The descendants of the Elder Gi-myu.

Told by Wang Tien-chun.


This narrative, entirely in prose, covers some of the same ground as the two previous pieces by Yang Ya-go and Wang Da-lu. It concerns the Elder Bi-zai and his successor, the Elder Gi-myu, and it is explained that these correspond respectively to the modern Miao clan names Hmao-yeu and Hmao-chi. Yang Ya-go likewise mentions two elders, the Elder Gi-zi who was also succeeded by the Elder Gi-myu. Wang Da-lu began with the Elder Gi-zi and the Elder Gi-myu, and then, using another source, continued with the Elder Bi-zai and the Elder Gi-myu. Now it may be that these stories represent the activities of three different Miao clans, but it appears more likely that there were only two, and that both the Elder Gi-zi and the Elder Bi-zai should be identified with the modern clan name Hmao-yeu. As would be expected, with material drawn from different sources, there are inconsistencies in detail between the different writers, but it is clear that the Hmao-yeu and Hmao-chi shared a tradition which prohibited the killing and eating of dogs, and also the eating of any animal heart, and the present story was told to explain the origin of this taboo.

Wang Tien-chun's piece began with a story to explain the age-old enmity between Miao and Chinese. It says that the Chinese wanted to perform ancestral rites, and the word used is "zi". Now this was the name of a specific Miao ritual, and not therefore strictly applicable to Chinese ceremonies. However, so far as the narrative is concerned, it does not matter. The point was that the ancestors had to be propitiated, and according to custom, this required the offering of the pig's heart. Failure to do so might result in vengeance being exacted by offended ancestors, and, more immediately, the family would lose face before the assembled guests. This explains the savage reaction resulting in the death of the child, when the pig's heart was not produced when required.

According to Wang Da-lu, the Elder Bi-zai possessed magical powers. The Chinese could not kill him, for whenever they struck his head off he promptly grew another. Wang Tien-chun says that there was a story circulating among the Chinese that the Miao had an enchanter who could graft the head back on a decapitated army commander or cause a new head to grow, and, to confuse the Chinese, the Elder Bi-zai issued an order that no personal names were henceforth to be used. Everyone, civilian, soldier or officer was simply to be called "A yeu", that is "Man". Thus the Chinese, having killed the Miao commander called "A-yeu", then discovered that commander "A yeu" was still there leading the fighters! Could it be that the severed head had indeed been replaced? Another result of the Elder Bi-zai's edict was that the whole clan became known as "Hmao-yeu".

The final revelation, by the Elder Gi-myu to the Chinese woman, that the removal of his dog would leave him vulnerable to attack, is of greater significance than might at first appear. On a practical level, if the dog were taken away, an enemy could approach undetected. On a psychological level, in the case of these two clans where the dog was held in special regard, its removal would have the same effect on morale as the loss of a lucky charm on the superstitious.

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