykes for drainage and irrigation.

The modern Miao name for Zhaotong is "Mu-di-lao", that is, "Mu land city". The word "Mu" is the Miao name for the original Yi landlords of the area. In this song two forms of the name appear, "Mang-li-mu" and "Mu-zyu-lao". "Ndu-na-yi-mo" is the old Miao name for the Yangtze river which, at this point flows from south to north, some miles to the west of Zhaotong. The mountainous country to the west of the river used to be known as "Independent Lolo country". The powerful Yi landlords, in the security of their mountain fastnesses, were very much a law unto themselves. The Miao name for this area in the songs is the "Bw-bw" country. This probably reflects the Yi name "Ba-bu" country.

In lines 61 and 62 reference is made to the growing rice and broad beans. Both crops are produced from the same land. The former was the main summer crop, and the latter was planted in the dry fields after the rice had been harvested. The beans matured and were gathered in the spring, before the fields were flooded again and the new crop of rice, which had been raised in seedbeds, was planted out. Proper control of the water supply was essential for this annual agricultural sequence.

Translation in verse
Literal Transcription

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