A song of Nzyu-fa-lao.

Singer not recorded.


This song was noted down by Samuel Pollard in l911. It is far from complete, either because the writer could not keep up, or the singer could not be held back. The material recorded comprises four fragments containing 22, 4, 5 and 8 lines respectively.

The introductory section of the song (lines 1 - 14) is virtually complete, but it does raise speculation about the identity of Nzyu-fa-lao's "children". The term used is "du-di-ji". In a marginal note in the manuscript the meaning is rightly given as "children", but it is not the normal word for "children" which, in the song form, would be "la-di-yao", while, if the meaning were specifically, "sons and daughters", it would be "du-ncai". "Du-di-ji" does mean "children", but in the sense of "descendants" or "progeny", and unfortunately there is insufficient information in the fragments to decide exactly who they were. They appear first, anxiously waiting for Nzyu-fa-lao's return after his training and the grand tour which followed. But at this time Nzyu-fa-lao was only an "a- hla", that is "a youth", so they could not be "descendants". The term might possibly mean his family in the broader sense of his relatives.

The song goes on to say that Nzyu-fa-lao took the "children" and went to perform some ritual acts as a shaman-healer, and the impression is given that quite a group of people was involved, hence the need to seek permission to use the local water supply. That both the Chinese and the Zhong-jia land-holders would refuse, was to be expected. The Miao were often accused of poisoning wells. Why, in both cases, the request had to be addressed to a woman is not explained. Unfortunately the narrative breaks off before the practical problems caused by this refusal were solved. In another song, refusal to give Nzyu-fa-lao water resulted in swift retribution, and that could be what happened here, on the other hand this story may simply reflect the hostile reception accorded to many migratory Miao families when they moved into a new locality.

The second fragment, lines 23 to 26, is too short to convey any clear meaning at all. Nzyu-fa-lao is not mentioned, and the subject matter is so different that it could belong to another song altogether.

At the beginning of the third fragment, lines 27 to 30, are a repetition of lines 8 and 9. This is probably right, since in some other similar songs a couplet in the form:

"Others did come back,
But so and so could not come back,"

is repeated several times like a chorus. The "children" of Nzyu-fa-lao in this fragment are differentiated from "the people", that is the Miao people as a whole. When the former died they were cremated by the latter. There must have been some special reason for this, since the Miao buried their dead, they did not cremate them. Were the people, in fact, fulfilling an instruction given by Nzyu-fa-lao himself before he rode his horse of clouds away into the sky?

The final fragment consists of two short stanzas, lines 32 to 39. It suggests that there was a time when Nzyu-fa-lao had been able to raise the dead, but that, for some reason, this power had ceased. It was, however, only "earth-people", and not "sky-people" who could be raised in this way. In some of the other songs "sky-people" regulated happenings on earth, so it may be that the cessation of the power to raise the dead was due to their intervention.

Translation in verse
Literal Transcription

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Word97 Introduction
Word97 Translation
Word97 Transcription
Word97 Notes

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