Concerning the Elder Gi-myu's search for the Elder Gi-zi.

Narrated by Wang Da-lu.


The first section of this piece, as far as line 71, is set out as though it were a song. The passages of conversation between the parties are indeed in song form, however the narrative linking these exchanges is largely prose. In the English translation the lines in which the original is printed are retained, but the passages in verse are inset in order to mark the difference. The remainder of the piece is all prose and is printed as such.

There are here, in effect, four separate stories. The first is a tale of the Elder Gi-myu's search for the Elder Gi-zi. The key to this narrative is in the opening sentence, "It was a time of adversity", which means a famine year. The crops had failed, and in order to be able to get through until the next harvest the Elder Gi-zi, as a wise farmer, was fully occupied collecting supplies of various wild plants, fruits and seeds while they were still available to supplement his limited stock of grain. The original song probably finished with a statement that, having got together, the two leaders went off setting to rights the affairs of their whole neighbourhood. The elders in this story may well represent two clans, which, in a time of difficulty, pooled their efforts to their mutual advantage.

In the second episode any echoes of the old song from which it came have disappeared. This story is told in prose, and though linked to what has gone before, describes an entirely different situation. It concerns the family of the Elder Gi-zi only. The Elder Gi-myu plays no active role, and quietly disappears. The object of the narrative was to explain why it was forbidden in the Gi-zi clan to eat dog flesh. The Miao did not normally eat dog, though it might happen in a famine year, and there were some groups in which a dog figured in the worship of the local sacred tree, but in this clan dog flesh was strictly taboo.

The third narrative is introduced by the statement, "Later there were events which explain matters further". In fact the two sections that follow are unrelated both to that which precedes and also to one another. The third episode introduces a new leader with supernatural powers, the Elder Bi-zai. The setting is that of conflict with the Chinese, and the story is a variation of a common theme, namely that after initial success, the Miao lose in the end, outwitted by the more subtle Chinese.

The fourth section is also in a conflict setting, but here the Chinese are clearly the dominant race. The Miao are in the position of having to mount guerrilla attacks in which the identity of the leader, the composition of the band and its movement from place to place, were secrets which had to be closely guarded.

Literal Transcription

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