When the Miao lived on the Tracts of Mi-li
and the Plains of Li-mo.

Sung by Tao Zi-gai.


This song covers the same ground as the sequence of songs by Yang Zhi, namely the conflict between the Miao and the Chinese over the ancient homeland. The Miao groups involved here are simply called Chi and Ndlw, but these names equate with the more elaborate forms used by Yang Zhi thus:-

Chi = The Elder Gi-no = The Elder Gi-chi.
Ndlw = The Elder Gi-vu = The Elder Gi-yie.

The one difference is a reversal of the order. Yang Zhi always puts the Ndlw clan first, while Tao Zi-gai always leads with the Chi clan.

However, Chi and Ndlw do not appear in the song until line 58 when the conflict with the Chinese begins in earnest. The first actors are "The Woman, the Mother", and "The Man, the Father". These are the unamed progenitors of the Miao Race, which, in turn, is designated "The Offspring". This expression, in the translation, has been rendered "The Children". After long years of wandering the Woman and the Man and their Children eventually settled in Nzhi-mi-li and Ndrang-li-mo, that is, on the Tracts of Mi-li and the Plains of Li-mo, although in this song the double name is regularly combined and contracted into "Ndrang-nzhi-li", that is the Nzhi-li plain. On this fertile plain the Miao founded their "city", called, not Lao-gu or Lao-u, as in earlier songs, but Lao-gi-jiai, and the excellency of the City of Gi-jiai roused the jealousy of the Chinese.

The sending of a Chinese girl or girls as a wife or wives for the Miao leaders is reminiscent of earlier songs, but there the object was to introduce a spy into the camp. Here it was a deliberate ruse to pick a quarrel, it being certain that the "friendly gesture" would be rejected.

The use of dummy soldiers in boats by the Chinese is also found in Yang Zhi's version of the story, but there the Miao, having realized that these were only straw dummies, relaxed their guard, and the Chinese were able to mount a surprise attack. This time the dummies were a decoy to distract the Miao troops, and leave the City of Gi-jiai open to an attack by a roundabout route.

Eventually the Miao, tired of years of harassment, decided to abandon the homeland. In this version they were not actually driven out, and in the final lines we are told they withdrew and settled on the "wide plain of the Yi-bang". The problem here is that, from Yang Zhi's songs it is quite clear that the Yi-bang is simply another name for the Ndu- na-yi-mo, the great river which ran through the Tracts of Mi-li and the Plains of Li-mo, so that the country to which they are said to have fled for asylum was none other than the one they had just left. In the other versions of the story, when they left the ancient homeland, the Miao first went to the Plain of Li-vu where they established a settlement called Rice City.

A point of detail in the translation of lines 35 and 36 requires some explanation. The "vang cu" in line 35 was a round, bamboo basket, some three feet in diameter, and four or five inches deep. It was used, among other things, for winnowing grain, and had an inner surface of woven bamboo strips which was very smooth and flat. The "vang lao" in the next line was similar, but could be twice as large, and was used for storing grain. The insides of both these baskets are described as "die", which indeed means "smooth and flat". However, "die" has also the derived, metaphorical meaning of "peace" or "peaceful". In these lines the peaceful ,"die", hearts of the people are likened to the two baskets which are also "die", very smooth and flat within.

Translation in verse
Literal Transcription

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Word97 Introduction
Word97 Translation
Word97 Transcription
Word97 Notes

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