The descendants of Zie-gha-lao.

Sung by Yang Zhi.


Zie-gha-lao was the folk hero who brought the Miao Homeland under cultivation and taught the people the arts of agriculture, wine making and herbal medicine. In Yang Zhi's version two thirds of the song are devoted to these activities while the final third tells how he fled southwards, driven from the Homeland by the Chinese.

When considering the songs about Zhi-shi-lao, the clearer of the forests, it was noted that between the issue of Document E in 1949 and Document K in 1952 a theory seems to have been developed which placed Zhi-shi-lao in the far western province of Qing-hai. The evidence on which this theory was based was not given, but the text of the song by Yang Zhi was deliberately altered to accord with it, and these alterations were reproduced in the later Documents L (1981) and N (1988). Something similar appears to have happened to this song. A note written partly in Miao and partly in Chinese appears at the beginning of the song in Document K, and is reproduced, with slight alterations, in Document L. It reads:

(In Miao) The time when they lived at Die-fao-tai.
(In Chinese) Lived at the time of Shen Nong.
(In Miao) Dwelt in Shen-xi and Shan-xi.
(In Chinese) The upper regions of the Yellow River.

The name Die-fao-tai comprises three Miao words meaning "plain", "head" or "top", and "stone slab" or "stone steps" respectively. This may be the translation of a Chinese name, but no Chinese equivalent is given. Shen Nong was the legendary Chinese emperor, who taught the people husbandry in 2838 BC, and this note suggests that Zie-gha-lao was his Miao counterpart. The songs are unanimous in maintaining that the homeland was by a great river called Ndu-na-yi-mo. The theory which placed Zhi-shi-lao in Qing-hai Province seems also to have identified the homeland as lying in an area called Die-fao-tai, and the Ndu-na-yi-mo as the Yellow River. In order to make it conform to this theory, in Document K the text of line 4 has been altered to read:

"Reached Die-fao-tai, the Plains of Li-mo beside the waters of the Ndu-na-yi-mo."

In line 19 where Ndu-na-yi-mo occurs again a note in brackets written in Chinese says specifically that this was the Yellow River. Document L follows Document K, but Document N goes even further. In both line 4 and line 19 the original name Ndu-na-yi-mo is replaced by "Dlix lieb dlix ndlod" which means "River red river muddy" thus identifying it with the Yellow River. Whatever the merits of the Yellow River theory may be, although explanatory notes and comments are entirely in order, it is not legitimate to alter the text of a song to make it conform with this, or any other hypothesis.

In lines 26 to 29 an animal called niu-nci-niu-nca is mentioned as being a beast suitable for carrying loads but not used for pulling the plough. None of my helpers could identify this creature. However another Miao friend, with whom I was reading St. Mark's Gospel, when we came to the word "camel", volunteered the information that the "old people" had a word for this, it was "niu-nca", but now nobody knows it. (The New Testament simply uses the Chinese "lo-to".) If, in the course of their migrations, the Miao had lived at some time near the Mongolian Desert they would certainly have had a word for camel. At the end of the song, the lands brought under cultivation by Zie-gha-lao were seized by the Chinese. The name employed for them both here and regularly in the songs is "Sha-ndrao-jio-di-vao". "Sha-ndrao" means a people or a race, "jio" means "to carry" or "to bear" and is here used as a conjunction, while "di-vao" means "ruling" or "governing". Thus the whole name means, "the governing race", "the people bearing rule", "the ruling race".

Ndrang-li-mo, meaning the Plains of Li-mo, mentioned in line 4 is regularly linked in the songs, though not here, with Nzhi-mi-li. "Nzhi" means a tract of land, so that this name is translated the "Tracts of Mi-li". It seems likely that these were the names given to the country on either side of the great river Ndu-na-yi-mo. Thus when Zie-gha-lao fled from the Chinese, leaving the Plains of Li-mo, he crossed the river, lines 83 and 84, and then travelled away south of "Ndu-nzhi", which is presumably another name for Nzhi-mi-li, the land on the other side of the river.

There is some question whether line 87 is original. (See notes on the Miao text.) If it is, then it represents a considerable leap both in time and distance, for it brings the Miao to "the borders of Bw-bw". Bw-bw is the name of the ancient Yi overlord of the area of N.E. Yunnan around Zhaotung before it was occupied by the Chinese. The other name Sao-nchang, may be related to Sao-no, another Yi overlord whose estates were located in eastern Guizhou around Weining.

Literal Transcription

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Word97 Introduction
Word97 Translation
Word97 Transcription
Word97 Notes

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